USAC

TracFone Files Second Emergency Petition on National Verifier

November 30, 2018 – TracFone Wireless filed an emergency petition on the National Verifier, urging the FCC to direct the USAC to implement fifteen specific modifications of the National Verifier and its associated processes. This petition follows an earlier filing from TracFone in August 2108, which raised many similar concerns about aspects of the (then soft-launched) Lifeline Eligibility National Verifier.

Initial Emergency Petition on the National Verifier

The National Verifier, which has since hard launched in six states, was created to assist the Lifeline eligibility process for Lifeline Providers (also referred to as “ETCs”), who are typically wireless resellers that provide Lifeline service to qualifying low-income Americans.

During the beginning stages of the implementation of the National Verifier, TracFone requested a delay to the hard launch. Furthermore, they identified areas for improvement that would ultimately benefit the consumer and support the goals of the program to bridge the digital divide facing low-income consumers in America who are in dire need of access to telephony and broadband services. This consumer group includes veterans, disabled, and retired individuals living at or below 135% the federal poverty guidelines.

TracFone, FCC Discuss Lifeline Enrollment Concerns in National Verifier

On November 29, 2018, TracFone spoke with FCC Chairman Pai’s advisor to discuss its concerns regarding the National Verifier implementation. One of the main concerns was that the National Verifier would no longer accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit cards and most Medicaid cards as documentation for enrollment in Lifeline-qualifying programs.

TracFone’s latest petition raises concerns about the continued implementation of the National Verifier without consideration of the prior requests. In the petition, TracFone states:

“Each of the modifications will maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Verifier, and importantly, allow the USAC to at all times retain full control of the ultimate Lifeline eligibility determination.”

TracFone Files Second Emergency Petition

Within the petition were requests for fifteen specific modifications of the National Verifier, including simplifying the paper application, allowing service providers to check applicant verification using APIs, and suspending new requirements of additional proof that are burdensome to eligible participants. TracFone asked the FCC to initiate a new rulemaking which would, among other things, explore other methods by which current low-income program participation and invalid addresses could be verified more efficiently. TracFone additionally asserted that implementation of the USAC’s changed policy regarding additional proof would preclude many Lifeline-eligible, low-income households from demonstrating their eligibility.

Additionally, TracFone’s petition conveys the seriousness of the challenges presented by the implementation of the National Verifier. It is essential that the USAC address the shortcomings associated with the National Verifier while providing a more effective and simplified enrollment process to better serve eligible Lifeline customers.

Read the November 30 TracFone Filing Here.

 

 

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Chelsea BoylanTracFone Files Second Emergency Petition on National Verifier
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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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National Lifeline Association Comments In Support of Q Link’s Emergency Petition for API Interfaces

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) commented on Q Link’s emergency petition for an order directing the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to provide API Interfaces for the National Verifier.

Q Link defends the need for APIs because they are critical for the Lifeline consumer enrollment process. The use of APIs would make the application process for consumers much easier. A Q Link statement explains, “Without APIs, there would be no way for a consumer to benefit from carrier assistance when navigating the eligibility verification process online, or to complete both eligibility verification and service enrollment as part of a continuous online transaction.” Q Link also asserts that the APIs would decrease the USAC/NV’s administrative costs. “Restoring APIs to permit machine-to-machine information transfers between ETCs and the National Verifier will cut USAC’s costs to deploy and operate the National Verifier, and thus reduce the burden on ratepayers and the USF,” they state.

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) comments on Q Link’s emergency petition

NaLA filed comments agreeing with Q Link’s emergency petition. NaLA agrees that the National Verifier without APIs would have a very negative impact on Lifeline consumers and Lifeline service business models.

NaLA understands that machine-to-machine interfaces are essential to the accessibility for low-income consumers. “Without a service provider API, consumers will be forced to go to an online portal to demonstrate eligibility, and then separately go to a Lifeline service provider to enroll for Lifeline service. This more difficult two-step process will disconnect millions of Americans from the enrollment process and expose others to data security risks, including phishing scams as described in the Q Link Petition,” NaLA explains in their comments. APIs are the connection between consumers and mobile wireless broadband and phone services. Millions of low-income Americans, including seniors, veterans, and disabled Americans could be denied access to data and phone services without the implementation of service provider APIs.

