Quirk Bill to Protect and Expand Mobile Connectivity for Low-Income Californians is Vetoed
SACRAMENTO – In an effort to improve the impact and the effective of California’s LifeLine Program, Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) authored AB 2652. This bill, that would have improved the administration of the program by making it easier for customers to enroll and stay enrolled in the program, was vetoed by Governor Brown.
Administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the LifeLine program provides discounted home phone and cell phone services for qualifying low-income households to help consumers cover the costs of their phone bills.
“The LifeLine program is an underutilized and under-implemented program that can provide much needed access to millions of individuals. The delivery and oversight of the program has not been modernized to maximize efficiency, participation, and cost. Despite the CPUC’s statutory requirement to provide service to the greatest number of eligible individuals, participation teeters at 37%” explained Assemblymember Quirk.
At the core of AB 2652 was improving participation in the LifeLine program. This bill will achieve this by doing the following: (1) allow particpants to enroll online using electronic signatures; (2) make it easier for participants to keep track of their anniversary date; and (3) allow for partnership with community based organizations.
“The California Lifeline Program is an essential communications link for millions of low-income Californians and desperately needs to be modernized so as to reach those who are eligible and not enrolled. Assemblymember Quirk identified cost effective measures that would have improved voice and broadband service delivery to the underserved and it is disappointing that it was not signed into law by Governor Brown. We look forward to continuing the effort to improve program participation and retention and are grateful to the leadership shown by Assemblymember Quirk,” said David Dorwart, Board Chairman of the National Lifeline Association (NaLA).
“It’s unfortunate that the Governor continues to allow the CPUC’s bureaucracy to negatively impact low income families. We have a grossly underutilized a program that needs clear policy direction. We commit to working with the legislature to solving these administrative barriers preventing eligible families from being enrolled and eligible families from recertifying into the program,” said Nathan Johnson, Co- CEO and Co- Owner of TruConnect Wireless.
Since 2014, the CPUC has had an open proceeding on LifeLine. In the course of the nearly four years, there was been a continuous decline in participation rates and the CPUC’s indecisiveness regarding policy implementation highlights the need to codify policies that will maximize long term participation.
“Mobile connectivity is central to the public safety, health, welfare and education of all our communities. LifeLine provides low income communities with a vital link to employment opportunities and general communication needs. I am pleased to have work with community groups and industry experts on this bill. However, I am disappointed that Governor Brown vetoed this bill that would have closed the connectivity gap and would have provided a critical service to many Californians” said Assemblymember Quirk upon learning his bill was vetoed.