California’s Poorest Protest Lifeline Changes

Report and video clip of recent CPUC meetings on proposed changes to the LifeLine Program.

Seniors, SRO residents and their supporters dominated a meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday June 4. They were there to oppose a proposal to allow phone companies to raise rates for low-income LifeLine service. An increase in the current rate of $5.47 could cut many of them off.

“For our clients, the 18,000 residents of San Francisco’s SROs (Single Room Occupancy hotels) LifeLine service is quite literally a matter of life and death,” said Jeff Buckley, Director of the Central City Housing Collaborative. “Many of our residents would be afraid to sign up for a service with fluctuating rates, because their incomes are so low that even a small increase would make the service unaffordable. Even if they could afford a mobile phone, it simply doesn’t provide the safety and dependable 911 access that our clients desperately need.

VIDEO: Hear what low-income consumer had to say at a recent CPUC Meeting.

LaTonya Jones lives off of $64 a month. She depends on California LifeLine for affordable phone service and to stay in touch with friends and family

The CPUC proposal is supported by AT&T, which will see increased profits from its low-income customers if the proposal passes. Consumer advocates are demanding that the CPUC require AT&T continue to offer low-income LifeLine phone service at a fixed rate, rather than allowing the phone giant to raise rates for its neediest customers.

“This proposal flies in the face of California’s commitment to universal service,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “The CPUC has heard compelling testimony on the importance of affordable service at a fixed rate. To suggest that consumers who can barely afford a landline would be able to purchase cell service is like saying “let them eat cake.” Most of the people who spoke out against this proposal can barely afford bread.”

More are videos available at TURN’s YouTube Channel.