The Missouri Public Service Commission released a Staff report titled The Lifeline Program (Report). The Report reviews the low-income portion of the federal Lifeline program and the Missouri USF. This is an abbreviated look at some of the interesting facts in the Staff report.
State Program Participation
The Report identifies 42 states that maintain their own low-income program. Eight states default to the federal program: Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North & South Dakota. Colorado and Maine recently announced they were terminating their state programs and will also become default states. The Report shows that 21 states with a Lifeline program use state funds to provide support for that program (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Dist. Of Columbia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin).
As of the Report’s issue date (7/10/13) Staff found 43 ILECs and 26 CLECs have been designated as Missouri ETCs enabling them to receive federal and state USF funding which supports the Lifeline program.
Various Lifeline consumer enrollment methods are described in the Report. In Missouri all ETCs are required to use the same Lifeline enrollment form. States can use different methods for enrolling consumers into the Lifeline program. According to the Report, some states (e.g., Florida, Nebraska, and Idaho) require that a consumer simultaneously apply to a qualifying low-income program and the Lifeline program. Some states remove the ETC from the enrollment process and a third party receives the consumer’s completed Lifeline enrollment form for processing (e.g., California, Vermont, Texas, Oregon, and Utah).
Recent FCC Lifeline reforms require that an ETC annually verify the continued eligibility of all of its Lifeline subscribers. Beginning in 2013 ETCs have the option of having USAC verify the eligibility of existing Lifeline subscribers. If an ETC wants USAC to handle the annual verification, it had to provide notice to USAC by June 21, 2013.
The FCC intends to establish a national database by the end of 2013 that companies may use to determine the eligibility of Lifeline applicants (intended to prevent duplicate support). Staff reported that a number of states currently use a state database to verify a Lifeline applicant’s eligibility (Florida, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Arkansas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Washington, South Carolina, Nebraska, and Vermont). Six additional states anticipate providing database access to ETCs by the end of this year (North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania).
States Option Out of National Database
Staff determined that four states (California, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont) have received FCC approval to opt-out of the anticipated National Lifeline Accountability Database.
States’ Roles in Program Administration
The Report touched on recent activity at state legislatures and state commissions in re-examining their role in administering the Lifeline program. In its analysis, Staff found that several states repealed statutes/rules relating to a Lifeline program; some are investigating reforms to the program; and others have opened investigations of the impact of the FCC’s Lifeline reforms on the state’s program.
Staff’s Report also includes a number of exhibits:
- Companies Offering Lifeline Service in Missouri
- Template Used by Missouri PSC Staff to Evaluate ETC Applications
- Lifeline Subscriber Quantities for Missouri and Nationwide (2001-2013)
- Lifeline Subscriber Quantities by State
- Federal Lifeline Funding by State
- Federal Lifeline Funding Support to Missouri ETCs (10/11 – 3/13)
- Data Requests Sent to All Companies Offering Lifeline Service (June/July 2011)
- Data Requests Sent to 15 Wireless Carriers (December 2011)
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