Building Blocks


 Lifeline Internet and Productivity of US Economy and Digital Government   August 31, 2015

Comments to FCC on Lifeline and Link Up Reform and Modernization, Telecommunication Carriers Eligible for Universal Service Support, Connect America Fund, by  Illinois Civic Innovation,  Community Investment, Digital Futures, Broadband Awareness and Adoption,  and Housing Resource Organizations

Illinois 21st Century Digital Futures Alliance NFP, Chicago Computer Society Chicago Chapter, Internet Public Trust, The KeyPad Kid Project,

Add Community quality of life ________________________________

Housing resource: Housing Security Trust Attorneys Committee,


As universal broadband is at the heart of daily productivity in the world digital economy, it becomes critical to increase home internet connections to reach goals of 95% connectivity and digital fluency similar to universal access and use of telephone and television.   According to a White House report, currently, home internet subscriptions reach this goal for households of over $75,000, but home subscription rates drop to perhaps half this rate in low income households and among public housing residents

Lifeline-linked investments for television-like universal Internet at home for low income families by providers and the public are an important part of investments for all to become customers and citizens with growing data assets in the world’s 21st Century digital economy.  This  includes lowering the costs and increasing the benefits of  digital government and the regional digital economy as important parts of Federal and state tax policy.    For more on how to reduce costs, in time and money, and increase the daily benefits of broadband to families in family management and data asset-building, and similar return-on-investment strategies for businesses, institutions and government —  see June 10, 2015 comments by State of Illinois, Illinois 21st Century Digital Futures NFP among national responders to Federal Broadband Opportunity Council to coordinate infrastructure and service programs of 25 Federal agencies.
The key to universal broadband is an “all engines running” annual all seasons best practices model  with awareness and broadband adoption through county and community fairs,  door-to-door campaigns, and regular community forums or “service quality assemblies” in every locality, especially in lower income ZIP code areas where Internet connectivity is substantially below 95%.  An annual introduction to Lifeline-linked internet is the key consumers with affordable providers and with family services organizations with multi-program family management software tools combining family support, health, education, and college and career readiness pathways through Steady Internet Tools, including those linked with FCC designated third party Family Services organization with experience in assisting low income consumers.   Steady Internet tools for Family Management link home internet with nearby community gathering places including schools and libraries and 24/7 internet public place hot spots in each locality or few block area.   Thus, FCC and provider Lifeline annual outreach and support needs to work closely with FEMA-linked public and private ‘community response’ networks which know everyone block by block and community by community, and include ‘community anchor institution,’ chamber of commerce and service organizations, and ‘public health and safety’ networks in 911 and 311 service regions and in every ZIP and special zone area.   Thus, for FCC and provider Lifeline connections to significantly expand and sustain steady home internet, It is vital that every public jurisdiction, municipality, county and community college area, including ‘business innovation and skill cluster’ area, participate in annual campaigns.  Such internet-connected Family Management, including digital government participation activities and databases need to be achieved  under standards, best practices and priorities set by Federally-recognized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity networks,  Broadband Deployment networks and multi-county regional planning agencies for land use and utilities, and transportation in innovation and skill cluster areas, including with assistance of U.S. Digital Corps projects involving Federal, state and local agencies.  Such state, multi-county and local networks have responsibilities for integrating universal broadband access and use into state and regional broadband deployment, digital economy,  and digital government, and including linking 3 level (Federal-state-local) virtual and physical infrastructure financing, resiliency and assessment of quality of lives and the economy.

The attached document on Principles for Lifeline Modernization and Extension for Universal Broadband and Universal Service in a Productive Economy is designed to illustrate a framework for achieving the  goals of the rule making, being

A  Modernizing Lifeline for value to consumers and Universal Service Fund

B  Reducing waste, fraud and abuse thru third party determination of consumer eligibility

C  Increasing competition and innovation in Lifeline marketplace

D  Enhancing Lifeline services and consumer protections

E   Increasing Effective Administration of Lifeline Program

Core recommendations are to

  1. Simplify and lower the costs to current and potential Lifelline providers by enabling a flexible one stop registration including a number of ways to participate and change status  from time to time, and including contact information for participating in broadband deployment and telephone planning and outreach in each state or locality in  which they serve or seek to serve.


