NaLA Blog & Latest News

NaLA asks the FCC to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence

The Safe Connections Act directs the Commission to designate either the Lifeline program or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) as the vehicle to provide emergency communications services for survivors

On April 12, NaLA submitted comments to the FCC on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement requirements of the Safe Connections Act. The comments urge the FCC to designate the Lifeline program as the program to provide emergency communications for qualifying survivors suffering from financial hardship because:

  • Lifeline is a permanent solution reliably funded through the Universal Service Fund (USF);
  • Lifeline subscribers are automatically eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) as well, meaning survivors can use benefits from both programs;
  • And unlike the ACP, Lifeline supports voice services, and Lifeline plans generally include bundles of broadband and voice service, providing survivors with the ability to dial 911, shelters and other support services when necessary.

To adequately serve the needs of survivors suffering from financial hardship and all low-income households, and taking lessons from the successful ACP, NaLA also calls for reform of the Lifeline program, particularly in the event that ACP funding is exhausted (which is expected to be early to mid-2024).

NaLA firmly believes that connecting survivors of domestic and sexual violence is a literal lifeline to safety, providing access to information, resources and support they might not otherwise have.

You can read the full comments here, which include details on NaLA’s suggestions for Lifeline reform and other recommendations for supporting survivors of abuse through access to essential communications services.

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Glen Echo GroupNaLA asks the FCC to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence
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Nathan Stierwalt Elected to NaLA Board of Directors for a Second Term

KENNETT SQUARE, PA. April 6, 2023. The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) is pleased to announce the re-election of Nathan Stierwalt to its Board of Directors. Mr. Stierwalt, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for PWG Network Solutions, is the first NaLA board member representing the carriers, phone suppliers, and phone manufacturer supply chains.

“I am very honored to have been re-elected by my peers for a second term on the NaLA Board of Directors,” said Mr. Stierwalt. “I look forward to continuing my work with this incredible organization and helping bring awareness to how the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs help low-income consumers access telemedicine, distance learning, potential employers, government assistance, and emergency services.”

NaLA is passionate about the continuity and advancement of the ACP and Lifeline programs and is committed to driving this vision through education, cooperation, and advocacy. As part of his role on the board, Mr. Stierwalt will provide valuable insight into how carriers, phone suppliers, and phone manufacturers can contribute to the organization’s overall mission.

David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the Board, said, “Nathan has been a driving force within NaLA since joining us in 2019, and we are thrilled that he has accepted another term on our board. His knowledge from both sides of the industry – carrier supply chain and device supply chain – makes him an invaluable asset to our mission.”

Mr. Stierwalt has over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, and channel development at various telecommunications companies, including Cincinnati Bell, Powernet Global, and Global Connections of America dba StandUp Wireless. He currently serves as the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at PWG Network Solutions leading their sales and marketing efforts across all channels.

The National Lifeline Association is proud to have Nathan Stierwalt serve on its board once again for another three-year term. We look forward to seeing what other great things he will do with us.

To learn more about NaLA, visit: http://www.nalalifeline.org. 

About the National Lifeline Association (NaLA):

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) segment of the communications marketplace. NaLA works toward the preservation and advancement of Lifeline and the ACP through stakeholder engagement, education, collaboration and advocacy. We support all stakeholders in pursuit of a common goal: voice, text and broadband connectivity for all Americans. Through our ecosystem-wide membership that includes service providers, distributors, network access aggregators, compliance and software solutions vendors, device manufacturers, program supporters and beneficiaries, NaLA provides a platform to enable and realize of the goal of getting and keeping every low-income American connected to essential communications services. For more information on NaLA, visit https://www.nalalifeline.org.

More on Nathan’s reelection can be found here.

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Glen Echo GroupNathan Stierwalt Elected to NaLA Board of Directors for a Second Term
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NaLA Statement on Fifth U.S. Circuit Court Decision

“Today the Fifth Circuit court upheld the constitutionality of the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund (USF) and the agency’s use of Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) to administer USF programs, including Lifeline. NaLA is pleased with this decision as the USF and Lifeline in particular provides targeted support to low-income Americans who struggle to afford essential communications services necessary to participate in our digital society. NaLA is proud to serve these consumers and ensure they can connect to family, community, jobs, education, telehealth and other service using our members’ mobile voice and broadband solutions.” – David B. Dorwart, NaLA Chairman

More news on the decision can be found here.

