Whether we call it competition or choice, there is general agreement that having more options in a market has the potential to reduce the price and increase the value of the service/product. Lifeline broadband service is no different. The more options low-income households have for low-cost service, the better.

Yesterday afternoon, Friday January 3, 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai revoked the Lifeline Broadband Provider designation of nine internet service providers. This immediately reduces choice for low-income households eligible for Lifeline broadband service. And, with likely greater impact, this action discourages others from applying to become a Lifeline Broadband Provider.

Too many of our poor neighborhoods have few (sometimes zero) choices for low-cost broadband service. In those neighborhoods kids do their homework in libraries, McDonalds, Walmarts, and in the parking lots of those locations when they close.

We know of two NDIA affiliates who had plans to request Lifeline Broadband Provider designation. These community based organizations had developed creative solutions to the lack of affordable options in their communities. $9.25 per household is not a lot but it would have been $9.25 they could rely upon to support their home-grown solutions.

Led by the Benton Foundation, NDIA was one of thirteen public interest groups that issued a press statement frustrated with the FCC’s Friday afternoon action. The statement includes;

“NDIA’s affiliates (libraries, community-based organizations and local governments) work every day to increase digital equity. Today’s action by the FCC are counter to local efforts as we now have fewer internet service providers offering a Lifeline broadband service. Our disadvantaged communities need MORE low-cost options, not less.” said Angela Siefer, Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

You can lend your voice by retweeting the following:

Update 2/10/17 —  Chairman Pai gives his side of the story in a blog post at Medium.  Gigi Sohn, a top staffer for the previous FCC Chairman who’s now with the Open Society Foundations, refutes it at the Benton Foundation’s Digital Beat Blog.