The pending changes within Lifeline per the Modernization order will go effect in on December 2. Yesterday, NLAD released a new version (2.8.11) into the pre-production environment that includes the 12 month or 60 day Port Freeze Restriction, which will go live when the order takes effect next month. USAC confirms the intentions of the upcoming changes regarding the Lifeline Benefit Port Freeze within the details of the new changes to the Program Requirement, stating “Lifeline customers will be required to remain with their service provider for a minimum period before they can transfer their benefit to another provider […] and allows Lifeline carriers to invest in high-quality, low-cost service offerings for Lifeline consumers.”
This is an important step – the need for such regulation changes is largely tied to the integrity of the Lifeline Program itself. While the freedom for a Lifeline-eligible consumer to choose their service provider, the Port Freeze will further assure that the ETCs who service their need are protected from unnecessary waste due to Program abuse, allowing the Program to become of better assistance to those for whom the Program was designed to assist during difficult financial times.
Included in the upcoming changes will be the ability to submit requests for Port Freeze Exceptions. Exceptions are allowed, pending the new Provider’s confirmation that one of the following exception qualifications are met:
- Current service provider ceases operations, or fails to provide service
- Current service provider is found to be in violation of Lifeline Program rules, and the violation impacts the customer for which exception is sought
- Customer changes their residential address
- Late fees imposed by current service provider meet or exceed the month end-user charge for supported service
Requests for exception are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by USAC. Additional details provided by USAC on the Lifeline Benefit Port Freeze note that “If any of these [above] situations apply, Lifeline customers may cancel their service and enroll in a new Lifeline-supported service with another provider. In these circumstances, the subscriber is not required to re-verify their eligibility until the end of the original 12 month or 60 day period. The providers shall contact USAC to facilitate sharing eligibility information.”
Further details and answers to FAQs bout the Benefit Port Freeze can be found on the USAC website.