WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet will hold a hearing entitled “Lifeline: Improving Accountability and Effectiveness” on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. The subcommittee chairman, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), will convene the hearing.
The subcommittee’s hearing will examine the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) progress in reforming Lifeline, a government program that subsidizes monthly telephone services for eligible low-income participants, and how to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the program. The hearing follows the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) recent report recommending that the FCC evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of Lifeline.
• Mr. Randolph May, President, Free State Foundation
• Mr. Michael Clements, Acting Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, Government Accountability Office (GAO)
• Mr. Scott Bergmann, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA - The Wireless Association
• Commissioner Ronald A. Brisé, Florida Public Service Commission, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)
• Ms. Jessica Gonzalez, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, National Hispanic Media Coalition
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet hearing
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. A live video of the hearing will be available on this page.
Ranking Member Bill Nelson
I want to welcome all of our witnesses. In particular, I would like to thank Commissioner Ronald Brisé for coming up from Tallahassee. You have been deeply involved in Lifeline and other universal service issues both during your time in the Florida House and on the Florida Public Service Commission.
The concept of universal service has long been a foundation of our nation’s communications policies. With this enduring principle in mind, it is critical that we not forget the importance of the FCC’s Lifeline program to advancing our universal service goals. For three decades, we have seen Lifeline provide basic telephone service to millions of vulnerable Americans. Without this relatively small subsidy, many of these families would go without and find themselves cut off from family, friends, employers and emergency services.
Over the past few years, the FCC has undertaken modernization of the Lifeline program to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse, and improve accountability. Where cases of abuse in the program have been identified, the FCC has responded with targeted reforms and robust enforcement actions against bad actors.
Now, the FCC is contemplating how to improve the Lifeline program to better meet 21st century communications needs, including improving access to broadband. I commend the FCC for beginning this inquiry.
There is no denying that, as we move to a digital economy, access to broadband has become essential. At a time when an overwhelming majority of employers require online job applications, we must help the economically disconnected have the opportunity to compete in the digital economy. When seven out of 10 teachers assign homework that requires access to the Internet, we must work to close the so-called homework gap to address those low-income students who cannot do their homework because they lack a broadband connection.
At the same time, basic voice telephone service remains an important communications service for many of our most vulnerable populations, including the poor and elderly.
Any modernization of Lifeline should keep in mind the need to balance preserving support for voice service with a proposed expansion to cover broadband. I am confident the FCC will carefully consider this critical balance.
Finally, the Lifeline program has always been a bipartisan program. It was created during the Reagan administration and expanded to wireless services in the Bush administration. In Florida, this program has enjoyed the support of governors of both parties and the state legislature. We should not lose sight of the broad support for the goals of this important program.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses here today.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Randolph MayPresidentFree State Foundation
Mr. Michael ClementsActing DirectorPhysical Infrastructure Issues, Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Mr. Scott BergmannVice President, Regulatory AffairsCTIA - The Wireless Association
Commissioner Ronald A. BriséFlorida Public Service Commission, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)
Ms. Jessica GonzalezExecutive Vice President and General CounselNational Hispanic Media Coalition