FCC Releases Lifeline Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

In the June Open Meeting, the FCC adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Order on Reconsideration, Second Report and Order, and Memorandum Opinion and Order continuing the modernization of the Lifeline and Link Up Programs (FCC 15-71).  There are many proposals in the Second FNPRM that may impact Lifeline providers’ program obligations, and the Order on Recon and Second Report and Order adopts new rules concerning Lifeline providers’ document retention period and revisions to “snapshot date”  for the calculation and submission of subscriber information.  A brief overview of the item is provided below:

The Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Second FNPRM”) seeks to modernize the Lifeline program by building a new framework and establishing safeguards against waste, fraud, and abuse.  The Commission proposes and seeks comment on proposals surrounding several aspects of the Lifeline program including, establishing minimum service standards; third-party eligibility determinations; Tribal standards for the program; increasing competition and modernizing the Lifeline program; and administrative proponents of the program.  Most notably, the Second FNPRM proposes significant changes that could impact Lifeline providers if adopted, such as:

  • adopting enforceable minimum voice and broadband service standards;
  • shifting the responsibility of conducting eligibility determination from Lifeline providers to a trusted third-party;
  • streamlining eligibility procedures through coordination with other Federal benefit programs;
  • increasing competition and service provider participation in the Lifeline Program;
  • revising ways that providers’ Lifeline support is calculated;
  • requiring service providers to have a 24 hour customer service number that will allow subscribers to de-enroll;
  • increasing service provider participation and support for Wireless Emergency Alerts; and
  • minimizing the disruption to Lifeline subscribers during transfer of control of ETCs by adopting various notice requirements.

Comments on the Second FNPRM will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and Reply Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The Order on Reconsideration adopts rules that require ETCs to retain documentation demonstrating subscriber eligibility for the Lifeline program as well as documentation used in NLAD processes.  This documentation must be retained by ETCs for as long as the subscriber receives Lifeline service from the ETC, but no less than three years.  The Order becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The Second Report and Order adopts rules to improve the administrative aspects of the program.  In addition to increasing accountability, efficiency and transparency, the Order adopts a snapshot date for the calculation and submission of subscriber information.  The Second Report and Order will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, unless otherwise noted in the attached overview.  ETCs must transition to the new Snapshot Date within 180 days of the effective date of the Second Report and Order.

The Memorandum Opinion and Order addresses an Application for Review regarding the confidential treatment of information provided in two FCC Form 555 filings submitted to the Commission by Nexus Communications.  The effective date of the Memorandum Opinion and Order is July 6.

In addition to the adoption of the above item, Commissioner Clyburn proposed, during remarks at the New American Foundation, that the Lifeline program be renamed “iBridge Now!” in order to reflect the changes being made to the program’s framework.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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