At its Open Meeting yesterday, the FCC adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Order on Reconsideration, Second Report and Order, and Memorandum Opinion and Order expanding the Lifeline program to support broadband services. The text of the Order has not been released. However, based on the discussion at the Open Meeting, it appears that the Rulemaking portion of the document will seek comment on the following:
- Establishing minimum service standards for both voice and broadband service;
- Whether broadband should be a required offering for Lifeline providers;
- Adopting a permanent support amount of $9.25 per month;
- Establishing a third party administrator to determine consumer eligibility for Lifeline service;
- Coordinating with other federal programs and state agencies to educate consumers about the Lifeline program and potentially enroll them in the program;
- Offering direct subsidies to consumers through vouchers;
- Adopting a budget for the program;
- How to encourage more competition to improve price and service; and
- Adopting metrics to track the effectiveness of the program.
The “order” portions of the document adopt various reforms to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse. They include:
- Establishing a uniform snapshot date each month for ETCs to calculate their number of subscribers for reimbursement purposes;
- Eliminating the requirement that ILECs resell retail Lifeline discounted services;
- Limiting reimbursement to ETCs directly serving Lifeline customers;
- Changes to the Tribal Lifeline program to better align the lines eligible for Tribal Lifeline support to those recognized by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs as being within Tribal boundaries; and
- Requiring ETCs retain documentation of consumer eligibility.