cable_worker.jpgWashington, D.C. — A coalition of national civil rights, labor and church organizations has told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that access to broadband is vital to success in today’s job market.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights was responding to the FCC’s request for comments on how to improve access to broadband for low-income, minority and other unserved and underserved communities.

In a letter to FCC Commissioners, the coalition urged swift action to broaden the reach of broadband access through the Lifeline and Link-Up programs as an economic imperative for minorities.

“This access is critically important for success in the job market,” the coalition said.

The coalition noted that when the March unemployment was 8.8 percent, black unemployment was 15.5 percent and Latino unemployment was 11.3 percent.

“Broadband plays a critically important role in all parts of the jobs pipeline, covering job readiness that includes obtaining skills necessary for a job, job placement that includes successfully applying for a job and job progression that includes retraining for advancing through a job,” the coalition said.

Lifeline and Link-Up have provided low-income households with discounts on monthly phone bills and initial installation charges since 1985. The coalition recommended steps to enhance their effectiveness and reach.

  •  Move quickly to expand Lifeline and Link-Up to support broadband services that can support voice as well as other applications
  • Expand Lifeline and Link-Up to support broadband services this year
  • Create a financial set-aside for competitive grants within the Lifeline program
  • Expand and simplify eligibility rules, create incentives within the program to reach target populations and reduce waste and fraud and mandate combined outreach (and possibly administration) of this program with similar programs
  • Increase efficiency and reduce waste by incorporating into the Lifeline program the latest and best thinking regarding federal benefit programs, particularly by expanding and simplifying eligibility rules, creating incentives within the program to reach target populations and reduce waste and fraud, combining outreach of this program with other similar programs, and redefining “household”
  • Postpone any consideration of a cap until the reforms proposed in the current proceeding can be implemented
  • Re-evaluate the current distribution of financial support between universal service funds to support low income consumers and programs that support high cost areas.

The letter was signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Asian American Justice Center, Communications Workers of America, National Urban League, NAACP, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients, National Disability Rights Network, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Organization for Women Foundation, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the United Church of Christ Office of Communication Inc.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States.

For more information on the Conference, visit