Fixed broadband minimum standards also change this December

On December 1, 2019, the FCC will begin reducing the amount of Lifeline support for stand-alone voice service (or voice service that is bundled with a broadband offering that does not meet the Lifeline minimum service standard) for both fixed and mobile Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs). The support phase-down is scheduled as follows:

  • December 1, 2019 – Lifeline support of $9.25 per month for stand-alone voice service is reduced to $7.25 per month.
  • December 1, 2020 – Lifeline support for stand-alone voice service will be further reduced to $5.25 per month.
  • December 1, 2021 – Stand-alone voice service will no longer be eligible for Lifeline support, except in cases where there is only one Lifeline provider of voice service in a census block. In these census blocks, stand-alone voice service will remain eligible for $5.25 per month in Lifeline support. A list of the census blocks where there is only one Lifeline provider will be released by the FCC at least six months prior to the date on which support for stand-alone voice service is scheduled to phase down to $0 (by June 1, 2021). This list will be updated by the FCC on an annual basis.

The phase-down of the Lifeline discount will not only affect Lifeline customers with stand-alone voice service, but also will impact customers with a bundle that includes broadband service that does not meet the minimum service standards. Because of this, the updated minimum service standard for fixed broadband (20 Mbps / 3 Mbps), also scheduled to take effect December 1st, only exacerbates the impact to Lifeline customers.

Although there have been multiple petitions by telecommunications industry organizations, such as NTCA, USTelecom, and CTIA, as well as a NARUC resolution that asks the FCC to pause either the voice support phase-down or the increased minimum service standards, the FCC has yet to act on any of these petitions or resolutions. Since the likelihood that the FCC will take action in time is slim, JSI recommends that clients prepare for the voice support phase-down and the increased broadband minimum service standards.

Companies should also review existing Lifeline customers to determine if the customer is subscribed to a qualifying bundle which includes voice and broadband that meets the minimum service standards. If so, the discount can be moved to the broadband portion of the bundle and the customer’s bill will not increase as Lifeline-supported broadband remains at $9.25 per month.

Further, companies should review Lifeline tariffs to determine if a revision is necessary. If the specific $9.25 amount is listed in the tariff, the tariff will need to be revised to reflect the reduction to $7.25. If the tariff only references the FCC Lifeline rules, then revisions may not be necessary. Finally, the reduction in the monthly federal Lifeline support, the increase to the Lifeline broadband minimum service standards, or moving the support from voice to broadband will require a customer notice.

If you have any questions or would like assistance with tariff revisions or customer notifications from one of JSI’s Lifeline team members, please contact Lans Chase in JSI’s Georgia office at 770-569-2105 or Lisa McLaughlin in JSI’s Texas office at 512-338-0473.