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FCC gives broadband service helping more children gain internet access at home

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted yesterday 3-2 to update a 30-year-old program to help low-income households and their students gain high-speed Internet access. Previously, the Lifeline program only provided subsidies for voice telephone services; it didn’t include broadband. The decision is a step toward reducing the digital divide and improving student success.  

NSBA cosigned a letter last week with the Education & Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC) asking the FCC to support modernization of the Lifeline program. The joint letter further urged the FCC to require that smartphones provided under the Lifeline program have WiFi capability and permit tethering to laptops and other devices to assist students to gain access from their homes to online homework and other digital resources necessary for their education.  

The Lifeline program is funded by a small monthly fee on consumers’ phone bills and last year approximately $1.5 billion went toward providing services. The FCC also took steps to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse of the programs as reported in the Los Angeles Times.   

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel stated “today’s decision includes steps designed to help close the homework gap… Today's decision encourages providers to help make eligible families with school-aged children aware of the Lifeline program… But to be clear, addressing the homework gap will require more than the Lifeline program....”

Commissioner Rosenworcel has been invited to speak at NSBA’s 2016 Advocacy Institute, June 11-14, in Washington D.C. More details available in the full statements by Commissioners Wheeler and Rosenworcel and the FCC’s press release.

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