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National Lifeline Association Discusses Lifeline Reform

On May 22, 2018, National Lifeline Association (NaLA) representatives Kim Lehrman, Jose Cortes, Chuck Campbell, John Heitmann and Joshua Guyan met with legal advisors to Chairman Pai and Commissioners Carr, O’Rielly, and Rosenworcel to discuss proposed changes to the Lifeline program. NaLA does not agree with the ban on wireless resellers. They believe the FCC should support affordability and consumer choice, and also expressed support for a budget for the Lifeline Program.

NaLA representatives expressed that resellers are important in the Lifeline program. Getting rid of wireless resellers would:

  • Harm consumers by forcing more than 7 million or roughly 70% of all Lifeline subscribers to find a new Lifeline service provider, leaving some with no wireless or wireline service options.
  • Fail to bolster program integrity or guard against waste, fraud and abuse (adopting conduct-based standards and agent registration would properly focus on bad actors rather than on business models).
  • NOT bridge the digital divide by spurring additional facilities deployment or more affordable services.
  • Upend the states’ role in designating ETCs, as well as the reliance interests of wireless resellers who have willingly sought such designations and landline providers who have been relieved of the obligation to provide Lifeline (based on the presence of, and consumers’ preference for, the mobile voice and broadband services offered by wireless resellers).

NaLA representatives also explained that the FCC should support affordability. “The FCC should freeze or roll-back the minimum service standards and voice support phase-out that threaten to deny consumers access to affordable choices that best meet their needs.” NaLA was endorsed by National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) with a $2,258 budget and they expressed the support saying, “The Lifeline program could benefit from a self-enforcing budget mechanism that operates on an annual basis with prospective impact only.”

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