Common Sense Kids Action Releases Letter to Federal Communications Commission Urging Reform and Modernization of Lifeline Program

Expanding Broadband to Low-Income Homes will Help Millions of Kids, Education and the Economy
Common Sense Media
Common Sense Kids Action
Thursday, May 28, 2015

San Francisco, CA— Today, Common Sense Kids Action, the advocacy arm of Common Sense Media, released a statement from its CEO applauding the Federal Communications Commission for working on broadband expansion and urging it to reform and modernize its Lifeline Program to make broadband more affordable and accessible for millions of low-income consumers and their children.  The FCC announced today it is launching a formal process to consider Lifeline reforms.

James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO, Common Sense Kids Action released the following statement:

“At a time when access to high-speed Internet is critical for education, healthcare, jobs, and civic engagement, we must bring high-speed connectivity to the millions of low-income households with school age children that do not have high-speed Internet today. This will help to ensure all kids have equal opportunity to do their homework and that parents have the opportunity to look for and apply for jobs and engage in other important activities. We urge the FCC to act now to bridge the digital divide, and reform and improve the Lifeline program to make broadband more affordable and accessible for today’s low-income consumers and their children.”

A copy of Common Sense’s letter to the FCC is attached.

A link to the FCC’s announcement is here:  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-333686A1.docx

About Common Sense Kids Action

Common Sense Kids Action is an independent, non-partisan and powerful voice whose mission is to make kids and education America’s top priority. Common Sense Kids Action works with national and state leaders to advance policies that help ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century. Common Sense Kids Action has committed to advancing a 21st Century Kids and Education agenda—an agenda that includes ensuring that all children 0-5 have access to vital health and education resources, advancing 21st century learning, alleviating the damaging effects of poverty, and protecting children’s online privacy. Learn more at the Common Sense Kids Action website.

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Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, Pai, and O’Rielly,

On behalf of children and families across America, Common Sense Kids Action applauds the Federal Communications Commission for the efforts you are taking to help bring broadband service to low-income homes and we strongly urge you, as one step in this effort, to bring the longstanding Lifeline program into the digital age. 

With smart reforms and modernization, Lifeline can play a vital role in helping low-income children and their families connect to 21st century education, jobs, and other critical opportunities now available to the vast majority of, but not all, Americans.

As you know, Common Sense was an important partner with the FCC and other organizations in your highly successful modernization of the E-Rate program in 2014.  Thanks to the FCC’s efforts, schools and libraries across the country are gaining increased access to high-capacity broadband and WiFi.  The new E-Rate offers millions more children the potential to gain the skills they need to compete in today’s global economy.  And we look forward to continuing to work with you and other partners to help meet the President’s ConnectEd goal of ensuring nearly every classroom in America is properly connected by 2018. 

But the benefits of E-Rate expansion will be lessoned if millions of low-income children and their parents continue to lack access to high-capacity broadband at home. We urge the FCC to modernize Lifeline so that subscribers can choose to use existing subsidies for broadband access. In addition, streamlined enrollment and verification, removal of carriers from eligibility determinations, and other reforms

should increase program efficiencies and participation by consumers and providers.  We urge the FCC to support public-private partnerships to raise awareness about Lifeline and offer necessary digital training to subscribers.  And we offer to be your partner in this critical endeavor.

Such reforms will help low-income families by:

Leveling The Playing Field For All Children To Do Schoolwork At Home

For the first time in at least 50 years, low-income kids make up the majority of U.S. public school children.[1]  These children would greatly benefit from increased access to broadband.  Currently, around seven in ten teachers assign homework that requires broadband.[2]   Yet recent Pew Research shows that 5 million households with school-age children do not have adequate broadband access—that’s about one in six families with kids in school.[3]  Given the broadband expansion in schools, combined with growing poverty at home, the playing field remains dangerously uneven between kids who now can complete their schoolwork at home and those who cannot because of the lack of high-capacity broadband in the home.

Increasing Digital Opportunities And Strengthening Our Economy

Expanding broadband access and adoption will enable a generation of students to do more than keep up with their homework—it will better allow them to research colleges and post-secondary training, apply for jobs, scholarships and financial aid, and access other key digital opportunities.  Importantly, broadband and digital training can directly help prepare students for the jobs of the future.  Workforce demand for STEM knowledge is growing and, to take advantage of such opportunities, today’s young people need to be skilled with technology.   Modernizing Lifeline will better ensure that all students, not just those who live in homes that are adequately connected today, have the opportunity to participate in our internationally competitive economy.

Enabling Low-Income Parents To Thrive In A Digital World

Not only would children benefit from ensuring high-capacity broadband access to low-income homes that currently do not have it, but so will their parents and guardians who also increasingly must rely on the Internet to successfully search for and apply for jobs, work from home, obtain healthcare information, and keep in contact with their children’s schools. Broadband at home is considered essential for the vast majority of Americans, and for good reason.  Leveling the playing field so that the millions of low-income homes currently without access can have adequate broadband capacity is essential not only to better help working parents balance their schedules in ways that meet their families’ needs,[4] but to help strengthen our overall economy by ensuring all Americans have an equal opportunity to participate and contribute.

Lifeline is not the only answer to ensuring universal access to high-capacity broadband for children, their parents, workers, students, and businesses of all sizes, but it is one critical step that can make a great difference if the right reforms and modernizations are put in place now. Common Sense applauds the FCC for the efforts it is making toward broadband expansion and we strongly urge you to make Lifeline reform and modernization a top Commission priority. It is a top priority for Common Sense.

Thank you for your consideration of our position and we stand ready to assist you in this effort in any way that would be helpful.

Sincerely,

James P. Steyer

Founder and CEO, Common Sense

650 Townsend, Suite 435

San Francisco, CA 94103

415.863.0600

www.commonsensekidsaction.org