  1. Provide residential customers with opportunities to participate in Lifeline through a simple call-in and online application verification system linked with prequalification among several family support programs, and enable similar simple and timely opportunity to change status, and to link with consumer support organizations which may be able to assist them in local innovation and skill areas, including in local offices linked with community colleges under the new Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, in effect beginning July 2015.


  1. Enable local businesses and community enterprise customers to plug into community business intelligence systems, including for community alerts, and to understand how to provide efficient and low cost Basic Internet services to all residents and to nearby daily Internet service (public access hot spots) in every several block area, small rural community and ZIP code area, including linking with regular mail and logistics services and small office places.


  1. Create opportunities for community and wider family support services and consumer support call-in and family services centers to manage national and local consumer-friendly signup and account management for telephone and internet services, including through links with local community college area “service quality” forums and regular survey and business intelligence feedback on Internet and telephone connectivity in low income areas and special populations.


  1. Formalize FCC and federal relations with states for digital government coordination of Lifeline supports with other programs, and to engage each state’s broadband deployment entity  for regular Broadband Awareness and Adoption campaigns in cooperation with county, local and tribal outreach  for steady telephone and internet daily access for all families.


  1. Formally engage Federally-designated multi-county regional planning agencies in adopting Universal Service and Universal Broadband goals and Lifeline-linked strategies in their short and longer terms plans for Digital Economy, Broadband Deployment and Digital Government in order to increase local Economic and Social Productivity, resulting in job preparation and training, and better quality of lives through opportunities for Lifeline participants to secure means to afford more advanced internet services for their family or a full or part time business.


  1. Formally engage counties, municipalities, tribal areas and special districts in outreach to families through cost saving family service agencies and family support platforms, including Lifeline eligibility and connection simplification, and to assist in lowering the cost of telephone and internet, as well as the costs to local taxpayers, through public works “dig once” ordinances and training for planning for Digital Economy and Digital Government.


  1. Coordinate Lifeline expansion, access and use through wider Federal Broadband Opportunity Council programs of 25 Federal agencies, and linking them with State and local Broadband deployment, and Federally-designated multi-county regional planning agencies.


  1. Cooperate with other countries to lower the costs of telephone and internet access for low income residents to the Americas and the world, including through low cost fees for financial transfer payments, and Skype-like internet telephone connections.



Lifeline Internet and Productivity of US Economy and Digitial Government Comments to FCC August 2015

Benton Tells FCC: Use Lifeline to Make Broadband More Affordable

In comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission on August 31, the Benton Foundation said that broadband service is crucial to full participation in our society and economy which are increasingly dependent upon the rapid exchange of information. In its filing, Benton focuses on the potential benefits of broadband for low-income consumers, especially ones that have: a) schoolchildren, b) unemployed or underemployed adults, c) people with disabilities, and d) people affected by illnesses.

“By making broadband more affordable for low-income consumers through its Lifeline program,” said Benton’s Director of Policy, Amina Fazlullah, “the FCC will help facilitate better connections within these people’s communities, and to the world.”

Benton asks the FCC to establish minimum service standards for Lifeline voice, text messaging and broadband services with two main goals: 1) to ensure Lifeline recipients receive services that facilitate meaningful, functional use, and 2) to afford adaptability for the different needs of Lifeline-eligible populations in different geographical areas and markets. In setting the standards, Benton says, the FCC should encourage competition and consumer choice for both voice and broadband service wherever possible. When setting minimum service standards for broadband, the FCC must discourage providers from rolling out wired or wireless services that include data caps, Benton says, due to their pernicious effects on low-income households. Data caps often come with hidden financial costs that confuse consumers and potentially bump up their bills in unforeseen ways.

Benton also suggests that the FCC allow non-traditional providers — such as small and community-based broadband providers, wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), and anchor institutions like schools and libraries — to participate in Lifeline to increase competition and innovation in the market. And, as recommended in the National Broadband Plan, the FCC should consider free or very low-cost wireless broadband as a means to address the affordability barrier to adoption.





