White House Supports FCC Lifeline Overhaul

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By Lydia Beyoud

March 9 — The Obama administration wants to help 20 million more Americans gain access to a connected world through its latest initiative, ConnectALL, announced March 9.

The White House initiative throws its weight behind the Federal Communications Commission's plan to overhaul its Lifeline subsidy program for the broadband era by making Internet service eligible for subsidies.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated final rules on the Lifeline changes on March 8. The Lifeline program is integral to reaching the administration’s goal of connecting 20 million more Americans by 2020, an Obama administration official told reporters March 9.

The administration released recommendations from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as well as a report from the Council of Economic Advisers with its proposals.

The FCC and the administration have said they’re seeking to help bridge the digital divide between low-income communities and households that struggle to afford or access broadband services, and more affluent groups.

The initiative should help consumers keep up with homework and job skills and applications that increasingly require Internet access, said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

The White House is also partnering with companies like Cox Communications Inc. to help deliver affordable broadband services to low-income families, according to a fact sheet.

The administration’s proposals include the transfer of devices no longer needed by the federal government to communities nationwide through schools and nonprofit organizations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com