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Court Blocks FCC’s Attempt To Take a Broadband Subsidy Away From Tribal Areas

Jon Brodkin reports via Ars Technica: The FCC decision, originally slated to take effect later this year, would have made it difficult or impossible for Tribal residents to obtain a $25-per-month Lifeline subsidy that reduces the cost of Internet or phone service for poor people. But on Friday, a court stayed the FCC decision pending appeal, saying that Tribal organizations and small wireless carriers are likely to win their case against the commission. “Petitioners have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their arguments that the facilities-based and rural areas limitations contained in the Order are arbitrary and capricious,” said the stay order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “In particular, petitioners contend that the Federal Communications Commission failed to account for a lack of alternative service providers for many tribal customers.”

The tribes and small carriers that sued the FCC “have shown a substantial risk that tribal populations will suffer widespread loss of vital telecommunications services absent a stay,” the court said. The FCC hasn’t proven that its plan won’t result in “mass disconnection,” the court also said. The court ruling was welcomed by the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and Oceti Sakowin Tribal Utility Authority, which are among the groups suing the FCC. Several small carriers and the non-profit National Lifeline Association are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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