12 States Object to Feds’ Broadband Reforms

     (CN) — A coalition of 12 states challenged the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to subsidize broadband Internet services for low-income households, claiming it steps on the states’ authority.
     Wisconsin and 11 other states sued the FCC in the D.C. Circuit on June 30, seeking review of the agency’s new designation process for companies that qualify for the Lifeline program.
     The Lifeline program offers low-income consumers a discount on telephone services. In April, the FCC expanded the program in a highly contentious 3-2 vote to include broadband Internet services with a reform package aimed at modernizing the program for the digital age.
     The reforms will give qualifying households a credit of $9.25 per month to use for communications services.
     Forty-three percent of low-income households — approximately 64.5 million Americans — say they can’t afford Internet service, which is critical for students and job-seekers.
     However, the federal agency’s order declares that it will now decide which companies are eligible to participate in the expanded program, an authority that was formerly a state prerogative.
     “As this case shows, federal overreach is not an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. It harms everyone,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement. “The state commissions — including our own Public Service Commission of Wisconsin — have by far the best record of rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program. The order takes the best cops off the beat.”
     The states claim that the FCC’s order exceeds the agency’s jurisdiction, and violates the Communications Act of 1934 and the Administrative Procedure Act.
     Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Connecticut, Mississippi, and Vermont joined Wisconsin’s lawsuit.
     The petition is signed by Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin.
     The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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