Implementing APIs is what NaLA refers to as a “common-sense” solution to create an effective and efficient National Verifier enrollment process. A NaLA statement explains, “A service provider API is simple, secure and cost-effective. And, a service provider API does not introduce any new security risks or Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance concerns because the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD), which has been used by service providers for more than four years and will be integrated with the National Verifier, already includes service provider APIs.”

The National Verifier cannot wholly serve Lifeline consumers and the Lifeline program without implementing APIs. That is why “NaLA respectfully urges the Commission to grant the Q Link Petition and direct USAC to implement a service provider API into the National Verifier.”

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admin1National Lifeline Association Comments In Support of Q Link’s Emergency Petition for API Interfaces
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FCC Public Notice Announces Universal Lifeline Forms

February 20, 2018 — FCC Public Notice DA 18-161 announces the implementation of Universal Lifeline forms to be used during program eligibility determination. The Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) provided guidance for use of these Universal Lifeline forms, which will be a requirement for Lifeline service providers starting July 1, 2018.

New Universal Lifeline Forms

The FCC asserts that “Implementing universal forms will foster greater consistency in the Lifeline eligibility determination and recertification processes, thereby aiding in program administration and reducing improper payments due to errors in application and recertification forms.” Lifeline Program application and recertification forms are a large part of the documentation process related to consumer-eligibility for the Lifeline Program, which provides qualifying low-income Americans with wireless telecommunications.

The WCB collaborated with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the organization that administers Lifeline Program funds, to develop simple, user-friendly forms to improve the ease of processes related to eligibility-verification for the Lifeline Program. The universal forms include FCC Form 5629 (Lifeline Application Form), FCC Form 5630 (Lifeline Annual Recertification Form), and FCC Form 5631(Lifeline One-Per-Household Worksheet). These are available on the Lifeline Program Form page.

In addition to the future implementation of the National Verifier, these forms are an important step toward streamlining eligibility and recertification processes that lessen the margin of error during the Lifeline application process.

Read FCC Public Notice DA 18-161 here:

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FCC-Public-Notice-NaLA-Blog-2222018.pdf”]

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 Supporters & Participants, 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.”

NaLA’s Vision:

In America, every person should have access to essential communication services.”

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Lee SchaferFCC Public Notice Announces Universal Lifeline Forms
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FCC Postpones National Verifier Launch for Lifeline Program

DEC 1, 2017 —  A newly released FCC Public Notice (WC Docket No. 11-42) announces the FCC Postpones National Verifier for Lifeline Program, which aims to verify subscriber information for Lifeline Program participants.

Updated National Verifier Launch

Up until this point, the National Verifier had been on schedule to launch in six states beginning this month. The initiative, born out of the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order, is now set to launch in early 2018. Once fully implemented, the National Verifier initiative is the next step toward increasing the integrity of the Lifeline Program, which provides low-income American families access to essential communication services.

The FCC decision to Postpone the National Verifier Launch for Lifeline Program is mainly related to requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), an act created to ensure data security within the federal government.

The Wireline Competition Bueau (WCB) stated in the FCC Public Notice that “to fulfill this responsibility and protect the security of Lifeline applicants’ personal information, we expect that a postponement until early 2018 will provide USAC with sufficient time to complete all FISMA requirements prior to the initial launch of the National Verifier.”

Read the Dec 1 FCC Public Notice on National Verifier Launch Date

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/FCC-Public-Notice-December-1-2017-Wireline-Competition-Bureau-DA-17-1167A1.pdf”]

More on the National Verifier Launch Timeline

USAC will host a webinar on Monday, December 4 at 1 PM ET to discuss the National Verifier launch timeline and answer questions. Register Here.

