Sacramento, CA

Demonstrators urge Public Utilities Commission to fund Lifeline , low-income wireless services

Robert J Hansen
Dr. Tecoy Porter (left) Brother Kevin Carter (front) talking about the importance of the Lifeline program Sacramento, CA on Sept 12, 2022.(Robert J Hansen)

Sacramento, Calif. - By Robert J Hansen

A demonstration was held in front of the Legislative Swing Building last Monday urging the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reconsider a vote that would essentially end the California Lifeline Program which provides free wireless cell phone services to low-income Californians.

On September 12, demonstrators chanted “fight poverty, not the poor,” as they held signs urging Governor Gavin Newsom and the CPUC to continue funding Wi-Fi and cell phones throughout the state.

Kevin Carter, Co-Chair of the Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign, said having a cellphone is crucial for unhoused residents to receive city services, find employment and for medical emergencies.

“That would be devastating,” Carter said. “There are people that need access to those cell phones and those laptops.”

The Lifeline program provides basic wireless service to over 2.5M Californians with more than 131,000 participants in Sacramento, according to the CPUC.

“The CPUC is considering if and how broadband should be subsidized for low-income residents under the Lifeline program,” according to a May 2022 report.

The CPUC is planning to leverage federal funds by reducing $9.25 per service plan. This year’s budget was almost $262 million according to the CPUC.

The CPUC did not respond to questions clarifying its intention for the Lifeline program and if the Lifeline program can continue without federal subsidies.

Dr. Tecoy Porter also was with demonstrators supporting access to broadband and wireless services.

“What would we do without our cell phones and access to the internet? The pandemic showed us how much we rely upon them,” Porter said.

Porter said that internet access is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

“Right now that’s in jeopardy,” Porter said.

Keshawn Evnas uses the Lifeline program and said without it he couldn’t contact potential employers or his family.

“I need it to look for work or any other business I need to handle and to call my kids,” Evnas said. “The homeless need it more than anybody.”

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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