Motivations Behind Low-Income Households' Bypass of Support for Universal Service
University of Florida - Department of Telecommunication
Mark A. Jamison
University of Florida - Warrington College of Business Administration, Public Utility Research Center
An ongoing challenge in the administering of universal service programs is to ensure those who have been targeted for support receive the intended benefits. Even though the Lifeline and Link-Up programs in the United States provide low-income households with the opportunity to receive up to a ten dollar federal discount on their local phone bills and up to thirty dollars to help establish service, some policy makers are concerned that the participation rates in these programs are too low. Nationally, the FCC estimates that only 38 percent of households eligibile actually participate. For Florida the FCC estimated participation rate is less than 15 percent. In response to these concerns, local exchange carriers and the utility regulator in Florida are marketing the programs, and the carriers are conducting local outreach events to encourage Lifeline participation.
This study examines why Florida households decline to participate in Lifeline. We conducted focus groups, with mostly senior citizens, one week after outreach events or workshops in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Fort Lauderdale. The focus group data indicate that most new Lifeline participants were already existing phone subscribers who were previously unaware of Lifeline. Awareness and lack of trust were the principle reasons why participants believed more low-income households don't enroll in Lifeline. Furthermore, all of the focus group participants expressed a strong inclination that wired telephone service was essential to their overall physical and emotional health because it provided a necessary link to the rest of the world.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16working papers series
Date posted: January 28, 2007 ; Last revised: January 6, 2009
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