FCC chair wants states to decide on Lifeline providers

The Federal Communications Commission logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington

He also said he is committed to keeping broadband in the Lifeline programme, which provides subsidised telecom services to low-income households.

"Chairman Pai's move to halt Wireline Bureau approval of all Lifeline Broadband Provider designation applications, as well as his intent to eliminate the FCC's streamlined designation process altogether, undermines key reforms to the modernized Lifeline program that were adopted a year ago this week".

But rather than take these steps to address the program's continuing susceptibility to waste, fraud, and abuse, the FCC chose to "ease the burden" of becoming a Lifeline broadband provider by preempting state authority to designate eligible participants.

"Chairman Pai will.be shown to be a supporter of a properly structured, efficient Lifeline program", said Randolph May, president of the right-leaning Free State Foundation.

Wheeler attempted to do so, but ran out of time on a proposal that would have potentially regulated competitive BDS entrants, including cable operators, which those ISPs said was punishing them for providing the competition to incumbents that the FCC itself promoted. He said the agency would not defend prior FCC actions with regards the program in a case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Pai's statement implies that those people may have to switch to a state-approved provider if the FCC indeed gives approval responsibility back to the states.

The expansion of the program previous year allowed ISPs to provide the service without seeking approval from the government of the state in which they operate. "And the FCC will soon begin a proceeding to eliminate the new federal designation process", Pai said in an FCC statement.

Last month, Pai denied nine broadband providers the ability to participate in the Lifeline program.

Pai encouraged new companies to "enter the program using this process".

Twelve states are challenging the legality of FCC's orders regarding Lifeline. Low-income Americans "will have less choice for Lifeline broadband, and potential providers who want to serve low-income Americans will face greater barriers to entry and regulatory uncertainty", Clyburn said.

Pai was at it again on Wednesday. But the FCC order from March 2016 said the new FCC approval process would be an "additional alternative" to the current state processes, which would remain in place. (Low-income black children are also about 10 percent less likely to have internet access at home than low-income white children.) And although Pew also found that the numbers of poor Americans with access to the internet through smartphones was increasing, the numbers who have home broadband was decreasing, which is a big problem for, say, children who need to do their homework. "While today's announcement is not surprising, it is nonetheless deeply disappointing".

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