The United States has been at the bleeding edge of universal service policy ever since the term was misinterpreted from the early competitive era. It is therefore worth paying attention to the current FCC efforts. We will soon have US Aid and others promoting these ideas in our parts.
More than 12 million households now participate in Lifeline, which was created in 1985 by the Reagan administration to subsidize landline telephone service. In 2008, the program was extended to cover the cost of mobile phones. Enrollment rose sharply — as did abuse, with some households receiving more than their single allowed subsidy. To qualify, a household must have an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty line, or must participate in a program like Medicaid or food stamps.
Gene Kimmelman, who lobbied as a consumer advocate to create Lifeline, said the program was meant to keep people from having to choose between essentials like food, electricity and phone service. Now, he said, Internet access needed to be added to the list.