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FCC moves to redirect phone subsidies for the poor

Grant Gross | March 3, 2011
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission took the first step Thursday toward reworking two related programs that provide telephone subsidies for low-income residents, with commissioners calling for part of the funding to support broadband service.

But some critics suggested the FCC's proposals didn't go far enough. The FCC should scrap Lifeline-Link-Up and start over with a new program, said Craig Settles, a community broadband consultant and founder of Successful.com. The FCC took little concrete action toward supporting broadband service with the programs, he said.

"If you listen to what was said, almost the whole focus was on ways to eliminate fraud and waste, which is great for budget management," Settles said. "But it does nothing to actually address broadband issues until the program saves enough money to fund pilot programs that gives us an idea how Lifeline can be modified to address broadband issues such as adoption."

The programs aren't likely to support broadband for a year or more, he added.

"There were lots of allusions to what Lifeline could potentially do to help people if it results in more people connecting to broadband, but nothing said today did more than paint nice pictures," Settles said. "There was nothing hard hitting to address issues such as, how do you take a $10 telephone subsidy and have it make a meaningful impact when the combined price of broadband and telephone service is likely to be $50 to $60?"

 

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