NAACP Supports Legislation to Expand Lifeline Program to Broadband

(Washington, DC)  -- The NAACP strongly supports legislation introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA), Congressman Henry Waxman (CA) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (CA), the “The Broadband Adoption Act of 2013” to expand the Lifeline program to include broadband internet access.

“Lifeline is a much-needed program. It is in our society’s best interest to empower everyone, especially our most vulnerable citizens, with the ability to communicate with prospective and current employers, connect with emergency, health, social, and educational services, and keep in touch with family and friends,” said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.  “The NAACP remains resolute in our support of the Lifeline program, and would encourage Members of Congress and the FCC to continue to support Lifeline’s ability to provide wireline and wireless phone services and we support expanding Lifeline to help secure Broadband internet adoption as well.  It is imperative that this program remain consistent with the times.  The internet offers all Americans a new way to connect with friends and family; participate in civic engagement; find jobs; interact with the workplace and commerce; and access education, health care, and social and emergency services.  Expanding the Lifeline program to include broadband internet services is merely ensuring that this vital program keep up with the times.”

Shelton noted that there are currently as many as 16 million low-income households who, without the Lifeline benefits, would have to choose between feeding their children and going without a dial tone that could save their lives or put them on a better economic path through employment.  One participating servicer estimates that more than 80% of Lifeline subscribers in 2011 had an average household income below $15,000; that the average age was 51; and that more than 45% of Lifeline subscribers were Caucasian compared to 40% who were African American and 7% who were Hispanic.

Shelton concluded his statement by pointing out that “Lifeline works:  the percentage of low-income households with phone service has increased from 80% in 1985, when Lifeline began, to nearly 92% in 2011.  The Broadband Adoption Act of 2013 will help secure full access to crucial telecommunications services in the 21st Century for Americans in great need.”

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.  You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our five “Game Changer” issue areas here.

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