The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) irked both the residents in tribal areas and several advocates for subsidized wireless services after it decided last November to drop the $25 Lifeline broadband subsidy for low-income earners living in urban areas. The move prompted Lifeline providers and tribal groups to launch a petition last month calling for a halt on the FCC's decision, pending judicial review.
In a move that could cut off low-income households in urban regions from the internet, the FCC denied the petition to reinstate the enhanced Lifeline subsidy for tribal residents. The petitioners include Assist Wireless, Boomerang Wireless, the National Lifeline Association, and the Oceti Sakowin Tribal Utility Authority. In its order rejecting the call for an administrative stay, the FCC stated:
Petitioners have not shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. The 2017 Lifeline Order contains a comprehensive explanation of the basis for the Commission’s decision to limit enhanced Tribal support to rural Tribal areas, and to target such support to facilities-based providers.
The FCC adopted the Tribal Lifeline and Link Up support in 2000 to offer eligible residents with income at or close to poverty guidelines a $25 monthly internet subsidy. That's on top of the regular $9.25 monthly broadband subsidy per household. Late last year, the FCC moved to change the Lifeline program in order to address the digital gap, fraud, waste, and abuse by "by directing Lifeline spending where it is most needed."
As part of the latest order, the enhanced Lifeline support will be limited to rural areas on tribal lands and to facilities-based providers. The reform is expected to come into force in October, pending the approval from the Office of Management and Budget.