FCC revamps Lifeline phone service, cuts the fat from carriers' bottomlines

With a site redesign freshly under its belt, the FCC's setting its recently honed eye for modernization on other, more pertinent areas of its jurisdiction -- like Lifeline. The universal program, a means of guaranteeing affordable phone service to low-income families, hadn't exactly kept pace with changes in the telecom industry, overlooking consumers' preference for wireless and the growing need for pervasive broadband access. That's all set to change with new measures adopted by the Commission today designed to curb carrier abuse of the antiquated system and automate the enrollment process by eliminating unnecessary duplicate accounts and subsidies. A pilot program to offer and potentially bundle discounted, high-speed internet to eligible participants is also underway, with potential ISP partners currently being solicited for inclusion. All told, the moves could wind up saving the federal agency over $2 billion in misdirected funds over a three-year span, leaving more money on the table to help your average Joe and Jane America step firmly into the 21st century.