For Immediate Release

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Free Press: Piecemeal Reforms Won't Close Digital Divide

WASHINGTON - In its March open meeting Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on reforms to the Universal Service Fund's Lifeline and Link-Up programs. Lifeline and Link-Up provide discounts on monthly service and initial installation or activation fees for telephone service to income-eligible consumers. The reforms are part of a broader plan to revamp the USF into a program that would connect more Americans to broadband. The FCC's item contains several proposals aimed at increasing the fund's efficiency and reducing waste, and also seeks input on a potential pilot program to support broadband access service to low-income households.

Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner made the following statement:

"We look forward to scrutinizing the FCC's proposals for reforming the low-income subsidy program, and we're hopeful that the agency will in fact act to improve communications access for those Americans left on the wrong side of the digital divide.

"Closing the digital divide takes more than just piecemeal reforms, and it certainly won't be solved by just throwing more money at already extremely profitable communications providers. Moving the needle on broadband adoption requires more than just well-named PR ploys like NCTA's 'Adoption-Plus' program which has been collecting dust on a shelf since its announcement. It's going to take policymakers to stand up for the good of the nation by requiring the phone and cable companies -- which receive billions in tax perks each year -- to do their part to ensure universal adoption through reasonable public service obligations. And unless policymakers get serious about the lack of competition in the broadband market, we're never going to see the levels of adoption or innovation that all Americans deserve."


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