Lifeline program now includes discounted broadband

On March 31, 2016, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) approved rules to modernize the Lifeline program so subscribers will have the option to use it to buy discounted broadband. The Lifeline discounts will still be $9.25 per month and can apply to stand-alone broadband, bundled voice-broadband packages – either fixed or mobile – and stand-alone voice service.

What is Lifeline?

The Lifeline program was first created under President Reagan, and was designed to provide low-income Americans with financial assistance to purchase affordable phone service, so the most vulnerable Americans were connected to the rest of the country. In 2005, President George W. Bush expanded the program to include mobile phones. Now, in 2016, the use of the internet has become another vital way to communicate. The FCC therefore decided to it was time to modernize Lifeline and make sure that all Americans can access the broadband services they need. The Lifeline reforms would give the 12 million low-income households currently using the subsidy for phone service help paying their monthly broadband bill. And it has the potential to benefit millions more.

How Does Lifeline Work?

Lifeline provides a discount on service of $9.25 per month for eligible low-income subscribers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands. Subscribers may receive the Lifeline discount on either a wire line or a wireless service, but may not receive a discount on both services at the same time. Once the FCC’s new broadband rule is effective, Lifeline subscribers can select to use the discount toward broadband or broadband-voice bundle instead.

Who is Eligible?

To participate in the Lifeline program, subscribers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain assistance programs. You can see if you are eligible with the Lifeline Eligibility Pre-Screening Tool on the Universal Service Administrative website at www.lifelinesupport.org.

Following is a list of assistance programs that qualify a participant for Lifeline:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
  • State assistance programs (if applicable)

NOTE: These programs will change when the new rules become effective.

Can I start using Lifeline for discounted broadband right away?

No, the FCC’s rule approval triggers some additional steps that are needed before the program change will be effective and subscribers are able to use Lifeline for broadband. The FCC’s rule must first be published in the Federal Register and then approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The program administration will then need to be updated to reflect the new broadband options. These additional steps may take several months.  If you’re interested in using Lifeline for broadband, visit the website lifelinesupport.org for more information as program updates are made.

How can I apply for Lifeline support?

Apply for Lifeline through a Lifeline Program provider in your state or designated state agency. To locate a Lifeline provider in your state, go to lifelinesupport.org.

Mobile Citizen update

On January 29, Sprint and Mobile Citizen joined together to ask the court to extend a preliminary injunction that temporarily saved internet access for people on the WiMax network. The court approved it with a revised shutdown schedule for Seattle on February 29, 2016, as opposed to the original shutdown date of February 2.  This will allow them time to refine a plan with Sprint to offer Mobile Citizen’s users with a 30 GB+ 4G LTE data-only plan (with no throttling, suspension or overage charges after 30 GB). The plan does not include off-network roaming and it is subject to any standard network management that Sprint may apply to commercial broadband data-only account users.

What is happening?
EveryoneOn plans to disconnect its customers who get Internet access through Mobile Citizen on February 29, 2016.

How are you affected?
Mobile Citizen is working to find you alternative internet access. Their top priority has always been keeping you connected and will keep you updated as they review any options. Please check their blog (http://mobilecitizen.org/blog/) regularly.

Why can’t Mobile Citizen provide me with internet directly?
Mobile Citizen is not permitted to service individuals directly. They work with hundreds of nonprofits to ensure people in need around the nation have access to what has become an essential resource in the 21st Century.

Mayors support FCC proposal on low income broadband

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has joined mayors and city officials from across the country to support the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to improve internet access for low-income families through the federal Lifeline program.

“Lifeline modernization will benefit our community members and help us tackle the pressing but rewarding challenges of local governance,” the 44 mayors wrote to the FCC. “Getting more low-income households online will help modernize delivery of public services. Most importantly, Lifeline modernization will help our school children and give them better opportunities to succeed.”

The letter was coordinated by Next Century Cities, a nonprofit membership organization of mayors and other elected city leaders working to ensure fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access for all of their residents.

