All posts tagged: Lifeline Program

NaLA to NARUC, on Resolution in Support of Wireless Resellers

NaLA released a press release earlier this week, thanking the NARUC on their resolution in support of reseller participation in the Lifeline Program. The resolution was in response to several FCC initiates that threaten to remove wireless resellers from providing Lifeline service to low-income American families in need of essential communication services.

The consumer committee endorsed the draft to urge the FCC to continue to allow non-facilities-based Lifeline providers to continue to receive low-income telecom sub­sidies – a unanimous decision, according to Chairman Maida Coleman, a Missouri commissioner who sponsored the draft.

Read the Press Release from the National Lifeline Association (NaLA):


February 14, 2018
— Today, NARUC – the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners – adopted a Resolution to ensure that the Federal Lifeline Program Continues to Provide Service to Low-Income Households. The National Lifeline Association (referred to as “NaLA”) appreciates NARUC’s decisive and bipartisan action to defend very low-income Americans access to basic telephone service by opposing the FCC’s proposal to eliminate wireless resellers from the Lifeline program. Over the past decade, states have carried out their statutory role to approve Lifeline providers, and state-designated wireless service providers have grown to serve approximately 90% of Lifeline subscribers. Wireless resellers account for the vast majority of that total and now serve between 7 and 8 million Lifeline subscribers. Based on this success in providing very low-income consumers with the mobile wireless services they can better afford and prefer, state commissions have routinely granted requests from legacy landline service providers to relinquish their ETC designations.

“We thank the state commissioners and NARUC for their efforts to ensure that very low-income consumers can stay connected in today’s digital economy through the Lifeline program,” said David Dorwart, Chairman of NaLA. “Today’s action sends a strong signal that the states continue to take seriously their statutorily designated role in determining which providers are eligible to offer Lifeline services. The FCC’s proposal to eliminate wireless resellers from the program would upend dozens of state designation decisions and strip services from more than 7 million very low-income subscribers. We are tremendously appreciative that the states have joined NaLA, CTIA, Sprint, TracFone and a wide-range of other stakeholders who have come out in support of very low-income consumers, including veterans, the elderly, the disabled, students, single mothers and others throughout rural, suburban and urban areas of America, and recognize the key role wireless resellers perform in delivering those services.”

NaLA also appreciates the resolution’s call for a budget that preserves service for those currently on Lifeline and allows for “reasonable and rational growth” up to the current budget of approximately $2.25 billion. Together with the FCC’s implementation of the National Verifier, these reforms will continue to protect and preserve the integrity of the Lifeline program. It is essential to ensure that the program is available today and tomorrow for all who need assistance and to ensure that they are connected every day to the voice and broadband services all Americans rely on daily to connect to emergency services, educators, healthcare, community and employment services.

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.

For comprehensive information regarding the FCC’s proposed changes to the Lifeline program, letter from Congress, industry analysis, and sources please go to www.nalalifeline.org.

Media Contact & Information:

The National Lifeline Association
Phone: (844) 937-6252
Email: [email protected]

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Lee SchaferNaLA to NARUC, on Resolution in Support of Wireless Resellers
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Dems Request GAO Review of FCC on Lifeline National Verifier

Jan. 25, 2018 — A letter from a number of members from the U.S. House Energy & Commerce aasked the Government Accountability Office (GAO)  to review the FCC’s efforts to deploy the Lifeline Program National Verifier — an initiative that aims to verify subscriber information for Lifeline Program participants and ultimately increase the integrity of the Lifeline Program.

House Dems Ask GAO to Review FCC Progress on Lifeline Program National Verifier

In November, the FCC adopted the Lifeline reform revamp and FCC chairman Ajit Pai revoked the most recent round of certifications to new applicants until the FCC addressed the verification issue, but the letter from House members expresses concern that the FCC is not doing all it can to launch the Lifeline Program National Verifier in a timely fashion. In their letter to the GAO, they called for prioritization of the Lifeline Program National Verifier and requested answers to a number of questions, including whether the FCC has a strategic plan for implementing the program on time and what steps it has taken to implement that.

Representatives who signed the letter included Bobby Rush, Frank Pallone, Anna Eshoo, Mike Doyle, G.K Butterfield, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney and Evette Clarke.

