Lifeline News

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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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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NaLA Develops and Promotes Self Regulation in Lifeline Industry

The mission of the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) is to support the Lifeline Industry through “education, cooperation, and advocacy.” To further this goal, NaLA focuses on developing and implementing new self regulation processes. These processes strengthen the effectiveness of the Lifeline Program and bridge the digital divide for low-income Americans.

Self Regulation in Lifeline Industry

In the past three years, NaLA has grown from approximately 80 to more than 3,000 members. Represented within its member base are a variety of industry professionals, including Lifeline Providers (ETCs), Distributors, Agents, and other advocates.

Typically, Lifeline Providers, Distributors, and Agents approach self regulation individually. However, NaLA recognizes the benefit of resources that standardize Lifeline training and education. This realization led to development of a program for Lifeline Agent training, which launched in Spring 2018.

Launching the Agent Certification Program

The launch of the Agent Certification Program was a major milestone for NaLA. The training programwhich provides education on industry standards, regulatory compliance and industry-specific best practicesoffers Lifeline Providers (ETCs) a high quality resource for training their distributing agents.

The Agent Certification Program is already being utilized by nearly one dozen Lifeline Providers nationwide, and is in the process of expanding to include additional resources for internal compliance.

Recent Developments in Self Regulation of Lifeline

NaLA continues to build on these resources to assure the continued availability of the Lifeline Program, which is a critical tool in providing low-income Americans access to essential communication services.

In addition to providing training and education, the Agent Certification Program also establishes accountability between Agents and their Lifeline ETC partners. This accountability assists in promoting program integrity.

Future of Self Regulation of Lifeline

NaLA views the integrity of the Lifeline Program as a top priority, and continues to lead the industry with initiatives that support the Program’s success.

Through future developments in self regulation, NaLA is confident that the industry will be successful in realizing the vision for every American to have access to essential communication services.

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Lee SchaferNaLA Develops and Promotes Self Regulation in Lifeline Industry
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National Lifeline Association Welcomes Ali Badran As New Board Member

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ali Badran, CEO of MoreAble, LLC and Aiobo.com, as the new member of the NaLA Board.

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ali Badran, CEO of MoreAble, LLC and Aiobo.com, as the new member of the NaLA Board.

Mr. Badran brings to the position 15 years of wireless and seven years of Lifeline experience. He represents a collaborative and forward-thinking base of distributors and marketers of the Lifeline program.

Mr. Badran will be working closely with ETCs, community-based organizations, and marketing platforms to improve the Lifeline customer experience. He has a progressive perspective in supporting the interest, integrity and best practices of our rapidly growing Lifeline agent base. It will be his responsibility to continue to build an infrastructure that will support the NaLA Certified Agents within the Lifeline ecosystem.

“As always, there is a great deal of work needed to bring together the largest member group within NaLA,” said David B. Dorwart, Chairman of National Lifeline Association.

The board believes that Ali’s experience and leadership will help strengthen the integrity of the Lifeline program and uphold NaLA’s mission to support the providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”

Mr. Badran joins current NaLA Board Members: David B. Dorwart, Board Chairman of NaLA; William Curry, President at Life Wireless; Steve Klein, President at SafetyNet Wireless; David Avila, Associate Vice President at SafeLink Wireless; Kimberly Lehrman, President & Chief Marketing Officer at enTouch Wireless; and Nathan Stierwalt, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at PWG Network Solutions.

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Lee SchaferNational Lifeline Association Welcomes Ali Badran As New Board Member
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NaLA Supports Q Link Waiver Petition Urging FCC to Accept Submissions for Lifeline Eligibility Pending Fully Functional API

Comments Filed November 23 in Support of Q Link National Verifier Waiver Request

Following the November 1 petition by Q Link Wireless, LLC, the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) filed comments supporting the Q Link Waiver Petition, which requests Lifeline eligibility submissions to the National Verifier.

Q Link Waiver Petition to FCC on National Verifier

Q Link initially petitioned for implementation of a service provider application programming interface (API) in the National Verifier in July 2018. The API, which would help millions of low-income Americans, including seniors, veterans, and disabled individuals enroll in Lifeline,  has yet to be implemented by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the administrator of the Lifeline Program.

As the National Verifier has been launched in over a half-dozen states without any such APIs, Lifeline service providers like Q Link Wireless are seeking other accommodations for Lifeline consumers’ eligibility submissions to the National Verifier.

The Q Link Waiver Petition, filed November 1, requests that service providers be permitted “to submit eligibility documentation to the National Verifier via bulk transfer to facilitate its review of consumer eligibility” in ‘hard-launch’ states.

NaLA Comments on Q Link Waiver Petition

In its comments, the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) agrees with Q Link and other Lifeline providers who recognize the consequences facing low-income consumers regarding timely access to phone and internet service, and concerns with data security and phishing scams.

