WASHINGTON -- On Thursday, as part of Lifeline Awareness Week, Free Press Action Fund and more than 80 groups representing a diverse coalition of public interest, civil rights, religious and community-based organizations sent a letter to members of the Senate and House Commerce Committees urging them to support and protect the Lifeline program.
Signers of the letter include the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Media Justice, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the National Association of American Veterans, Inc., the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Ohio Poverty Law Center.
To read the House letter and view the full list of signers, go to: http://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/House_Letter_in_Support_of_Lifeline.pdf.
To read the Senate letter and view the full list of signers, go to: http://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/Senate_Letter_in_Support_of_Lifeline.pdf.
Lifeline provides a modest subsidy to low-income consumers to pay for basic communications service. Lifeline’s subscribers include seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, rural residents, Native Americans, individuals from communities of color and struggling families. Initially created under the Reagan administration, the Lifeline program was expanded under the George W. Bush administration to cover wireless service.
“Lifeline helps ensure that our nation’s most vulnerable populations remain connected and have access to affordable communications services that are essential for job opportunities, medical services, educational advancement and so much more,” said Free Press Action Fund Policy Counsel Jennifer Yeh.
Lifeline’s critics have resorted to exaggerations and stereotypes in their quest to eliminate the program. The Federal Communications Commission — the agency charged with the program’s oversight — recently implemented several reforms to make Lifeline more efficient.
“As public interest, civil rights, faith-based and community advocates, we, too, have an interest in seeing the efficient and effective use of the money collected from consumers for the Universal Service Fund,” the groups write. “We believe the solution is to continue to enforce the rules of the reformed program to eliminate fraud and penalize those who abuse the program, including especially companies that fail to comply with the stricter Lifeline rules. While improving the program, however, we must continue to serve the individuals who need Lifeline most.”
Lifeline Awareness Week began on Sept. 9 and continues through Sept. 13.