A Great Opportunity to Expand Broadband Access
In 2016, the disadvantages facing those on the wrong side of the digital divide are so big, and so many, that expanding broadband access requires the combined efforts of the entire Internet ecosystem - including cable broadband providers. Recognizing this, Charter is committed to expanding broadband access. As part of that commitment, we announced our intention to offer a new low-cost broadband service for eligible low income consumers within six months of the closing of our pending transactions with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
Charter also supports the FCC’s efforts to reform and modernize the FCC’s Lifeline program. From the outset of the proceeding, the FCC actively engaged with potential participants to identify what changes they could make to the program to foster greater participation by providers like Charter.
We applaud the Commission for proposing steps that would encourage greater provider participation as it modernizes the Lifeline program to include broadband services. First, the proposal to remove the state ETC requirements by creating the more streamlined category of provider called “National Lifeline Providers” would make it easier for cable broadband companies to participate in Lifeline by allowing the FCC to be what some have called a “one-stop-shop” for providers to offer Lifeline services throughout their footprint.
Second, removing the requirement that providers determine eligibility would eliminate an important cost previously imposed on providers. By shifting that responsibility to a national third-party verifier, this reform would facilitate greater provider participation. Importantly, it could also decrease the potential for waste, fraud and abuse, which is essential to the long-term viability of the program.
We look forward to reading and assessing the Commission’s final order. We are optimistic that it will result in more providers, including cable companies like us, to participate in the program and thereby improve the education, employment, healthcare and entertainment opportunities for millions of Americans.