“Since its inception, the Lifeline program has helped millions of American families have access to critical telecommunications services,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “These 44 Next Century Cities mayors and city leaders hope to bring the Lifeline program into the 21st century by including the essential broadband infrastructure that so many of their residents rely on today.”

In the letter, city leaders encouraged the FCC to ratify the proposal to modernize the Lifeline program, stressing the need to put broadband in reach for low-income families in order to enhance education, civic engagement, and economic opportunity. The mayors’ letter also specified principles they support in a Lifeline proposal, including a portable benefit that promotes competition and a budget-neutral approach to Lifeline modernization.        

– See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/mayors-support-fcc-proposal-on-broadband-access-for-lower-income-families/#sthash.Y1KtheVa.IykBfxqd.dpuf

Hey cities, why not neighbors that share broadband?

The National League of Cities blog features a call for municipal broadband programs and policies to increase affordability by enabling greater sharing of Internet service. The proposal is written by two longtime community technology experts, Angela Siefer, adjunct fellow at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University and Bill Callahan, director of Connect Your Community.

Local nonprofit connects Seattle families

Every month, more than 100 families benefit from InterConnection’s computer and Internet programs. The programs help bridge the digital gap in our region and makes it easy for anyone to get online to look for jobs, health care information, do homework or connect with family and friends.

InterConnection’s professionally refurbished business grade laptops start at $99 and come with Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2010 and a 90-day warranty.

If you receive any of the following: Medicaid, SSI, TANF, GA-U, DSHS support, free or reduced school lunches, have an EBT card or earn less than $43,000, you qualify for this program.

Click here to learn more.

InterConnection also offers Internet for qualified individuals, and folks that do not qualify can also find great deals on refurbished and new computers.

Stop by InterConnection at 3415 Stone Way North, Seattle, WA 98103 or call (206) 633-1517.

You can also visit interconnection.org for more information.

An update on the status of a fiber-to-the-home network in Seattle

Rebroadcast from Mayor Murray’s Blog:

As some of you may have recently read, Mayor Murray sat down with the Puget Sound Business Journal and one of the topics discussed was the status of the City’s partnership with technology company Gigabit Squared. The deal, overseen by former Mayor Mike McGinn, would have allowed the company to lease parts of the city’s fiber optic network in order to bring high-speed Internet to residents of Seattle.

In November 2013 – prior to Mayor Murray taking office on January 1, 2014 – Gigabit Squared let the McGinn administration know they were having difficulties securing funding to bring the project to fruition. Due to that lack of private investment funding, Gigabit Squared, which has not yet delivered a broadband system in any city during their five years in business, could not continue their work. In addition, Gigabit Squared still owes the City of Seattle $52,250 for services provided to them by the City, including engineering fiber routes, conducting preliminary assessments for their wireless infrastructure, and permit planning.

The City is now at a crossroads and a new fiber strategy needs to be, and will be, explored.

In 2004, a citizen’s task force recommended the City pursue fiber instead of citywide Wi-Fi and, since that time, two administrations have explored ways to build fiber broadband. While this initiative has encountered a speed bump along the way, please be assured that access to a fiber-to-the-home network in Seattle is not “dead” as has been reported over the last few days. The Mayor is committed to improving the infrastructure of this city and that includes improving the connectivity of its residents. The Mayor is also deeply committed to the affordability of this city and will ask that any other options pursued do not further contribute to the economic divide in Seattle.

Please stay tuned for more information on this issue in the coming weeks.

Low Cost Internet & Computer Options

Visit our Home Internet & Computers page page for your current options in low cost Internet and computers.  City of Seattle Community Technology Program, with the Communities Connect Network/EdLab Group, hosted a webinar on each of the options available to Seattle residents. This included panelists from InterConnection, CenturyLink, Connect2Compete/EveryoneOn, and Solid Ground’s ConnectUp.

You can access the webinar here.