Effective Dates Set for Lifeline Rule Changes

On January 15, 2016, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had approved the new rules from the June Lifeline Order on Reconsideration and Second Report and Order. The OMB approval of the new rules will be published in the Federal Register in February.

As of now, the FCC’s rules requiring retention of proof of eligibility will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register. ETCs (and Lifeline administrators) will be required to retain not only a Lifeline customer’s proof of eligibility, but also any documentation required to reconcile an NLAD dispute for as long as the customer has Lifeline, plus three years. There has been mention of an implementation window for this rule; however, neither the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) nor the FCC has provided definitive information. As a reminder, ETCs that retain documents electronically must have strict security measures in place including firewalls and boundary protections, protective naming conventions, user authentication requirements, and usage restrictions. ETCs retaining hard copies must ensure that customers’ eligibility information is also secured (e.g., locked in a secure file cabinet).

Companies will have 180 days to implement the new FCC Form 497 first day of the month snapshot rule. That rule will not be truly effective until August. JSI, WTA, and NTCA continue to work diligently to have the FCC modify this requirement to allow wireline ETCs to use their billing dates as their snapshot dates. We hope the FCC will address this in an Order or Public Notice in the near future.

As well, rules which restrict the resale of already discounted Lifeline service also have a 180-day implementation window, making them effective in August. This change means that non-ETCs will no longer be able to acquire Lifeline-discounted phone service for their low-income consumers. Barring a redefinition of which entities are permitted to seek Lifeline reimbursement (this will be addressed in an FCC Order likely coming in February or March), CLECs must be designated as ETCs before being compensated for providing Lifeline. In addition, non-ETCs serving in states that require all LECs to offer Lifeline should consult with their state regulators to see how this new rule will impact them.

Over the coming days and weeks, we should see more clarification regarding these rule changes. We can also expect a new Order addressing Lifeline broadband, third-party eligibility verification, and other changes by the end of winter/beginning of spring.

For more information about these changes to Lifeline or anything Lifeline related, you can contact Tanea Foglia in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-­459-­7590.

Source: JSI e-Lert