All posts tagged: Lifeline News

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.

 

 

No comments
Chelsea BoylanTracFone Files Second Emergency Petition on National Verifier
read more

NaLA Comments on FCC Connected Care Pilot Program Notice of Inquiry

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) filed a response to a recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI) regarding the Connected Care Pilot Program, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) telehealth program that seeks to assist low-income Americans.

comments-fcc-connected-care-pilot-program-NOIFCC Promoting Telehealth for Low-Income Consumers

The Connected Care Pilot Program is part of an FCC telehealth initiative and would seek “to improve health outcomes among low-income Americans through the use of expanded access to telehealth services.” The $100 million FCC proposal for a Connected Care Pilot Program received unanimous approval in August 2018.

In the NOI, the FCC acknowledges an increasing reliance on broadband-enabled telehealth services when providing high quality health care. The pilot would improve healthcare for low-income consumers by bringing connected care resources to low-income Americans with a wide range of health challenges, including cancer treatment, pediatric heart disease, high risk pregnancies, stroke treatment, and diabetes management.

FCC Seeks Comment on Connected Care Pilot Program NOI

In response to the NOI, NaLA expressed concerns in a September 10, 2018 filing. As an organization that has long viewed Lifeline as a tool to increase access to healthcare for low-income consumers, NaLA supports the purpose of the Connected Care Pilot Program, but expressed two main concerns:

  1. Telehealth services provided by the program would not be offered to all low-income Americans who need them.  

    The NOI seeks comment on “limiting the participating health care providers’ use of the pilot program funding to Medicaid-eligible patients, as well as veterans who qualify based on income for cost-free health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”

    NaLA believes strongly that this limitation would lead to many exclusions of the low-income demographic for whom the program was designed to serve.

     

  2. The Commission would restrict provider participation to “Facilities-based” ETCs (providers).

    This restriction would further limit accessibility for low-income consumers who are in need of telehealth services by limiting the number of providers. The NOI suggests that such an approach would be consistent with the Lifeline program, proposing “that participants should be facilities-based … given that one of the goals of the pilot is to increase broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas.”

    NaLA opposes this point, noting that nearly 70 percent of low-income consumers within the Lifeline program are served by non-facilities based ETCs (wireless resellers). Additionally, NaLA adds that resellers “have a unique expertise in locating, enrolling and serving the same communities that the Connected Care Pilot Program seeks to serve, i.e., low-income consumers and veterans”.

In conclusion, NaLA respectfully requested that the Commission design any Connected Care Pilot Program consistent with these comments to most effectively and efficiently meet the program goals.

View Full Response to the Connected Care Pilot Program NOI

 

Read NaLA’s September 10 Comments to the FCC Notice of Inquiry here.

No comments
Lee SchaferNaLA Comments on FCC Connected Care Pilot Program Notice of Inquiry
read more

NARUC Discusses Lifeline NPRM’s Proposal

On May 18, 2018, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) met separately with Commissioner Carr’s chief of staff and Chairman Pai’s legal advisor. NARUC expressed their support for the Lifeline Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposal of respecting the state’s role in program administration regarding eliminating ETCs and suggesting cooperative federalism between the Commission and the states.

However, NARUC does not agree with the Lifeline NPRM proposal for eliminating non-facilities-based resellers. Lifeline NPRM said, “To advance our policy of focusing Lifeline support to encourage investment in voice- and broadband-capable networks, we propose limiting Lifeline support to broadband service provided over facilities-based broadband networks that also support voice service.” NARUC commented on Lifeline NPRM’s reasoning behind supporting facilities-based carriers because they feel it “might spur additional investment in infrastructure.”

NARUC’s stance is that non-facilities-based carriers should continue because, not only do they currently serve 75 percent of eligible users, they could also disrupt service to millions of eligible users.

 

 

 

No comments
admin1NARUC Discusses Lifeline NPRM’s Proposal
read more

The National Lifeline Association Board of Directors Welcomes David Avila

Kennett Square, PA – (May 1, 2018)- The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) Board of Directors announces the appointment of a new board member, David Avila.

