NATIONAL- Malkia Cyril, Executive Director at the Center for Media Justice and the Media Action Grassroots Network, issued the following statement in advance of the Federal Communication Commission’s Thursday Open Meeting, where it will vote on Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to modernize the Lifeline program to include affordable broadband.
"As a national network organization representing low-income communities and communities of color, we are thrilled the FCC and Chairman Tom Wheeler are moving to bring millions across the digital divide, and close both the homework and income gaps that deny opportunity to so many. Modernizing the Lifeline program and extending it to include broadband ensures that our communities -- people of color, low-income families and rural communities -- can access jobs, education and other essential needs. In the words of Elia Cisneros, Fresno, CA - 'Without Lifeline Telephone service I would not have a way to communicate. I have grandchildren at school and if something was to happen to them, I wouldn’t have a way to be informed of an emergency. Having to pay full price would be a burden and I would have to cancel the service. This would cause an emotional and financial impact.'
An open Internet can help elevate struggling families out of poverty. A Lifeline program with affordable broadband ensures equal access to the modern communications services everyone needs to succeed in today’s economy. From students trying to get a quality education, to parents seeking work and support services, the Internet is a valuable tool for meeting basic needs in the 21st century. Unfortunately, over 100 million Americans -mostly rural, low-income, veterans, the elderly, and communities of color- cannot afford Internet access at home. These individuals Lifeline with affordable broadband equals a lifetime with dignity and opportunity.
We are proud to have endorsed a set of principles to guide the FCC as it updates the Lifeline program, alongside more than 60 civil rights, media, social justice, public interest, and labor groups. By following these principles in modernizing the Lifeline program the FCC can bridge the digital divide and close the homework gap, ensuring millions can afford the broadband service they need to succeed in a digital age."
Malkia Cyril is Executive Director at the Center for Media Justice-- home of the Media Action Grassroots Network. With over 185 affiliated organizations in the national network, CMJ MAG-Net organizes nationally for media rights, access, and representation that protects civil rights and advances social justice. For more information on the Center for Media Justice and the Media Action Grassroots Network visit www.mediajustice.org
Statements on Modernizing the Lifeline Program From Members of the Media Action Grassroots Network
Orson Aguilar, Greenlining Institute
“For decades, Lifeline has served as just that - a lifeline helping low income families stay connected to family, friends, doctors, employers, and schools. Today, more of these daily essentials are moving online, yet too many of our families can't afford broadband, and are once again left behind. This disproportionate disconnection creates ripple effects in just about every aspect of life - but they can and must be reversed. Connected communities have better rates of employment, better rates of civic participation, and better educational, health, and wealth outcomes. It's time to modernize Lifeline and bring to all communities the wealth of opportunities offered by fast, reliable, open broadband.”
Ana Montes, The Utility Reform Network (TURN)
“Communications and information services are essential tools for everyday living and is as important as access to energy and water. Without Universal Services Programs like Lifeline Telephone service, people who are low income and come from the most vulnerable populations would have lacked access to important services like public safety or emergency services, health information, education, access to employers, children's schools or the ability to communicate with families and friends. We now live in a world where the internet has become increasingly important, yet the digital divide has grown. We need to close the gap by making broadband affordable, reliable and accessible to all so that everyone can participate in today's society. We need to expand Universal Services in order to promote digital inclusion and avoid digital exclusion for those who cannot afford it.”
Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance
“Lifeline telephone service has been crucially important in maintaining family and community support networks for people struggling with economic instability. In the 21st century, the Internet is the new telephone. Isolation and disenfranchisement weakens the country's fabric and creates more social divides. It's important for the FCC to open a new Lifeline rule-making and determine the best use of subsidized communication services to help increase connectivity and support challenged populations in surviving economic stress.”
Hannah Sassaman, Policy Director, Media Mobilizing Project
“Access to the internet is a human right. In today's challenging economy, low-income community members can't apply for a family-sustaining job, let alone for college, without reliable access to the internet. Here in Philadelphia, we have the third worst broadband penetration of any big city in the country - because so many of us are poor. It is the responsibility of our elected officials and appointed leaders to protect and expand Lifeline service for the millions of us who struggle on the wrong side of the digital divide.”