PITTSBURGH, September 2,
2015 - As the
Federal Communications Commission seeks to expand the Lifeline program to provide
support for broadband Internet service for eligible low-income users, the American
Cable Association called on the agency to adopt reforms to ensure fiscal
discipline and encourage broader provider participation by wireline voice and
the ACA supports the aim of the Lifeline program to provide essential
communications capabilities to low-income consumers, the FCC must -- if it
wants to attract cable operators that have not traditionally participated in
the program -- adopt reforms that make signing up and serving a Lifeline
customer as attractive as any other customer," ACA President and CEO Matthew M.
ACA's views were expressed in an Aug. 31 filing with the FCC as the agency seeks to ensure that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to broadband Internet technology to expand their range of educational, employment and commercial opportunities.
As a threshold matter, ACA said the FCC should not expand Lifeline from its voice-centric focus without adopting measures to ensure fiscal responsibility, including a cap on the annual amount of support for the program. Lifeline funding has doubled since 2005, even in the wake of reforms adopted several years ago. Capping the program will respond to ACA's concerns about the growth in the overall budget of the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the large, direct burden it places on consumers, especially those least able to afford it.
Many of ACA's telephone company members are Lifeline participants and have been for many years because of their receipt of subsidies to provide phone service in costly-to-serve areas; yet most find their participation in the program to be increasingly unappealing. ACA cable operator members, which do not receive subsidies, have chosen not to be involved because they believe the costs of signing up and serving a limited number of Lifeline customers far exceeds the costs of other customers.
To stimulate greater cable operator interest in the Lifeline program as broadband comes online as a funded service, ACA recommended the following steps:
"The FCC should recognize that half-measures will not suffice in addressing basic problems in the Lifeline program. Major reforms are required, and ACA urges the FCC to undertake them promptly," Polka said.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/
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