NaLA Blog & Latest News

Stay Granted for FCC Tribal Lifeline Rules to Bar Wireless Resellers and Lower Subsidies for Tribal Consumers of Lifeline Program

The U.S. Court of Appeals granted National Lifeline Association (NaLA) and Tribal petitioners a stay of new FCC Tribal Lifeline rules that would have barred wireless resellers from providing Tribal Lifeline and would also limit the Tribal Lifeline program to rural Tribal areas.

The Court stated that the FCC’s plan does not consider the harm it can cause to Lifeline businesses and customers. It is estimated that 70% of eligible consumers receive their Lifeline service from wireless resellers. The Court added that these actions would “result in a major reduction, or outright elimination, of critical telecommunications services” for Lifeline consumers and “substantial, unrecoverable losses” for Lifeline providers. Many Tribal consumers do not have an alternate option to obtain Lifeline phone or internet services if a wireless reseller ban were to be implemented. In addition, the FCC “identified no evidence of fraud or misuse of funds in the aspects of the program at issue here,” the Court wrote.

The judges also rejected the FCC’s claim that reducing subsidies would cause carriers to build their own networks in Tribal areas. They said the Commission failed to show any historical evidence that reducing subsidies would lead to more infrastructure investment. This argument was the justification for the new FCC Tribal Lifeline Rules that would eliminate wireless resellers from providing services on Tribal lands. The judges stated that the record suggested just the opposite.

In reaching its decision, it appears the Court understood that wireless resellers play a critical role in connecting low income consumers to essential communications services through the Lifeline program. Disconnecting consumers causes a digital divide.

“NaLA is pleased that the Court heard and agreed with the arguments presented and that the Court took action so the case can be decided without Tribal Lifeline subscribers, or the companies that work to serve them, suffering irreparable harm,” said David B. Dorwart, Board Chairman of NaLA. “In reaching its decision, it appears the Court understood that wireless resellers play a critical role in connecting low income consumers to essential communications services through the Lifeline program. Disconnecting consumers causes a digital divide. It does not put them first, nor does it further the Lifeline program’s core goal of ensuring that our nation’s most vulnerable consumers stay connected by making service affordable. NaLA looks forward to continue working with all stakeholders to preserve and protect the integrity of the Lifeline program so we can strive to meet this important goal.”

As advocates for preserving Lifeline, NaLA is encouraged by the Court’s statement that, “Petitioners have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their arguments.” The decision to halt the FCC’s move to prevent wireless resellers and lower Lifeline subsidies for Tribal areas is a big win for low-income Tribal consumers.

Read the full court order here: United States Court of Appeals Case #18-1026 Document #1744949 Filed on 08/10/2018

Read the original press release here.

No comments
Jordan AxtStay Granted for FCC Tribal Lifeline Rules to Bar Wireless Resellers and Lower Subsidies for Tribal Consumers of Lifeline Program
read more

The National Lifeline Association Agent Certification Program Reaches New Milestone of 2,000 Sales Agents Trained and Certified in Lifeline Compliance

Today, the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) announced reaching a new milestone with the 2,000th Lifeline Agent receiving Lifeline compliance training and certification. The NaLA Agent Certification Program was created and launched by the National Lifeline Association in late April 2018. It provides Lifeline Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) with assurance that independent sales agents have been trained, tested, and certified in the rules and regulations of both Federal and State Lifeline programs.

The NaLA Agent Certification program also requires certified agents to retrain, retest, and recertify every 90 days. This ensures that agents regularly maintain knowledge of Lifeline, while also allowing NaLA to quickly disseminate, train, and test agents’ understanding of regulatory and compliance changes.

The NaLA Agent Certification Program provides independent sales agents with critical program information they need to be successful in the communities they serve and fully compliant with the rules and regulations of the State and Federal Lifeline programs. This program was outlined as an important 2018 initiative by the NaLA Board of Directors at the 2017 NaLA Annual Conference held in New Orleans, LA.

