All posts tagged: minimum service standards

Minimum Service Standard Proposal by FCC Threatens Low Income Access to Wireless Connectivity

FCC Releases Statement on Plans for December 2020 Minimum Service Standard Increase

Last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement regarding changes to minimum service standards within the Lifeline program. “Starting Dec. 1, Lifeline’s mobile carriers will have to offer 4.5 GB of data each month, up from 3 GB,” Chairman Pai stated. The increase in monthly data stems from the recent COVID-19 pandemic, making access to viable service more significant than ever. 

Proposed Minimum Service Standard Increase Will Impact Consumer Access to Wireless Services

This new proposal has caused a great deal of controversy among organizations that strive to assist low-income customers with wireless, wireline, and broadband service through the Lifeline Program. The problem here lies with the fact that the program runs on a subsidy amount of $9.25 each month to help aid its customers. “Plans including that much data cost $25 to $40 per month,” said lawyer John J. Heitmann, who represents the National Lifeline Association (NaLA). 

Many nonprofit organizations are facing this exact same issue right now trying to balance the consumers’ need for more internet access with the available funding. Heitmann also stated,

“There is simply no evidence in the docket to suggest that a 50% increase in the required mobile broadband data – with no corresponding increase in subsidy support – can be provided without forcing a copay on consumers.” 

In August, NaLA conducted a survey of 7,706 Lifeline subscribers asking whether they could afford a copay to remain connected to the service. The results showed that 85% of the subscribers said they could not afford a copay, and one in 10 of the customers also reported they are currently unemployed.

Digital Divide at Risk of Widening due to Proposed FCC Changes

The issue now remains with how Lifeline and other organizations that also assist low-income consumers will continue to provide the best possible service with a lack of government funding. The inability to provide reliable, affordable service poses a bigger issue in regard to the digital divide. In an interview with the Herald-Tribune Heitmann stated,

“There are two aspects of the digital divide. One is where there aren’t any high-speed networks. The other is where we have high-speed networks but people just can’t afford the services over them. And it’s the latter problem that’s the bigger problem in the United States. And it’s been made bigger by COVID.”

For years these organizations have strived to meet consumers’ needs. With these new challenges arising due to COVID-19, Lifeline and these other organizations could be facing a major financial crisis down the line with the lack of proper funding.

For more information, visit https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/local/2020/09/28/fccs-lifeline-program-free-phone-and-internet-confronts-crisis/5762068002/

 

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Lee SchaferMinimum Service Standard Proposal by FCC Threatens Low Income Access to Wireless Connectivity
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Lifeline Minimum Service Standards Increase Effective December 1, 2018

December 1, 2018 – New Lifeline minimum service standards are in effect today, as stated in the FCC’s 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order. The Order (FCC 16-38) aimed to modernize Lifeline to support broadband and establish an automatic update to the Lifeline minimum service standard for mobile voice service through November 30, 2018.

Newly Effective Lifeline Minimum Service Standards

The new standards, effective December 1, 2018 are as follows:

  • Mobile broadband (data): 2 GB/month of 3G mobile technology
  • Mobile voice: 1,000 minutes per month
  • Fixed (home) broadband: 18/2 Mbps –*There is an exception if the service provider does not offer any generally available residential fixed broadband packages at the subscriber’s residence that meet this standard (in this case, the service provider can receive support for the highest-performing, fixed broadband residential offering of at least 4 Mbps/1Mbps)
  • Fixed (home) broadband: 1,000 GB of usage per month
  • Fixed (home) voice: No minimum service standard

How Will the Lifeline Minimum Service Standards Affect Lifeline Participants?

The increase in minimum standards for data has increased from 1GB/month to 2GB/month, while voice users see an increase in the minimum from 500 to 1,000 minutes. The doubling of these standards is a step towards the future for low income Americans who participate in the program. 

The 2016 Order, which initiated the gradual service standard increases, was created with the intent to phase-out voice-only subsidy in an effort to increase focus on providing broadband, on which Americans are becoming increasingly reliant.

2019 Lifeline Budget Determination

In addition to the changes in minimum service standards, the 2016 Lifeline Order adopted an initial budget of $2.25 billion for the calendar year beginning January 1, 2017. The Order stated that the budget amount would be indexed to inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index for all items from the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics in subsequent years.

In accordance with this formula for determination, the Wireline Competition Bureau announced via the July 2018 FCC Public Notice that “the indexed budget for federal universal service support for the Lifeline program for the calendar year beginning […] January 1, 2019, will be $2,327,114,250.”

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Lee SchaferLifeline Minimum Service Standards Increase Effective December 1, 2018
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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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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.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-11-26-48-am
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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