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MAYOR BRONIN OPPOSES BILL AIMED AT LIMITING BROADBAND ACCESS FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES (H.R. 4884)

MAYOR BRONIN OPPOSES BILL AIMED AT LIMITING BROADBAND ACCESS FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES (H.R. 4884)
MAYOR BRONIN SIGNS ONTO LETTER THAT STATES H.R. 4884, IF ENACTED, WOULD HARM MILLIONS OF LOW-INCOME JOB SEEKERS AND VETERANS
 
Hartford, Conn. (May 10, 2016) — Today, Mayor Luke Bronin is urging members of Congress to oppose a bill that limits funds for the Lifeline program, which helps over 13 million low-income American families afford broadband access.
 
H.R. 4884, if enacted, would cap the amount the allocated amount of funds for this program annually at a level that is lower than it is currently spending.
 
“Too many people in Hartford – and nationwide – find their opportunities limited by a lack of broadband access,” said Mayor Bronin. “The Lifeline program is so important because it provides much-needed subsidies to those who otherwise would go without internet access. I urge members of Congress to block passage of H.R. 4884, which would hurt low-income job seekers.”
 
More than half of Americans believe that those without broadband access are at a "major disadvantage" when it comes to finding job opportunities or gaining new career skills, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trust Study. But the same study found that still today one-third of adults do not subscribe to high-speed internet.
 
The internet is a top resource for many of today’s job hunters: Among Americans who have looked for work in the last two years, 79 percent utilized online resources in their most recent job search and 34 percent say these online resources were the most important tool available to them.
 
“Scaling back the Lifeline program doesn’t just hurt jobseekers,” said Mayor Bronin. “It also hurts low-income children. Without broadband access at home, kids are unable to do research, write papers, and communicate with their teachers. This restricts a child’s ability to learn and benefit from a technology-driven education.”
 
There are close to 100 million people in the United States who don’t have Internet access at home, according to the Federal Communications Commission. And while almost half of Americans in the lowest income bracket own a computer, less than half subscribe to broadband access at home, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
 
This divide is even more stark between demographic groups. Only 64 percent of African Americans and 53 percent of Latinos have Internet access at home — that number dips down to 51 percent for households with limited English proficiency.
 
And, according to a recent study by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, teachers in high-poverty schools were strikingly more likely to say that the “lack of resources or access to digital technologies among students” was a challenge in their classrooms (56 percent vs. 21 percent).
 
For the full-text of the letter that Mayor Bronin signed onto opposing the Lifeline program, please see below.
 

 
Dear Chairman Upton and Ranking Member Pallone:
 
We write to express our strong opposition to H.R. 4884, the Controlling the Unchecked and Reckless Ballooning of Lifeline Act of 2016. We urge you to oppose this legislation, which could severely undermine the Lifeline program. Ratification would harm millions of low-income job seekers and veterans, and leave millions of low-income school children on the wrong side of the homework gap.
 
As leaders in local government, representing communities large and small, the modernized Lifeline program has tremendous potential to improve the lives of our low-income residents and enhance the long-term prospects for our cities as a whole. Last year, the mayors of America’s cities joined together to pass a U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution expressing support for the Lifeline program reform and modernization efforts by passing.  Further, a coalition of 37 mayors and the National League of Cities recently wrote a letter applauding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in modernizing and reforming the Lifeline program to include affordable broadband Internet service to benefit millions of low-income households.
 
 H.R. 4884 would exclude an undetermined number of the eligible low-income participants from enrolling in the program by imposing a hard cap of $1.5 billion annually on the Lifeline program. By contrast, the FCC’s reformed and modernized program provides a reasonable $2.25 billion budget, and further mechanisms to prevent fraud and abuse to ensure fiscal responsibility.
 
Additionally, we are greatly concerned that at times of greatest need H.R 4884 could severely hamper the vital purpose of the Lifeline program to provide low-income consumers with vital communications services. As mayors from cities all across the country we are uniquely aware that times of recession or natural disaster may necessitate an increase in the program’s budget. While the FCC’s flexible budget is both reflective of the goals and principles of the Lifeline program and allows for an appropriate respond in the event of an unanticipated increase in need, the hard cap in H.R. 4884 would do neither.
 
We oppose any effort to defund or to impose hard caps upon Lifeline. The FCC’s approach to Lifeline will complement local efforts already underway to increase competition and make broadband more affordable for low-income Americans to bring about digital equity and inclusion. In this vein, we urge you to oppose H.R. 4884, and to allow full implementation of the reformed and modernized the Lifeline program. We stand ready to work with the FCC, broadband providers, and members of this distinguished committee to make implementation of the modernized Lifeline program a success.

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