FCC Releases Public Notice Listing Countries Exempt from Lifeline Voice Service Obligations

On July 23, 2018, the Wireline Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) released a Public Notice (the “Notice”) (DA 18-759) announcing the counties in which conditional forbearance from Lifeline-supported voice service obligations applies, beginning September 21, 2018. This conditional forbearance applies only to eligible telecommunications carriers (“ETCs”) designated to receive both high-cost and Lifeline support, and not to Lifeline-only ETCs, pursuant to the 2016 Lifeline Order.

The conditional forbearance applies in targeted areas where certain conditions are met, particularly in counties where: 1) 51% of Lifeline subscribers have broadband Internet access; 2) at least three other providers offer Lifeline broadband Internet, each serving at least 5% of the county’s Lifeline broadband internet subscribers, and; 3) the ETC does not receive federal high-cost universal service support. If an ETC in a listed county does receive high-cost support, the forbearance applies only in areas within the county where the ETC does not receive high-cost support.

The Bureau notes that this forbearance does not grant relief from Lifeline voice obligations to Lifeline subscribers served by high-cost/Lifeline ETCs, and ETCs are not precluded from providing and receiving reimbursement for Lifeline-discounted voice services.

This forbearance applies to the counties listed in the Notice until 60 days after an updated list is issued in 2019.

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