Starting December 2, new rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governing the Lifeline program for low-income consumers will go into effect. Most significantly, the program subsidy may be applied for the first time to standalone broadband offered by eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) or Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs). It is important to note, however, that no new LBPs have been approved yet, and ETCs may seek forbearance from these rules. For this reason, there may be few available Lifeline-eligible broadband options to low-income consumers in the immediate term.
Lifeline advocates (including ALA) continue to work with the FCC, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) that administers the Lifeline (and other universal service programs like E-rate) program, and internet service providers to increase the available options and public awareness of these options. The most current information available for consumers about the program, eligibility and how to apply is available at www.LifelineSupport.org or by calling 888-641-8722 Ext. 1 or emailing LifelineSupport@usac.org for help.
While not specific to the Lifeline program, non-profit EveryoneOn provides an online portal to explore low-cost broadband, low-cost devices and digital literacy training options by zip code, which is another resource librarians may share with patrons: www.EveryoneOn.org.
Stay tuned! Lifeline advocates are looking to spring 2017 to boost Lifeline awareness after more options have been added and new resources and information are available to help low-income people find the best service for them. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.