Lifeline Broadband Free Internet!
Free Internet for eligible households! Lifeline broadband is
an extension of the longstanding free cell phone service for low income
households to include broadband. This program expansion was
approved by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) in March 2016,
and became available December 1, 2016. This was fantastic
Essentially, it extends the $9.25 monthly Lifeline subsidy toward
mobile or fixed-line broadband that can be offered as a standalone
service, or bundled with a voice plan. This translates in a
myriad of options by allowing eligible households to get regular home
Internet, or data on a smartphone, or wireless mobile hotspot
service. In a world proliferated by smartphones, and people
using data to communicate as a preferred method over voice calls, this
evolution makes a lot of sense. Note that this subsidy
translates into either free broadband, or heavily subsidized
service. It will be up to providers how they decide to
implement their programs.
Why Is Lifeline Broadband Important?
In particular, it will help people when applying for jobs, which is
100% accomplished on the Internet. Phone calls are now
usually only a secondary means of following up on applications to
schedule phone and in-person interviews. Moreover, it helps
to address, or at least lessen the Digital Divide, which is when
students don't have access to the Internet at home in order to complete
required homework assignments. This includes online test
preparation, as well as research, and even email
communication. This is often referred to as the Homework
Gap. We don't want our children to fall behind, or be
excluded from advancement or opportunities, simply due to the lack of
access to the Internet.
The reality is that Lifeline broadband is long overdue. It's
understandable that Internet was initially considered a luxury, and not
quite a necessity like access to a regular feature phone. I
do, however, think that virtually everyone would agree that access to
broadband is now considered a necessity, and is an integral part of the
education system. Beyond students, the Internet enables us to
understand the world and economy around us, including researching
prospective employers, applying for jobs, as well as
negotiating salaries. Broadband is also the cornerstone of
entrepreneurship, and absolutely necessary to start and maintain any
type of business.
Fraud Prevention Will Be Addressed!
It's interesting to note that included in the Lifeline broadband
expansion is a 3rd party fraud prevention verification
system. To date, Lifeline programs have been plagued with
fraud. This is when eligible families are getting free cell
phone service through multiple Lifeline service providers (i.e. they
get two or more free phones and service, when the regulation only
allows for one). Clearly this type of fraud creates a massive
expense for the program, which results in some eligible families not
getting their rightful chance to get approved, and raises the overall
operational costs for everyone.
Fraud tools include a national database that will be used to ensure
that no one household gets more than one phone and service.
Up until now there has been the creation of such a database, however,
it hasn't been mandatory, nor has it been fully built out to be truly
usable and effective. There has also been a fraud issue with
people not using their correct address, which has disqualified other
people from getting the service when the system shows that they already
have the service at that address. This can happen
accidentally (ex. mistakenly applying with the wrong apartment number),
or maliciously when people are trying to proactively defraud the system.
Overall, a Lifeline broadband is a welcome addition, and very much
needed in today's data driven society. As these programs
launch I will maintain a list on this site, so please check back often
so you can keep up to date on the latest developments!
Note that there are other non-Lifeline programs that offer free
broadband. Head over to Free
Broadband Internet Access
to learn about that, or lean more
Cell Phone Service
! Official information from the
FCC can be found at FCC Lifeline Support Affordable Communications