On June 22, Mignon L. Clyburn, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), addressed the New America Foundation about affordable broadband. She started out by talking about the Open Internet Order that had recently gone into effect. She then segued into how “wireless broadband should never be priced so high that it becomes a luxury reserved only for the privileged."
Commissioner Clyburn continued on discussing how affordable broadband is not an end but a means to which people can gain access to tools that are necessary in the 21st Century. “Broadband is the greatest technological equalizer of our time, and is an essential lever in helping to break cycles of poverty, despair and hopelessness.” The Commissioner then talked about how broadband can give children access to a world-class education even if they are facing problems in their school system, i.e. the school they go to is considered under-performing or underfunded. Broadband can also give elderly and disabled citizens an easier connection to things that before would be hard for them to gain access. Broadband also offers a higher level of civic engagement, communications and healthcare opportunities that can be tailor-made to their needs. Finally broadband can provide help for those entering the workforce or recently displaced to find employment or entrepreneurial resources that would never appear in the newspaper’s classified section. “But for broadband to reach its fullest potential, to improve the lives of every American, it must be both affordable and ubiquitous — if it is not, it will become just another barrier that separates the 'haves' and the 'have nots.'”
In conclusion, Commissioner Clyburn proposed a new Lifeline program called iBridge Now, outlining five fundamental points of the program:
- iBridge Now would give low-income consumers, access to voice and broadband services, comparable to other Americans.
- The program known as Lifeline will treat consumers with dignity and no longer force consumers to turn over financially sensitive information to an unknown person.
- iBridge Now! will offer competitive options which in turn give consumers more providers, more options, better services and more choice.
- The FCC proposes to adopt enhanced oversight, to further eliminate all incentives for waste, fraud and abuse. “A neutral third-party – not the carrier – should determine consumer eligibility.”
- Lastly, the program will reduce administrative burdens, by leveraging efficiency from other benefit programs.
The author of this summary is Shane Ford, a member of the CORO program.