Mr. Avila, who will be joining NaLA for a three-year term, has ten years of Lifeline program experience and will assist the organization in supporting Lifeline recipients, providers, and program advocates.

Mr. Avila joined TracFone Wireless in November 2015 as Associate Vice President II, Lifeline Services providing leadership to SafeLink Wireless. SafeLink Wireless is known as a pioneer in the Lifeline industry and is the largest prepaid wireless Lifeline provider in the U.S. In this role, Mr. Avila is responsible for the development, marketing, sales, operations and compliance of TracFone’s Lifeline Services.  

Previously, Mr. Avila was employed by Sprint’s Assurance Wireless, where he helped launch the Lifeline provider in 2009. Over a six-year period, Mr. Avila worked to help the company grow from four to forty states and become the nation’s second largest provider of Lifeline services. At Assurance Wireless, he held various positions in the Product Development, Marketing, Sales Channel Management and Government Relationships departments.   

Mr. Avila has more than 30 years of experience in the telecom and technology segments, specializing in the areas of Development, Marketing, Operations and Regulatory Compliance. Additionally, Mr. Avila has worked for Virgin Mobile USA, AT&T Wireless, XO Communications (previously NextLink) as well as other internet, local and long distance service companies.

David B. Dorwart, Chairman of the National Lifeline Association, says, “I appreciate David Avila’s experience and closeness to Lifeline. His expertise and love for the job mirrors our organization’s mission. We are excited to have him on board.”

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 Participants & Supporters, 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.”

For more information on NaLA visit www.nalalifeline.org.

No comments
admin1The National Lifeline Association Board of Directors Welcomes David Avila
read more

Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes

On Wednesday, March 21st Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes in a letter to FCC to Chairman, Ajit Pai, encouraging him to protect the Lifeline Program.

Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes After a Recent Committee Vote

Congresswomen Anna G. Eshoo and Yvette D. Clarke composed a letter following a recent meeting where the FCC voted 3 to 2 on party lines to proceed with a new proposal that will make it harder for eligible households to attain Lifeline’s services. The FCC’s plan includes establishing caps on the Lifeline program, requiring co-pays from participants, and negating 4 out of 5 of the current providers of Lifeline services. The letter encourages the Chairman to protect the Lifeline program, because without it, Americans who participate in the program will not be able to do things like schedule medical appointments, help their children complete their homework, keep in contact with the government, or keep in touch with their family. “The program helps Americans-including disproportionate numbers of veterans and people of color-help themselves.”

Congresswomen Suggest National Verifier as an Alternative Solution to Proposed Lifeline Changes

Eshoo and Clarke expressed in their letter that they understand the Chairman is aiming to restrain fraud and abuse, “experts have repeatedly testified that the sorts of measures you are proposing do not have a successful track record.” Instead, the two give another solution to the Chairman’s concerns of fraud and abuse, which is rolling out the National Verifier. In the letter they share that, “The Government Accountability Office has testified that the National Verifier will resolve most issues that may remain with the program without the same brutal side effects” as removing almost 8 million participants from the program.

The congresswomen were not alone in their opposition to recent FCC changes to Lifeline. The letter opposing FCC changes to Lifeline was signed by 60 House members, who all concluded that the proposal is “untimely, counterproductive, and undermines [their] shared goal of connecting everyone.”

 

No comments
admin1Congresswomen Eshoo and Clarke Oppose FCC Lifeline Changes
read more

CTIA Opposes FCC Lifeline Changes Banning Wireless Resellers

February 21, 2018 –  CTIA, an wireless connectivity advocacy organization, voices their opposition to the recent FCC proposals on the Lifeline Program, which provides essential communication services to qualifying low-income American families. CTIA’s filed their comments to the FCC in response to the FCC’s 2017 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Notice of Inquiry (NOI), and more specifically comments on concerns over the proposed elimination of wireless resellers from the Lifeline Program, which would ban non-facilities-based providers from serving as Lifeline Providers.