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Lee SchaferFCC Postpones National Verifier Launch for Lifeline Program
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National Verifier Update

<H2>National Verifier Initial Launch States & Eligibility Verification Data Sources</H2>
USAC announced the initial group of states that will roll into the National Verifier and the automated eligibility verification data sources that the National Verifier will use for each state. The initial launch states are:
  1. Colorado (automated data sources: SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing)
  2. Mississippi (automated data sources: SNAP, Federal Public Housing)
  3. Montana (automated data sources: Federal Public Housing)
  4. New Mexico (automated data sources: SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing)
  5. Utah (automated data sources: SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing)
  6. Wyoming (automated data sources: Federal Public Housing)
IN THIS ISSUE
NV Initial Launch States
Website Update
NLAD Instructional Videos
ZIP Code Requests
Lifeline Claims System
Reverification Elections
FCC Form 497 Reminder
Lifeline Program Webinar
If one of the automated data sources can’t verify the subscriber’s eligibility, the National Verifier will prompt the subscriber to submit documentation via the web portal (or via mail) to the Lifeline Support Center, which will conduct a manual review of their eligibility documentation. Visit our website to learn more about the National Verifier.
Service providers that do business in the initial launch states received an email from USAC last month with an invitation to a check-in call, and sign-up links for training/on boarding sessions. If you are a service provider in the initial launch states and have not heard from USAC, please contact us immediately at [email protected] to receive future communications.
Website Update: Eligibility Verification Process by State
USAC updated the Verification Process by State web page in the Verify Subscriber Eligibility section of the website to include additional information.
For each state with a state-specific process, the page included (1) the state’s process for eligibility verification, (2) date sources available to service providers, and (3) whether the state’s system/process complies with the streamlined federal eligibility criteria effective December 2, 2016.
NV Reverification Elections Due Nov. 1
Service providers in the National Verifier’s initial launch states – Colorado, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – are required to provide eligibility documentation for subscribers who do not pass the automated eligibility check when their records are uploaded into the National Verifier. Those service providers have the option to elect USAC to collect the eligibility documentation on their behalf.
Elections are due on Novemeber 1, 2017. Contacts in the initial launch states will receive a separate email with information on how to elect USAC. For questions about the election process, please email [email protected].
USAC-elected reverification requires close coordination between USAC and the service provider throughout the process. To prepare for the USAC-elected process, make sure the contact information for each consumer record is up-to-date in NLAD.
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Lee SchaferNational Verifier Update
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FCC News: Broadband Service A Priority in Infrastructure Spending Bill

Making Broadband Service A Priority in the Infrastructure Spending Bill

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh last week, addressing his views on the importance that broadband become a priority in the infrastructure spending bill. His speech was one of many on a tour to share his broadband agenda in several cities, including Detroit and Cleveland.

In the digital age, I believe, our wired and wireless broadband networks are core components of our nation’s infrastructure.

FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai

Central to Pai’s message is the belief that access to broadband will increase economic opportunity for low-income Americans. His speech called for funds for broadband related projects to be administered through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to “maximize the impact of these investments” and “minimize waste”. As the chairman continues toward efforts in expanding broadband access, he also aims to dismantle regulation that may hinder these initiatives.

Pai also emphasized that incentives should be put in place for broadband providers to bring connectivity to many overlooked rural communities. He urged Congress to include his proposal for Gigabit Opportunity Zones, which will offer tax incentives to these providers.

Source: https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/flip.it%2FA2yYwT-fcc-chairman-promises-broadband-for-all/f-26ffcd4bd9%2Fcnet.com

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Jordan AxtFCC News: Broadband Service A Priority in Infrastructure Spending Bill
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FCC News: Chairman Pai On Recent Federal Lifeline Program Order

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement addressing the controversy surrounding the Order on Reconsideration of Lifeline Broadband Provider designations, clarifying his support of bridging the digital divide. In the statement, Pai cites his first two proposals as FCC Chairman as evidence of his commitment to the Federal Lifeline Program, a program that helps underserved and low-income individuals and families gain access to crucial telecommunication services.

“One of them [the proposals] would direct billions of dollars […] over a decade toward making sure that all parts of this country have 4G LTE coverage. […] The other would allocate nearly $2 billion […] for advancing fixed broadband service across the country. With more connectivity, more Americans than ever before will have digital opportunity,” Pai stated.

Behind the Lifeline Broadband Reconsideration

FCC Chairman Pai’s statement notes that the decisions regarding the broadband designations made by the prior FCC disregarded the processes for approving applications like these, and that many were approved “in the last days of the Administration (two days before Inauguration Day), over the objections of two of the four Commissioners.”

