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FCC Lifeline Reform Detrimental to Lifeline Subscribers

On May 22, 2018, National Lifeline Association (NaLA)  met with legal advisors to Chairman Pai and Commissioners Carr, O’Rielly, and Rosenworcel to discuss proposed changes to the Lifeline program. NaLA representatives Kim Lehrman, Jose Cortes, Chuck Campbell, John Heitmann and Joshua Guyan raised concerns regarding the proposed ban on wireless resellers. The proposed FCC changes are contrary to the purpose of the Lifeline Program which is affordable service. NaLA representatives were open to a budget for the Lifeline Program within reason. But the main aim of the organization is to support the low-income consumers that rely on the Program and as such, they maintained that their commitment is to affordability and consumer choice.

Proposed Lifeline Reforms Threaten Service Affordability

Resellers are important to the Lifeline program. They support consumer choice and affordability. The proposed FCC changes will have a negative impact on the industry and the families that it supports. The proposal to remove wireless resellers from the Lifeline space would:

  • harm consumers by forcing more than 7 million (or roughly 70%) of all Lifeline subscribers to find a new Lifeline service provider
  • leave some low-income families without wireless service and with limited service options.
  • be detrimental to the program integrity and efforts to guard against waste, fraud and abuse
  • 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. 

As the preference and demand for mobile voice and broadband services has increased, Wireless resellers have willingly sought ETC designations and relieved landline providers of the obligation to provide Lifeline service. It is not clear why the FCC is taking such actions against a program that has been so helpful to low-income Americans. Among those it helps are seniors and veterans who may be retired, disabled, on fixed income, as well as other Americans who are looking for work.

NaLA Asks FCC to Reconsider Lifeline Reform Plans

NaLA proposes adopting conduct-based standards and agent registration to properly focus on bad actors rather than efforts that will harm consumers. “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.”  The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has also contributed a budget in support of NaLA’s initiatives in this matter.

About the National Lifeline Association

The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of telecommunications. We support the 4 essential pieces 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 education, cooperation and advocacy.

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