Source Ref.:  B&C News, House Dems Seek GAO Review of Lifeline Verifier  By John Eggerton

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Lee SchaferDems Request GAO Review of FCC on Lifeline National Verifier
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Free Press Opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings, “A Direct Attack” on Low-Income Americans

Free Press opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings that will affect the Lifeline Program, a program that connects low-income Americans to crucial communications services. The proposed changes were released October 26th in a draft by Chairman Pai and the current FCC administration to be a part of the November 16 Open Meeting agenda and would greatly eliminate the access to service for many low-income families in the United States.

Free Press Opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings that Limit Lifeline Funds to Facilities-Based Providers

Free Press has addressed their opposition to the rulings, including their major concern with the proposal to limit funds to “facilities-based” providers, which will eliminate Lifeline resellers (also known as ETCs) from providing Lifeline service.

Free Press Policy Director, Matthew Wood, urges the FCC to reconsider, asserting that “..eliminating resale carriers [Lifeline resellers] from Lifeline would eliminate participation by providers currently serving no less than two-thirds or even three ­quarters of the current Lifeline subscriber base. Chairman Pai’s war on carriers that actually make robust use of the fund is of course a direct attack on the intended beneficiaries of the program: low-income individuals and families, all too often from traditionally under-served groups such as people of color, immigrants, veterans, and the elderly.”

Read More from Free Press on FCC Lifeline Rulings

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FreePress-Ex-Parte-Letter-to-FCC-on-Lifeline-Changes-Eliinating-Resellers-1.pdf”]

About Free Press

Free Press is an independent organization that believes that change happens when people have a real voice in the political process; they seek to mobilize their growing base of 900,000 activists to sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, attend rallies and town-hall meetings, write letters to the editor, and take part in other targeted actions. Additionally, the organization crafts policy proposals, conducts research, testifies before Congress and fights in court for policies that serve the public interest.

Support Lifeline Program or Read More on FCC Changes

NaLA appreciates contributions from Lifeline Advocates; donate now to assure the continuation of the Lifeline Program or read more on the FCC’s proposed changes.

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Lee SchaferFree Press Opposes FCC Lifeline Rulings, “A Direct Attack” on Low-Income Americans
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Lifeline Advocates Urge FCC to Reconsider Proposed Program Changes

On October 26th, the FCC published the upcoming November 16 public meeting agenda, which calls for some significant changes to the Lifeline Program, which provides affordable communication services to low-income Americans.  Advocates of the Lifeline Program are now voicing their concerns about some of the proposed rules, which will mainly aim to:

  • Direct Lifeline Funds & Enhanced Lifeline Support to Facilities-based Providers
  • Adopt a Self-enforcing Budget Cap
  • End States’ Role in Designating ETCs
  • Redefine Tribal Lands as Rural
  • Eliminate LBP Designations

Responses to FCC Proposals for Lifeline Program

Advocates of both the Lifeline Program and the FCC’s commitment to “bridge the digital divide” have expressed concern over many of the potential changes, and are seeking FCC reconsideration.

CTIA, an organization that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry (and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem) that enable Americans to lead a 21st century connected life, voiced some of their concerns in a letter to Chairman Pai, yesterday:

“While CTIA remains committed to working with the Commission to strengthen the Lifeline program’s administration, some of the changes proposed in the draft Lifeline item would negatively impact millions of low-income consumers who rely on wireless supported Lifeline services. As the Commission moves forward an agenda designed to close the digital divide, CTIA urges the Commission to recognize that Lifeline, especially wireless Lifeline, remains a critical tool that enables low-income consumers to access 21st Century occupational, educational, health and public safety communications.”

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CTIA-Lifeline-FCC-NPRM-NOI-Response-Letter-11082017.pdf”]

 

Additionally, NaLA has activated a task force of highly qualified industry experts and advocates, who are working hard to ensure the continuity of the Lifeline Program. This task force is charged with handling the outreach, communication, collaboration, and education required to inform lawmakers and constituents aware of the proposed changes and what they can do to support the program and protect the Lifeline Program participants.