Principles for Lifeline Modernization and Extension for Universal Broadband and Universal Service in a Productive Economy  August 2015

Universal broadband, along with universal telephone service and television service are at the heart of daily productivity and quality of life in the world digital economy, including in getting goods and services to markets and sustaining safe and healthy communities and watershed areas.   With current low internet connectivity for very substantial portions of US society, following are principles for “working together” annually by providers, users, governance and civic engagement parties in the achievement of steady and secure universal communication, with a special focus on increasing connectivity by low income and moderate income families, businesses and community enterprises to reach goals of 95% internet connectivity for residential users and 100% for businesses, community enterprises and public entities.

  1. Providers

All providers seeking FCC  authorizations to act, or to communicate with providers, users or governance parties in the United States, for shall provide to the FCC a commitment to principles of Universal Service for telephone and internet, including access through television, utility lines, satellites, cell towers and sensor data means, and including commitments to participate in annual broadband awareness and adoption programs, especially for low and moderate income families, in the states, local or special jurisdictions in which provide or seek to provide service.


All providers seeking FCC authorizations to participate in Universal Service Lifeline telephone or internet programs shall register in a manner in which they may participate in a number of direct and indirect or third party ways in order to enable users to secure eligibility, service and changes in service in as simple, timely and low cost ways as possible.  This shall include articulation of provider interests in (1) participation in telephone or internet signup and change services and participation in multi-program family support  services linked to simple prequalification or verification of status, (2) participation in programs of consumer support enterprises as well as their own outreach and service staff, and (3) participation in annual or special Broadband Awareness (of Benefits of and Opportunities for Broadband) programs in specific local jurisdictions and states they serve or seek to serve, including Awareness for all families, enterprises and public institutions.   Providers shall also provide (4) contact information for use by states, local jurisdictions or Federally-recognized regional planning agencies, including interests for participation in Digital Economy planning, Broadband Deployment Supply-Demand-Governance cooperation and Digital Government activities in localities, regions and states, and including special programs targeting broadband and communication access for low income families and low connectivity areas, including in public housing, supported housing or foreclosure recovery community programs.


  1. Residential users


All targeted residential users of telephone or internet service shall have the opportunity to participate in a simple, fast and privacy secure call-in and internet-access one or more national or local third party Family Support Enterprise which is organized and operated to support choices of families and local communities through a number of Federal, state and local family stability programs.  Such family support services shall include information and benefits for housing, health and safety, education and employment and managing finances and government, employer or community foundation-supported benefits and services, including entities with experience in managing call centers and local family support centers.  For consideration as a national or multi-state regional third party, the FCC shall contract with entities with established capacity and experience with user interface with smart health, education, family benefit cards and privacy-secure customer business intelligence platforms and consumer-friendly status management profiles, and with capacity to extend access at information kiosks or in services at multi service family support, government services and community college/workforce/small business/unemployment benefit support offices, such as those linked with Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act as of July 1, 2015.


All targetted residential users shall have access to an annual calendar of events, fairs and outreach services in localities and community wide community college, county or tribal areas, including opportunities to learn about and participate in Lifeline, Link Up and other basic family support and small business opportunity programs, as well as opportunities to understand user opportunities under communication alert options for weather and safety events, and

smart health, learning, library, career readiness and training, and government benefit cards and user platforms and including those provided by local family support organizations, communication providers and consumer support organizations individually or in cooperation.


  1. Business and community enterprise users


Business and community enterprise users shall have access to participate in community business intelligence and universal communication alert systems in counties and other local jurisdictions, including opportunities for inclusion in outreach activities and fairs, and opportunities to link employees with providers and consumer support organizations, including those linked with local chambers of commerce, service club networks, local mail and logistics networks or community college/county/tribal area/public safety area networks.


