Pacific: Comcast, the nation’s second-largest cable and Internet provider, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to extend the Lifeline program’s current three-year expiration date, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the FCC by the company.
The FCC voted 3-2 last week to extend Lifeline’s extension, which expires June 30.
Comcast has long argued that the extension will enable it to increase the number of gigabit-per-second broadband connections available to its customers.
“While the Lifelines expired on June 30, it is our belief that a temporary extension could help accelerate deployment of new and improved services,” Comcast said in the letter.
Comcast is asking that the FCC extend Lifelines extension indefinitely.
Comcast did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.
Ars asked Comcast for comment on the Lifelink extension and its proposed plan to increase gigabit broadband service to more households.
Comcast’s request for an extension was not limited to its existing customers, but included all residential Internet service customers, including its most recent subscribers.
“If we are unable to complete these requests for extensions, we believe it would be premature to proceed with the application to extend this Lifeline extension,” Comcast wrote.
Comcast said it would not request a temporary or extended extension, but it did say it will consider “any additional requests for extension of the Lifline program.”
Comcast’s plan to expand gigabit service is one of the most controversial in the nation, and it has raised concerns in other parts of the country about how the program will be used and how much it costs.
The federal government and other states are paying $5 billion per year to cover the costs of Lifeline expansion, but the FCC is under pressure to expand its use of the program as the nation enters its fourth year of a recession.
In response to Comcast’s petition, the FCC will decide next month whether to grant the company a temporary approval to continue using the Liftel program.
Ars has requested comment on Comcast’s plans for the extension.
Comcast will be required to pay $15 billion per month in fees to cover these costs for the first five years of the extension, and Comcast will also have to reimburse the FCC for its costs.
Comcast says it will be able to cover $4 billion in fees per year over the five-year period, with the remaining funds going to cover Lifeline-related costs.
Ars reported in December that Comcast would be able use a $5 per-month subsidy to cover some of these costs.
This subsidy could be the only thing keeping Comcast from going to market to extend its Lifeline.
Comcast also requested a temporary delay in the Lifeling program for five years, and that the company would pay for the delay by selling off some of its cable TV properties.
Ars also wrote about Comcast’s proposal in December to extend Littles Lifeline, which offers discounted access to gigabit Internet service.
Ars said it believed Comcast was proposing a similar program to its Lifelines program that would also require the company to sell off some properties.
Comcast would still be able lease these properties from the FCC.
Ars’ coverage of the FCC’s Lifeline and other government programs has focused on the need to address broadband infrastructure needs in the wake of the Great Recession, which has led to widespread and unprecedented losses of private sector jobs.
Ars previously reported on the FCC plans to roll back net neutrality rules that were approved by Congress in 2015 and 2017, and have led to ISPs blocking websites and charging companies for prioritized access to content.