Brattle Principal Coleman Bazelon contributed economic analysis to a white paper on the modernization of the Lifeline program released today by the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. In this report, Dr. Bazelon and his co-authors identify several ways that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can improve the efficiency of the Lifeline program, which provides a discount on telecommunications services for qualifying low-income consumers, and increase the program’s service offerings to include access to high-speed wireless Internet.
By delving into the oft-hidden costs associated with the administration of the program, the authors highlight the need to streamline operations and eliminate the role of service providers in certain processes like eligibility verification, enrollment, de-enrollment, and payment of benefits. Recommended actions also include transitioning eligibility verification to a coordinated enrollment/de-enrollment framework, and boosting voluntary participation of Lifeline service providers by reducing administrative costs.
The report shows that addressing these inefficiencies will allow the Lifeline program to lower its current costs significantly, resulting in an estimated savings of $687 to $700 million, or more than 70 percent of the current administrative costs to service providers. Reducing program costs will allow it to offer access to additional services such as wireless high-speed Internet, and ultimately meet its full potential to empower program participants in an era with rapidly advancing technology and communications tools.
The report, “A Lifeline to High-Speed Internet Access: An Economic Analysis of Administrative Costs and the Impact on Consumers,” is available for download below.