Federal Communications Commission
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20554
This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:
June 21, 2011
Mark Wigfield, 202-418-0253
FCC Reforms Lifeline Program to Eliminate Waste & Ensure Fiscal Responsibility
Changes Part of Broader Reform to Allow More Low-Income Consumers to Benefit from
21st Century Communications
Washington, D.C. Today the Federal Communications Commission strengthened protections in its
Lifeline program to eliminate and prevent waste by ensuring that multiple carriers do not get support for
serving the same consumer. The purpose of the Lifeline program is to help low-income Americans access
affordable phone service.
Increasing fiscal responsibility in Lifeline, which served 10 million low-income Americans last year, is
part of the FCC's broader, ongoing reform of Lifeline for the modern communications marketplace. The
FCC has proposed using some funds reclaimed from eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse to create a pilot
program that will evaluate Lifeline's potential to support greater broadband adoption among low-income
With job applications for 80 percent of the nation's largest companies being accepted only online, and
with most students using broadband to complete homework assignments, broadband and phone access are
critical to low-income Americans as they seek jobs and pursue education and training opportunities.
The Lifeline program has helped low-income consumers afford phone service since 1984. For much of
Lifeline's history, consumers had only one option for telephone service: their local wireline telephone
company. Changes made by the FCC in 2005 provided more competitive options for consumers, leading
to growth in Lifeline prepaid wireless subscriptions by the end of the decade. Now, about 55% of Lifeline
subsidies support competitive services, almost all of which is wireless, compared to 45% for incumbent
After determining through enhanced oversight that some subscribers have Lifeline-subsidized phone
service from multiple carriers, the FCC today clarified its rules to expressly bar more than one benefit per
subscriber, and will notify consumers with multiple subsidies that they are only allowed to have one. The
action will save potentially millions of dollars per year, helping ensure that Lifeline can reach as many
low-income consumers as possible.
Under today's action:
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) must notify consumers receiving
multiple Lifeline benefits that they are allowed to have only one Lifeline-subsidized phone
Consumers have 30 days to choose which subsidized phone service to keep
The company or companies not chosen by the consumer must de-enroll the consumer from
Lifeline within five days after notification by USAC of the consumer's choice
At the end of the process, consumers will have no more than one Lifeline phone service
A new consumer tip sheet explains further what steps lifeline consumers with multiple service providers
Docket Nos.: 11-42, 96-45, 03-109
Wireline Competition Bureau Staff Contact: Kimberly Scardino at 202-418-1442
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on the Commission's web site www.fcc.gov.