FCC Funds Lifeline Broadband Adoption Test Bed

Will Use Reform Funds to Gauge Efforts to Promote Broadband to Low-Income Residents

The FCC has tapped 14 telecoms for a pilot broadband adoption program using savings from its reform of the Lifeline program.

The reform of the Lifeline phone subsidy program yielded $214 million in 2012, the FCC announced, $14 million over its projection of $200 million. It was part of a broader FCC effort to both reform that program and migrate that and other phone subsidies to broadband.

The FCC said that $214 million savings came from a variety of sources, but it covered virtually all the new pilot program with savings from a single link-up subsidy. It said that by eliminating "unnecessary bounties" for new sign-ups, the link-up expenditures went from $14 million to under $200,000.

And in the cutting waste fraud and abuse department, the FCC said that requiring proof of income eligibility, subsidies dropped by $40 million in a single month and that it had cut over a million duplicates from its subscriber roles, or about $128 million in savings.

That $14 million in bonus bucks will go toward the pilot project, which will both provide data on how Lifeline funds can be used to boost broadband adoption among low-income consumers, as well as provide 75,000 unserved residents of 21 states and Puerto Rico access to broadband, at least for a year.

The money will fund a mix of wireless and wireline broadband projects that will run for 18 months including set-up and data collection. The companies must provide subsidized service for at least a year.

The 14 telecoms are:

  1. Frontier Communications Corporation (OH, WV)

  2. Gila River Telecommunications, Inc. (AZ - Tribal)

  3. Hopi Telecommunications, Inc. (AZ - Tribal)

  4. National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) Project, which includes the following carriers: Alpine Communications (IA); and Leaco Rural Telephone (NM)

  5. Nexus Communications, Inc. (OH, MI, IA, NV, CA, LA, MS, NJ) 

  6. Partnership for a Connected Illinois Project, which includes the following carriers: Adams Telephone Cooperative; Cass Telephone Company; Harrisonville Telephone Company; Madison Telephone Company; Mid-Century Telephone Cooperative; Shawnee Telephone Company; and Wabash Telephone Cooperative (IL)

  7. PR Wireless, Inc. (Puerto Rico)

  8. Puerto Rico Telephone Company (Puerto Rico)

  9. T-Mobile Puerto Rico LLC (Puerto Rico)

  10. TracFone Wireless, Inc. project using smartphones (FL, MD, TX, WA, WI, MA) 

  11. Troy Cablevision, Inc. (AL)

  12. Vermont Telephone Company, Inc. (VT)

  13. Virgin Mobile USA, L.P. (MA, OH)

  14. XChange Telecom Corp. (NY)