The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

Free Press Action Fund Opposes House Bill That Limits Program Designed to Bridge the Digital Divide


On Wednesday, the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a legislative hearing on the CURB Lifeline Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Austin Scott (R-Georgia) that would cap spending on Lifeline, the program that helps low-income families afford telecom and broadband communications.

The bill under consideration would limit annual expenditures for Lifeline to $1.5 billion, potentially leaving a large population without the support it needs to get connected.

Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

"Lifeline is aptly named. It's a communications lifeline for those who couldn't otherwise connect to their families, schools, workplaces and communities. The program has been a huge success for participants, but only about a third of eligible recipients get benefits today. This harmful bill would essentially freeze the fund at that low level of participation -- making it impossible for tens of millions of qualified people to participate.

"Lifeline's income subsidy means that people don't have to choose between feeding their kids or giving them Internet access to do their homework. We need it to help reduce prices and make communications services more affordable for everyone and to reverse the recent backslide in home broadband adoption rates for Black and Latino households, elderly populations, rural communities and other marginalized demographic groups.

"The FCC has just initiated a long-awaited modernization for Lifeline, transitioning the program to support broadband in addition to voice services. Capping the fund at roughly its present funding level -- when about two-thirds of eligible people aren't getting the support they deserve -- is short-sighted at best. At worst, it's an intentional slap in the face, and a blatant attempt to cut off entire communities from our modern economy and democracy."

Free Press was created to give people a voice in the crucial decisions that shape our media. We believe that positive social change, racial justice and meaningful engagement in public life require equitable access to technology, diverse and independent ownership of media platforms, and journalism that holds leaders accountable and tells people what's actually happening in their communities.

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