FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20554
CC Docket No. 96-45
THE UNITED STATES CATHOLIC CONFERENCE, NATIONAL COALITION
FOR THE HOMELESS, WASHINGTON LEGAL CLINIC FOR THE HOMELESS,
AMERICAN WOMEN'S ROUNDTABLE, COMMUNITY TECHNOLOGY
INSTITUTE, CONSUMER ACTION, FARMWORKER JUSTICE FUND, FIFTH
STREET CONNECTION, HEARTLAND ALLIANCE FOR HUMAN NEEDS AND
RIGHTS, INTERSTATE MIGRANT EDUCATION COUNCIL, NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION OF MIGRANT EDUCATORS, MARCIA ZASHIN, EDUCATION
CONSULTANT TO CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PROJECT ACT, MIGRANT
LEGAL ACTION PROGRAM, AND VERMONT MIGRANT EDUCATION PROGRAM
Jewell Elliott, Law Student
Georgetown University Law Center
April 12, 1996
Angela J. Campbell
Ilene R. Penn
Institute for Public Representation
Georgetown University Law Center
600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Office of the General Counsel
United States Catholic Conference
3211 4th Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017-1194
Commenters are religious, non-profit, advocacy and service organizations that work to help the most vulnerable members of American society, specifically, homeless persons and migrant farmworkers. These Comments identify the particular problems faced by homeless persons, migrant workers, and their children in obtaining telecommunications services and suggest ways that, under the Telecommunications Act, their needs should be addressed.
Homeless persons lack access to both basic and advanced communications services because they are poor and lack a permanent residence. For a variety of reasons, reliance on public payphones or shelter telephones does not meet even their most basic needs. Migrant workers similarly lack access to basic and advanced services because they are poor and highly mobile.
The Comments identify a variety of initiatives from around the country that demonstrate how telecommunications services can provide an effective means of helping homeless persons obtain jobs, housing, medical care and access to social services. The Comments also describe how increasing the access of migrant workers to telecommunications services has helped them to earn their livelihood, keep their families together, and obtain access to basic social services. Telecommunications services have also been used to improve the ability of the children of these two groups to obtain an education. Thus, ensuring access to basic and advanced telecommunications services by homeless persons and migrant workers not only has tremendous benefits for those groups, but benefits society at large.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that the FCC adopt rules to ensure non-discriminatory access at just, reasonable and affordable rates to basic and advanced telecommunications services for all Americans, including homeless persons and migrant farmworkers. The definition proposed in the Notice is premised on access to a residential telephone, and hence, is inadequate to meet the needs of persons without a permanent residence. Based on the success of existing initiatives, these Comments suggest some services that could meet the needs of these persons. These Comments are intended to begin the process of defining universal service in a way that meets the telecommunications needs of homeless persons and migrant workers and serves the overall public interest.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction.................................................................1 I. Homeless Persons And Their Children Lack Access To Basic Telephone And Advanced Communications Services Because They Are Poor And Do Not Have A Permanent Residence....................................................................4 A. Public Payphones Do Not Provide An Effective Alternate Means of Communication.........................................................5 B. Homeless Shelters Provide Few Telephones For Use By Homeless Persons and Generally Do Not Permit Toll Calls...........................6 C. Homeless Children Miss Important Educational Opportunities From Their Lack of Access to Basic Telecommunications Services................7 II. Increased Access To Telecommunications Services Has Been Shown Useful In Helping Homeless Persons Obtain Jobs, Housing, Medical Care And Access To Social Services....................................................8 A. Access to Voice Mail Enables Homeless Persons To Have Timely Contact With Potential Employers, Landlords, Human Services and Family..................................................8 B. Toll Free Phone Access Allow Easier Access to telecommunication Services and Thereby..............................10 C. When Non-profit Organizations That Serve Homeless Persons Have Toll Free Or Reduced Rate Access to Telecommunications, Homeless Persons' Access to Social and Other Services Greatly Improves............................................................11 1. Interconnected computer networks and the internet have improved the distribution of services to homeless persons and have increased their opportunities for learning and training.........................................................11 III. Migrant Farmworkers and Their Children Lack Access to Basic Telephone and Advanced Communications Services Largely Because They Are Poor and Highly Mobile........................................13 A. Migrant Farmworkers Have Limited Access to Essential Telephone Services............................................................14 B. During The Crop Season, Migrant Farmworkers Often Live In Unstable Housing Structures Which Likely Can Not Support Basic Telephone Services............................................15 C. Migrant Farmworkers Have Difficulty Obtaining Essential Residential Telephone Services At Their Homebase............................................................16 D. Children Of Migrant Workers Miss Educational and Other Opportunities Because of Their Lack of Access to Telecommunications Services.........................................17 IV. Increased Access To Telecommunications Services Have Proven Useful in Helping Migrant Farmworkers Communicate With Employers And Family And Improve The Educational Opportunities For Their Children...............................................................18 A. Toll Free Hotlines Have Provided Migrant Families With Information on Health and Education Resources...........................................................18 B. Migrant Children Have Been Able To Increase Their Educational Opportunities And Complete Curriculum Requirements Through Innovative Distance Learning Programs............................................................19 V. The FCC Should Define Universal Service To Guarantee Homeless Persons And Migrant Farmworkers Access to Basic and Advanced Telecommunications At Just, Reasonable And Affordable Rates............20 Conclusion..................................................................22
In the Matter of
CC Docket No. 96-45
Federal-State Joint Board on
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20554
UNITED STATES CATHOLIC CONFERENCE ET AL.
The United States Catholic Conference, National Coalition for the Homeless, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, American Women's Roundtable, Community Voice Mail Project, Consumer Action, Farmworker Justice Fund, Fifth Street Connection, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Interstate Migrant Education Council, Louisiana Migrant Education Program, Marcia Zashin, Education Consultant to Cleveland Public Schools and Project Act, Migrant Legal Action Program, and Vermont Migrant Education Program, (hereinafter "Commenters"), are a group of religious, non-profit, advocacy and service organizations that work to help the most vulnerable members of American society, specifically, homeless persons and migrant farmworkers. Commenters
1 See Appendix for a description of each of these organizations, their constituencies and concerns.
respectfully submit the following comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order Establishing Joint Board, FCC 96-93, in the above-captioned proceeding, released March 8, 1996 ('NPRM' or 'Notice'), in which, among other things, the Commission seeks comment on how it should define universal service to provide access to persons who do not have traditional residential telecommunications connections.
The Notice solicits comments on how to best ensure that persons who do not have traditional residential telephone service, such as homeless persons and migrant farmworkers, have access to telecommunications services. Commenters commend the FCC for taking this important first step. As a threshold matter, however, Commenters note that the thirty-four days allowed for comment is an inadequate amount of time in which to educate and mobilize the homeless and migrant worker community, which has severely limited resources, and to prepare a complete and meaningful response to the Commission's inquiry. Until now, homeless persons and migrant farmworkers have rarely been represented in Commission proceedings, despite prior rulemakings that specifically requested comment on how access to communications services by these groups could be improved.
In these comments and under the time constraints imposed, Commenters have begun the process of analyzing what universal service can mean for these constituencies. In identifying and defining services to meet the communications
2 Notice, at para 57.
needs of these groups, the Joint Board must consider that the mobility and pervasive poverty of these constituencies severely limits their access to basic and advanced telecommunications services. Current federal programs, such as Lifeline and LinkUp, which provide support for low income persons to obtain access to essential residential phone services, do nothing to help persons without a home. These programs are also insufficient to meet the communications needs of migrant farmworkers who are away from their permanent residences for substantial portions of the year.
Universal service must therefore go beyond the FCC's proposed definition of providing residential phone service to all Americans and must take into account the unique needs of both of these constituencies. Any meaningful definition of universal service, however, must be flexible enough to grow with advances in technology. Therefore, these comments do not endorse any finite set of particular services; rather the goal is to establish the need for access to telecommunications services by homeless and migrant workers, demonstrate the efficacy of telecommunications access in addressing the unique challenges that these constituencies face, and identify some important principles that the Joint Board and the Commission should consider in fulfilling their statutory mandate of
3 The Notice states that core universal service in rural, insular and high-cost areas and for low-income consumers should include (1) voice grade access to a public switched network; (2) touchtone; (3) single party service; (4) access to emergency 911 services and (5) access to operator services. Notice, at para 16. The universal service goals assume that a person has a residence at which he can connect to the telecommunications network.
ensuring truly universal service.
1. Homeless Persons And Their Children Lack Access To Basic Telephone And Advanced Communications Services Because They Are Poor And Do Not Have A Permanent Residence.
It is difficult for most Americans to imagine what it is like to be homeless and especially what it is like to be cut off from the basic telephone services on which they rely each day. Most Americans need not worry about how they will communicate with employers, landlords, government officials, or family members. Contacting these people is as easy as picking up a telephone conveniently located in their homes. However, approximately six million homeless persons live in the United States today  and cannot simply pick up a telephone to inquire about a job,  to determine if a shelter has room for a night's stay or to contact family
4 These Comments do not address other important issues raised in the Notice. Commenters generally endorse the positions taken on other important issues in the comments of Media Access Project et al., American Association of Retired Persons, National School Boards Association et al., Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ and the Benton Foundation.
5 Counting the number of homeless persons is difficult since different methodologies for counting homeless persons yield significantly different results. However, Priority Home! The Federal Plan to Break the Cycle of Homelessness, estimates that 4.95 million to 9.32 million people (with a mid-point of 7 million experienced homelessness in the latter half of the 1980s. National Coalition for the Homeless Fact Sheet, Http://nch.ari.net/numbers.html.
6 "One reason that homeless people looking for work can't get a job is not that they don't have a home--its that they don't have a phone." Interview with Jeffrey Cole, UCLA, Center for Communications Policy, as reported in Searcher, Oct. 1994, at 14.
Mark, a homeless person explains, "...Used to be a teacher. I'd like to find a good job, but how?... any job that's decent will ask for an address, phone number... It's hard to breakout of the cycle and into focus." Http://nch.ari.net/jobs.html. Paul Dietrich, also asks, "When you look for a job, where do you tell them to call you back?" Id.
members. Therefore, because access to telecommunications traditionally has been linked to a residence, homeless persons have limited access.
A. Public Payphones Do Not Provide An Effective Alternate Means of Communication.
Not only are homeless persons cut off from traditional residential telephone service, but payphones are not an effective alternative means of communication. Most payphones block incoming calls and therefore hinder the homeless person's need to receive calls and retrieve messages. Moreover, payphones are being removed from urban areas because of vandalism and their alleged use in drug trafficking.
Moreover, the cost of making local and toll calls is prohibitive to homeless persons since they have severely limited funds. Money spent making local telephone calls is money that could otherwise and often must be spent on food, shelter or clothing. And without long distance service, homeless persons may be prevented from obtaining vital information from out-of-state agencies such as a birth certificate which is necessary to obtain a social security card and a drivers
7 Some Thoughts on NII Development, Telecommunications, Jan. 1994, at 84. Although the FCC noted that public interest payphones would not be addressed in this proceeding, Commenters strongly support increasing urban and rural phones for emergency and other use.
8 For example, the Homeless Outreach Coordinator at the 5th Street Connection, indicates that 75 percent of the homeless individuals with whom she works did not have money to use a pay phone and that although the other 25% received a small monthly stipend, they can not afford to make very many phone calls at 25 cents a call. Interview with Jill Baldwin, (Mar. 1996).
license or an identification card, which is oftentimes necessary for employment.
B. Homeless Shelters Provide Few Telephones For Use By Homeless Persons and Generally Do Not Permit Toll Calls.
Because of budgetary constraints, shelters typically offer their residents limited, if any, phone services and generally do not permit the placement or receipt of long distance calls. Shelters often have only one phone to serve all of their clients: The ratio is often more than 50 people per phone. Because phone lines are oftentimes limited, the homeless person may have to wait his turn before making a call only to find out the party he is trying to reach is not available. Without an effective means of communicating with the world at large, the homeless person and his family may unnecessarily travel to a shelter only to find out there are no vacancies or to an appointment to find out it has been canceled. And generally shelters do not permit long distance phone calls.
Not only is it difficult for a homeless person to make outgoing calls from shelters and other public phones, but receiving incoming phone calls is virtually
10 At My Sister's Place in Baltimore, the facility can only afford one telephone for its 50 clients per day. Interview with Harriet Bachman, (Apr. 1, 1996). The South Bend Shelter for the Homeless have seven telephones, used by 50 volunteers, 150 residents and up to 100 drop in clients a day. Interview with Lou Lani, (Apr. 3, 1996).
11 Catholic Social Services of Southwest, Ohio, has reported that its shelters are in desperate need of telephone or other communications services which would enable them to reach relatives, friends or employers out of the local dialing area. Interview with Rod Huber, (Mar. 28, 1996).
impossible. If there is one phone for client use at a shelter, once that one phone is occupied, employers, social service or other providers trying to reach an individual with news of employment or housing, will get a busy signal instead. If the line is busy, there is often no means to leave a message so the homeless individual can get the essential information. Finally, even where incoming calls are permitted, a homeless person may be too embarrassed to give out the shelter telephone number because of the stigma attached to giving out a shelter number as a place to be reached.
C. Homeless Children Miss Important Educational Opportunities From Their Lack of Access to Basic Telecommunications Services.
While homeless adults lose job, housing and other opportunities because they lack access to telecommunications, homeless children suffer the additional loss of important educational opportunities. Of the three to five million homeless persons, 15 to 20 percent are children. Enrolling homeless children in school become difficult due to residency requirements, lack of a permanent address and phone number, and delays in the transmission of school records. Keeping a
12 Catholic Social Services of Southwest, Ohio and Maryland Catholic Charities report that their clients do not have a reliable method of receiving messages from potential employers or landlords. Interview with Harriet Bachman, (April 1, 1996) and with Rod Huber, (March 28, 1996).
13 Interview with Austin Lynch, National Coalition for the Homeless, (March 1996).
14 Children's Defense Fund, State of America's Children Yearbook 1994 37 (1994).
15 Lori Nessel and Kevin Ryan, Migrant Farmworkers, Homeless and Runaway Youth: Challenging the Barriers to Inclusion, 13 Law & Ineq. J. 99, 117 (1994)(hereinafter "Nessel").
homeless child in school is hard as well. Without a telephone, there is no way for educators to reach homeless parents to inform them of medical emergencies, attendance or disciplinary problems or to discuss a child's progress. As a result, fifty-seven percent (57%) of all homeless school-age children do not regularly attend school. And over half of the nation's homeless youth sixteen years old or older have dropped out of school or have been suspended or expelled.
II. Increased Access To Telecommunications Services Has Been Shown Useful In Helping Homeless Persons Obtain Jobs, Housing, Medical Care And Access To Social Services.
Several programs across the country have shown that increased access to telecommunications services can help homeless persons quickly and efficiently gain housing, employment, medical care and access to social services. This will in turn benefit the public interest and the society at large.
A. Access to Voice Mail Enables Homeless Persons To Have Timely Contact With Potential Employers, Landlords, Human Services and Family.
As discussed supra, one of the most significant problems homeless persons encounter is their inability to obtain and retrieve messages left by prospective employers, social service workers, and housing agents. Voice mail systems have
16 In addition, many schools offer homework hotlines which children of homeless-- who are already severely disadvantaged-- cannot take advantage of without access to a phone.
17 Nessel at 117.
provided homeless persons with the technological means to overcome this problem by enabling homeless persons to call into a messaging system from any phone and retrieve information that may be essential to their health, safety, and welfare. A number of pilot and well establish programs provide voice mail to homeless persons" and have shown to be successful due in part to the ability of voice mail technology to be adopted to meet the various needs of organizations. Several programs have found that once a homeless person has access to voice mail, the time it takes to find employment and housing is greatly reduced. In
19 While there are several strong examples of successful programs that have been implemented, these programs have not been adopted on a wide scale by agencies or organizations. However the FCC should examine them to if they can be supported by universal service mechanisms and whether they should be adopted as a means of providing access to telecommunications for homeless persons.
20 See, Inventing the Future, Nonprofits and New Technologies, Benton Foundation, What's Working Now at 1.
21 Inspired by Community Technology Institute (CTI) based in Seattle, Washington, the Community Voice Mail (CVM) Donation Program was founded in 1985 and provides training materials, handbooks, and technical modifications and equipment to aid non- profit organizations in the United States. The program enables a case manager to provide a client on CVM with his or her own greeting, seven digit phone number and private pass code to retrieve messages. Case managers can leave a message for a group of clients with one call.
See also MFS's Opportunity Calling voice mailbox program MFS donated phone message system to clients of a nonprofit advocacy group for homeless in New York and also provides an 800-number through which messages could be retrieved. comments of MFS Communications Company, Inc., CC Dkt. No. 95-115 at 4-5 (Sept. 27, 1995). Of the first 50 clients assigned mailboxes, 14 found full-time jobs, another five found temporary work and nine others found housing. overall users have found jobs or housing in about three months, which is about one-third of the time required by those lacking a voice mailbox number. Id.
And the North Carolina Bar Association Young Lawyers Division developed and installed voice mail at the Salvation Army in Charlotte, North Carolina and later expanded it to include other service organizations. As a result of the system, many homeless individuals obtained employment. Ethics, 79 ABA J. 105 (Nov. 1993).
addition access to voice mail has helped to reduce the average time users spend in the social services system. Voice mail has also been shown to increase public safety. Furthermore, voice mailboxes are a valuable transition mechanism that allow homeless non-subscribers to receive inbound telephone service, thereby assisting them in becoming full-time subscribers in the future.
B. Toll Free Phone Access Allow Easier Access to telecommunication Services and Thereby
Toll free numbers enable homeless persons to stay in contact with their social service providers in their calling area without expending the money to make a toll call. In addition, when voice mail systems are coupled with toll free call numbers, the homeless person need not worry about how he will pay for the call or
22 Paul Stockford, Community Voice Mail: The Application of the Decade, Voice, Mar. 1995, at 1.
23 For example, the Community Technology Institute established a model program in New York whereby a voice mail system which could support up to 1600 users was installed in homeless shelters. The system provided a secure method of communication for battered women who needed to stay in touch with family members, while remaining safe from those who committed the violence against them. Id. at 1.
25 The Rapid Action Food Team of Alexandria, VA with technical and financial support from MCI Telecommunications Corporation has created Emergency Hunger LifeLINE which has established a single, nationwide telephone number that anyone can call to obtain food and be routed to the local referral agency nearest the caller, based on the caller's area code and exchange. Inventing the Future, Nonprofits and New Technologies, Benton Foundation, What's Working Now at 4.
the length of time he spends on the phone listening to his messages.
C. When Non-profit Organizations That Serve Homeless Persons Have Toll Free Or Reduced Rate Access to Telecommunications, Homeless Persons' Access to Social and Other Services Greatly Improves.
Other pilot programs that have provided free phone lines for shelters have also shown to dramatically increase homeless person's access to telecommunications and to essential services.
1. Interconnected computer networks and the internet have improved the distribution of services to homeless persons and have increased their opportunities for learning and training.
In addition, a variety of computer networks, including the Internet have been used to make social services more efficient and responsive to the needs of homeless persons and to educate and provide training for homeless persons. A computer system known as HandsNet,  provides on-line information on food programs, emergency shelters, and legislative initiatives that affect the rights of
26 For example, Colorado established individual voice mail boxes accessible by toll-free telephone numbers for each homeless person in the program. More than 75% of the people enrolled in the program have found jobs. Samuel E. Bleeker, The Virtual Organization, The Futurist, Mar. 1994, at 9.
27 For example, in 1989, Pacific Bell instituted a Free Community Telephone Program where they installed 18 free phone lines on a trial basis in 9 community service agencies in California. The service offered free calls to anyone seeking essential services including employment, welfare assistance, health care, and shelter.
28 In Georgia, for example, the entire homeless shelter system is on-line.
29 Similar food bank is run in Louisville Kentucky, called "Dare to Care." Using automated inventory control enabled them to distribute 4 million pounds of food in 1989. Kathy Chin-Leong, Shelter from the Storm, PC-Computing, Mar. 1989, at 185.
homeless persons. For a modest annual subscription fee, the program provides users with quick access to bulletin boards that encourage people to post surplus food provisions for food banks and food exchange networks. The system may also be used for data analysis, to enable social service workers to determine how many children are homeless. A similar network is used to coordinate shelter bed availability in New York.
Not only are computers being used to improve the provision of services, but they are also being used to increase the employability of homeless persons. Increased computer skills lead to higher paying jobs which will enable homeless persons to pay rent, that they can otherwise not afford earning minimum wage. In Washington, D.C., for example, residents of public housing project are learning basic business applications on state of the art computers. At Computers & You based in San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church, homeless people receive computer training using donated PCs and Macs. Over 7,000 individuals have graduated from this program and 71% have obtained jobs. Computers are also
32 In New York City, there are 30,000 beds available each night at over 100 shelters for the homeless. The city's Human Resources Administration uses reservation networks for single adults and families to ensure that each person who wants a bed has one. Use of the on-line system efficiently uses resources and saves individuals wasted trips to full shelters. Id.
33 Myles Rademan, If its Brok... fix it, Planning, Dec. 1995, at 4.
34 Presswire, Mar. 12, 1996.
used by homeless to educate themselves and obtain information to improve their economic status.
Finally, creative use of telecommunications services including voice mail and computers promise to help keep homeless children connected to their schools where possible and expedite the time it takes to enroll children in new schools when necessary. Voice mail and messaging services have been used in Cleveland's Project Act to register homeless children for school. Advanced telecommunications services, such as computers, also provide homeless children with educational and other opportunities that would otherwise be lost for them.
In sum, these programs from around the country demonstrate that increasing the availability of telecommunications services help homeless persons and their children gain employment, housing, education and medical services.
III. Migrant Farmworkers and Their Children Lack Access to Basic Telephone and Advanced Communications Services Largely Because They Are Poor and Highly Mobile.
Just as it is difficult for most Americans to understand what it is like to be homeless, it is also difficult to understand what life is like for migrant farmworkers. Their jobs involve the most difficult and least lucrative tasks in agriculture and
35 For example, the Sjobloms, a family of four who became homeless in 1994 after Russell Sr. suffered a disabling back injury, sold almost all of their worldly possessions, except for their computer. Russell Sr. explains, "The Internet is helping me do research on disability law. Its also how I found the Coalition [National Coalition on the Homeless], which helped us stay an extra week in our old apartment and helped keep the kids in school. Everything else has failed us, welfare has failed us, so I'm turning to the Internet to see if I can find help." Http://nch.ari.net/sjoblom1.html.
fishing and require them to move frequently in order to obtain temporary or seasonal employment. For migrant farmworkers and their families, these seasonal moves mean the difference between maintaining employment or suffering protracted periods of little or no income. Their lack of access to basic telecommunications while moving and their difficulty in maintaining basic service at their homebase during the off season impede the ability of approximately 3 million migrant farmworkers and dependents  to use basic telecommunications services, although they are ones who often need such services the most.
A. Migrant Farmworkers Have Limited Access to Essential Telephone Services When They Travel.
Migrant workers spend about half of the year traveling since their livelihood is dependent on reaching a crop at its peak and making strategic decisions about traveling to new crops. Because migrant farmworkers work in remote areas, rather than in a residence or business, access to a phone is virtually non-existent. Their only access to telephones is through public payphones at gas stations or rest stops. Yet given the rural surroundings, these facilities are generally far and few between. Moreover, public pay phones present to migrant workers the same
36 Migrant Education Service Center and Oregon Department of Education, Educational Reform and Its Effect on Migrant Education: A Position Paper, (1995), at 3.
38 Alice Larson and Luis Plascencia, Tomas Rivera Center, Migrant Enumeration Project. The statistics on the number of migrant farmworkers currently living in the United States greatly vary depending on the methodology used to count these individuals and how a migrant worker is identified.
problems they present for homeless people as described supra. Public pay phones sometimes do not permit incoming calls and long distance phones calls are costly-- often beyond the financial means of migrant workers. Landowners rarely permit migrant farmworkers use their private phones.
Because migrant farmworkers have little to no access to telecommunications, they have no means to contact family members who have stayed behind or check up on the health and welfare of children. Nor can they contact a prospective landowner to determine whether the crop is ready or whether they should delay their travels. Furthermore, there are no means to speak with educational, social, legal, medical or other service providers. As a result, migrant farmworkers are often precluded or extremely disadvantaged in taking advantage of public benefits and other services.
B. During The Crop Season, Migrant Farmworkers Often Live In Unstable Housing Structures Which Likely Can Not Support Basic Telephone Services.
Many farmworkers and their families sleep in tents, cars, ditches or open fields and therefore have no place where residential telephone can be obtained. Even where housing is available to farmworkers, the housing usually is in labor camps which consists of cinder block row housing, garages, small shacks or barns. In addition, some migrant workers, especially in the rural Southwest, live and work
39 Often younger children are left at the home base with relatives in order for them to complete school and later meet up with their parents. Interview with Roger Rosenthal, National Migrant Legal Association, (April 1, 1996).
in "colonias" which are the rural equivalent of a urban latino barrios or shelters. Due to insufficient electric power, these unstable housing structures likely can not support basic telephone services even if support was available to obtain the service. This means that migrant farmworkers are frequently isolated and have little access to a phone.
Occasionally a limited number of telephones are located at labor camps. However, they are usually controlled by the landowner or crew leader, and like the homeless person at the shelter, there may be many workers to share one phone.
C. Migrant Farmworkers Have Difficulty Obtaining Essential Residential Telephone Services At Their Homebase.
Although migrant farmworkers vary in their living situations and patterns of mobility, like homeless persons, migrant farmworkers are poor and highly mobile for a substantial part of the year. However, unlike homeless persons, migrant farmworkers usually have a permanent residence to return to after they have completed their seasonal migration. Because migrant farmworkers earn less than $7,500 a year, two-thirds or more workers' families have incomes below the
40 Colonias, comprised of haphazard cardboard structures on mud-laden roads, often do not have sewers and the electricity sources at these colonias is usually not powerful enough to support basic phone, let alone advanced telecommunications services. Interview with Roger Rosenthal, (March 15, 1996).
42 Americas Farmworkers. Http://www.ncfh.org/pg3.htm#demographics.
poverty level. Thus, migrant workers encounter the same barriers in obtaining basic residential telephone services as other low-income persons while they are at their permanent address. In addition, migrant farmworkers often face language barriers, as well as problems resulting from the high cost of service, disconnection for nonpayment of toll charges and high installation fees.
D. Children Of Migrant Workers Miss Educational and Other Opportunities Because of Their Lack of Access to Telecommunications Services.
Not only are migrant adults disadvantaged by their inability to obtain access to basic and advanced telecommunications services while on the road, but their children's education is often adversely affected as well. The median .'educational level for the head of a migrant household is fifth grade,  largely because mobility makes it difficult for farmworker children to complete their education. Other barriers to completing school include difficulty in enrolling in schools because of language barriers, delays in transmission of records, and time lost in travel. Migrant children often lack role models who have completed school, are pressured by parents and relatives to take care of siblings instead of attending
43 National Agriculture Worker Study, U.S. Department of Labor.
44 Jorge Reina Schemet, Beyond Universal Service, Characteristics of Americans Without Telephones, 1980-1993, at 4- 5, (May 1994).
45 Reauthorization of Expiring Federal and Secondary Education Programs, Chapter 1 of H.R. 5 and H.R. 950, 100th Cong. lst Sess. 223 (1987), (Testimony of John D. Perry, Senior Project Consultant, Interstate Migrant Education Counsel).
46 [sic Ed.] America's Farmworkers at
school, and are encouraged to work rather than study or attend school since the families' economic survival depends on maximizing work output. As a result, migrant farmworker children have the highest dropout rate of any group in the country and only approximately 55% of all migrant children graduate from high school.
IV. Increased Access To Telecommunications Services Have Proven Useful in Helping Migrant Farmworkers Communicate With Employers And Family And Improve The Educational Opportunities For Their Children.
Specific voice mail service programs have been implemented which have helped farmworkers obtain telephone service. Pacific Bell, for example, has a very successful program with La Cooperativa Campasina of Sacramento. Migrant farmworkers in California's Central Valley obtain toll free access mailboxes to communicate with employers and family.
A. Toll Free Hotlines Have Provided Migrant Families With Information on Health and Education Resources.
Toll free 800 Number Hotlines are also being used to help migrant families. The National Migrant Resource Program 800 number hotline enables farmworkers to make toll-free calls to receive information on healthcare available to them in the
47 See Nessel at 117. See also Debbie Goldberg, From Fieldwork to Homework to College, Wash. Post, Aug. 8, 1995 at R-11.
48 La Cooperativa Campesina de California has used this service for two years and continuously expanded it because of the improvements it providers in the farmworkers' ability to communicate with their employers and families. In the matter of Amendment of the Commission's Rules and Policies to Increase Subscribership and Usage of the Public Switch Network, Docket No. 95-115, Comments of Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Sept. 27, 1995) at 32.
area in which they are currently working and receive information on migrant education programs in the farmworkers' work area.
B. Migrant Children Have Been Able To Increase Their Educational Opportunities And Complete Curriculum Requirements Through Innovative Distance Learning Programs.
