Democrats are Calling Out the FCC for Capping Data for Lifeline Users During COVID-19

This week, democrats sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to provide unlimited voice calling and data coverage for users of the subsidized Lifeline plan as long as the pandemic is ongoing. The letter was sent by 15 members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which has principal jurisdiction over the FCC.

Lifeline is a program by the FCC’s intended to make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. It provides a discounted price on phone services from participating plans so people can stay connected.

The FCC has already made a few changes to its Lifeline program in response to COVID-19 like extending the deadline to requalify, but democrats are now saying it’s not enough.

“A strong response is critical given the supreme importance of connectivity while the country continues its efforts to combat the unprecedented and devastating COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote.  

Pai recently proposed a rule to reduce the amount of data that Lifeline will subsidize, shrinking the minimum from 11.75 GB to 4.5 GB. It’s a move that Democrats are saying comes at an especially bad time when low-income users need a connection to information and resources more than ever now that there’s a global pandemic.

“Now more than ever, Americans need this Lifeline to support telework, telehealth, education, and other services offered online to keep individuals and our communities safe and healthy,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, your proposed rules seem to ignore the fact that coronavirus cases continue to rise, and the country has experienced nineteen consecutive weeks of over one million unemployment claims.” 

Dems have given the FCC a deadline of September 3 for a response, calling for more “aggressive action,” “given the importance of connectivity and remote learning, working, and healthcare during the pandemic.”

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