All posts tagged: Lifeline Program

How the Lifeline Program Helps Sarah Victory Continue Her Journey in Being a Super Mom

“I am thankful enough to have an affordable phone service,”  44- year-old Sarah Victory from Coweta, Oklahoma says in a relieving tone. Sarah works from 3 pm to 11 pm as a Certified Nursing Assistant. She also takes care of her three children (one is her 3-year old autistic son)  and is the emotional support for her husband, who suffers from depression. Sarah happily says that at her workplace the patients label her “the best one” and it’s most likely due to her dedication at work and home. Being a family woman and the go-to-person can be overwhelming, but Sarah says that it’s her job as a mother and wife. Her day-to-day routine varies, but the one thing that is consistent is her consumer relationship with the Lifeline program.

With so many responsibilities, bills, and other family financial commitments, Sarah is happy that the Lifeline program is effective and efficient. Being enrolled in the Lifeline program has allowed Sarah to connect with her children, husband, and doctors. “Because I can’t afford normal service, being in the Lifeline program allows me to talk to my doctor and my child’s doctor,” she says. The convenience and affordability of her Lifeline phone service not only makes her life easy even when everything else is hectic, but it allows her to stay connected with the important aspects of her life. Because she has to keep a closer eye on her son’s health, being able to contact his doctor is important. If it were not for the Lifeline Program how else would Sarah keep up with her autistic son’s health? As a busy mother, wife, and employee, the victory is more than her last name; it’s in her Lifeline phone service.

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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.

 

 

 

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FCC Commissioner, Mignon Clyburn is Stepping Down After 8 Years

“I’ve done all I can do. And it’s time for me to serve in another way,” Clyburn said during the FCC meeting. After eight-years of fighting for minority communities and low-income families, the Obama nominee will be stepping down from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) next month.

Clyburn has been an active voice for helping Americans

In 2009, when she was appointed as commissioner by President Barack Obama, the FCC passed their net neutrality rules in 2015. Since then, Clyburn’s loyalty  has focused on being a stern defender of the rules.

Her time with the FCC included protecting the FCC Lifeline Program, and being a supporter of improving inmate calling services.

Clyburn was heavily supported by the public

Besides being the first woman to serve on the FCC, she was also the first woman to chair the agency. Clyburn was included in CNET’s list of notable women in tech, which celebrated International Women’s Day this year. She was commended for making a difference in the field of technology.

After all her accomplishments, Clyburn has made her final decision about the time to leave. Her term  is over at the end of this year, so she would have been leaving at that time anyway. She told Post and Courier that she was indecisive about choosing the perfect time to leave.

“I was not 100 percent sure when I woke up this morning that this was the day,” she said. “But I think it’s the right time for me and it’s a good time to have a reset to allow someone else to come in and pass that baton.”

Though Clyburn’s job required her to be a spearhead and bump heads with opposers, the 56-year-old was not only respected, but well-liked by representatives and colleagues.  

Ajit Pai released a statement on Clyburn’s announcement of stepping down referring to her as “a wonderful colleague and friend.”

“I congratulate Commissioner Clyburn on her distinguished tenure at the FCC. She has been a tremendous leader and a committed public servant throughout her time here. As the first woman to head the agency, she led skillfully through a transition and put her stamp on the Commission, including through her steadfast leadership in telehealth, media diversity, and digital inclusion. I have enjoyed working with her and, even when we have not seen eye-to-eye on policy, I have always held her candor and thoughtfulness in the highest regard.”

 

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Mignon Clyburn, Digital Divide is Widening for Low Income Americans

On March 20th, 2018, at the New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn spoke about the digital divide and the need for every American, regardless of economic status, to have access to affordable high-speed internet. She talked about digital redlining, the Lifeline Program, the effects of not allowing consumer privacy for public usage, and net neutrality.

Clyburn on FCC Chairman Pai’s Vision for the Lifeline Program

Broadband internet access is important service to everyone, not just high and middle income families. As healthcare, employment, education, and government services are migrating online, the Lifeline Program becomes even more essential to low-income families. During the session, Clyburn expressed concern with the direction FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has taken with revoking the providers’ authorizations to provide service without notice, establishing caps on Lifeline, and banning wireless resellers from participating in the Lifeline program.

Digital Redlining of Low Income Americans

Unfortunately, because the largest internet providers mainly focus their attention and investments in high income urban, suburban, and middle-income neighborhoods, low-income and poverty-stricken areas are often left out from initiatives to grow and connect. Cyburn cites research revealing that “over 24 million people in the U.S. are without affordable, high-speed internet.” She continues, stating that, “according to the Pew Research Center, only 54% of African Americans and 50% of Latinos, subscribe to a home broadband service, compared to 72% of White Americans. When I look at these numbers, I can’t help but wonder if what we are seeing is in fact, another form of redlining: digital redlining.

Closing the Digital Divide in Lifeline

In opposition to the FCC efforts that damage the effectivity of the Lifeline Program on closing the digital divide, large telecom companies like Sprint and Verizon have voiced their concerns. The role that Lifeline plays in closing the digital divide is weakened by the changes that have been proposed for the Program in recent months. Commissioner Clyburn echoed these concerns and is aware of the importance of striving for digital equity, concluding that “The goal is, and should be, equal and affordable access.”

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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.”

 

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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.”

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Lee SchaferSprint Opposes Lifeline Wireless Reseller Ban
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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.”

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Lee SchaferFCC Public Notice Announces Universal Lifeline Forms
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