LOS ANGELES, CA, JUNE 10, 2020—Last week, the California Assembly's Appropriations Committee pulled the plug on Assembly Bill 3079, the California LifeLine expansion proposal to increase enrollment in free wireless services by at least 10% statewide.
A Committee analysis cited $2 million in estimated California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) costs to hire additional staff to prepare reports, and $4 million in printing expenses in order to enroll an estimated 500,000 to 1 million additional Californians in the program. The study failed to account for CPUC savings in excess of $10 million resulting from changes in the LifeLine re-certification process that currently result in high disconnection rates.
In addition, Governor Gavin Newsom's proposed May revision to the state's budget includes removing $300 million of funding from the California LifeLine program as a loan to the state general fund. Under the Assembly Appropriations Committee's analysis, those dollars would allow the CPUC to provide free broadband wireless to all 4.5 million low-income Californians who are eligible for LifeLine but who have not yet enrolled.
TruConnect and anti-poverty advocates joined AB 3079's author, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) for a Virtual Town Hall today on Thursday June 4, one day after AB 3079 stalled in the Assembly, to discuss the future of California LifeLine, especially during the COVID crisis. Assemblymember Garcia vowed to continue his efforts to support the program and the needs of millions of vulnerable residents intended to benefit from free wireless.
In the meantime, TruConnect Co-CEO Nathan Johnson provided the following statement:
"As a California based company working to increase services to the most underserved, we are once again astonished with the State’s lack of vision to remove barriers to an existing program in order to maximize benefits to the most vulnerable. This is especially shocking during a healthcare crisis. We have tried to improve and modernize the CA lifeline program, but there is institutional apathy from the CPUC. It makes no sense for the legislature to believe the CPUC’s estimate that growing the program would vastly increase Administrative costs. Currently, providers pay 100% of the costs and get reimbursed 50-75%. The CPUC's unwillingness to grow the program has turned into a math problem, because the CPUC’s numbers just don't add up, especially when you consider what it means to lack access to broadband internet."
TruConnect is the state's only wireless Lifeline carrier that provides participants with a free 4G/LTE smartphone and service plan as well as a built in hotspot with proprietary WiFi technology. Free mobile communication and broadband services are available through TruConnect's website, www.truconnect.com. Applicants who meet low-income eligibility requirements (which have been expanded during the pandemic) will receive a free cell phone through the mail and be able to stay connected throughout the COVID crisis and beyond.
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Founded in 2011, TruConnect has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing provider of Lifeline wireless telecommunications services, expanding into over 30 states in the past two years TruConnect strives to provide affordable & flexible technology solutions to low-income communities and budget-conscious consumers, helping to bring us closer to closing the digital divide. To learn more, visit us at www.truconnect.com .
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