CTIA on Elimination of Wireless Resellers from Lifeline Program

CTIA’s belief that the Commission’s proposal elimination of wireless resellers from Lifeline would negatively impact competition and harm low-income consumers supports the integrity of the Lifeline program and urges the FCC to reconsider these key issues. CTIA expressed that while it supports the FCC’s commitment ensure the integrity of the Lifeline Program. However, in the letter they stated that “expeditious implementation of the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier or Verifier) is the most important thing the Commission can do to limit waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program. Accordingly, the Commission should remain focused on implementing the National Verifier before considering any further large-scale program reforms” and that the organization “strongly encourages the Commission not to adopt the proposal in the NPRM/NOI to exclude non-facilities-based providers from the Lifeline program.”

CTIA to FCC on “Exhibit A” Lifeline Economic Study

Also referenced in the letter from CTIA was the “Exhibit A” Declaration by Dr. John Mayo, an recently conducted economic study which also supports of not excluding resellers (non-facilities-based providers) from Lifeline. This study provides evidence that the NPRM’s proposal to limit Lifeline facilities-based carriers is inconsistent with economic basis of Lifeline and doesn’t support the goal of universal connectivity.  CTIA concludes “Ultimately, Dr. Mayo’s analysis shows that the data on network investment do not support limiting subsidies to facilities-based providers and excluding non-facilities based providers in order to further incent deployment.  In light of the economic evidence, the Commission should conclude that, in order to avoid undermining investment in broadband networks, it must continue to allow non-facilities based providers to participate in Lifeline.”

Read Complete Filing of CTIA Comments to FCC

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/180221-CTIA-Lifeline-Comments.pdf”]

 

 

 

About CTIA:

CTIA® represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem that enable Americans to lead a 21st century connected life. The association’s members include wireless carriers, device manufacturers, suppliers as well as apps and content companies. CTIA vigorously advocates at all levels of government for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. The association also coordinates the industry’s voluntary best practices, hosts educational events that promote the wireless industry and co-produces the industry’s leading wireless tradeshow. CTIA was founded in 1984 and is based in Washington, D.C.

About 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.”

No comments
Lee SchaferCTIA Opposes FCC Lifeline Changes Banning Wireless Resellers
read more

Sprint Opposes Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban

February 20, 2018 — Sprint expresses concerns with the FCC’s recent proposals concerning a Lifeline wireless reseller ban, which would prohibit wireless resellers from serving low income households as Service Providers through the Lifeline Program. The Notice on Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), an initiative from the FCC’s November 2017 Open Meeting that included various Lifeline Program initiatives, such as banning wireless resellers from providing Lifeline service.

Sprint says Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban Could Affect 6.1 Million

Sprint, a facilities-based provider, has echoed the concerns of various non-facilities-based providers on the recent FCC proposals found in the NPRM. They oppose the Lifeline wireless reseller ban that the FCC is pursuing, and state that the “elimination of resellers from the Lifeline program would be disruptive to current and potential Lifeline customers. The majority of Lifeline customers obtain service from resellers, which had an estimated 6.1 million customers as of December 2017.”

Consequences of FCC Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban

The letter from Sprint highlights many concerns for Lifeline Participants that rely on the program to assist them in accessing essential communication services. They noted that the Lifeline wireless reseller ban would result in a “a sharp reduction in the number of wireless service providers offering Lifeline service; in some areas, there may remain only a single facilities-based wireless Lifeline service provider, and in other areas, there may be no facilities-based wireless Lifeline service provider at all.” Sprint adds that “users [Lifeline Participants] will not realize they need to obtain service from a facilities-based carrier, some will not know how to transfer their service, some will not provide required documentation in a timely manner. Some customers will successfully transfer to a facilities-based carrier, but some will lose service altogether.”

The forced exit of wireless resellers as Lifeline service providers from the Lifeline market is disruptive of consumer access to emergency services, or other resources necessary for employment, health care, or childcare.

