All posts tagged: Lifeline

FCC News: Chairman Pai On Recent Federal Lifeline Program Order

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement addressing the controversy surrounding the Order on Reconsideration of Lifeline Broadband Provider designations, clarifying his support of bridging the digital divide. In the statement, Pai cites his first two proposals as FCC Chairman as evidence of his commitment to the Federal Lifeline Program, a program that helps underserved and low-income individuals and families gain access to crucial telecommunication services.

“One of them [the proposals] would direct billions of dollars […] over a decade toward making sure that all parts of this country have 4G LTE coverage. […] The other would allocate nearly $2 billion […] for advancing fixed broadband service across the country. With more connectivity, more Americans than ever before will have digital opportunity,” Pai stated.

Behind the Lifeline Broadband Reconsideration

FCC Chairman Pai’s statement notes that the decisions regarding the broadband designations made by the prior FCC disregarded the processes for approving applications like these, and that many were approved “in the last days of the Administration (two days before Inauguration Day), over the objections of two of the four Commissioners.”

Additionally, the Chairman’s statement reiterates that this order is not contradictory to the efforts of the Lifeline Program. The order applies only to 9 of the 900+ providers participating in the Lifeline Program. Pai asserts that the reconsideration of these newly designated Lifeline Providers, all but one of which did not yet have any customers, should have very little effect on the consumers that the Federal Lifeline Program aims to assist.

The Future For Lifeline Broadband Providers

The FCC proposes focusing on strengthening the integrity of the Federal Lifeline Program, first and foremost. In his statement, the Chairman reminds the public that “every dollar that is spent on subsidizing somebody who doesn’t need the help […] does not go to someone who does [need the help].”

The National Verifier, a new database to assist in the verification of eligibility in Lifeline Program participation will be a large step in the right direction for strengthening the integrity of the Lifeline Program, but it is estimated that this will not will not be fully integrated until 2019.

The integration of the National Verifier will greatly eliminate fraud/waste within the Lifeline Program. Thus, understandably would serve as a great precursor to the expansion of Lifeline Broadband through the designation of new Lifeline Broadband Providers, assuring that available resources are most efficiently allocated to those who in need of the services the Lifeline Program can offer.

Source: https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/blog/2017/02/07/setting-record-straight-digital-divide
(original article was posted on Medium.com)

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Jordan AxtFCC News: Chairman Pai On Recent Federal Lifeline Program Order
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Benefit Port Freeze, Lifeline Modernization Order

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.

port-freeze

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.

 

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Lee SchaferBenefit Port Freeze, Lifeline Modernization Order
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WCC NaLA Workshop 2016

Finalized Schedule Released

NaLA is honored to be a 2016 partner of the Wholesale Connectivity Convention in Dallas this month. Speakers from various sects within the Lifeline industry will be discussing important topics and upcoming changes to Program Requirements, such as Rolling Recertifications, Benefit Port Freeze, Lifeline-supported Broadband, and California Lifeline. Below is an overview of the schedule for the November 14 workshop, including the Panel Discussion topics that have been selected.

2016 WCC NALA WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

1:00 – 1:30pm Registration
1:30 – 1:50pm Opening Remarks
2:10 – 2:55pm New Reform, New Lifeline, New Opportunity
2:55 – 3:10pm California Lifeline Update
3:10 – 3:40pm California Lifeline – Is More Better?
4:00 – 4:30pm NaLA Certified ISO Program
4:30 – 5:00pm NaLA Approved Phones
5:00 – 6:00pm Open Discussion (Townhall-style)

 

Some of the guest speakers include representatives of CGM, Kelley Drye & Warren Law Firm, and various spokespersons from ETCs such as enTouch Wireless, Life Wireless, and Assist Wireless will participate in the Panel Discussions.

This event is offered at no cost – there are spaces still available – REGISTER NOW to join the discussion.

For those interested in attending the Wholesale Connectivity Convention (November 14-16), NaLA Members are being offered a 15% discount on registration. View pricing and registration for the full WCC event on the WCC website for more information.

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For questions about the NaLA workshop or the WCC event, e-mail [email protected]

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Lee SchaferWCC NaLA Workshop 2016
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Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) Designation, Minimum Service Standards

On September 30, 2016, the FCC released a Public Notice (DA 16-118) that offers additional guidance from the Wireline Competition Bureau to entities seeking Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) designations for the Lifeline program. Included in the notice are minimum service standards for Lifeline-supported Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS), and guidelines that will be applicable to LBPs and eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) seeking Lifeline reimbursement.

Read the PDF of the FCC Notice (DA 16-118) on LBP Minimum Service Standards:

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.nalalifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/DA-16-1118A1.pdf”]


Source: http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0930/DA-16-1118A1.pdf

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Lee SchaferLifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) Designation, Minimum Service Standards
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CA Governor Approves PUC Port Freeze Rule for Lifeline

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.

