DC Court of Appeals Halts FCC’s Lifeline Program Changes

On August 10, 2018, the D.C. Court of Appeals entered a motion for stay in the Lifeline subsidy program proceeding, halting further action on the FCC’s rule changes made in the November 2017 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to limit Lifeline eligibility to rural areas and reduce support for tribal lands (FCC 17-155; WC Docket Nos. 17-287, 11-42, 09-197).

Following the NPRM, the National Lifeline Association and several wireless resellers filed a lawsuit claiming that tribal customers would lose access to vital telecommunications services. Consequently, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued the stay preventing the FCC from taking any further action pending the completion of the lawsuit, finding the stay is in the public interest as tribal populations could potentially experience a loss of telecommunications services and that the petitioners demonstrated they would suffer irreparable injury without a stay. The court held that the Commission had not shown that its new requirements will encourage development of communications infrastructure in underserved areas, and failed to show that the stay would result in significant harm to the government or public. Oral arguments are being scheduled.

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