For years people have talked about the digital divide. And even on this show I have talked about utilizing technology for empowerment and encouraging people to go as far to learn code to open up opportunities to new employment. But we know we are living in challenging times when not only do people have disproportionate access to the internet, but because of the economy and rising consumer costs have difficulty maintaining cell and home phone service. I was recently working with some young people where nearly a third of the kids in the program had no home or cell service. We all know people who pick up track phones or are able to get prepaid phones, but with nearly 40 million Americans living below the poverty line and unemployment in our community still higher than any other, people are forced to make tough decisions and getting rid of a phone is easier than not having food.
There is a program that I discovered that has been in place since the 80’s to address the need of at risk families to having access to land line service. The program, called the LifeLine program started by the FCC, since 2004 also allows poor and low-income persons to have access to a cell phone with a limited amount of subsidized minutes each month. But like most federal programs it is in danger of losing needed funding or being cut altogether. A phone for most of us is something we take for granted. Many of us have family plans that have everyone in the house on the plan. If you are like me, I am paying for cousin’s in college and god children’s phones too. But there are more American’s than we know that have no way to call 911 in an emergency, allow loved ones to let them know where they are, or access to basic and social communication.
Currently there are proposals being considered by the FCC that would make it more difficult for people to access the program and possibly even cap Lifeline funding. This would be deviating to millions of families who are currently benefiting from the program and block families and young people from being future users.
Family, I ask you to consider what it would be like without service in your home or the ability to have access to connect to others. I further encourage you to contact your congressperson to and ask them to look at Lifeline through the eyes of the people who depend on the program and push them to fight for the people LifeLine serves in an effort to save the program in its present form. You can always find your congressperson’s info at www.house.gov.
We have so many problems, but this is one with a simple solution. Protect Lifeline. Lets help keep those in need connected to the ones they love.