House to vote on bill to kill Lifeline subsidies for mobile services

Legislators are scheduled to vote on a bill Tuesday that would block the FCC from giving federal subsidies to low-income consumers for mobile phone and wireless broadband services, The Hill reported.

The End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act is being pushed by some House Republicans and would stop the FCC's Lifeline program from funding mobile network operators providing either voice or data services. The program has regularly drawn criticism from opponents who claim it is unwieldy, unnecessary and mismanaged.

Lifeline, which launched during the Reagan administration and was expanded to include mobile phones in 2005, provides discounted service to low-income consumers. The FCC voted in March along party lines to expand the program to cover fixed-line and mobile broadband service; that expansion also included a provision for the creation of a new third-party verification system to prevent the fraud that has long plagued Lifeline.

Backers say Lifeline enables low-income Americans to do basic online tasks such as searching and applying for jobs. The program also helps close the "homework gap" that exists when students who don't have home internet access are given assignments that require them to go online, proponents claim.

"This change is overdue because connectivity today is so much more than it was when this program got its start and most communication involved a phone cord," Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in March after the FCC voted to expand Lifeline. "There was a time when broadband access was a luxury. No more. And nothing demonstrates this as clearly as education."

The House effort to kill subsidies for wireless services will be considered under suspension of the rules, The Hill reported, in a procedural move requiring a two-thirds majority to pass it. Democrats are expected to oppose the bill.

For more:
- read this Hill report

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