CTIA fights controversial budget cap for Lifeline program

CTIA is fighting a Republican effort to impose a hard budget cap on Lifeline, a federal subsidy program for fixed-line and mobile phones that was recently expanded to cover broadband service.

The FCC voted two weeks ago to extend Lifeline to help enable low-income Americans to access broadband Internet on computers and mobile devices. The move raised Lifeline's budget to $2.25 billion a year, although critics claim the cap provides too much flexibility for the FCC to raise it at will.

The expansion was approved in a party-line vote during a particularly heated meeting that followed the collapse of an 11th-hour effort to reach consensus among the five commissioners.

The new bill would cap the program's budget at $1.5 billion, though, and is backed by legislators who claim the recent expansion doesn't do enough to address the problems of fraud and abuse that have long plagued Lifeline.

"Until there are better, more effective guardrails in place there's nothing to prevent the FCC from spending and spending and spending, placing an even greater burden on American household budgets that have to assume those costs," said Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, according to The Hill.

But CTIA said the new reforms should be implemented and monitored before new budget caps or other policies are introduced.

"The FCC's efforts last week go a long way to improving the administration of the program and shifting the program toward broadband," CTIA Executive Vice President Brad Gillen said in a prepared statement. "Wireless services are the primary communications tool for low-income Americans and it is critical that those consumers have the resources they need to participate in our connected world for jobs, education and public safety, so we will remain committed partners with the FCC to continue to enhance the Lifeline program."

For more:
- read this The Hill report

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