November 6, 2015

New Proposed Rules for Low Income Phone Program

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules for its Lifeline program, which subsidizes mobile and landline phone service for low-income individuals. Currently, the program is available to those who (1) have income below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (in 2015, $21,505.50 per year for a family of two) or (2) receive benefits from any one of several federal programs, including Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Among other things, the new proposed rules sought comment on whether to change eligibility for the program to include fewer federal programs (e.g., SNAP only) or different programs (e.g., programs for veterans).

The new rules also state that the FCC is ultimately seeking to expand the program’s scope to subsidize broadband internet service for low-income individuals. This would be informed by a pilot program the FCC launched in 2012.

The comment period for the rules has expired, but the full text is available here