Read Sprint’s Letter to FCC

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Sprint-LL-comments.pdf”]

Postponing of Lifeline Program Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier)

In addition to concerns about the ban of wireless resellers in Lifeline, Sprint also asserts in the letter to the FCC that the National Verifier is a crucial part of reducing waste, fraud, and abuse within the program – and should be the most important focus of the Commission at this time.

The recent postponing of the National Verifier launch has created concern that the Commission’s actions do not support it’s stated goals about strengthening the Lifeline Program eligibility verification processes.

“Getting the deployment timeline back on track is the surest way for the Commission to advance the common goal of ensuring Lifeline program integrity,” Sprint states in their letter to the FCC. Sprint, TracFone and other Telecommunication companies are in agreement that efforts are best focused on the National Verifier, prior to making any drastic changes to the program, which helps nearly 11 million low-income Americans access phone and internet services.

 

About 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.”

No comments
Lee SchaferSprint Opposes Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban
read more

TracFone Opposes FCC Lifeline Program Changes

February 20, 2018 — A letter filed by TracFone opposes FCC Lifeline Program changes. The Notice on Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), an initiative from the FCC’s November 2017 Open Meeting, included various Lifeline Program initiatives, such as eliminating wireless resellers from providing Lifeline service. More recently, the FCC has postponed the launch of the program’s National Verifier, an initiative that is in line with the stated goals of the commission, seeking to strengthen the Lifeline Program and reduce potential waste, fraud, and abuse.

Letter from TracFone Opposes FCC Lifeline Program Changes

In the letter, TracFone applauds the commission’s efforts to strengthen the Lifeline Program, but warns of the consequences of eliminating wireless resellers from the Lifeline Program, as this would negatively affect the consumers that the program seeks to help. The letter from TracFone opposes FCC Lifeline Program changes, asserting that “proposing to exclude all non-facilities-based Lifeline providers (the “Facilities-Based Proposal”) from the program and reorienting its mission from one that addresses affordability to one that encourages infrastructure deployment, the Commission has chosen a blunt instrument that would deny more than 8 million households their preferred Lifeline services without meaningfully reducing the opportunities for waste and fraud. Indeed, in proposing to do away with consumer choice and competition brought about by resellers, the NPRM fails to make the case for how the remaining facilities-based monopolies resulting from such regulatory intervention will spur rural network buildout or otherwise benefit Lifeline customers, particularly since many facilities-based providers have reduced their Lifeline participation or sought to leave the program altogether in recent months.”

Read TracFone’s Letter to FCC

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Comments-of-TracFone-Wireless-.pdf”]

Postponing of Lifeline Eligibility Verifier

In addition to concerns on the elimination of wireless resellers, TracFone also asserted that the update to the National Verifier Plan includes processes that are unnecessarily inefficient, burdensome, and contradictory to the Federal Communications Commission’s stated goals for the National Verifier. The recent postponing of the National Verifier launch is creating concern that the FCC’s actions do not support it’s stated goals about strengthening the Lifeline Program eligibility verification processes. TracFone, Sprint, and other Telecommunication companies are in agreement that efforts are best focused on the National Verifier, prior to making any drastic changes to the program, which helps nearly 11 million low-income Americans access phone and internet services.

TracFone commented that the FCC’s proposal “…departs greatly from the light-touch regulatory approach favored by the current Administration, and represents a sweeping, unprecedented, and possibly illegal governmental intrusion into an otherwise healthy and competitive marketplace that lacks signs of widespread market failure. The Commission must reject its proposal that singles out resellers for their collective status, not for their individual behaviors, and that, if implemented, will forever undermine the utility of the Lifeline program for more than two out of every three existing Lifeline subscribers and render it inaccessible or impractical for still millions more.”

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.”

No comments
Lee SchaferTracFone Opposes FCC Lifeline Program Changes
read more

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.”

No comments
Lee SchaferFCC Public Notice Announces Universal Lifeline Forms
read more

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.

No comments
Lee SchaferFCC Postpones National Verifier Launch for Lifeline Program
read more