Today, the FCC began the long-overdue process of reforming the Lifeline and Link-Up America programs, which subsidize basic phone service for low-income Americans. The following statement can be attributed to Larry Downes , Senior Adjunct Fellow at TechFreedom:
The FCC has taken positive steps today toward reform of the bloated and outdated Lifeline and Link-Up programs. As conceived by Congress, these programs subsidize basic telephone service for low income Americans. But even as basic communications costs continue to decline, the fund has grown over 1,000% in the last fifteen years. It’s no surprise, then, that the Lifeline and Link-Up programs are universally acknowledged to be plagued with waste, fraud and abuse. Reform is long overdue.
The FCC today also announced a pilot program to use projected savings from today’s reforms to offer broadband Internet access to low-income families. While we share the goal of making broadband Internet available to all Americans, we’re troubled by the Commission’s continued determination to regulate without authority from Congress.
The majority’s reliance on Section 706 of the Communications Act, which the FCC also used to ground its now-challenged 2010 Open Internet order, is deeply problematic. Section 706 encourages the agency to remove regulatory oversight of broadband markets. It is not a blank check for the FCC to pursue any agenda it thinks best, no matter how well-intentioned.
We agree with FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell that Section 706 doesn’t authorize the FCC to extend its own authority—and that it is imprudent to spend money on a pilot before it’s clear how much will actually be saved from today’s important reforms.
Downes is available for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org .