Lifeline Underutilized, China’s Problem with Starlink, FCC Approves GMEI/iHeartMedia Deal

The Internet Innovation Alliance said less than 6.5 million Americans participate in the subsidy program.

Lifeline Underutilized, China’s Problem with Starlink, FCC Approves GMEI/iHeartMedia Deal
Elon Musk, serial entrepreneur, at TED2013: The Young, The Wise, The Undiscovered. Wednesday, February 27, 2013, Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

WASHINGTON, December 28, 2021 – The Internet Innovation Alliance is calling attention to the underutilization of the Lifeline subsidy program in comments to the Federal Communications Commission.

“Because of its shortcomings, the Lifeline Program is substantially underutilized,” the IIA said in its submission Tuesday, which focused on the agency’s implementation of the Affordable Connectivity Program, which extends the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

The FCC’s Universal Service Administrative Company estimates that there are about 33.2 million Lifeline-eligible households, but less than 6.5 million participate, meaning that only one in five eligible households is taking advantage of the program subsidy,” the comments read.

The comments called for a “light-touch administrative approach” to modernize and simplify the ACP and reach more households. They also requested that households enrolled in the EBB as of Dec. 31, to be auto enrolled in the ACP.

Additionally, the IIA called on the FCC to improve its outreach, saying that it should continue to leverage its existing partnerships with local communities and its anchor institutions, in addition to exploring new relationships.

The IIA also said that “beneficiaries should not be expected to order from a limited menu,” and argued that providers participating in the ACP should offer diverse service plans providing increased internet speeds – even if some of them are relatively expensive – to accommodate the diverse needs that users may have.

China lodges informal complaint against SpaceX; accuses U.S. of complicity

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson urged the U.S. to “act responsibly” in the wake of near collisions between SpaceX Starlink satellites and Chinese satellite, according to reporting by The Guardian.

China’s Tiangong space station had to initiate evasive maneuvers to avoid Starlink satellites twice within the last year, it said. China lodged these complaints in an informal bulletin during the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space’s meeting in December of 2021.

China is not the only entity to have experienced issues with Starlink. In 2019, a European Space Agency observation satellite had to engage its thrusters to dodge a Starlink satellite.

FCC gives GMEI the ‘OK’

The FCC has greenlit the Bahamas-based Global Media & Entertainment Investments to purchase up to 14.99 percent of iHeartMedia equity.

On December 22, the FCC announced that it would approve the foreign equity and voting interests, not to exceed 14.99 percent.

GMEI supported this move after walking back its November request to purchase 49.99 percent of iHeartMedia.

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