The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court, issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
The PUC modernized and expanded the California LifeLine Program. The program revisions include extending the price cap on LifeLine wireline services and adopting specifications for LifeLine wireless services. Wireless service providers are encouraged, but not required to, offer LifeLine. Tariffed residential basic telephone service providers, including Carriers of Last Resort , must offer California LifeLine. All LifeLine telephone service plans, including bundled, promotional, and family plans, which meet or exceed the minimum service elements and are consistent with California LifeLine rules, will be eligible for the California LifeLine discounts. The PUC will defer to Phase II any discussion of VoIP service. TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers see California Bulletin dated 2/6/14.
The FCC is seeking comment on a Petition For Waiver of its Lifeline rules prohibiting retention of documentation for establishing eligibility for Lifeline service. Comments are due March 3, 2014; reply comments are due March 18, 2014. The Petition was filed by TracFone Wireless, Inc. TracFone said it will maintain the documentation on a secure server that only a few specifically-authorized employees will be permitted to access for the limited purposes of: (1) responding to USAC or FCC audits and inquiries; (2) offering proof that certain consumers are qualified to receive Lifeline benefits; and (3) conducting internal quality assurance reviews. All applicants for TracFone Lifeline service will be informed when they apply that TracFone will retain copies of the documentation provided, subject to privacy protection, and will be asked to provide informed consent.
In May 2012, TracFone filed an Emergency Petition asking the FCC to amend its rules to require all Eligible Telecommunications Carriers receiving documentation of program-based eligibility during the Lifeline enrollment process to retain such documentation for not less than three years. The FCC has not yet ruled on that Petition.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is seeking information about whether existing commercially available capabilities can provide an alternative to the government holding the metadata it collects under its bulk collection program. That program is authorized under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The request is being made as a result of President Obama’s January 17, 2014, announcement of changes to the program. As part of this effort, the President directed the development of “options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata.”
The Request For Information is intended to obtain information on U.S. industry’s existing commercially available capabilities that could provide viable alternative approaches to the current Section 215 program without the government holding the metadata, while maintaining the current capabilities of that system and the existing protections for U.S. persons. Responses to this RFI will be reviewed and may help to shape the framework for the future telephony metadata program to include the potential for non-government maintenance of that data. Responses to this RFI are due no later than 4:00pm Eastern Standard Time on February 12, 2014.