Lifeline News

The National Lifeline Association Board of Directors Welcomes David Avila

Kennett Square, PA – (May 1, 2018)- The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) Board of Directors announces the appointment of a new board member, David Avila.

Mr. Avila, who will be joining NaLA for a three-year term, has ten years of Lifeline program experience and will assist the organization in supporting Lifeline recipients, providers, and program advocates.

Mr. Avila joined TracFone Wireless in November 2015 as Associate Vice President II, Lifeline Services providing leadership to SafeLink Wireless. SafeLink Wireless is known as a pioneer in the Lifeline industry and is the largest prepaid wireless Lifeline provider in the U.S. In this role, Mr. Avila is responsible for the development, marketing, sales, operations and compliance of TracFone’s Lifeline Services.  

Previously, Mr. Avila was employed by Sprint’s Assurance Wireless, where he helped launch the Lifeline provider in 2009. Over a six-year period, Mr. Avila worked to help the company grow from four to forty states and become the nation’s second largest provider of Lifeline services. At Assurance Wireless, he held various positions in the Product Development, Marketing, Sales Channel Management and Government Relationships departments.   

Mr. Avila has more than 30 years of experience in the telecom and technology segments, specializing in the areas of Development, Marketing, Operations and Regulatory Compliance. Additionally, Mr. Avila has worked for Virgin Mobile USA, AT&T Wireless, XO Communications (previously NextLink) as well as other internet, local and long distance service companies.

David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the National Lifeline Association, says, “I appreciate David Avila’s experience and closeness to Lifeline. His expertise and love for the job mirrors our organization’s mission. We are excited to have him on board.”

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 4 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 www.nalalifeline.org.

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T-Mobile and Sprint Join Forces to Conquer 5G Era and Increase Competition

T-Mobile and Sprint recently joined forces as one company, keeping the name T-Mobile. According to Business Wire, the combination of the two companies “will be a force for positive change in the U.S. wireless, video, and broadband industries.”

In 2014, T-Mobile merged with MetroPCS to solidify their spot in their 4G era, and the results were positive. The merge created job growth and business opportunities for the U.S economy.

Just like the 4G era, the 5G network will create better opportunities for consumers and businesses

“The new company will be able to light up a broad and deep 5G network faster than either company could separately,” says Business Wire. Before the merge, T-Mobile steered LTE faster than Verizon and AT&T combined. Now that T-Mobile and Sprint are combined, they are expected to do the same.

Business Wire teases us with amazing benefits that 5G will come with like reality heads-up displays, real-time information about the things and people around you, and ear-pieces with real-time language translation.

Along with a fast network, the merge will provide better quality, lower costs for consumers and businesses, create competition, and “will employ more people than both companies separately and create thousands of new American jobs.”

The merge will provide better quality

The President and Chief Executive Officer of T-Mobile says, “This combination will create a fierce competitor with the network scale to deliver more for consumers and businesses in the form of lower prices, more innovation, and a second-to-none network experience – and do it all so much faster than either company could on its own.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Sprint says,  “We intend to bring this same competitive disruption as we look to build the world’s best 5G network that will make the U.S. a hotbed for innovation and will redefine the way consumers live and work across the U.S., including in rural America. As we do this, we will force our competitors to follow suit, as they always do, which will benefit the entire country. I am confident this combination will spur job creation and ensure opportunities for Sprint employees as part of a larger, stronger combined organization.”

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FCC Commissioner, Mignon Clyburn is Stepping Down After 8 Years

“I’ve done all I can do. And it’s time for me to serve in another way,” Clyburn said during the FCC meeting. After eight-years of fighting for minority communities and low-income families, the Obama nominee will be stepping down from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) next month.

Clyburn has been an active voice for helping Americans

In 2009, when she was appointed as commissioner by President Barack Obama, the FCC passed their net neutrality rules in 2015. Since then, Clyburn’s loyalty  has focused on being a stern defender of the rules.

Her time with the FCC included protecting the FCC Lifeline Program, and being a supporter of improving inmate calling services.

Clyburn was heavily supported by the public

Besides being the first woman to serve on the FCC, she was also the first woman to chair the agency. Clyburn was included in CNET’s list of notable women in tech, which celebrated International Women’s Day this year. She was commended for making a difference in the field of technology.

After all her accomplishments, Clyburn has made her final decision about the time to leave. Her term  is over at the end of this year, so she would have been leaving at that time anyway. She told Post and Courier that she was indecisive about choosing the perfect time to leave.

