National Consumers League

NCL letter to House opposing anti-Lifeline bill

June 21, 2016

The Honorable Paul D. Ryan
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Democratic Leader
United States House of Representatives
H-204, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

 

RE: National Consumers League opposition to H.R. 5525, the “End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act of 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

On behalf of the National Consumers League,[1] I am writing today to share our concerns regarding H.R. 5525, the End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act of 2016,” which is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives today. The bill, sponsored by Representative Austin Scott, would  undermine the ability of the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline low-income subsidy program to meet the needs of millions of low-income consumers to access affordable broadband service. We know that the Internet has dramatically enhanced our society, but has also widened the opportunity gap between those who have broadband and those who do not in key areas such as employment, education and healthcare access. At a time when the Lifeline program is undergoing significant modernization, now is not the time to arbitrarily constrain its budget and prevent it from supporting mobile voice and broadband service. We therefore urge you and your colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to oppose this bill.

Organizations from across the consumer, public interest and civil rights communities support the transition of Lifeline to supporting broadband. NCL agrees; we recognize that supporting access to the Internet for low-income consumers is critical to addressing the persistent wage, education and opportunity gaps that exist in our society. As we noted in our filing to the FCC, employers and government agencies are increasingly shifting their application processes for essential benefits programs online to an effort to efficiency. Lack of access to broadband makes it harder for low-income consumers and their families to stay in touch with job opportunities, family support networks and educational institutions.

Government at all levels has historically supported programs that help low-income consumers access to critical infrastructure like water, electricity and telephone service. Broadband Internet access should be no different. 

We urge you to oppose any effort to constrain the FCC’s goal of providing affordable broadband service to millions of low-income consumers. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you in more detail. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully, 

John Breyault
Vice President, Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud National Consumers League
Phone: (202) 207-2819
Email: johnb@nclnet.org

cc: Members of the U.S. House of Representatives


[1] The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is the nation’s pioneering consumer organization.  Our non-profit mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit http://www.nclnet.org.