SAN FRANCISCO -- The FCC needs to update its Lifeline program to focus on broadband as the critical service, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told the ComptelPlus audience Monday.
Describing what she calls "the homework gap," Rosenworcel said research "suggests that seven in ten teachers assign homework that requires Internet access," but data also shows that one in three households don't subscribe to broadband, putting some students at a great disadvantage. She also cited Pew Research stats which showed 5 million of the 29 million US households with school-aged children lack Internet access.
Today's Lifeline service provides subsidized, low-cost voice services via a fund to which customers contribute, but Rosenworcel says the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to update its rules to make broadband Internet access part of the Lifeline program, and said that's something she is pursuing within the agency.
Admitting that changing Lifeline is "not a simple thing to do," Rosenworcel said broadband Internet access is something that's increasingly important for every aspect of life, including schoolwork, job applications, and healthcare.
Rosenworcel's appearance was in a Q&A with Chip Pickering, president and CEO of Incompas -- the new name for Incompas -- and despite the fact she is a Democrat and he's a Republican and former member of Congress, the conversation was quite amicable. That may be due in large part to the fact that the current FCC has been very friendly to the competitive carriers who were historically the heart of Comptel. A year ago, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler appeared at the fall ComptelPlus event and made promises regarding protecting competition in local services in the US that he has kept, Pickering noted.
The two even agreed that there needs to be bipartisan support in Congress to protect competition and innovation in the US internet economy -- which Rosenworcel called the envy of the world -- so that it continues to thrive.
Pickering said Incompas's role will be to drive consensus within the industry itself on key issues, to the mutual benefit of all parties. Given that its membership includes a full range of service providers as well as Internet giants such as Google, Netflix and Twitter, Incompas is in a position to create such as consensus, its president said.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading