NaLA Blog & Latest News

DC Circuit Court Backs NaLA on Lifeline Argument

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new argument on behalf of the agency stating it is not to be held accountable for reimbursing internet and phone carriers for providing subsidized services if the services are not in use. 

The D.C. Circuit as well as the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) were not on board with the argument posed. To put this into perspective, the legal counsel for NaLA released an analogy, “Think of it like a hamburger. If the National Lifeline Association served a hamburger to each of the judges, and Judge Rao ate none of hers while Judge Edwards only ate half, and U.S. Circuit Judge Gregory G. Katsas finished his, the nonprofit would have still spent the same amount on each of those burgers.” 

“My cost in serving those hamburgers is the same thing. I can’t take it back, and I can’t serve it to somebody else,” added John J. Heitmann, a legal representative for NaLA.

In having the carriers set forth a budget based upon its total number of subscribers each month; whether a subscriber uses the services provided or not, the carriers still lose money. Heitmann said a carrier can lose up to $34.25 for every user who doesn’t cure their nonuse within a 15-day span. 

For more information, visit https://www.law360.com/telecom/articles/1319437/dc-circ-mulls-whether-lifeline-carriers-got-raw-deal

 

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Lee SchaferDC Circuit Court Backs NaLA on Lifeline Argument
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Minimum Service Standard Proposal by FCC Threatens Low Income Access to Wireless Connectivity

FCC Releases Statement on Plans for December 2020 Minimum Service Standard Increase

Last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement regarding changes to minimum service standards within the Lifeline program. “Starting Dec. 1, Lifeline’s mobile carriers will have to offer 4.5 GB of data each month, up from 3 GB,” Chairman Pai stated. The increase in monthly data stems from the recent COVID-19 pandemic, making access to viable service more significant than ever. 

Proposed Minimum Service Standard Increase Will Impact Consumer Access to Wireless Services

This new proposal has caused a great deal of controversy among organizations that strive to assist low-income customers with wireless, wireline, and broadband service through the Lifeline Program. The problem here lies with the fact that the program runs on a subsidy amount of $9.25 each month to help aid its customers. “Plans including that much data cost $25 to $40 per month,” said lawyer John J. Heitmann, who represents the National Lifeline Association (NaLA). 

Many nonprofit organizations are facing this exact same issue right now trying to balance the consumers’ need for more internet access with the available funding. Heitmann also stated,

“There is simply no evidence in the docket to suggest that a 50% increase in the required mobile broadband data – with no corresponding increase in subsidy support – can be provided without forcing a copay on consumers.” 

In August, NaLA conducted a survey of 7,706 Lifeline subscribers asking whether they could afford a copay to remain connected to the service. The results showed that 85% of the subscribers said they could not afford a copay, and one in 10 of the customers also reported they are currently unemployed.

Digital Divide at Risk of Widening due to Proposed FCC Changes

The issue now remains with how Lifeline and other organizations that also assist low-income consumers will continue to provide the best possible service with a lack of government funding. The inability to provide reliable, affordable service poses a bigger issue in regard to the digital divide. In an interview with the Herald-Tribune Heitmann stated,

“There are two aspects of the digital divide. One is where there aren’t any high-speed networks. The other is where we have high-speed networks but people just can’t afford the services over them. And it’s the latter problem that’s the bigger problem in the United States. And it’s been made bigger by COVID.”

For years these organizations have strived to meet consumers’ needs. With these new challenges arising due to COVID-19, Lifeline and these other organizations could be facing a major financial crisis down the line with the lack of proper funding.

For more information, visit https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/local/2020/09/28/fccs-lifeline-program-free-phone-and-internet-confronts-crisis/5762068002/

 

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Lee SchaferMinimum Service Standard Proposal by FCC Threatens Low Income Access to Wireless Connectivity
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FCC Must Act Now to Prevent Disruption in Lifeline Service for Millions of Low-Income Americans and Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans

KENNETT SQUARE, PA. (PRWEB) OCTOBER 1, 2020

Members of the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent the disruption of essential Lifeline-supported service for low-income Americans, particularly low-income veterans. Unless the FCC acts now to prevent untenable increases in mobile broadband service levels without any increase in support amounts, most Lifeline users will be forced to switch from fully-supported “free” service offerings to service that requires a co-pay which more than 80% of subscribers say they cannot pay. Unless the FCC acts to reverse course, millions of low-income veterans and other Americans will lose Lifeline-supported access to the mobile voice and broadband services they need to stay in contact with employers, teachers, and loved ones during ongoing challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the FCC announced new Minimum Service Standards for mobile broadband services and a reduction in support for voice service provided through the Lifeline Program. This action was taken without increasing the subsidy for low-income Americans and without any study to determine the affordability of such services.

Read the entire NaLA press release here.

About the National Lifeline Association (NaLA)

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the four essential components of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Participants & Supporters, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through our mission to “support providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”

For more information on NaLA, visit https://www.nalalifeline.org.

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Lee SchaferFCC Must Act Now to Prevent Disruption in Lifeline Service for Millions of Low-Income Americans and Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans
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Lifeline Service Extended by FCC, Providing Critical Connections During COVID-19 Crisis

The National Lifeline Association (NALA) applauds a recent announcement by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it will continue to suspend involuntary disconnections from the Lifeline program and that it will accept unemployment insurance as proof of income eligibility through June 30, 2020. The FCC’s decision was made to ensure that millions of Americans continue to have access to essential Lifeline-supported mobile voice and broadband service during the unprecedented government-directed stay at home orders established to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the country.

“The FCC did the right thing in extending this waiver and ensuring that Americans who are now practicing social distancing have access to essential voice and mobile broadband services that connect them to the outside world,” said David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the NaLA Board. “For Americans who cannot afford these services, the Lifeline program is now an actual lifeline. With stay-at-home orders still in place in many states, and staggered re-openings in others, millions of Americans need Lifeline-supported service to communicate with healthcare providers, employers, and their children’s teachers. Without Lifeline-supported service, this period of isolation would be even more debilitating. We will continue to work with lawmakers and regulators to ensure those who need Lifeline-supported service will have access to it during this pandemic and economic crisis.”

Since the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, Lifeline service providers have seen an increase of up to 20% in voice minutes used and up to a 40% increase in data usage, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Lifeline Association.

Mr. Dorwart continued, “Now more than ever, it is clear that mobile voice and broadband services are essential services for low-income Americans. What was once a luxury is now a requirement to function and stay engaged. As this pandemic and economic crisis continues, regulators must continue to evaluate this program to ensure that those who need it have access to it and the crucial connections it provides.”

Any low-income consumers who are experiencing difficulty getting or staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic can find more information about Lifeline eligibility and how to apply in their state here: https://www.lifelinesupport.org/

About the National Lifeline Association (NaLA):

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the four essential components of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Participants & Supporters, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through our mission to “support providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”
For more information on NaLA, visit https://www.nalalifeline.org.

 

Read full NaLA press release here.

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Chelsea BoylanLifeline Service Extended by FCC, Providing Critical Connections During COVID-19 Crisis
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National Lifeline Association Announces Nathan Stierwalt’s Reelection to the Board

KENNETT SQUARE, PA. (PRWEB) MAY 01, 2020

Nathan StierwaltThe National Lifeline Association (NaLA) is pleased to announce that the voting members of the board have re-elected Nathan Stierwalt, the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of PWG Network Solutions, as a member of the board.

Mr. Stierwalt brings to the board critical representation from the carrier supply chain and phone suppliers in the Lifeline industry. His contributions as a former NaLA board member enabled the organization to continue to pursue its vision of ensuring the preservation, continuity, and advancement of the Lifeline program.

David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the NaLA Board said, “With the impact of COVID-19 ravaging the nation, it is critical that we continue to have great leadership in place fighting to maintain access to essential voice, text, and data services for those who need it the most right now.” He went on to say, “Nathan will continue to be a driving force within NaLA, bringing awareness to the struggle low-income consumers face during the pandemic such as their difficulties accessing telemedicine, distance learning, employers, and emergency services.”

Mr. Stierwalt sits on the NaLA Board with the following other members: David B. Dorwart, Board Chairman; Steve Klein, President at SafetyNet Wireless; David Avila, Associate Vice President at SafeLink Wireless; Ali Badran, Chief Executive Officer at MoreAble, LLC and Aiobo.com; Issa Asad, Chief Executive Officer at Q Link Wireless; and Jose Cortes, Chief Strategy Officer at Easy Wireless.

About the National Lifeline Association (NaLA):

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the four essential components of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Participants & Supporters, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through our mission to “support providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”


The official press release can be reviewed here.

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Chelsea BoylanNational Lifeline Association Announces Nathan Stierwalt’s Reelection to the Board
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FCC Supports Lifeline Participants with COVID-19 Order

FCC releases COVID-19 Order placing a 60 day waiver on recertification and reverification. The FCC delays launch of RAD Database 60 days beyond target date.

FCC Issues Lifeline Order

FCC Issues COVID-19 coronavirus Order Supporting Lifeline Participants and Providers

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is taking action to ensure Lifeline participants continue to have access to communications services during this critical time. The FCC noted in its COVID-19 Order that there has been a dramatic disruption in American’s lives that discourage person-to-person contact, forcing consumers to turn to telemedicine, telework, online learning, and overall social distancing.

The FCC stated that they believed that the coronavirus pandemic and community efforts to slow its spread makes requiring Lifeline subscribers to recertify and reverify an unreasonable burden at this time. The FCC went on to adjust the launch date of its Representative Accountability Database 60 days beyond its initial launch date of March 26th, 2020. They believe this will allow ETCs and Lifeline Providers to prioritize assisting eligible consumers to get connected and stay connected to voice and broadband services during this unprecedented time of need.

In the COVID-19 Order, the FCC announced 3 temporary changes to the Lifeline program:

Recertification – Waived 60 Days

Effective March 17th, 2020, recertification is on hold for the anniversary dates between April 14th, 2020 and August 14th, 2020. Subscribers with these anniversary dates will receive a new notice from USAC to recertify their eligibility after the waiver period ends on May 18th, 2020.

Recertification will remain as planned for subscribers with anniversary dates outside the window listed above.

Reverification – Waived 60 Days

All new reverification activity is on hold for 60 days from today through May 18th, 2020.

USAC will not conduct any de-enrollments for subscribers with documentation deadlines falling on or before May 18th, 2020. Any impacted subscribers will receive a new opportunity to provide necessary eligibility documentation after the end of the waiver period.

USAC will not open any new reverification documentation requests until after Monday, May 18th, 2020.

Beginning Tuesday, May 19, 2020, USAC will continue reverification activities as normal.

Representative Accountability Database – Delayed Implementation

To reduce the burden on Lifeline providers, full implementation of the Representative Accountability Database (RAD) will be delayed until Monday, May 25th, 2020.

When launched, RAD will function as communicated prior to this waiver. Please continue to encourage your enrollment representatives to register for a Representative ID and link IDs to the respective NLAD sub-accounts, API IDs, and/or SPINs as batch users. RAD will be mandatory on Monday, May 25, 2020.

The FCC and USAC made additional statements that noted they are working hard to make sure the Lifeline Support Team functions as normally as possible, but they continue to monitor the situation.

The full detail of the FCC Order can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-285A1.pdf

For questions about the Lifeline Program, call (800)-234-9473 or email [email protected]

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Jordan AxtFCC Supports Lifeline Participants with COVID-19 Order
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National Lifeline Association Names Q Link Wireless CEO To Board of Directors

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) announced today it has appointed Issa Asad, founder and CEO of Florida-based Q Link Wireless to the organization’s board of directors. NaLA is the only organization focused on advancing the interests of Lifeline recipients, providers, and program advocates. Lifeline, the federally-run program that provides free data and voice service to low-income Americans, is administered by the United Service Administrative Company under the direction of the FCC. In his role as a board member, Mr. Asad will work to ensure the program continues to maintain and expand wireless service to the millions of Americans who rely on Lifeline for their connectivity.

Mr. Asad joins fellow telecommunications industry leaders on the NaLA board for a three-year term. He will work with his fellow board members on a number of urgent matters including the continuing role of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the Lifeline program; technological enhancements to Lifeline enrollment and eligibility verification; as well as the ongoing need for expanding the nation’s infrastructure to deliver wireless data and voice services.

“The Lifeline program began under President Reagan almost forty years ago,” said Mr. Asad. “However, today, the program faces a whole new set of challenges that pose a threat to the ability for low-income Americans to stay connected to their families, friends, and emergency services. We have much work to do to make sure bureaucracies don’t impede individual American’s need for basic data and voice services.”

Mr. Asad is a seasoned executive with nearly two decades of experience in the telecommunications industry. He began his career in telecom working in prepaid phone services before he founded Q Link Wireless. Today, Q Link ranks as the third-largest Lifeline provider in the nation and serves more than two million customers. The company has been particularly instrumental in expanding Lifeline services to rural Americans through its novel, internet-based sales and marketing approach.

“I am extremely happy that Issa has made the commitment with his time to continue to support the Lifeline industry,” said David B. Dorwart, chairman of the National Lifeline Association. “Having Issa represent the industry as a board member provides the additional credibility our industry wants and needs to make effective long-term change for the customers we support and serve.”

Mr. Asad joins current NaLA Board Members: David B. Dorwart, board chairman & founder of NaLA; Steve Klein, president at SafetyNet Wireless; David Avila, associate vice president at SafeLink Wireless; Kimberly Lehrman, president & chief marketing officer at enTouch Wireless; Ali Badran, chief executive officer at Aiobo and MoreAble; and Nathan Stierwalt, chief sales & marketing officer at PWG Network Solutions.

About the National Lifeline Association (NaLA):

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the four essential components of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Participants & Supporters, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through our mission to “support providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”

For more information on NaLA, visit https://www.nalalifeline.org.

About Q Link Wireless:

Q Link Wireless, a Quadrant Holdings Company, is one of the nation’s leading providers of wireless voice and data service through the Lifeline Program. With more than two million customers, Q Link is wirelessly connecting people to the world around them, regardless of their income.

For more information on Q Link Wireless, visit qlinkwireless.com.


The official press release can be reviewed here.

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Chelsea BoylanNational Lifeline Association Names Q Link Wireless CEO To Board of Directors
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