From Boston to Seattle, Mayors Support Federal Broadband Subsidies

Forty-four mayors and city officials in major municipalities and smaller communities have expressed support for a Federal Communications Commission proposal to subsidize broadband service for low-income Americans through the federal Lifeline program.

The mayors of Boston; Boulder, Colorado; and Seattle are among the city officials who cited the benefits of extending broadband to the Lifeline program. Other city leaders hail from smaller communities, including Mount Vernon, Washington; Davidson, North Carolina; and Yellow Springs, Ohio.

“Getting more low-income households online will help modernize delivery of public services – facilitating more responsive and effective governance while lowering overheads for local governments,” the local officials wrote to the FCC in a letter that was coordinated by the nonprofit organization Next Century Cities.

More importantly, expanded broadband connectivity will benefit school-age kids, the letter said, giving “them better opportunities to succeed.”

“The Universal Service Fund’s e-Rate program provides quality connectivity for students during the school day, but too many of them go home to households without broadband,” the local officials wrote. “This group of students is distinctly disadvantaged relative to their peers, but Lifeline modernization stands to meaningfully narrow the so-called ‘Homework Gap.’”

The FCC has proposed offering broadband subsidies under the 30-year-old Lifeline program, which was created to make basic phone service available for low-income Americans.

The broadband proposal – largely led by FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn – is intended to bridge the digital divide that still exists between the haves and the have-nots. According to the FCC, roughly 95 percent of households with incomes of at least $150,000 have broadband access, while only 48 percent of those earning less than $25,000 have home service.

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