It’s Lifeline Awareness Week

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last week marked “National Telephone Discount Lifeline Awareness Week.” Each year during this week numerous public interest groups, organizations, and government agencies nationwide raise awareness about the Universal Service Fund’s “Lifeline Program,” which provides low-income families with a discount on telephone service. 

Now thirty-years since the program’s inception, there have been an enormous amount of change in how people communicate, much of which is seen in the shift in communications services to the Internet.  This shift in services marks an important milestone for Lifeline reform.

Earlier this summer the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a notice requesting public comment on the inclusion of broadband.  Under the modernized Lifeline Program, low-income families would be able to use the $9.25 subsidy for access to broadband.

The National Urban League has been a long-standing supporter of increasing broadband adoption among low-income communities, and has argued that a modernized Lifeline Program that includes broadband is a key to increasing adoption among the hardest to reach populations in the communities we serve.  Indeed, the Urban League recognizes that access to the Internet is not a luxury but a necessity in the 21st century economy for low-income communities of color to, at a minimum, gain access to employment opportunities, educational resources, and essential government services.  In essence, the Internet has become a “lifeline.”

As such, the National Urban League along with the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) and 15 other organizations, to include the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, National Action Network, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, submitted comments to the FCC supporting the Commission’s efforts to reform the program. 

The comments submitted advocated for the following:

  1. Eligible Lifeline subscribers should be able to choose between voice, broadband, or both
  2. Minimum service requirements be established for high-speed broadband to ensure that Lifeline participants can seamlessly access robust online content;
  3. The Commission should institute coordinated enrollment with other national public benefit programs (i.e. SNAP) and eliminate eligibility determination by lifeline service providers; and
  4. National, regional, and local organizations should be leveraged to raise awareness about the Lifeline program and aid in program enrollment.

Currently, the FCC is reviewing the public comments submitted and continuing to receive reply comments from the public, which are due September 30th.  Thus, it is likely the Commission could vote on a final order as early as the end of this year.  As the Commission continues the process of Lifeline reform, the National Urban League will continue to advocate for a modernized program that economically empowers the communities we serve.

To view the comments of the National Urban League and “Lifeline Supporters,” click here.

To learn more information about the Lifeline program, click here.

Dowloadable Documents: 

Recent Policies

May 23 2018 Urban League Troubled by Vitter's Refusal to Endorse the Precepts of Brown v. Board of Education Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:   I write because I am extremely troubled and shocked by Wendy Vitter's refusal to endorse the precepts and holding of the seminal case of Brown v. Board of Education.  
Mar 22 2018 150 Organizations Band Together in Support of 2014 School Discipline Guidance Dear Secretary DeVos,  
Mar 13 2018 51 Groups Unite to Express Concern About HR 4909, the STOP School Violence Act Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi, The 51 undersigned organizations write to express our concerns about H.R. 4909, the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018, introduced on January 30, 2018.  
Mar 13 2018 Urban League Opposes Nomination of Thomas Farr as U.S. District Judge for Eastern District of North Carolina Dear Senator:   On behalf of the National Urban League and its 90 local affiliates in urban communities across 37 states, including North Carolina, and the District of Columbia, I write to express our strong opposition to the nomination of Thomas Farr as United States District Judge for the Eastern... Read
Mar 12 2018 Urban League Against So-Called "STOP School Violence Act" Dear Speaker Ryan and Democratic Leader Pelosi:   On behalf of the National Urban League and its 90 local affiliates in urban communities across 37 states and the District of Columbia, we urge you to oppose H.R.4909, the STOP School Violence Act. We are concerned that the anonymous reporting and... Read