Pai Circulates Order for Predictable Increases in Minimum Lifeline Speeds

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Thursday circulated an order to his colleagues that would improve the way the Commission calculates annual updates to the minimum speed standard for mobile broadband service provided through the Lifeline program. The draft order would revise the Commission’s existing methodology to ensure predictable, reasonable yearly updates to the standard.

The Lifeline program provides monthly discounts on broadband and phone services to qualifying low-income consumers. The agency adopted minimum mobile broadband service standards in 2016. But the formula for updating the minimum standard results in dramatic year-over-year swings in the standard—fluctuations that risk making Lifeline service unaffordable for many current subscribers, according to the Commission. 

Pai called the current formula flawed. He noted that last year, the Commission had to step in to avoid a big increase. “Now, I’ve circulated an order that would permanently clean up the mess caused by the 2016 order,” said Pai. “I hope that my colleagues will vote for this order, which will provide much-needed certainty to Lifeline subscribers and providers alike.”

Under the revised methodology, the Lifeline program’s minimum service standard for mobile broadband data capacity would increase, effective December 1, from 3 GB to 4.5 GB per month. Without this reform, the standard would increase from 3 GB to 11.75 GB per month. 

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