UPDATE The FCC recently eased some rules for qualifying for its low-income telecom program Lifeline during COVID-19, Inside Towers reported. Now, several organizations advocating for civil, anti-poverty, consumer, labor and technology rights are asking the agency to do more.
The National Consumer Law Center, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, and others urged the Commission to extend pandemic-related waivers for phone and internet subsidies through the end of the year. “The public health and economic devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate low-income households and communities, particularly communities of color,” the groups said in a letter.
Specifically, the groups pushed the FCC to extend waivers that made it easier for consumers in rural tribal lands to gain access to the Lifeline low-income subsidy program. The Lifeline program typically disburses about $10 a month to households for phone and internet expenses.
In early June, the FCC ordered temporary easing of Lifeline’s program application and enrollment and allowed carriers to immediately grant services to tribal consumers before they submitted necessary documentation. But the waiver expires at the end of this month. “Workers of color and low-wage workers are experiencing disproportionately higher rates of income loss and unemployment due to the pandemic,” the groups said in the letter. “Stay-at-home orders, currently in place or being re-imposed across the country, caused and will cause many schools and businesses to remain virtual for the foreseeable future, making the need for internet access even more essential.”
The organizations also called for the agency to stop cutting the Lifeline voice service subsidy, reported Law 360. The support has decreased from $9.25 per month to $7.25 per month and is set to decrease December 1, to $5.25 per month, according to the letter.
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