With key decisions regarding reform of the Universal Service Fund (USF) now behind it, the Federal Communications Commission is facing pressure from civil rights advocates to quickly turn its attention to the needs of low-income consumers.
“We are disappointed by the Federal Communications Commission’s failure to respond to our request that it recalibrate the USF allocation to help more low-income Americans gain access to broadband,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“Just over 30 percent of Americans have access to broadband infrastructure but do not subscribe, while only about 5 percent of Americans lack access to the infrastructure,” Zirkin said. “The current allocation of USF funding is heavily weighted toward infrastructure deployment and does not reflect the relative scale of these problems.”
Only 40 percent of adults with an income of less than $20,000 have broadband access, which is why civil rights groups are urging the FCC to modernize the Lifeline and Link-Up programs to include support for broadband services. Lifeline and Link-Up, which are supported by the USF, provide low-income households with discounts on monthly phone bills and initial installation charges.
High-speed internet access is critical to success in today’s job market. Broadband plays a role in all aspects of the job pipeline, creating more job readiness that includes obtaining skills necessary for a job, job placement that includes successfully applying for a job, and job progression that includes retraining for advancing through a job, as stated in comments filed by Leadership Conference members. Civil rights groups are urging the FCC to expand Lifeline and Link-Up to support broadband services this year.