FCC Releases New Lifeline Reform Order

JSI to Hold Webinar on May 26

Late last month, the FCC released the much-anticipated Lifeline Reform Order. The main focus of the Order is to modernize the Lifeline program and to make broadband more affordable for low-income Americans by allowing the $9.25 monthly support to apply to broadband service.

Webinar May 26
JSI will provide in-depth analysis on the specific impacts of the Lifeline reforms during an upcoming webinar on Thursday, May 26, 2016, at 2 p.m. Eastern. The Lifeline Reform webinar is $249 for the first five connections ($50 for each additional connection from the same company). You’ll be sent the login information and slides shortly before the webinar begins on May 26.

Order Highlights
We highlight the major changes contained in the Order below. We’ll talk about these in more detail during the webinar.

Supported Services

  • $9.25 per month for either stand-alone broadband or bundled voice and broadband (fixed or mobile)
  • Stand-alone voice service (both fixed & mobile), to be phased-out by 2021
    • Until Dec. 1, 2019 – $9.25 per month
    • From Dec. 1, 2019 to Nov. 30, 2020 – $7.25 per month
    • From Dec. 1, 2020 to Nov. 30, 2021 – $5.25 per month
    • On Dec. 1, 2021, stand-alone voice service, or voice service not bundled with broadband which meets the minimum standards, will not be eligible for Lifeline, except in cases where only one ETC Lifeline provider of voice service is in a census block. Those ETCs will still receive support at $5.25 per month for voice service.

Minimum Service Standards

  • Fixed broadband speed – 10 Mbps downstream / 1 Mbps upstream
  • Fixed broadband data usage allowance – 150 Gigabytes per month
  • Mobile broadband speed – 3G
    • Mobile broadband data usage allowance – Starting at 500 MB per month of 3G data, increasing to 2 GB per month by Nov. 1, 2018. After Dec. 1, 2019, usage standards will be set annually using Form 477 data.
    • Mobile voice service – Starting at 500 minutes per month, increasing to 1000 minutes per month, on or after Dec. 1, 2018

National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier

  • Establish a third-party National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier to make eligibility determinations and perform a variety of other functions necessary to enroll eligible subscribers into the Lifeline Program.
  • Key objectives are to protect against and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse; to lower costs to the Fund and Lifeline providers through administrative efficiencies; and to improve the enrollment experience and give consumers better choice of providers.
  • NLAD opt-out states must provide existing subscriber information to USAC by Dec. 1, 2016.
  • USAC will deploy the National Verifier in at least five states by Dec. 31, 2017, in at least 20 additional states in 2018, and in all states by Dec. 31, 2019.

Streamlining Eligibility for Lifeline Support

  • Limits list of federal programs used to validate eligibility to those that support electronic validation, are most accountable, and best identify people needing support.
  • SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension, Tribal
  • Income-based eligibility unchanged

Increasing Competition for Lifeline Consumers

  • Opens the Lifeline program to all broadband providers, although companies must be ETCs to receive support, and establishes another classification – Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) ETCs.

Lifeline Service Innovation – Wi-Fi Capable Devices

  • Once the new rules go into effect, Lifeline providers that make devices available, with or without a charge, for use with a Lifeline-supported fixed or mobile broadband service must ensure that all such devices are Wi-Fi enabled.
  • Lifeline providers that make devices available, with or without charge, for use with a Lifeline-supported mobile broadband service must also offer devices that are capable of being used as a hotspot. Mobile hotspot requirements will be phased in from 2017-2024.

Lifeline Budget

  • Establishes a budget mechanism and sets a flexible budget of $2.25 billion annually starting January 1, 2017, and requires the Wireline Bureau to notify the FCC when spending reaches 90% of the budget.

Efficient Program Administration

  • Rolling Recertification – Lifeline customers’ eligibility will be recertified every 12 months, as measured from the subscriber’s service initiation date, instead of on a set date for all Lifeline customers.
  • Audits – All Lifeline providers will be required to undergo an audit within their first year of receiving Lifeline disbursements to check on whether the service was provided and whether the service provided met the standards in the Order.
  • Universal Lifeline Forms – Wireline Competition Bureau may propose standard Lifeline forms for certification, recertification and the one-per-household requirement.

If you have questions about Lifeline or about the webinar, please contact Lans Chase in JSI’s Georgia office at 770-569-2105, Lisa McLaughlin in our Texas office at 512-338-0473, or John Kuykendall in Maryland at 301-459-7590.

Source: JSI e-Lert