  1. Family support enterprises


Family support organizations and provider-linked customer support services shall have opportunities to  register with the FCC, states or community college/county/tribal/public service areas, including providing information on their current services to residents, small businesses and community service organization or anchor institutions


  1. States and state broadband deployment


Each state, territory or tribal area shall provide the FCC with contact information on current or planned broadband deployment infrastructure and service entities and activities, such as state-local broadband awareness and adoption program and service quality assembly activities, with a special focus on initiatives to reach universal access to telephone, internet and television service, including through local community media, and digital government activities working to increase connectivity for moderate and low income families and to link efficient administration of state and Federal family benefit programs, including unemployment insurance, food stamps, health benefits, social security benefits.



  1. Regional planning agencies for land use, utilities, transportation and infrastructure


Each regional planning agency recognized by the Federal government for coordination of planning and developing consensus on priorities for the use of Federal funds or financing, and conducting land use, utilities, transportation, public works infrastructure, including local-state-national virtual infrastructure shall provide a Universal Service report on its activities, and contact persons for participation in state, multi-county and local planning and outreach on economic and community quality of life linked with expansion of broadband infrastructure, services and assessment of service quality, including through electronic tools and data analytics derived   from communication and community forums of cross-sections of communication residential, business and community enterprise consumers, providers,  utilities, educational , health and safety institutions, family support organizations and local governments.


Each regional planning agency shall participate in the broadband deployment council of its state, including in reviewing advanced communication and virtual infrastructure investments, opportunities for right of way cooperation among state and Federally supported  highways, toll roads, railroads waterways, utility easements, and linking state and Federal infrastructure efficiency standards and procedures, such as state “dig once” legislation for installation of fiber conduit when any public infrastructure work is done, and assisting counties, municipalities and special districts or tribal areas in adopting similar “dig once” ordinances and cooperate with state agencies on models and standards, and training of local governments and other parties in land use and innovative investments to reduce the costs and time of all parties, including reducing the costs of government, and laying the basis for 3 level advanced communication (local-state-national) for planning, financing, constructing and managing communication and                         public works, and designing a step by step process for building a full, secure and privacy protected virtual infrastructure.


  1. Counties, municipalities, tribal areas, special districts


Each county, municipality, tribal area and special district shall be provided opportunities to participate in broadband deployment, including planning infrastructure and participating in         annual and other outreach and service quality assessment forums and surveys,  interoperable family support platforms and user interfaces for residents, and shall have opportunities to provide annual communications to the FCC and state agencies on progress toward universal telephone, internet and television, including progress on digital literacy and digital fluency for commercial and digital government with moderate and low income families.


Each county, municipality, tribal area and special district shall be provided opportunities to adopt “dig once” and other standards and procedures designed to reduce the costs of advanced communication, including for Lifeline and other Basic Internet and Public Place Hot Spots, through fiber, cell towers, sensor data links and other means, including through model local ordinances and training programs, and including in activities in community college/tribal/public safety areas participating in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, in the NTIA-state FirstNet interoperable wireless tools for car-to-car communication among police, fire and emergency health vehicles, including for the purposes of ensuring 911 and other communication  with all telephone, internet, television and in-facility special alert systems.


  1. Federal government


Acting under the FCC’s National Broadband Plan of 2010 to meet the 7 national needs for broadband, including to achieve universal broadband access and regular use by residential, business, community and public agencies, the Federal government’s recent work of the Broadband Opportunity Council to coordinate broadband infrastructure and service programs of 25 Federal agencies and to link them with state and local governments and entities (chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture), the FCC shall work with Federal agencies, states, localities and regional planning agencies to expand telephone and internet access through  Lifeline and LinkUp, including through the use of simplifying consumer access through eligibility platforms in several family support programs and through the reduction in the costs to providers and the reduction in waste, fraud and abuse by the use of third party eligibility and service management entities, and linked with well-established family and consumer support organizations with experience in working with communication and utility companies, including partnering for outreach to low income families to enable them to have steady daily internet access at home, and backed up by nearly daily access places such as in schools, libraries, community centers, and public gathering places in every urban, suburban or town neighborhood and in every rural and wilderness community.


  1. Communications enterprises and users in the Americas and the World

FCC shall work with communication companies and entities in other countries, to assist moderate and low income families, small businesses and community enterprises to have low cost access to telephone and internet connection services nearby in North, Central and South America and in  other countries of the world.




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