Mobile Beacon Submits Comments in Response to the FCC’s NPRM, Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers

Mobile Beacon Submits Comments in Response to the FCC’s NPRM, Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers

Mobile Beacon submitted comments on February 21, 2018, in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquire title, “Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers.” Mobile Beacon is greatly concerned about the proposed changes to the Lifeline program. We believe many of these changes will result in widening – not closing
– the digital divide. We urge the FCC to recommit to the pro-consumer policies that enabled many different types of service providers to participate in the Lifeline program.

As the service organization of NACEPF (the second largest Educational Broadband Service licensee in the US), Mobile Beacon’s mission is to strengthen communities across the United States by providing high-speed, unlimited, $10/month, mobile internet access to community anchor institutions (“CAIs”): libraries, museums, schools, community foundations, and other nonprofit organizations. This anytime/anywhere connectivity enables our nonprofit clients to access more information, reach more people, and provide more help to their communities.

The actions proposed by the FCC would be extremely detrimental to broadband adoption across America. Mobile Beacon objects to several items in the proposed changes.

We oppose the elimination of the Lifeline Broadband Provider designation and the elimination of Non-Facilities-Based Eligible Telecommunications Carriers.

We believe that the quality and availability of robust service offerings to close the digital divide is indisputably more important than whether the service provider owns its own network. In 2015, when Mobile Beacon submitted comments in response to the FCC’s Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Lifeline reform and modernization, we provided specific examples how our data-only broadband service was helping to close the digital divide and encouraged the FCC to make it easier for broadband-only providers to participate in Lifeline program.

We believe that discontinuing Lifeline support for Non-Facilities-Based service will negatively impact the number of Lifeline providers participating in the program and reduce the availability of quality, affordable Lifeline broadband services.

Mobile Beacon’s experience working with CAIs in all 50 states shows that quality, broadband-only offerings are increasing all across the country, most often in partnership with local CAIs. One successful digital inclusion program is Bridging the Gap, a program offered by PCs for People, a national digital inclusion nonprofit that uses Mobile Beacon’s uncapped, 4G mobile broadband service to help eligible individuals and families below the 200% poverty line obtain an affordable computer and get online. Mobile Beacon recently published a research report on the Bridging the Gap program. We discovered:

  • All members of the household quickly embrace the internet. 94% of subscribers say they use the internet daily, and 82% say they use the internet several hours a day.
  • Home internet access helps children complete their schoolwork. More than half (54%) of parents say their children spend more than 4 hours per week using the internet for schoolwork.
  • Parent engagement—a factor associated with higher student achievement outcomes—also significantly increased. 95% of parents say they communicate with their kids’ teachers more since enrolling in Bridging the Gap, and 88% say they use the internet to research school topics so they can better assist their kids with homework.

We urge the FCC to recommit to the pro-consumer policies that enabled many different types of service providers to participate in the Lifeline program. This is the surest path to getting the most service options to the 43 million Americans living in poverty that is so urgently needed in lifeline today.  

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