There have recently been significant changes in the Lifeline program. This certainly affects consumers who benefit from the program, but broadband providers will also have to adjust. One of the biggest changes these providers will face involves FCC Form 497 and the reimbursement process. This guide will assist during this transition phase and well into the future.
What Is FCC Form 497?
Prior to 2018, the FCC required broadband providers to submit Form 497 to receive reimbursement for providing Lifeline services. While such services once just included phone lines, they’ve since expanded to include internet connectivity. This wasn’t the only change, however, as of now FCC Form 497 has become obsolete.
The Lifeline Claims System (LCS) replaced this form for subscribers eligible for reimbursement claims. Broadband providers can still use it for data months prior to 2018, but going forward, the LCS must be utilized. This is mandatory for taking part in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). If you’re new to the ACP, however, there are a few other things you should know.
EBB Program Participation Simplifies Moving Forward
The LCS replacing Form 497 simplifies things for broadband providers. Unfortunately, taking advantage of this simplification requires going through a complex process. Lifeline recipients typically qualify for discounted internet services under the Affordable Connectivity Program. However, there’s a process for broadband providers to start offering such services.
Providers that took part in the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program do not have to receive FCC approval. This may seem surprising to some due to differences in the EBB and ACP programs — but this is the FCC’s way of simplifying the transition. After all, the ACP is merely an expanded version of the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
The removal of FCC Form 497 requirements, expedited payments for timely reimbursement submissions, and easy approval for EBB participants are just a few of the advantages of this revised program. These changes also benefit Lifeline subscribers and eligible consumers transitioning from EBB to ACP. For businesses new to the entire program, though, there are a few hurdles.
Organizations Without Prior EBB Participation
Before broadband providers can receive reimbursement for eligible customers, they must first sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program. Many of the requirements are the same that existed for EBB participation. A company that did not already go through this process, however, must take the following steps:
- Sign up on the System for Reward Management (SAM)
- Sign up for an FCC Registration Number (FRN)
- Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) should submit ETC designation to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)
- Non-ETCs must apply for FCC approval for program participation
- Providers that don’t use National Verifier must get FCC approval for the use of an alternative eligibility verification process
- Submit an Affordable Connectivity Program election notice to the USAC
This no doubt seems like a complex process, and that’s because it is. Those who have participated in the program have a long history of dealing with Form 497 and countless other hurdles. Fortunately, many of these difficulties have been removed with the new program. Once a broadband provider qualifies for the ACP, though, things can still be difficult moving forward.
What Is ACP Subscription Management?
Inteserra has provided subscription management for providers offering Lifeline service and the Emergency Broadband Benefit. This means we’ve seen aspects of the program — such as Form 497 — come and go.
We also know that for broadband providers, qualifying under the Affordable Connectivity Program isn’t the end of their work. These providers must help subscribers either sign up for the program or transition from EBB. On top of this, it’s necessary to deal with the National Verifier and with reimbursements.
While the removal of Form 497 certainly simplified things, it didn’t remove all the complex processes involved in Lifeline and ACP, which is why providers often outsource these processes to a provider like Inteserra so that they can focus on their core business. The solutions offered by Inteserra allow you to organize and administer your enrollment processes, track subscribers to the program, and handle management and submission of reimbursements.
Contact us today to learn how to get started.