In support of the Q Link Waiver Petition, NaLA strongly urges the FCC “to allow all ETCs to submit proof of eligibility documentation to the National Verifier in bulk as described in the Q Link Waiver Petition until USAC can implement a service provider API into the National Verifier.”

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Lee SchaferNaLA Supports Q Link Waiver Petition Urging FCC to Accept Submissions for Lifeline Eligibility Pending Fully Functional API
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1.3 Million Veterans Lifeline Service Could be Affected by FCC Proposed Changes

The Washington Times published an op-ed regarding how Veterans Lifeline service could be affected by FCC-proposed changes. Lifeline service is offered through the Lifeline Program, which connects low-income Americans to affordable telephony and broadband services for the purposes of health care, education and employment. 

The op-ed echoes TracFoneSprint, AARP and other groups who have stood up against the FCC proposals, and reminds readers that

if the FCC approves these changes, millions of Americans — including hundreds of thousands of veterans — will be left without this most basic daily need: a phone.”

Changes Affect Up to 1.3 Million Veterans’ Lifeline Service

Approximately one tenth of Lifeline participants are U.S. Veterans. These individuals, many of whom are retired or disabled, rely on their Lifeline service to communicate with doctors, employers, and other support resources.  

The proposed FCC changes would ban Wireless Resellers serving over 70% of Lifeline participants, which include veterans among other retired and disabled Americans. Veterans can be a particularly vulnerable demographic when it comes to physical health, mental health, and employment. They are also at increased risk for homelessness and suicide. 


Read the Op-Ed: Sustaining a vital veterans program

More than 1 million veterans rely on the Lifeline program connecting low-income households to essential services like health care, job opportunities and public safety. Also relied upon by seniors, the disabled, and many other Americans, the Lifeline program, started under President Ronald Reagan, gives low-income families discounts on phone and Internet services.

Unfortunately, proposed changes from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) threaten to undermine this vital program and hurt those who depend on it most.

Click here to read the full article

 

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Lee Schafer1.3 Million Veterans Lifeline Service Could be Affected by FCC Proposed Changes
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NaLA’s 2017 FCC Proposal Appeal Lands in DC for Oral Argument

On October 25, 2018, oral argument was held before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the National Lifeline Association’s appeal of the FCC’s December 2017 proposal to ban resellers from the Tribal Lifeline program and to limit the program to rural areas.

NaLA’s Case for Appealing the 2017 FCC Proposal

The representative for NaLA opened by addressing the failure of the Commission to consider the impact of its Tribal Facilities Requirement and Tribal Rural Limitation on the primary goals of the Tribal Lifeline program, which are affordability and increased subscribership. Additionally, he asserted that “[b]ecause the Commission failed to account for a lack of affordable service options or even alternative service providers for many Tribal Lifeline customers, it failed to consider important aspects of the problem before it.”

Tribal Counsel Weighs in on 2017 FCC Proposal

Counsel for the Tribes also presented their concerns, arguing that the Order’s Tribal Facilities Requirement undermined the FCC’s goal of spurring investment because it would result in fewer service providers offering service and fewer people having access to Lifeline service. Counsel for the Commission argued that the FCC was entitled to deference, but came under sharp questioning from the three judge panel. Judge Rogers commented that the agency had “no backup” for its assertion that facilities-based providers would step in to replace resellers if they were banned.

 

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Lee SchaferNaLA’s 2017 FCC Proposal Appeal Lands in DC for Oral Argument
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National Lifeline Association Chairman Issues Statement Regarding FCC Enforcement Action Against American Broadband

David B. Dorwart, Chairman of NaLA, issues a statement regarding the FCC allegations of Lifeline rule violations and Notice of Apparent Liability against American Broadband


The allegations of Lifeline rule violations, including agent fraud and carrier misconduct, included in today’s FCC Notice of Apparent Liability against American Broadband, if proven to be true require nothing short of our absolute condemnation. We understand that the FCC has a process which will allow American Broadband to defend itself against these very serious and disconcerting allegations.

NaLA Remains Committed to Program Integrity

In the meantime, NaLA and its stakeholder members will continue the good work they do every day in bringing the Lifeline program to eligible subscribers. NaLA and its wireless reseller carriers work hard every day to ensure that only eligible subscribers get Lifeline benefits and that only eligible subscribers retain them. Today’s news will serve as a reminder to all Lifeline stakeholders just how important it is to achieve and maintain compliance in every facet of the good work that we do in ensuring Lifeline eligible low-income Americans are able to access this benefit that ensures essential voice and broadband connectivity.

NaLA Press Release on FCC Enforcement Action

The official press release can be reviewed here.

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Jordan AxtNational Lifeline Association Chairman Issues Statement Regarding FCC Enforcement Action Against American Broadband
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