U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (IL) and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) have introduced a bill in both houses of Congress that is intended to increase enrollment in the Federal Lifeline program, which provides subsidized broadband as well as phone access for low income Americans.
The Promoting Access to Broadband Act would authorize new funding for at least five states to increase Lifeline enrollment through education and assistance to eligible but unserved consumers, including Medicaid and SNAP households. The states could use the funds to partner with non-profit and community-based organizations to provide individuals with assistance applying for Lifeline, as well as information about product and technology choices.
The proposal is supported by longtime Lifeline advocates including the National Consumer Law Center, the United Church of Christ, OC Inc.;, Third Way, Public Knowledge, and NDIA. Its co-sponsors in the Senate include Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
In his press release announcing the Promoting Access to Broadband Act’s introduction, Senator Durbin quoted this statement of support from NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer:
Senator Durbin’s and Representative Maloney’s bill addresses a great need for broadband access. Over 20 million households in the U.S. have no internet access of any kind, including cellular. They are mostly households in poverty. NDIA represents 380 community-based organizations, libraries, housing authorities, local governments and others running programs to increase access and use of technology. NDIA’s Affiliates look forward to working with their state governments to assist eligible communities members to sign up for Lifeline, the only communications subsidy in the U.S.