Friday, November 27, 2015

Lifeline Internet access first requires universal service -- and FCC not enforcing

L.A. County backs plan to ensure Internet access for seniors and the poor - LA Times: Undergirding the county leaders' support for expanding the lifeline programs is the increasing prevalence of digital technology in the economy and social programs.

"Technology is a key component of our economy, and it is unconscionable that so many county residents lack access to broadband," said Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-wrote the motion passed Tuesday by the board. "These individuals are being marginalized and ignored."

The policy expressed here is Internet service is now as vital as telephone service was before it. Hence per the position adopted by the county, it too requires a "lifeline" rate subsidy for lower income households to ensure universal access. However, before there can be universal access, there must be universal service.

Early this year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission adopted its Open Internet rulemaking classifying Internet service as a common carrier telecommunications utility service like telephone service. That legal classification under the Communications Act includes a universal service obligation on providers to offer Internet service to any household requesting it. But thus far, the FCC has shown no inclination to enforce the rule, which became effective in June.

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