Two isolated but extremely successful ventures which provide instructional continuity through distance learning to migrant farmworker children are the MINT Project (Migrant Instructional Network for Telecommunication and Project SMART (Summer Migrants Access Resources through Technology). The M.I.N.T. Project, established in 1 994, develop and produces live interactive instructional broadcasts for migrant students, teachers,s and parents. The program allows students and teachers to interact via satellite, thereby creating a learning environment with no walls or boundaries. Topics studied are those appropriate for migrant students, and most programs are broadcast [bilingually. Ed.]. Project SMART was initiated in 1 992 in Texas to provide instructional continuity through distance learning to migrant farmworker children. The program provides instruction tailored to the Texas curriculum from the preschool through highschool levels. Televised instruction is provided through a San Antonio based network. Students in school- based programs interact with the teacher through a special telephone line during
49 NMRP works with Eastern Stream Center on Resources and Training of the State University of New York to make the 800 available by distributing the 800 numbers to the workers in the fields.
50 Migrant Instructional Network for Telecommunication, program literature.
the televised program. Students participating from home, who do not have the capability of interacting with the teacher during a telecast, can communicate with certified subject-area teacher based at Project SMART through a toll-free line.
V. The FCC Should Define Universal Service To Guarantee Homeless Persons And Migrant Farmworkers Access to Basic and Advanced Telecommunications At Just, Reasonable And Affordable Rates.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to adopt rules that ensure nondiscriminatory access to basic and advanced telecommunications services for all Americans, including homeless persons and migrant farmworkers, at rates that are just, reasonable and affordable. These services must include both basic and advanced telecommunications and information services, and must be deployed in a reasonable and timely manner. In defining the level of universal services, the FCC must consider to what extent each service is: (1) essential to education, public health and safety; (2) subscribed to by a substantial majority of residential customers; (3) deployed in public telecommunications networks by carriers and (4) consistent with the public interest, convenience and necessity. The FCC proposes to define universal service for low income consumers and those that live in rural, insular, and high cost areas as the ability to place and
51 Telecommunications Act Sections 254(b), 706, and 101(a).
52 Telecommunications Act Section 254(b)(3).
53 Section 706.
54 Notice at para 9. Commenters support the FCC's interpretation that not all of these criteria need to be met.
receive telephone calls over the public switched network. The definition also includes touchtone service, single party service, and access to emergency 911 and operator services. As a comprehensive universal service model, this proposal is flawed because it assumes access to a residential telephone. However, as discussed above, homeless persons have no residence and migrant farmworkers are away from their residences for a substantial portion of each year. Therefore, the FCC's proposed definition will not result in universal services for these two groups. Because the Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to provide universal service to all Americans, the FCC must adopt rules that provide basic interexchange and advanced telecommunications services to homeless persons and migrant farmworkers in a way that is meaningful to them.
Because Commenters have not had sufficient time to fully identify and discuss all of the possible challenges and solutions in ensuring universal service for migrant farmworkers and homeless persons, we make some initial suggestions to serve as the foundation of any comprehensive universal service package.
First, the FCC should provide support for voice mail for persons who lack the means to regularly receive incoming calls. Second, the FCC should extend subsidies to non-profit service providers, such as schools and shelters, that serve homeless persons and migrant farmworkers to increase their ability to install
55 Notice, at para 16.
56 Notice, at para 16.
57 Telecommunications Act Section 254(b)(3).
multiple phone lines, to acquire multiple services, to make toll-free numbers available, and to obtain access to the internet. Third, the FCC should take steps to increase the availability of urban and rural emergency and public payphones, Finally, the LinkUp program should be amended to provide assistance for more than one initiation of service per year.
In addition, the FCC should also require telecommunications and other service providers to make consumers aware of available programs once they are implemented. These subsidy programs are for naught if the groups do not know about them. The FCC should require service providers to widely distribute literature in various languages, run public service announcements on television and radio and use other means to disseminate information about available service and subsidies. The Joint Board must also adopt a means to collect information regarding the success of these initiatives once adopted. All of these steps are needed to ensure that migrant farmworkers and homeless persons have meaningful access to telecommunications service.
In conclusion, the Commenters urge the FCC to ensure that universal service is provided to all Americans by taking into account the special needs and circumstances of homeless persons and migrant farmworkers while adopting its rules on universal service. Because access to traditional universal service presumes a residence, and these groups do not have a residence for all or part of the year, the definition of universal service must be expanded to include these groups.
Law Student, Georgetown University
April 12, 1996
Angela J. Campbell
Ilene R. Penn
Institute for Public Representation
Georgetown University Law Center
600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Office of the General Counsel
United States Catholic Conference
3211 4th Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017-1194