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FCC Chairman Plans to Expand Life Line Program to Internet

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Pawnee County
New Member

FCC Chairman Plans to Expand Life Line Program to Internet

I have never felt that Net Neutrality was a good ideal but I have to say, well, I did see this coming but some didn't think it could happen.  This is not meant in any way to be political and it is from a legitimate News Outlet.  I did think the first thing the FCC would do is submit the internet users to a USF and here it is being proposed.  Get ready to add 16.1% to your HughesNet Bill if this passes muster. 

Does it sound like a good deal now or not?
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"(CNSNews.com) - Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced on Thursday that he intends to expand Lifeline, popularly known as the “Obama Phone” program, to the Internet.

“I am circulating new proposals to “reboot” Lifeline [1] for the Internet age,” Wheeler wrote [2] in a blog post on the FCC’s Website. He said the reboot would include “establishing minimum standards of service for voice and broadband,” in addition to subsidies for low-income consumers.

Lifeline is a government benefit program that provides [3] a monthly subsidy of $9.95 on telephone service for those at or below 135 percent of the poverty line so they can connect to the nation's communications networks, find jobs, access health care services, connect with family and their children's schools, and call for help in an emergency.

The money comes out of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is funded through fees paid by consumers on telephone service.  The fee is generally itemized on customers’ monthly telephone bills and is currently assessed at a rate of 16.1 percent of the bill.

The size of the Lifeline program has doubled since 2008, increasing [4] from $819 million to $1.6 billion in 2014. It reached a high of $2.19 billion in 2012 amid allegations of fraud and abuse.

The USF, meanwhile, has increased [5] from $7.2 billion in 2008 to $10.34 billion in 2014, with Chairman Wheeler’s staff estimating a level of $12.1 billion in 2016. However, that estimate does not account for prospective Internet subsidies.
 

In his post, Wheeler said, “30 percent of Americans still haven’t adopted broadband at home.... While more than 95 percent of households with incomes over $150,000 have broadband, only 48 percent of those making less than $25,000 have service at home.”

According to Census Bureau data released [6] in September, 74 percent of Americans already have access to the Internet at home. Accounting for those who can access it at work, school, or public libraries, Pew Research found that just 15 percent of Americans reported not using the Internet at all.

Of the 15 percent who do not use the Internet, one-third said they had no desire to do so. “They are not interested, don't want to use it or don't need it,” Pew reported [7] in 2013. Overall, just 3 percent of Americans reported that they did not use the Internet due to financial reasons.

The Lifeline expansion was made possible largely through the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which reclassified Internet service as a utility and allows the FCC to impose the USF fee on Internet service if it chooses to do so.

The role of government in the Internet has already been likened to the ‘Obama Phone [8]’ program, with Rep. Marsha Blackburn saying in a statement [9], “The age of ObamaNet is upon us.”

The FCC is now seeking comment on how to modernize Lifeline “while further combatting waste and better targeting the program to those who need it most."

The FCC will vote on Wheeler’s proposal on June 18."
36 REPLIES 36
Thomas Ritter
New Member

As a tech, I think to wire an area NOT already wired would require a "franchise" similar to cable, which would answer the question of wiring, but then competition would be stymied. I think if OTA technology such as Wi-Max which my former provider, CLEAR used, was utilized, the available subscribers in that given area may not be enough to warrant coverage. Cellular technology is too expensive and again, you have data caps. So right now, the answers are limited, but there has got to be some way of answering this problem without major expense or investment.
Pawnee County
New Member

Just like when ATT bought out Cricket they ended the Life Line program for Cricket Customers.  They also are ending all CDMA services to Cricket Customers and forcing them to buy new LTE equipment if they want to port their numbers over, and giving them to the middle of this month to comply.  So like Lilly Tomlin said on SNL, " Care we don't have to, we're the phone company."
Thomas Ritter
New Member

Obviously, if AT&T uses a different network, they are going to require those customers to upgrade/buy phones that will work on their network, I'd prefer a GSM phone anyway instead of CDMA...and BTW Cricket is still around and offer very competitive smartphone plans.
C0RR0SIVE
Associate Professor

Gary, that reminds me of the Bellsouth deal...  Bellsouth was running lines here for DSL the week that AT&T gobbled them up, could have sworn AT&T promised that they would finish DSL rollouts for Bellsouth customers, but instead, line was ran, DSLAM and other equipment was never installed, have an empty box up the road.
C0RR0SIVE
Associate Professor
Thomas Ritter
New Member

