Thursday, March 31, 2016

Affordability only part of the solution to #homeworkgap; lifeline goes hand in hand with universal service

Boost the homework connection - Times Union: But more can be done. For starters, on Thursday, the FCC is expected to vote on a proposal to modernize a program called Lifeline. Lifeline began more than three decades ago, when President Ronald Reagan was in the White House and rotary phones were still in style. Then and now, this program provides a discount for basic phone service. But broadband is the essential technology of our time. So it's time for the FCC to take steps to make this program broadband-capable and use it to help close the homework gap.

It should be recalled that when lifeline was implemented in 1985, the United States had achieved universal or near universal access for telephone service. Unlike today when according to the FCC's figures released earlier this year, 34 million Americans are unable to obtain telecommunications service capable of delivering high-quality voice, data, graphics and video.

Universal service is an essential component and not separate and distinct from lifeline subsidies for low income households. Another difference from 1985 is telephone service rates were tightly regulated in order to keep them affordable, unlike Internet service today. Notwithstanding the fact the FCC classified Internet service as a common carrier telecommunications utility in 2015 with its Open Internet rulemaking. Prices will naturally tend to be unaffordable for low income households in a price unregulated natural monopoly market.

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