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[ 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.

DIGEST KEY

Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: yes   Local Program: no  

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1.

Section 878.5 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

878.5.

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.
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Lee SchaferCA Governor Approves PUC Port Freeze Rule for Lifeline
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Broadband: A Lifeline for the 21st Century

March 8, 2016 – 11:00 am
By Tom Wheeler | FCC Chairman

Mignon Clyburn | Commissioner

If you’re reading this blog, youve probably come to take Internet access for granted. Without even thinking about it, millions of us go online multiple times daily, to check e-mail, catch up on the news, or shop or stream our favorite shows while the kids research their homework assignments on the Web. Now imagine if that Internet connection were severed. Almost every aspect of your life would be disrupted: how you keep in touch with friends and family; how you do your job; how you get news and entertainment; how you make informed financial decisions. More than sixty-four million Americans, however, don’t have to imagine life without an Internet connection; they live on the wrong side of the digital divide.

The biggest reason these Americans don’t sign up for broadband is cost. Only half of the nation’s households in the lowest income tier subscribe to broadband. And 43 percent of all people who don’t subscribe to broadband at home say that affordability is the reason. Of the low income consumers who have subscribed to mobile broadband, 44% have to had cancel or suspend their service due to financial constraints and for those whose only access to the Internet is their smart phone, 48% have had to cancel or shut off service for a period of time due to financial hardship.

We can recite statistics all we want, but we must never lose sight of the fact that what we’re really talking about is people – unemployed workers who miss out on jobs that are only listed online, students who go to fast-food restaurants to use the Wi-Fi hotspots to do homework, veterans who are unable to apply for their hard-earned benefits, seniors who can’t look up health information when they get sick.

Internet access has become a pre-requisite for full participation in our economy and our society, but nearly one in five Americans is still not benefitting from the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history.

We can do better. We must do better. Indeed, Congress told us to do better.  By modernizing the FCC’s Lifeline program, we will do better.

Lifeline was established in 1985 to help low-income Americans afford access to vital communications, and the program has allowed tens of millions of Americans to afford basic phone service. But at a time when our economy and lives are increasingly moving online and millions of Americans remain offline, it doesn’t make sense for Lifeline to remain focused only on 20th century voice service.

Today, we are putting forward a proposal to help close the broadband affordability gap by modernizing the FCC’s Lifeline program. There are three central facets of this reform plan.

First, it re-orients Lifeline for the broadband era and sets minimum service standards for voice and broadband. That way Lifeline subscribers will be able to take full advantage of the many benefits reliable Internet access can bring – from jobs to education to healthcare, and the hard-working Americans who support the program won’t be paying for second-rate service.

Second, it improves Lifeline’s management and design. We streamline program rules and eliminate outdated or unnecessary regulations to reduce administrative burdens and make it easier for broadband providers to participate. This provides them with a good business case for participation – and provides Lifeline consumers with more competitive options. By increasing competition and bringing market forces to bear on the program, we get at the heart of the historic issues that have undermined the program’s efficiency. In short, we get more bang for our Lifeline buck and ensure low income consumers have access to services comparable to what the rest of us are fortunate to enjoy

Third, it shuts the door on the program’s final remaining vulnerability. We establish a National Eligibility Verifier as a powerful check against waste, fraud, and abuse. The program we inherited allowed Lifeline providers to verify the eligibility of their subscribers. This is both an administrative burden for providers, and an opportunity for unscrupulous marketers to admit ineligible consumers. The National Eligibility Verifier solves this problem by creating an independent third party to establish an efficient system of eligibility verification, lifting burden and foreclosing fraud. This verifier will use existing trusted programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to determine eligibility. The independent Verifier has the added benefits of increased subscriber portability, which means more consumer choice.  The result is a more dignified process for enrollment that better protects consumer privacy and security.

Finally, a few points on how we got here.

Throughout this process, some have told us to wait, pointing to waste, fraud, and abuse that resulted when, during the Bush Administration, Lifeline was opened for wireless service. They are ignoring the fact that the FCC’s 2012 reforms, in particular the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD), are already working to eliminate the waste previous program designs permitted. Indeed, annual Lifeline payouts have decreased by over 30 percent since 2012, due largely to these reforms. But, more importantly, these voices are ignoring the fact that low-income households are falling a little further behind every day without the access to jobs, educational opportunities, services and more that broadband provides. To wait is to push these Americans further down the ladder of opportunity.

This idea that we have to pick between adopting measures that help low-income Americans or cracking down on waste is a false choice. Today’s plan does both.

This is good-government reform that puts consumers and ratepayers first by creating a market-based climate for competition, with the controls needed to guard against market abuse. We’re pleased to offer this plan to provide a pathway out poverty for low-income consumers by modernizing Lifeline for the 21st Century.

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Lee SchaferBroadband: A Lifeline for the 21st Century
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