That's true, but if the FCC proposed "broadband" definition is changed, I don't believe DSL would qualify as broadband since its top speed is well below 25Mbps. For DSL to "increase" its speed, a whole new set of wiring is required...or a new technology needs to be developed for providing DSL in order to keep up.
Pawnee County
New Member

Hey Thomas, I still use the Cricket Phone (I like no contract) but will have to travel 30 miles into Stillwater and get another phone but still get unlimited Talk and Text for 35 bucks a month.  I have no need or desire for a Smart Phone though just mentioned this as an example of how communication corporations don't always do as they say or follow the rules.
 
Pawnee County
New Member

Si Charles

That was the original reason for the USF was to supply individual phone service to rural communities.  It was to replace the party lines and other obstacles that prevented emergency phone access from outline areas.
Thomas Ritter
New Member

Well Gary, I'll expand on that and say they will follow the rules today...but tomorrow is another day. The problem is the financial ends and the technical/engineering ends are NEVER in sync with each other. While one end is trying to improve on existing infrastructure and technologies, the other side is buying up smaller companies and competitors in order to increase their market share without internal investment (buying and sun-setting an existing company is a HUGE tax write-off. It's similar to why Comcast tried to buy TWC, it instantaneously increases revenue while increasing their market share. Fortunately, the FCC/government regulated them to the point where the attempt to buy has been dropped, but AT&T is still trying to buy DirecTV...which should in a couple of years if its approved, would open the ability to bundle AT&T internet access with DirecTV packages. For some reason the government seems to think a wireless access world is less intrusive that a cable-wired world, which led to Bell Systems monopoly and I think the government fears the same with cable...its certainly going in that direction. My point is as technologies change, so do these companies priorities and their goals....and the blueprint to attain that goal changes depending on the day and the direction the sun rises in. 
Thomas Ritter
New Member

But that was before the internet and emerging wireless technologies Gary. There are people across the country getting rid of their land-based phone lines and going to a cellular delivery system, especially when the demand on the home system is basically voice only. The footprint of wireless is virtually even with wired technology, and with wireless, there is no initial expense on wiring. The cost is in the speed of and coverage of the transmission.
Pawnee County
New Member

Yep!!! Things change all the time and the original wire hung on a pole to send a signal was the telegraph.  The first transcontinental telegraph was completed October 24th 1861 by Samuel Morse.  There is buried fiber optic cable everywhere except for most real rural areas which like Morse have wires hanging on a pole.

That is why I feel wireless will soon be the only standard for phone or internet.  Towers can be put up in rural areas service not only rural customers, but travellers, and campers as well.

Analog TV has ended even OTA so soon will Analog Phones, they are going the way of Sam's Telegraph.
Pawnee County
New Member

Ditto Thomas if I could get a good signal from a USB wireless card I  would go there in a hurry.  I did good with a Cricket Card for a while but it was on a partner tower and I kept getting throttled during peak times.  I also had a ATT card and it would only get an EDGE 264k connection at best.  The data caps on those was far worse than HughesNet too 4gig per month but had free nights and weekends which came in handy.
C0RR0SIVE
Associate Professor

Thomas, the technology already exists for 100Mbit+ on DSL lines, heck there are colleges that are playing with 1Gbit DSL methods in labs right now...  The issue comes down to companies like AT&T wanting to abandon wired networks and go wireless, keeping more of the precious tax money the government gives them to operate, while imposing serious restrictions on network usage.  VDSL2 offers 25Mbps, while Vectoring DSL offers ~100Mbps
Pawnee County
New Member

I still like my land line it works for FAX and to talk to folks that is all I need it for.  When I go somewhere I take the cell for emergencies or in case I have a need to call for some reason.  Hughes has plenty enough speed for me and does all I need it to.  I am not a big user just barley use the 5 gig I got like this month I will have a gig left over.  I'll just watch a few movies between now and the 3rd to eat some of it up but at 480p it takes a while.
Ed3
New Member

We don't  have a land line now, we have Verizon it works for us.
kathynaylor
Sophomore

After living in a metropolitan area most of my life, i now live in a rural area and work at a small college. Our educators see the results of expensive and limited internet access every day. The kids in these rural areas are falling more and more behind their peers in the cities. Internet access is an absolute necessity for young people in this day and age. Do we really want to have an underclass in our country? I guess some do. How can this not be political?