The Federal Communications Commission just demonstrated everything that’s wrong with government when it announced that it is killing its own Lifeline Broadband program. Of course, it didn’t actually say it was killing the program, but that’s clearly the direction things are headed.
This incredibly important program has been the victim of government waste, dithering, and incompetence since the day it was first conceived.
Here’s how CheapInternet.com described the latest lunacy:
Lifeline Broadband, a program patterned after the very successful Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program, was designed to bring inexpensive, subsidized internet to America’s neediest residents, and to simplify the process required of companies who wanted to provide that inexpensive internet access. Oddly enough, it has been decimated by the Federal Communications Commission — the very same governmental body that conceived it, introduced it, tested it, and approved it.
All we can say is, what a mess.
“What a mess” doesn’t begin to describe the huge clusterf**k surrounding Lifeline Broadband since the day it was first conceived. Just look at this sad, yet comical, series of headlines.
December 19, 2012: “14 Projects Chosen for Lifeline Broadband Pilot Program Competition. Using a competitive selection process, the Wireline Competition Bureau has chosen the highest quality pilot projects that will provide data about and rigorous analysis of approaches to increasing broadband adoption and retention among low-income consumers.”
July 28, 2014: “Lifeline Broadband will be here in 2014. Broadband Pilot Trial Period. The Pilot Program is an 18-month trial period, which will begin February 1, 2013, with 3 months for ETCs to implement necessary back-office functions, up to 12 months of subsidized service, and 3 months for finalization of data collection and analysis.” … “We predict that a nationwide roll-out will be announced before the end of 2014 (we are tempted to predict that it will be announced “within a matter of days”, but we are factoring in how slowly the wheels of government can turn) … “Please allow us to do the math: February 1, 2013 plus eighteen months gets us to August 1, 2014.”
That prediction was clearly far too optimistic. Lifeline Broadband creaked along slower than an arthritic tortoise.
May 10, 2015: Is the FCC finally ready to announce its long-awaited Lifeline Broadband program?
Well, no, it wasn’t ready. Despite several years of testing, analyzing and fine tuning, it turns out the FCC was nowhere close to bringing this program to the people.
JUNE 28, 2016: “Major announcement: FCC introduces Lifeline Broadband. This is the news that millions of low-income Americans have wanted to hear for years: The Federal Communications Commission just expanded the Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program and it now includes internet service. In fact, the FCC is changing the whole emphasis of the Lifeline program from free government cell phones to Lifeline Broadband.”
Well, here we go, everyone thought. The Lifeline Broadband program is getting ready to blast off, getting ready to help millions of Americans get jobs, getting ready to help millions of poor kids keep up in school.
December 7, 2016: Cheap internet is here: 22 companies to offer Lifeline Broadband. It’s taken a while. It’s been a long wait. But twenty-two companies have now petitioned the FCC to become Lifeline Broadband service providers and are currently in various stages of approval.
Some of them are well-known names from the Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone business, such as Access Wireless, Assist Wireless, Blue Jay Wireless, enTouch Wireless, Life Wireless, Safelink Wireless, TruConnect, and Q Link Wireless.”
Buckle up, folks. Here we go. Surely this was the moment millions of America’s neediest had been waiting for. Lifeline Broadband would soon be theirs.
Not so fast, needy Americans. The FCC was just getting ready to yank back the carrot they’d been dangling in front of you for years.
February 3, 2017: “FCC removes nine companies from Lifeline program. The Federal Communications Commission dealt a blow to a program intended to provide subsidized internet to the poor, announcing that nine companies would no longer be able to participate in the plan.”
Say what? Nine companies spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars to do what the government wanted them to do, yet the rug was abruptly pulled out from beneath hem? No, not even the federal government could be that devious or incompetent, could it?
Well, yes, it could. And it quickly got even worse.
March 30, 2017: “FCC Takes a Hatchet to Program Providing Broadband Internet for the Poor. FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced that he would direct the agency to eliminate the federal approval process for broadband providers who want to provide service through the LifeLine program, which administers subsidies for phone and internet service. That means any new broadband provider that wants to participate in the program will need to get approval state-by-state, which experts say will likely be an incredibly long and burdensome process. To make matters a whole lot worse, according to an FCC spokesperson, no states even have an approval process in place for broadband-only providers.”
What a sad, pathetic indictment of big government. The elephantine federal bureaucracy took a great idea, took far too long to figure out how to structure it, dithered when they should have taken action, and after frittering away thousands of hours and millions of dollars, ended up aborting its own brainchild.
In a statement that proves the Federal Communications Commission is completely fluent in governmental doublespeak, FCC Chairman Pai said the latest changes will “strengthen the Lifeline program and put the implementation of last year’s order on a solid legal footing.”
We’re tempted to call this a sick, sick joke, but there’s absolutely nothing funny about it. Not the the millions of needy Americans who desperately need Lifeline Broadband. Not to the twenty-two companies that applied to be Lifeline Broadband Providers. Not to the nine companies that had been approved. And certainly not to the American taxpayers who saw their tax dollars wasted on this treadmill to oblivion.
What will the future bring? Will the FCC relent and bring the Lifeline Broadband program back to life? Will low-income Americans ever receive the help they need so much?
Don’t hold your breath.