“I was not 100 percent sure when I woke up this morning that this was the day,” she said. “But I think it’s the right time for me and it’s a good time to have a reset to allow someone else to come in and pass that baton.”

Though Clyburn’s job required her to be a spearhead and bump heads with opposers, the 56-year-old was not only respected, but well-liked by representatives and colleagues.  

Ajit Pai released a statement on Clyburn’s announcement of stepping down referring to her as “a wonderful colleague and friend.”

“I congratulate Commissioner Clyburn on her distinguished tenure at the FCC. She has been a tremendous leader and a committed public servant throughout her time here. As the first woman to head the agency, she led skillfully through a transition and put her stamp on the Commission, including through her steadfast leadership in telehealth, media diversity, and digital inclusion. I have enjoyed working with her and, even when we have not seen eye-to-eye on policy, I have always held her candor and thoughtfulness in the highest regard.”

 

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NEW: 2018 NaLA Conference App, Powered by Whova

We’re excited to announce the 2018 NaLA Conference App, sponsored by our 2018 Diamond Sponsor, Unlimited Prepay Distribution!

Our 2018 conference is right around the corner, and this year we have a great addition created just for you ‒ a mobile app! During large events like the 2018 NaLA Annual Conference there are a lot of details attendees will need to access, which makes a mobile app a very useful tool.

View Schedules, Maps & More with the 2018 NaLA Conference App!

NaLA is offering the 2018 NaLA Conference App to make your experience at this year’s conference easier than ever! Powered by Whova, the app provides our conference guests with the ability to view event schedules, details about speakers and panels, conference room locations and hotel maps, and connect with other guests.

2018 NaLA Conference App Features

The 2018 NaLA Conference App packs all the information you need into one convenient app. Features include:

  • Personalized Agenda – for your convenience
  • Event Notifications – for important announcements or changes
  • Speaker Bios – learn more about our Speakers/Panelists
  • Interactive Maps – you’ll never get lost!
  • Document sharing – for slides and handouts
  • Note-taking tools & more!

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Here’s the link to the Whova App. Once you get there, search 2018 NaLA and you will be connected!

NaLA Conference App

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National Lifeline Association Welcomes New Legal Counsel

Kennett Square, PA –(April 19, 2017)– The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) announces a new legal counsel on board, Maheen Cook. NaLa is excited to join forces with Mrs. Cook and her prevalent expertise in both telecommunications and Lifeline industries.

Mrs. Cook is an experienced telecommunications professional who understands the intricacies of the Lifeline program. Throughout her career, Mrs. Cook has focused on providing strategic advice and practical assistance in navigating the complex and dynamic telecom industry. She has extensive experience with coalition building and stakeholder engagement and has a proven track record of advocating on behalf of her clients.

Mrs. Cook most recently worked 

as Director of Legal and Government Affairs at TruConnect Communications, where she provided guidance on federal and state telecom regulations and policy, including the Lifeline program. Previously, she worked in the biotech sector for a manufacturer of medical devices and healthcare software, where she focused on cybersecurity and privacy policy.

Her expertise in Lifeline was honed while employed at Cricket Wireless and later at AT&T. In her role at Cricket, she favorably positioned the company in matters before state and federal utility regulators, drafted and advocated for state and federal rules to support the Lifeline program, and managed ETC reporting. Prior to Cricket, Mrs. Cook served as a Legislative Counsel to U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge, where she advised the Congresswoman on issues ranging from telecommunications and technology to taxes and the federal budget.

Mrs. Cook holds a J.D. from Widener University Delaware Law School and a B.A. from the University of Delaware. She is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania.

David Dorwart, Chairman of the National Lifeline Association, says, “Maheen Cook’s expertise and experience in both telecom and Lifeline compliment the strategic initiatives of our organization and we’re excited to work with her.”

 

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 4 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 www.nalalifeline.org.

 

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NPRM Comments Responding to FCC Lifeline Rulings

March 23, 2018 – Over 23 groups filed comments on the FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM comments filed were in response to the recent FCC Lifeline Proposals for the Lifeline Program. As the battle to protect the Lifeline Program continues, carriers and telecom companies were among the several who expressed their opinions on the FCC’s proposed rulings regarding the banning of wireless resellers from Lifeline and the effect of this ban on efforts to bridge the digital divide.

US Telecom and Comcast Support FCC Reseller Ban

Companies like US Telecom and Comcast support the Commission on updating the Lifeline program. “Multiple parties agreed with US Telecom that an appropriately structured audit framework will better target waste, fraud, and abuse in the program and would also utilize administrative resources more efficiently and effectively than in prior years,” US Telecom stated in their reply comment.