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Glen Echo GroupNaLA Statement on Fifth U.S. Circuit Court Decision
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NaLA Establishes National Agent Coalition to Support Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Representatives

Formation of agent coalition committed high standards of business for ACP and Lifeline agents

Today, the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) announces the establishment of the National Agent Coalition (NAC), the national trade association for distributors and representatives who conduct in-person enrollment into the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs (ACP).

NAC will serve as a voice for agents, who are on the front lines of bridging the digital divide through these programs. They will support the industry by providing resources for agents, increasing agent impact and ensuring eligible consumers are enrolled. The group will ensure enrollment efforts are conducted with the highest level of business standards and will meet on an ongoing basis to develop and maintain a rigorous Agent Code of Conduct, among other agent and distributor resources. 

The initial NAC includes seven members: 

  • Kristi Brown –– Community Outreach Partners
  • Calen Schultz –– Community Outreach Partners
  • Jon Sarver –– Sarver Corporation
  • Stephen Alexander –– PayGO Distributors
  • Carlos Camarena –– Moreable
  • Michael Fries –– Goodnight Marketing
  • Casey Lillie –– 1 Source Communications

“Programs like ACP and Lifeline are vital to connecting all Americans to broadband. Without our agents, we wouldn’t be able to get these programs in the hands of the people who need them the most,” says David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the NaLA Board. “Our agents are essential ambassadors for these programs and NAC will work to ensure that we continue to meet the high standards of customer service and excellence that both our members and we require.”

“Agents are an integral part of the equation and deserve a clear path to long-term success,” says Kristi Brown, NAC Committee Member and Managing Director for Community Outreach Partners. “We need to focus on what happens on the ground, just as much as we are on what happens at the policy and provider level. Implementation is key. We’ve developed NAC to uphold high standards of accountability and integrity with our enrollment representatives and to avoid any confusion around enrollment practices for consumers.”

“Collaborating across the industry is the only way we can make sure that we equip our agents with the tools they need to bring ACP and Lifeline to communities in need. Forming NAC will give us a chance to standardize our processes and do our due diligence to ensure success,” emphasized Calen Schultz, NAC Committee Chair and Managing Director for Community Outreach Partners

NaLA works toward the preservation and advancement of Lifeline and the ACP through stakeholder engagement, education, collaboration and advocacy. The Lifeline program and the ACP are federally-run programs that provide subsidized data, text and voice services to qualifying low-income Americans. The United Service Administrative Company administers both programs under the direction of the FCC.

To read more about NAC, visit: www.nalalifeline.org/nac-committee/

Read the official press release here.

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Glen Echo GroupNaLA Establishes National Agent Coalition to Support Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Representatives
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NaLA releases findings from 2022 Annual Consumer Survey

Results from more than 60,000 respondents indicate that consumers need affordable access to mobile wireless voice and broadband services to participate equally in all facets of daily life

NaLA’s Annual Survey of Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program subscribers – conducted between November 21 and December 8, 2022 provides insights into consumer demographics and experiences with FCC internet subsidy programs.

The survey results indicate that low-income consumers use Lifeline and/or ACP service to connect to family and to access other government programs, healthcare, jobs and online education.

2022 Key Takeaways

  • Consumers want and need mobile wireless: More than half of those surveyed said they would choose to have mobile and fixed broadband service if they could afford both, but 43% said mobile wireless services best meet their household needs. Only 2.5% of those surveyed say fixed broadband alone would suffice.
  • Voice, text and data are all essential. While nearly 80% of consumers surveyed value access to voice, text and data equally, consumers indicated making and receiving calls as the most important form of communication.
  • Consumers want choice and control of their benefits. More than 90% of those surveyed prefer having the ability to combine Lifeline and ACP support in order to get more robust benefits. This practice is currently prohibited in the state of California, but it’s clear consumers prefer to have the ability to combine benefits.
  • Low-income consumers need affordable access to more mobile broadband than they currently use on limited plans and budgets. More than 90% of consumers throttle their data usage over the course of the month because they cannot afford to purchase more on top of their capped plans.
  • No co-pay plans are essential to keeping low-income Americans connected. Nearly 95% of Lifeline and ACP subscribers say they cannot afford any additional payments toward wireless and broadband services. Lifeline and ACP are essential to keep low-income Americans connected.
  • Most Lifeline/ACP subscribers lack access to credit and are unbanked. More than half of Lifeline/ACP subscribers surveyed do not have a debit or credit card or a bank account.

