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NAACP Supports the Federal Communication Commission's Lifeline Program

WHEREAS, access to effective communication services is essential for finding a job, connecting with family, or getting help in an emergency; and

WHEREAS, in 1985, President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Congress, recognizing the benefits of ready communication to all Americans, implemented the Lifeline program to provide subsidized basic phone service for low-income consumers; and

WHEREAS, in recognition of the technological shift toward and benefits of mobility, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under George W. Bush expanded the program to include wireless service in 2005; and

WHEREAS, the Lifeline government benefit program, which is supported by the federal universal service fund, has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings; and

WHEREAS, the Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands; and

WHEREAS, the Lifeline program is available to consumers with an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or those who participate in a qualifying state, federal or Tribal assistance program including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Section 8, LIHEAP, Free Lunch Program, and others; and

WHEREAS, for a typical Lifeline subscriber, the service is a desperately needed safety net; and

WHEREAS, more than 80% of Lifeline subscribers in 2011 had an average household income below $15,000 and the average age was 51; and

WHEREAS, in 2011 more than 45% of Lifeline subscribers were Caucasian compared to 40% who were African American and 7% who were Hispanic; and

WHEREAS, an eligible consumer may receive a discount on either a wireline for phone service or wireless service; and

WHEREAS, in January 2012 the Federal Communications Commission reformed and modernized the Lifeline program to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and to improve effectiveness and to reflect the changing needs of the communities served by Lifeline including rules that have failed to keep pace as consumers increasingly choose wireless phone service; and

WHEREAS, indeed, the program has seen an influx in new users over the past several years after the eligibility expanded to include mobile phones; and

WHEREAS, the percentage of low-income households with phone service has increased from 80% in 1985, when Lifeline began, to nearly 92% in 2011.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly supports the continuation of the Lifeline government benefit program; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP opposes efforts to cap the Lifeline fund, as such an action would be contrary to the goal of ensuring communications services to all Americans regardless of their income; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP opposes proposals to require Lifeline subscribers to pay some dollar amount each month toward their services, since such a requirement could constitute a substantial burden on Lifeline subscribers; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP Washington Bureau should advocate on behalf of the continued robust Lifeline program and support legislation to expand the Lifeline program to include broadband service and give preference to providers that have a digital literacy component.