Additionally, the Chairman’s statement reiterates that this order is not contradictory to the efforts of the Lifeline Program. The order applies only to 9 of the 900+ providers participating in the Lifeline Program. Pai asserts that the reconsideration of these newly designated Lifeline Providers, all but one of which did not yet have any customers, should have very little effect on the consumers that the Federal Lifeline Program aims to assist.

The Future For Lifeline Broadband Providers

The FCC proposes focusing on strengthening the integrity of the Federal Lifeline Program, first and foremost. In his statement, the Chairman reminds the public that “every dollar that is spent on subsidizing somebody who doesn’t need the help […] does not go to someone who does [need the help].”

The National Verifier, a new database to assist in the verification of eligibility in Lifeline Program participation will be a large step in the right direction for strengthening the integrity of the Lifeline Program, but it is estimated that this will not will not be fully integrated until 2019.

The integration of the National Verifier will greatly eliminate fraud/waste within the Lifeline Program. Thus, understandably would serve as a great precursor to the expansion of Lifeline Broadband through the designation of new Lifeline Broadband Providers, assuring that available resources are most efficiently allocated to those who in need of the services the Lifeline Program can offer.

Source: https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/blog/2017/02/07/setting-record-straight-digital-divide
(original article was posted on Medium.com)

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Jordan AxtFCC News: Chairman Pai On Recent Federal Lifeline Program Order
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FCC Releases Order on Reconsideration for Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs)

New FCC Chairman Pai released an Order on Reconsideration for LBP designations on Friday, allowing the FCC to reconsider the Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) designations for nine new Lifeline broadband providers.

Recently effective changes per the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order included the extension of the Lifeline Program to include broadband services. Inclusion of Lifeline-supported broadband allows qualifying low-income consumers to apply the $9.25 per month subsidy to stand-alone mobile or fixed broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages, rather than voice services alone.

Effects on Lifeline Broadband Designation

Several carriers had petitioned for designation as Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs) and nine were approved by the Wireline Competition Bureau in orders released in December and January.

According to the recent Order on Reconsideration for Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs), the FCC will “set aside the orders designating AR Designs, Boomerang, FreedomPop, Kajeet, KonaTel, Liberty, Northland Cable, Spot On, and WIN as LBPs […] and return those providers’ petitions for designation as an LBP to their status as petitions pending.”

“We find that reconsidering the above-listed petitions for designation as an LBP would promote program integrity by providing the Bureau with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program,” the bureau said.

Regarding the order, USAC commended the FCC’s “commitment to universal service and the integrity of the Lifeline Program”, adding that “reconsiderations […] are common during administration changes.”

How will this affect Lifeline ETCs with Voice Designations?

Lifeline ETCs with voice designations are still authorized to provide Lifeline-supported broadband, while Lifeline subscribers of the affected LBPs will be allowed to select a new service provider. The order has laid out an approach to ensure the effect on consumers is minimized.

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Jordan AxtFCC Releases Order on Reconsideration for Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs)
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Free Cell Phones for Veterans: Benefits & Lifeline Eligibility

Revisions to the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order

Changes from the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order included revisions to accepted eligibility documentation for recipients of the Lifeline Program. As part of the changes which went into effect December 2, 2016, the program has added two new benefits as acceptable proof of eligibility for Lifeline: the Veterans Pension and/or the Survivors Pension Benefit.

Eligibility for both benefits, administered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, require the yearly family income to meet requirements set by Congress. Consequently, low-income U.S. Veterans who receive them also meet the income criteria for Lifeline, however, there are criteria for each of these benefits in addition to the income requirements.

What These Lifeline Program Changes Mean For Veterans

Veterans who receive the Veterans Pension and/or Survivors Pensions benefits are now eligible for a free cell phone through the national Lifeline Program. Qualifying U.S. Veterans can enroll in this program, which offers both a free cell phone and discounted or free cell phone service to eligible Lifeline program participants.

Read More About Cell Phones For Veterans

More information on Veteran Pension benefits eligibility can be found on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Source: http://www.usac.org/li/about/outreach/newsletters/2017/Jan26.aspx

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Jordan AxtFree Cell Phones for Veterans: Benefits & Lifeline Eligibility
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