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.
PUC to adopt a portability freeze rule for the Lifeline program
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D.) has signed into law a bill that will require the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to adopt a “portability freeze” rule for the state’s LifeLine universal telephone service program by Jan. 15, 2017. Legislative Counsel’s Digest and bill text, below, on the act to add Section 878.5 to the Public Utilities Code Assembly Bill 2560, relating to telecommunications.
[ Approved by Governor September 24, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State September 24, 2016. ]
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
“Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including telephone corporations. The Moore Universal Telephone Service Act establishes the Universal Lifeline Telephone Service program in order to provide low-income households with access to affordable basic residential telephone service. The act requires that a lifeline telephone service subscriber be provided with one lifeline subscription, as defined by the commission, at his or her principal place of residence.
This bill would require the commission to adopt a portability freeze rule for the lifeline program by January 15, 2017, and would require the commission to consider including certain features as part of the rule.
Vote: majority Appropriation: no Fiscal Committee: yes Local Program: no
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
Section 878.5 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
The commission shall adopt a portability freeze rule for the lifeline program by January 15, 2017. The commission shall consider including all of the following in the rule:
(a) A 60-day duration of the portability freeze.
(b) A period of time when a subscriber would be able to terminate lifeline service without penalty, similar to provisions established in Section 4.13.5 of commission Decision 14-01-036 (January 16, 2014), Decision Adopting Revisions to Modernize and Expand the California Lifeline Program.
(c) A requirement that the administrator of the lifeline program provide a telephone corporation providing lifeline service with real-time information concerning whether a subscriber has enrolled with another telephone corporation during the period of the portability freeze adopted by the commission pursuant to this section and, if the subscriber enrolled during this period, the date of enrollment.”
Source: AB 2570, Quirk. Telecommunications: universal service: reimbursement claims, Retrieved from http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2570, September 26, 2016.