NaLA Member and Lifeline Advocate Support

Our members and supporters have already begun efforts to protect the low-income Americans who participate in the Lifeline Program. Access to telecommunications services provided by this program connect low-income Americans with emergency services, employment, education, childcare, and healthcare.

NaLA appreciates its members contributions to this cause; donate now to assure the continuation of the Lifeline Program or read more on the FCC’s proposed changes.

About CTIA

CTIA vigorously advocates at all levels of government for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. CTIA also coordinates the industry’s voluntary efforts to provide consumers with a variety of choices and information regarding their wireless products and services. CTIA also hosts educational events that promote the wireless industry and coordinates the industry’s efforts to provide consumers with a variety of choices and information regarding their wireless products and services as well as the industry’s voluntary best practices.

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Lee SchaferLifeline Advocates Urge FCC to Reconsider Proposed Program Changes
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FCC Proposed Lifeline Changes Affect Tribal Areas

The proposed FCC changes to Tribal Lifeline were outlined by Chairman Pai in a recent release of the November 16 Public Meeting Agenda. The Agenda outlines the Chairman’s intentions for the Enhanced Tribal Funds that support bridging the digital divide on the Tribal lands in Oklahoma and Nevada.

FCC Proposes Limitations on Tribal Land Subsidies in Oklahoma and Nevada

The reduction of waste, fraud, and abuse of within the Lifeline program has been a frequent topic of discussion for the FCC under Chairman Pai. The announcement of a proposal for ‘serious reform’ of the program is focused on the limitation of the additional Tribal subsidies that still exist in states like Oklahoma and Nevada. These FCC changes to Tribal Lifeline will negatively impact low-income residents living in tribal areas.

Initially a program for increasing communications for rural, low-income Americans, the Lifeline Program has evolved to better assist under-served Americans. As seen by the FCC’s efforts to include broadband in the minimum service standard, it is increasingly realized that efforts to “bridge” the digital divide is no longer solely a matter of geography.

Reason for FCC Changes to Tribal Lifeline

Currently, designated Tribal Lands receive additional federal subsidies for bridging that digital divide. But even though the minimum standards of service continue to increase to build that bridge, he subsidy for non-tribal areas has remained unchanged at $9.25, while the subsidy for Tribal Lands has been reduced in some areas through revocation of the previous “Tribal” designation.

In a report released last June revealing the findings of a three-year investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified areas of fraud, waste, and abuse within the program, and recommendations were given to the FCC to increase Federal safeguards. The GAO’s report did not identify the subsidies to Tribal areas as a source of concern for waste within the Program, however, initiatives such as the National Verifier and other various reform implementations have already begun or taken place, which address and improve many of the issues revealed but the GAO’s findings. In response to the report, Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, added that “much of GAO’s investigation took place before the FCC adopted its latest reforms.”

The Lifeline Program has experienced much-needed reform in recent years to combat issues of waste, fraud, and abuse within the Lifeline Program; to this, Pallone pointed out that “As an Energy & Commerce Democratic Staff Report found last year, the FCC has already reined in a billion dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse that was allowed under Bush-era changes to the program.”

The FCC has been diligent to address issues within the Lifeline Program that compromise its integrity. There is some speculation Pai’s proposal regarding Tribal subsidies.

Opposition to Pai’s Proposal for FCC Changes to Tribal Lifeline

The opposition to Pai’s proposal are concerned about the removal of the added subsidies for Tribal Americans.

Pallone expressed his concern over the FCC proposed Lifeline changes from the current Chairman that will negatively affect those living on Tribal lands, adding that “Struggling families across the country depend on this program, this proposal would rip the phones from their hands […] This is another unfortunate example of the FCC trying to avoid congressional oversight when it chooses to act against the people it is sworn to help.”

Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss of The Benton Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting communication in the public interest, added comment in a statement about the proposal, that “Pai is gutting the only Universal Service Fund program that directly benefits consumers instead of carriers. His changes will mean fewer low-income households are served by fewer competitive options.

“At the very least, we hope that the FCC will take the time to do an economic analysis around the impact of the FCC changes to Tribal Lifeline. Many, many Lifeline recipients are U.S. veterans who fought for our flag. Chairman Pai appears to be waiving the white flag of surrender for their connected future.”

