Tell Congress to Stop the FCC's War on the Poor
The Trump FCC is waging war on the poor. And we want to be very explicit about how.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the other Republican commissioners have been axing our communications rights for the past year. While their deregulatory and pro-corporate stance should be of concern to everyone, those who will suffer the most from their policies are low-income people and people of color.
Since Trump took office, his FCC has aggressively pursued cruel and senseless policies that make it harder for poor people to access vital communications services. These actions include:
• Dismantling the Lifeline program: In November, the FCC voted along party lines to move forward a heartless proposal to dismantle the Lifeline program, a rollback that would rob struggling families of affordable phone and internet access and disproportionately impact people of color, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.1
• Gutting Net Neutrality: The FCC majority voted to repeal Title II Net Neutrality, handing the reins of the internet over to ISPs that can now control what we see and do online.2 This opens the door for internet fast lanes for the wealthy, and slow lanes for the rest of us.
• Eliminating protections against costly prison-phone rates: Under interim FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn — the first woman, and the first Black woman, to run the agency — the FCC voted to protect incarcerated people and their families from being exploited by telecom companies that routinely charge exorbitant rates for phone calls. Pai has undone these critical protections and left millions of families, including the children of incarcerated people, with no realistic means of staying connected.3
Congress has the power to help solve these problems.
Lifeline: Congress can pressure the FCC to abandon its effort to destroy the Lifeline program. The plan to gut Lifeline makes it clear that despite what he says, Chairman Pai doesn’t care about closing the digital divide.
Net Neutrality: Congress can help preserve civil rights online by supporting the effort to overturn the FCC’s bad Net Neutrality vote using the Congressional Review Act. If corporations control the internet, they control the most important communication and organizing tool of our time — and they could use this to censor political speech and crush movements for racial, gender and economic justice.
And they can use this control to charge even more for full access to the internet — which means that poor people who are already being priced out will have even less of a chance of accessing the digital public square, and all the opportunities that come with it.
Prison-Phone Rates: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D–Illinois) introduced legislation that would require the FCC to make rules ensuring that incarcerated people have access to video visitation, that video visitation is not allowed to supplant in-person visitation rights, and that all prison-phone rates are just and reasonable.4 We need Congress to take a cue from Sen. Duckworth and support the people the FCC is supposed to protect.
Tell Congress to stop the FCC’s rollback of the Lifeline program, restore the Net Neutrality protections, and once again protect incarcerated people from the exploitative prison-phone industry.
1. “Trump FCC Moves Forward Plans to Gut Lifeline Program and Strand Millions on the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide,” Free Press, Nov. 16, 2017: https://www.freepress.net/press-release/108419/trump-fcc-moves-forward-plans-gut-lifeline-program
2. “Free Press: Today’s FCC Ruling Will Not Stand,” Free Press, Dec. 14, 2017: https://www.freepress.net/press-release/108533/free-press-todays-fcc-ruling-will-not-stand
3. “Under Trump, the FCC Will No Longer Fight to Make Exorbitant Prison-Phone Call Rates Cheaper,” Quartz, Feb. 7, 2017: https://qz.com/904925/donald-trumps-fcc-will-stop-fighting-exorbitant-prison-phone-call-rates/
4. “Sen. Tammy Duckworth Introduces the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017,” Prison Policy Blog, July 24, 2017: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/07/24/duckworth_2017/