Sen. Franken Assails Effort by New FCC Chair to Cut Off Broadband Help for Low-Income Families, Veterans, Seniors

Senator and Colleagues Say Move will Deprive Americans of Ability to Communicate, Look for Work, Complete Schoolwork, Access Vital information

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) assailed a decision by the new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that could make it harder for low-income Americans to access affordable broadband internet services.

In a letter, Sen. Franken, along with several Senate colleagues, pressed Chairman Ajit Pai to reverse his decision to stop nine broadband providers from being part of the federal Lifeline program. For decades the program has helped millions of low-income families, military veterans, and elderly Americans afford basic phone service. In 2016, the program was modernized and began to offer support for broadband use in Minnesota and across the country.

Last week, Chairman Pai, who was elevated recently to the commission’s chairmanship by President Trump, informed nine broadband providers that they can no longer provide a $9.25-per-month subsidy to qualified customers. The decision could mean that some needy families will lose the broadband services they need to communicate, access health care information, search for jobs, or complete school assignments.
“There is no question that access to broadband is essential to conduct daily activities, pursue job and housing opportunities, obtain quality health care services, and stay in touch with family members. Furthermore, adding broadband to Lifeline can help end the cruel “homework gap” for the five million out of the 28 million households in this country with school-aged children who lack access to broadband,” the Senators wrote in their letter. “We urge you to recognize that your recent decision may have far-reaching impacts beyond just disconnecting the customers of one of the nine providers whose LBP status you have revoked.”

Sen. Franken was joined on the letter to Pai by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Ben Cardin (D-M.D.).