Those who oppose, believe that the implementation of the National Verifier is a much more effective focus for the Commission, and one that will not negatively impact low income Americans.

Other NPRM Comments Raise Concern on Negative Impact of Reseller Ban

While Comcast and US Telecom side with the Commission’s plan to update the Lifeline program, other carriers and companies, such as AARP,  NACUA, and Greenlining Institute, echo comments like those filed by Sprint and TracFone, opposing Chairman Pai’s NRPM/NOI proposals for the Lifeline program.

These carries and companies agreed that the change will negatively affect the customers, and seem to oppose the true essence of the Lifeline Program, which is to provide affordable services for low income American families.

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State and Local Opposition to FCC Lifeline  

Other groups remain on the same page with protecting the consumers from being forgotten through the implementation of a reseller ban in Lifeline. City of Boston, Massachusetts, City of Los Angeles, California, City of Portland, Oregon and the Texas Coalition of Cities for Utility Issues all agree that the Lifeline Program should remain affordable.

“The cities agree with numerous commenters that Lifeline has always been, and must remain, an affordability program, not an infrastructure subsidy”, and that “the Commission should not utilize the Lifeline program to achieve a goal for which it is not designed.”

Other opposition to the NPRM and NOI include FCC Commissioner Clyburn, as well as members of Congress.

Filed Replies Totaling 23 NPRM Comments, Includes Pa. PUC

In total, 23 reply comments were submitted, and 9 groups fully opposed the reseller ban. Others either support the ban or have requests, like the Pa. PUC, who opposes the proposal, but stated that  “ as long as consumers meet the Lifeline eligibility criteria and there is sufficient universal service funding for Lifeline, they should continue to receive Lifeline services, including access to the federal subsidy, without limitation as to the duration or current level of the benefit.”

Check out the reply comments here:

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/032318lifelinereply.pdf”]

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AARP, NASCUA & Greenlining Institute File Comments Opposing FCC Lifeline NRPM

AARP, NASCUA, and other groups join the list of organizations filing replies to the FCC Lifeline NRPM. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry (NOI) propose changes to the Lifeline Program, such as barring wireless resellers from operating as Lifeline Service Providers.

AARP and NASCUA Oppose FCC Lifeline NRPM

The AARP was among those who filed comment on the FCC Lifeline NPRM, expressing concern for the consumers and the marketplace. “If implemented, this change would dramatically alter the current marketplace and significantly reduce consumer choice,” their comment stated.

AARP pointed out that ”numerous commenters are similarly critical of the 2017 NPRM proposal to ban resellers from participation in the Lifeline program,” including NASCUA who argued in their NPRM comments that the proposed ban on resellers is not the ideal solution to any waste, fraud, or abuse that exists in the program due to its potential harm to consumers, calling the ban “an unreasonably blunt tool”.

Comments Filed by the Greenlining Institute Opposing FCC Lifeline NRPM

The Greenlining Institute, an organization that advocates for racial and economic justice, also expressed concerned about the reseller ban’s affect on low-income American consumers. They stated, “This proposal will cause irreparable harm to the program and low-income households, particularly households of color. Approximately 70% of current Lifeline participants will need to find a new provider if the Commission adopts this proposal. However, for many of those potentially affected, they may not be able to even find a facilities-based provider (FBP) willing to offer Lifeline service.”

Additional Comments Filed on FCC Lifeline NRPM

Some of the other organizations who also filed comments include Sprint, TracFone, Verizon, CTIA, the Texas Coalition of Cities for Utility Issues, FCC Commissioner Clyburn, members of Congress, the City of Boston, as well as several other state and local entities.

 

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Mignon Clyburn, Digital Divide is Widening for Low Income Americans

On March 20th, 2018, at the New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn spoke about the digital divide and the need for every American, regardless of economic status, to have access to affordable high-speed internet. She talked about digital redlining, the Lifeline Program, the effects of not allowing consumer privacy for public usage, and net neutrality.

Clyburn on FCC Chairman Pai’s Vision for the Lifeline Program

Broadband internet access is important service to everyone, not just high and middle income families. As healthcare, employment, education, and government services are migrating online, the Lifeline Program becomes even more essential to low-income families. During the session, Clyburn expressed concern with the direction FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has taken with revoking the providers’ authorizations to provide service without notice, establishing caps on Lifeline, and banning wireless resellers from participating in the Lifeline program.

