This piece originally appeared in Capitol Weekly.
State governments are key broadband policy actors, and none is more critical than the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which oversees broadband for some 40 million people, including some 7 million low-income Californians. The CPUC recently approved measures to marry state and federal broadband subsidies. Its decision allows eligible Californians dual enrollment to the state`s Lifeline program and the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Pilot participants may access up to $57.15 (and up to $127.15 on Tribal lands) of combined federal and state support for standalone broadband service or bundled wireless broadband and voice service plans that provide unlimited talk, text and data, 30 GBs hotspot, along with a free handset. This pilot is a massive value that comes at no cost to the consumer.
With this decision, eligible Californians can take advantage of discounts that will give them more equitable access to affordable broadband. This is a tremendous step forward for the state in meeting its goal of bringing broadband to disadvantaged communities that are often overlooked and underserved. Further, the decision addresses cost, a significant barrier to broadband adoption and accessibility statewide, according to Pew Research.
“These two pilot programs will provide synergies between the California LifeLine and the federal Affordable Connectivity Programs for low-income households to receive long-awaited high-quality broadband, hot spots, and voice options. The programs will support getting homework done, applying for jobs and resources, access to telemedicine, and much more,” said Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma, who is assigned to the proceeding. “This decision allows California LifeLine subscribers to leverage the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program for improved wireless and wireline service. The wireless pilot programs will offer improvements relative to current LifeLine offerings, which we hope will improve participation in both the LifeLine program and the Affordable Connectivity Program,” said Commissioner Darcie L. Houck. “The pilot programs will provide more high-speed broadband and communications options to California’s income-qualified subscribers, while collecting data to ensure LifeLine funds are used effectively,” said Commissioner Karen Douglas.