The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on whether it should continue with its recent decision to prevent the rollout of broadband internet subsidies for low-income households.

The request for comments comes after a petition was filed by more than 30 organizations, including the NAACP and Public Knowledge, asking the commission to reverse a decision it made last month that prevented the expansion of its Lifeline program to subsidize broadband connections for poor people.

“Lifeline has brought affordable telephone service to millions of people in poverty,” the petitioners wrote. “Now it is the only federal program poised to bring broadband to poor families across the U.S. so that they can connect to jobs, complete their homework, and communicate with healthcare providers and emergency services.”

First established in 1985, the FCC’s Lifeline program was originally designed to provide help people with low income pay for phone service. It offers support to veterans, people living on tribal lands, recipients of food assistance and Medicaid and people at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty line. The program serves more than 13 million Americans.

Lifeline originally applied to landlines and was expanded to cover mobile phones — a change that created the controversial “Obama Phone” program, even though the expansion was happening prior to Barack Obama taking office.

In 2016, the FCC voted to modernize the Lifeline program by extending its subsidies — which provide $9.25 per month to go toward a person’s bill — to broadband internet access.

Before stepping down from his position as chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler granted approval to nine broadband providers to be included as part of the Lifeline program. One of the approved companies, Kajeet, had partnered with school districts in 41 states and the District of Columbia to provide internet to underserved communities.

That expansion was blocked by Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the commission under the Donald Trump administration. Pai said the companies were approved in a lame duck session and were a “midnight regulation” that “did not enjoy the support of the majority of commissioners.”

Pai argued the hold-up in allowing broadband subsidies isn’t an issue, as more than 900 companies support Lifeline. While those companies are all authorized to provide subsidized broadband, according to Wired, none of them actively are offering it. The nine companies approved by Wheeler would have been the first to make subsidized broadband available.

How To Submit A Comment To The FCC

The FCC will accept comments on the petition to continue modernization of the Lifeline program through March 16th. After that initial comment period ends, the commission will accept replies to those comments until March 23rd.

Comments can be made through the FCC’s website. Visit and click on the “Proceedings and Actions” tab at the top of the page. Click “Learn More” under the heading “File a Comment in a Proceeding.”

Those planning to comment will have the ability to fill out a standard filing or use the simplified express comment option to voice their opinion. Use “09-197” as the proceeding number to file comment on Lifeline modernization.