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Lee SchaferFCC Proposed Lifeline Changes Affect Tribal Areas
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National Verifier Update

<H2>National Verifier Initial Launch States & Eligibility Verification Data Sources</H2>
USAC announced the initial group of states that will roll into the National Verifier and the automated eligibility verification data sources that the National Verifier will use for each state. The initial launch states are:
  1. Colorado (automated data sources: SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing)
  2. Mississippi (automated data sources: SNAP, Federal Public Housing)
  3. Montana (automated data sources: Federal Public Housing)
  4. New Mexico (automated data sources: SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing)
  5. Utah (automated data sources: SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing)
  6. Wyoming (automated data sources: Federal Public Housing)
IN THIS ISSUE
NV Initial Launch States
Website Update
NLAD Instructional Videos
ZIP Code Requests
Lifeline Claims System
Reverification Elections
FCC Form 497 Reminder
Lifeline Program Webinar
If one of the automated data sources can’t verify the subscriber’s eligibility, the National Verifier will prompt the subscriber to submit documentation via the web portal (or via mail) to the Lifeline Support Center, which will conduct a manual review of their eligibility documentation. Visit our website to learn more about the National Verifier.
Service providers that do business in the initial launch states received an email from USAC last month with an invitation to a check-in call, and sign-up links for training/on boarding sessions. If you are a service provider in the initial launch states and have not heard from USAC, please contact us immediately at [email protected] to receive future communications.
Website Update: Eligibility Verification Process by State
USAC updated the Verification Process by State web page in the Verify Subscriber Eligibility section of the website to include additional information.
For each state with a state-specific process, the page included (1) the state’s process for eligibility verification, (2) date sources available to service providers, and (3) whether the state’s system/process complies with the streamlined federal eligibility criteria effective December 2, 2016.
NV Reverification Elections Due Nov. 1
Service providers in the National Verifier’s initial launch states – Colorado, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – are required to provide eligibility documentation for subscribers who do not pass the automated eligibility check when their records are uploaded into the National Verifier. Those service providers have the option to elect USAC to collect the eligibility documentation on their behalf.
Elections are due on Novemeber 1, 2017. Contacts in the initial launch states will receive a separate email with information on how to elect USAC. For questions about the election process, please email [email protected].
USAC-elected reverification requires close coordination between USAC and the service provider throughout the process. To prepare for the USAC-elected process, make sure the contact information for each consumer record is up-to-date in NLAD.
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Lee SchaferNational Verifier Update
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FCC Public Notice Released on Lifeline Program Changes and 2018 Lifeline Budget

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) released a public notice (see below) last week specifying the new standards of speed and usage allowances for Lifeline-supported services. The changes take effect December 1, 2017 and are part of requirements outlined in the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order. Included in the FCC notice is the program’s 2018 budget for federal universal service support.

Read the Public Notice on the December 1, 2017 Changes to Lifeline

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/FCC-WCB-Public-notice-06262017.pdf”]

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Lee SchaferFCC Public Notice Released on Lifeline Program Changes and 2018 Lifeline Budget
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USAC Submits 2017 National Verifier Plan for Lifeline Program to FCC

Updates to the November 2016 Draft of the National Verifier Plan have been submitted to the FCC and the January 2017 National Verifier Plan is available to review.

The rollout of this plan estimates that the system, which will replace annual Lifeline recertification and the FCC Form 497, will begin implementation on December 31 of this year and be effective in all states and territories by December 31, 2019 pending FCC approval.

The 2017 National Verifier Plan includes updates that have been made based on input from entities within the Lifeline Industry. Upon release of the November 2016 Plan’s draft, USAC opened the floor to concerns and comments that aided them in making revisions, reflected in the recently submitted version seen below. If you are interested in submitting feedback about the 2017 National Verifier Plan, you can send your comments via email to: [email protected].

Please note that all pages marked with “Updated” in the top right corner represent updated slides from the 2016 draft of the plan.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/National-Verifier-Plan-2017.pdf”]


Read More: http://www.lifelinenationalverifier.org/
Source: http://usac.org/li/tools/national-verifier/default.aspx

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Jordan AxtUSAC Submits 2017 National Verifier Plan for Lifeline Program to FCC
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