FCC removes nine companies from Lifeline program

FCC removes nine companies from Lifeline program
© Greg Nash

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.

Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the move on Friday afternoon to roll back the "midnight regulations" pushed through by his Democratic predecessor, Tom Wheeler.

The nine companies were approved for the program known as Lifeline, just weeks ago. Lifeline provides low-income households with a monthly credit of $9.25 to use to buy internet service.

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"These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of Commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward.  Accordingly, they are being revoked,” Pai said in a statement of the flurry of actions he took to close out the week — his second as chairman.

The commission's lone Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, blasted the move in her own statement and called out Pai for his series of Friday afternoon actions — part of what she called "take out the trash day."

“By eliminating the designations of nine entities to provide Lifeline broadband service, the Bureau has substantially undermined businesses who had begun relying on those designations," Clyburn said. "These providers include a minority-owned business, a provider enabling students to complete their homework online, and others serving Tribal lands."

“Given the serious policy concerns at stake here, I asked to have this Order considered by the full Commission. But, clearly the goal was to include this in the ‘Friday News Dump’, as my request was flatly denied."