A new law in Washington will eliminate the Lifeline and TRS fees currently collected by local exchange carriers. The law also establishes a temporary state universal communications services program to be funded by legislative appropriations and codifies a court decision finding that prepaid wireless providers are required to collect and remit 911 fees.
Lifeline – Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WTAP)
The WTAP provides discounted wireline telephone services to low income residents of the state. It is currently funded by a monthly excise tax of $0.14 on each residential and business access line. Effective August 1, 2013, this tax will be eliminated. However, the program will continue and will be funded through state general fund appropriations.
Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS)
TRS is currently funded by a monthly excise tax of $0.17 per month per access line. The money is used to provide telecommunications equipment and services to persons with a hearing or speech impairment. Effective August 1, 2013, this tax will be eliminated. However, the program will continue and will be funded through state general fund appropriations.
Prepaid Wireless 911 Fees
Washington law authorizes counties to impose a $0.70 per line tax on landline, cellular, and VoIP telephone services. In addition, the state imposes a $0.25 per line tax on the same services. In 2010, the State Supreme Court ruled that prepaid wireless service is subject to the tax even though it was not expressly addressed in the statute. Effective January 1, 2014, the law will be revised to specifically include prepaid wireless service.
State Universal Communications Service Program
The new law establishes a new five-year targeted state universal communications services program (program) to support the legacy networks of rural ILECs during the transition to broadband services. It will be funded by legislative appropriations. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission opened a rulemaking to implement the new program, which will be effective from July 1, 2014, until July 1, 2019.
The Commission will be responsible for implementing and administering the program, identifying certain eligibility criteria for receiving distributions, periodically reviewing accounts and records of companies receiving distributions to ensure compliance with the program and monitoring use of the funds. It will hold a workshop on July 15, 2013, to discuss these and other issues. Comments may be submitted by August 2, 2013.
TMI’s Regulatory Bulletins dated 7/11/13 and 7/12/13 provide a more detailed report.
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