Lifeline News

NaLA Statement on Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court Decision

“The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) applauds the 11th Circuit Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the Federal Communications Commission’s use of Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) to administer USF programs, including Lifeline. This decision means that essential programs supporting low-income Americans who struggle to afford essential communications services necessary to participate in our digital society can continue. NaLA is proud to serve these consumers to ensure they can connect each and every month.” – David B. Dorwart, NaLA Chairman

More news on the decision can be found here.

No comments
Glen Echo GroupNaLA Statement on Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court Decision
read more

NaLA Submits Comments to Senate Universal Service Fund Working Group

Senate Universal Service Fund (USF) Working Group sought comments on program effectiveness and necessary reforms

As the only ecosystem-based organization focused on ensuring that low-income Americans have sustainable, affordable access to essential communications services, NaLA has submitted comments to the Senate Universal Service Fund (USF) Working Group focused on ensuring that low-income Americans have sustainably affordable access to essential communications each and every month. 

NaLA’s members include service providers, distributors, network access aggregators, compliance and software solutions vendors, device manufacturers, enrollment representatives, program supporters and beneficiaries invested in the future of the Lifeline and ACP programs. NaLA notes that wireless resellers play an important part in ensuring the success of these programs, including by serving over a third of all ACP subscribers.

The USF Working Group is seeking comments on the effectiveness of – and necessary reforms to – the programs funded by the universal service fund, which includes Lifeline.

Some highlights from the comments NaLA submitted:

  • NaLA submits that with ACP funding set to run out as early as April 2024, appropriated funding will be needed at least until USF reform can be accomplished.
  • NaLA proposes that either Congress and the FCC consolidate the Lifeline program with the ACP or reform both so that they better serve the goal of making essential communications services sustainably affordable each and every month.
  • NaLA recommends that any future low-income program should incorporate key program design elements from the ACP, including a robust monthly service and device benefits, technology neutrality, reasonable benefit transfer limits, and a safe harbor and entry requirements that encourage competition that translates into compelling choices and value for eligible consumers.  
  • NaLA maintains that program integrity can be preserved by conforming eligibility requirements and by reliance on the National Verifier which should be subject to continuous improvement and greater transparency.
  • NaLA submits that the effectiveness of a low-income support program should be measured by whether low-income households have sustainably affordable access to essential communications services. Adoption is a secondary benefit that can be addressed only in part by a low-income affordable connectivity benefit program.

The full comments, including an executive summary, are available here.

No comments
Glen Echo GroupNaLA Submits Comments to Senate Universal Service Fund Working Group
read more

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.

No comments
Glen Echo GroupNathan Stierwalt Elected to NaLA Board of Directors for a Second Term
read more

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.

No comments
Glen Echo GroupNaLA Statement on Fifth U.S. Circuit Court Decision
read more

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.

No comments
Glen Echo GroupNaLA releases findings from 2022 Annual Consumer Survey
read more

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.

No comments
Chelsea BoylanNaLA Congratulates FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Becoming the First Permanent Female Chair of the Agency
read more

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.”

No comments
Chelsea BoylanNaLA Applauds Historic FCC Nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn
read more

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/

 

No comments
Lee SchaferMinimum Service Standard Proposal by FCC Threatens Low Income Access to Wireless Connectivity
read more

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.

No comments
Lee SchaferFCC Must Act Now to Prevent Disruption in Lifeline Service for Millions of Low-Income Americans and Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans
read more

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]

No comments
Jordan AxtFCC Supports Lifeline Participants with COVID-19 Order
read more