“Imagine life without mobile wireless access to the internet in 2022. It’s nearly impossible to conceive of how a family could function. But without programs like Lifeline and ACP, many Americans would not have a phone number or an internet connection and would be cut off from society,” said David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the NaLA Board. “NaLA’s survey shows that the majority of Lifeline and ACP recipients live below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This means that our programs are working to bring connectivity to those who need help the most. It is crucial that lawmakers continue to support these programs to ensure that all Americans have affordable access to essential communications.”

The full results, including more insights into demographics, are available here. Download the one-pager of these highlights here. 

Read the official press release here.

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Glen Echo GroupNaLA releases findings from 2022 Annual Consumer Survey
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Listen to NaLA Board Member, Danielle Perry, talk about Lifeline and ACP on “The Divide” Podcast

Danielle Perry, NaLA Board Member and chief compliance officer at TruConnect, joins host Nicole Ferraro on The Divide, a podcast from Light Reading, to talk about how the company is keeping customers connected through the federal government’s Lifeline program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The episode covers discussions about Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP); Why TruConnect, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), is pushing back on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) potential ruling; and the need for consumer advocacy regarding mobile and home connectivity.

Listen to The Divide: TruConnect’s Danielle Perry on the role of MVNOs in keeping people online here.

Read the full transcript of this episode 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 the providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”

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Chelsea BoylanListen to NaLA Board Member, Danielle Perry, talk about Lifeline and ACP on “The Divide” Podcast
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NaLA Congratulates FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Becoming the First Permanent Female Chair of the Agency

Jessica Rosenworcel

Source: FCC | Wikimedia Commons | Jessica Rosenworcel

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) congratulates FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on her confirmation by the U.S. Senate to become the first woman to serve as permanent chair of the FCC. On this historic day, David Dorwart, Chairman of NaLA proclaimed that “NaLA looks forward to working with Chairwoman Rosenworcel, her fellow commissioners, and the talented FCC staff on making sure that Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program meet the challenges of providing affordable broadband options for all Americans.”

As NaLA explains in its comments publicly filed today, the first priority for the new FCC Chairwoman should be the successful transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on December 31, 2021. With Congress having removed the barrier to competition and consumer choice contained in the original legislation, eligible consumers will be able to apply the benefit to any plan, including those specifically designed to maximize the use of available benefits and broadband connectivity. The FCC should refrain from imposing conditions or approvals processes on plan offerings. Congress already has decided all plans must be available with ACP discounts. Further, existing subscribers receiving EBBP benefits must transition automatically into the ACP with notice and the right to switch plans, opt-out, or transfer their benefit to another provider. Imposing an opt-in requirement would likely result in more than half of EBB subscribers losing their supported broadband service after the 60-day transition period.

In its comments, NaLA also notes that Lifeline subscribers in the three National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD) opt-out states have faced an unfair and prejudicial delay in being able to opt-in to the EBB, which the Bureau proposes to continue into the ACP. Even though the statute permits any provider to use an alternative verification process (AVP) that guards against waste, fraud, and abuse, the Bureau has refused to approve any AVP that would allow Lifeline ETCs to rely on the NLAD opt-out state administrators’ Lifeline eligibility approvals. Additionally, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) has declined to accept real-time API access to the California state administrator database of eligible LifeLine subscribers or daily transmission of the eligibility information directly from the opt-out state administrators. In the ACP Order, the Commission should require USAC to accept either real-time API access to state administrators or accept daily files from either an ETC or the state administrator. The Bureau should require nondiscriminatory approval of AVPs for Lifeline ETCs to remove this artificial and prejudicial impediment to ACP enrollment in California, Oregon, and Texas.


See the official press release here.

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Chelsea BoylanNaLA Congratulates FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Becoming the First Permanent Female Chair of the Agency
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NaLA Applauds Historic FCC Nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) congratulates Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn on their nominations by President Biden to serve as FCC commissioners. NaLA applauds the historic designation of Chairwoman Rosenworcel as the first permanent female chair of the agency and Commissioner Sohn as the agency’s first openly LGBTIQ+ commissioner.

NaLA Chairman David B. Dorwart heralded the historic announcement and added, “NaLA looks forward to the privilege of working with these exceptional public servants in their new roles. We look forward to working on our shared goal of making sure that every American can afford to get and remain connected to essential voice and broadband communications needed to connect to family, community, education, jobs, healthcare and emergency services.”

View the official press release here.

View President Biden’s FCC nominations announcement.

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 the providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”

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Chelsea BoylanNaLA Applauds Historic FCC Nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn
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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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