Today, Public Advocate Letitia James called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect Lifeline, a program that provides subsidized phone and internet services to millions of low-income Americans, including over 1 million New Yorkers. In a letter to the FCC, Public Advocate James urged the Commission to reject a series of proposals that would significantly defund the program, and drastically reduce the number of Americans able to afford basic phone and internet service.
Council Member Margaret Chin said, “Seniors in Lower Manhattan are no stranger to this program, and for many these recipients, Lifeline also serves as a key tool to complete various daily tasks — including paying the bills, applying for affordable housing and completing their annual public housing recertification. I urge the FCC to protect this vital program and support proposals that fight for internet access and equity for every American — regardless of age or income level — and encourage fellow New Yorkers concerned about the future of the Lifeline program to make their voices heard to FCC before the February 21st deadline.”
“The FCC’s current proposals for cutting back the Lifeline program will inflict a cruel blow to low-income households,” said Caroline Laskow, District Leader, Assembly District 65 Part A. “It is a joke to pretend that phone and broadband services are anything but a necessity, whether for work or homework, for education or a job application. Without proper access to the digital world, low-income communities are increasingly left out and left behind. We must protect these consumers who are being unjustly targeted by the FCC with proposals that would serve to literally disconnect and disempower them.”
“Families should not have to worry that they will no longer be able to keep in touch with loved ones, or fear that in case of emergency they can not afford a telephone,” said Lee Berman, District Leader, Assembly District 65 Part A. “Nor should children in low-income families have yet another stumbling block put in their way when trying to learn. Without the ability to participate in the Lifeline program’s broadband discount for participating households, the working poor find it yet again harder to just keep up. Low-income children should have the same access to the internet, to do their homework and to study and research using broadband as the rest of America does.”
The Lifeline program was created in 1985 under President Reagan and serves nearly 13 million low-income Americans, including more than over 1 million New Yorkers. Access to a telephone is not only a key connection to opportunities and loved ones, but also a safety necessity during emergencies. With Lifetime subscribers earning an average of just $14,000 a year, the proposed changes to the program would have significant impacts on their ability to continue affording basic service.