“We are especially excited to celebrate this impressive milestone only three months after launching this program,” said David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the National Lifeline Association. “The NaLA Agent Certification Program is critical to the advancement of the Lifeline program. It creates a national standard for agent training and assists ETCs in self-regulating field compliance.”

NaLA’s Agent Certification Program was created by some of the most respected compliance executives in the wireless Lifeline industry. NaLA’s vision is to help ETCs deploy well-trained, compliant, and informed field sales representatives to communities and help consumers who are in need of Lifeline program benefits. Most NaLA ETC members have voluntarily committed to require this certification process for all of their field sales agents as part of a larger commitment to thorough agent training and continuous self-regulation.

Regarding the Agent Certification Program, Kim Lehrman, President of enTouch Wireless and a NaLA Board Member, stated, “Adding an additional layer of certification to internal training programs for ETCs is exciting for our industry. The better agents are educated about Lifeline program fundamentals (i.e. consumer application and recertification) and regulatory compliance information, the more succinctly they can communicate how the program works to our prospects and consumers — ensuring a better consumer experience.”

About The National Lifeline Association:

The National Lifeline Association is a non-profit organization that provides a foundation of support for Lifeline participants, service providers, distributors, government and regulatory bodies, and other advocates of Lifeline.

NaLA members are passionate about supporting their vision, “In America, every person should have access to essential communication services.” With their leadership and direction, NaLA provides and promotes Lifeline education, collaboration, and advocacy across the U.S.

No comments
admin1The National Lifeline Association Agent Certification Program Reaches New Milestone of 2,000 Sales Agents Trained and Certified in Lifeline Compliance
read more

FCC Lifeline Reform Detrimental to Lifeline Subscribers

On May 22, 2018, National Lifeline Association (NaLA)  met with legal advisors to Chairman Pai and Commissioners Carr, O’Rielly, and Rosenworcel to discuss proposed changes to the Lifeline program. NaLA representatives Kim Lehrman, Jose Cortes, Chuck Campbell, John Heitmann and Joshua Guyan raised concerns regarding the proposed ban on wireless resellers. The proposed FCC changes are contrary to the purpose of the Lifeline Program which is affordable service. NaLA representatives were open to a budget for the Lifeline Program within reason. But the main aim of the organization is to support the low-income consumers that rely on the Program and as such, they maintained that their commitment is to affordability and consumer choice.

Proposed Lifeline Reforms Threaten Service Affordability

Resellers are important to the Lifeline program. They support consumer choice and affordability. The proposed FCC changes will have a negative impact on the industry and the families that it supports. The proposal to remove wireless resellers from the Lifeline space would:

  • harm consumers by forcing more than 7 million (or roughly 70%) of all Lifeline subscribers to find a new Lifeline service provider
  • leave some low-income families without wireless service and with limited service options.
  • be detrimental to the program integrity and efforts to guard against waste, fraud and abuse
  • NOT bridge the digital divide by spurring additional facilities deployment or more affordable services.
  • upend the states’ role in designating ETCs, as well as the reliance interests of wireless resellers. 

As the preference and demand for mobile voice and broadband services has increased, Wireless resellers have willingly sought ETC designations and relieved landline providers of the obligation to provide Lifeline service. It is not clear why the FCC is taking such actions against a program that has been so helpful to low-income Americans. Among those it helps are seniors and veterans who may be retired, disabled, on fixed income, as well as other Americans who are looking for work.

NaLA Asks FCC to Reconsider Lifeline Reform Plans

NaLA proposes adopting conduct-based standards and agent registration to properly focus on bad actors rather than efforts that will harm consumers. “The FCC should freeze or roll-back the minimum service standards and voice support phase-out that threaten to deny consumers access to affordable choices that best meet their needs.”  The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has also contributed a budget in support of NaLA’s initiatives in this matter.

About the National Lifeline Association

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the 4 essential pieces of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Supporters & Participants, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through education, cooperation and advocacy.

No comments
admin1FCC Lifeline Reform Detrimental to Lifeline Subscribers
read more