Digital Redlining of Low Income Americans

Unfortunately, because the largest internet providers mainly focus their attention and investments in high income urban, suburban, and middle-income neighborhoods, low-income and poverty-stricken areas are often left out from initiatives to grow and connect. Cyburn cites research revealing that “over 24 million people in the U.S. are without affordable, high-speed internet.” She continues, stating that, “according to the Pew Research Center, only 54% of African Americans and 50% of Latinos, subscribe to a home broadband service, compared to 72% of White Americans. When I look at these numbers, I can’t help but wonder if what we are seeing is in fact, another form of redlining: digital redlining.

Closing the Digital Divide in Lifeline

In opposition to the FCC efforts that damage the effectivity of the Lifeline Program on closing the digital divide, large telecom companies like Sprint and Verizon have voiced their concerns. The role that Lifeline plays in closing the digital divide is weakened by the changes that have been proposed for the Program in recent months. Commissioner Clyburn echoed these concerns and is aware of the importance of striving for digital equity, concluding that “The goal is, and should be, equal and affordable access.”

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Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes

On Wednesday, March 21st Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes in a letter to FCC to Chairman, Ajit Pai, encouraging him to protect the Lifeline Program.

Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes After a Recent Committee Vote

Congresswomen Anna G. Eshoo and Yvette D. Clarke composed a letter following a recent meeting where the FCC voted 3 to 2 on party lines to proceed with a new proposal that will make it harder for eligible households to attain Lifeline’s services. The FCC’s plan includes establishing caps on the Lifeline program, requiring co-pays from participants, and negating 4 out of 5 of the current providers of Lifeline services. The letter encourages the Chairman to protect the Lifeline program, because without it, Americans who participate in the program will not be able to do things like schedule medical appointments, help their children complete their homework, keep in contact with the government, or keep in touch with their family. “The program helps Americans-including disproportionate numbers of veterans and people of color-help themselves.”

Congresswomen Suggest National Verifier as an Alternative Solution to Proposed Lifeline Changes

Eshoo and Clarke expressed in their letter that they understand the Chairman is aiming to restrain fraud and abuse, “experts have repeatedly testified that the sorts of measures you are proposing do not have a successful track record.” Instead, the two give another solution to the Chairman’s concerns of fraud and abuse, which is rolling out the National Verifier. In the letter they share that, “The Government Accountability Office has testified that the National Verifier will resolve most issues that may remain with the program without the same brutal side effects” as removing almost 8 million participants from the program.

The congresswomen were not alone in their opposition to recent FCC changes to Lifeline. The letter opposing FCC changes to Lifeline was signed by 60 House members, who all concluded that the proposal is “untimely, counterproductive, and undermines [their] shared goal of connecting everyone.”

 

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Ajit Pai Loses Support in Attempt to Eliminate Lifeline Wireless Resellers

FCC Chairman Pai’s proposal to eliminate Lifeline wireless resellers has faced opposition by large broadband companies, including Verizon and Sprint.

On Proposed Rulings to Eliminate Lifeline Wireless Resellers

In response to Chairman Pai’s proposal, large carriers like Sprint and Verizon opposed the proposal to eliminate Lifeline wireless resellers, saying that the proposal goes against the purpose of the Lifeline program, “which is to address affordability.”

Verizon added that “the proposed exclusion of resellers from the Lifeline program would be highly disruptive to existing Lifeline beneficiaries and is at odds with the Commission’s goal of supporting affordable voice telephony and high-speed broadband for low-income households.”

Opposition to FCC’s Attempt to Eliminate Lifeline Wireless Resellers

Sprint told the FCC that resellers are important in providing affordable service for low-income consumers. “The goal of ensuring that all Americans have reasonable and affordable access to advanced communications services can effectively be achieved by making federal Lifeline support available for broadband and voice Lifeline services generally, whether provided by a facilities-based carrier, or by a reseller.”

Critics of the reseller ban say that Pai’s proposal shows that the FCC’s concern is not the consumer, but for digital divide.

“In attempt to further FCC majority’s carriers first agenda, basic rules protect consumers during tech transitions are thrown out the door. When it comes to helping low-income Americans, FCC majority gets a failing grade,” Mignon Clyburn, commissioner of the FCC tweeted, but subsequently deleted. She also tweeted that the FCC is “focused on taking affordable phone and broadband service away from low-income Americans. 

The conversation about the reseller ban is intense, but the FCC has not finalized Pai’s proposal.The deadline for filing initial comments on the plan passed on February 21, and the deadline for reply comments is March 23. If Pai follows through on the plan after the comment period, the full commission would vote on it.

 

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