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Rep. Meeks and Colleagues Urge FCC Chairman to Reconsider Revoking Licenses under Lifeline Program

March 1, 2017
Press Release

Rep. Meeks and Colleagues Urge FCC Chairman to Reconsider Revoking Licenses under Lifeline Program

Washington D.C. — U.S. Congressman Gregory W. Meeks and 39 other Democratic Members of Congress sent a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission condemning his February 3rd decision to revoke designations of nine companies as Licensed Broadband Providers (LBPs) under its Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications program. The letter calls on Chairman Pai to reconsider his order revoking these designations in order to secure telephone and Internet access for low-income Americans, many of them minorities. Rep. Meeks issued the following statement. Text of the letter is below:

 

March 1st, 2017

Mr. Ajit Pai

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, S.W.

Washington, DC 20554

 

Dear Chairman Pai,

We were disappointed to learn of the Federal Communications Commission’s February 3rd decision to revoke the Licensed Broadband Providers (LBP) designations for nine providers. As you well know, under the Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications program, LBPs offer discounts for wireline and wireless services to eligible, low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on tribal lands. Low-income consumers, who utilize the Lifeline program, will certainly suffer as a result of this order. Accordingly, we encourage you to reconsider your order immediately.

On your first day as FCC Chairman, you both recognized and vowed to close the digital divide, stating your intention to “bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.” We have serious concerns that the February 3rd order runs counter to that effort and jeopardizes the FCC’s ability to close the digital divide.

To understand the negative impact this will have on poor consumers, one need not look further than the District of Columbia, and the students who can do their homework.  In total, roughly 12 million low-income Americans rely on Lifeline Program for telephone and internet access. That includes individuals who are on the Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Programs, individuals receiving Federal Public Housing Assistance, families whose income are at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and many others who need our help to finish their book report, get ahead, or simply call their loved ones.

In summary, we implore the FCC to reconsider its decision to restrict access to companies who provide wireline and wireless services to low-income consumers through the Lifeline Program. The order runs contrary to the program’s original spirit of helping connect some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. We should expand, not limit, access to the Lifeline Program. The FCC has the capability to improve the program without revoking designations and harming consumers. We encourage you to keep your original promise, and that of the Lifeline Program, and utilize the FCC’s power to help bridge and eventually close the digital divide in America.