June 18, 2015

Manchin Demands Reforms to Lifeline Program

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed his frustration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for voting 3-2 on a proposal to expand the Lifeline universal service program to include broadband Internet services.  The original program, which subsidizes monthly telephone services for eligible low-income participants, is riddled with fundamental flaws that have led its costs to rise from $800 million in 2009 to $1.7 billion in 2014.  In a March 2015 report requested by Chairman Thune, the Government Accountability Office recommended that Lifeline “evaluate the extent to which the program is efficiently and effectively reaching its performance goals” to increase telephone service in low-income households.

Just last week, Senator Manchin and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler calling for comprehensive reforms to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse before expanding the program. To read the letter, please click here.

“We've got to get our house in order and regain the trust of American taxpayers before extending these subsidies to new services,” Senator Manchin said. “While I agree that broadband service plays a vital role in our communities, I am concerned that the uncontrolled growth in this program is crowding out other important initiatives that are critical to serving our rural communities. The FCC needs to thoroughly evaluate and reform this program before considering an expansion if there is any hope of revitalizing it to help those who are truly in need.”