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New Lifeline broadband subsidy to be available 12/2—but options limited for now

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.

Starting December 2, the Lifeline subsidy may be applied to standalone broadband offered by Lifeline Broadband Providers.
Starting December 2, the Lifeline subsidy may be applied to standalone broadband.

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 or by calling 888-641-8722 Ext. 1 or emailing for help.

For additional background, librarians and other digital inclusion advocates can review a recent archived USAC webinar, as well as read more about the program and recent rule changes here and here.

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:

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.

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Larra Clark

Larra Clark is the deputy director of both the Public Library Association and Washington Office’s public policy team. Larra received her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Arizona and has a M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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