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FCC Reforms, Modernizes Lifeline Program for Low-Income Americans

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Released: February 6, 2012

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-11

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
)
)

Lifeline and Link Up Reform and
)
WC Docket No. 11-42
Modernization
)
)

Lifeline and Link Up
)
WC Docket No. 03-109
)
Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service
)
CC Docket No. 96-45
)
Advancing Broadband Availability Through
)
WC Docket No. 12-23
Digital Literacy Training
)
)

REPORT AND ORDER AND FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING

Adopted: January 31, 2012

Released: February 6, 2012

Comment Date: (30 days after date of publication in the Federal Register)
Reply Comment Date: (60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register)

By the Commission: Chairman Genachowski issuing a statement; Commissioner Clyburn approving in
part, concurring in part and issuing a statement; Commissioner McDowell approving in part, concurring
in part, dissenting in part and issuing a statement.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Heading
Paragraph #
I.
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................. 1
II. BACKGROUND .................................................................................................................................... 5
III. PERFORMANCE GOALS AND MEASURES .................................................................................. 24
A. Ensure the Availability of Voice Service for Low-Income Americans ......................................... 27
B. Ensure the Availability of Broadband Service for Low-Income Americans ................................. 33
C. Minimize the Contribution Burden on Consumers and Businesses............................................... 37
IV. VOICE SERVICES ELIGIBLE FOR DISCOUNTS ........................................................................... 44
V. SUPPORT AMOUNTS FOR VOICE SERVICE ................................................................................ 51
VI. CONSUMER ELIGIBILITY & ENROLLMENT ............................................................................... 60
A. Uniform Eligibility Criteria ........................................................................................................... 62
B. One-Per-Household........................................................................................................................ 69
1. Background.............................................................................................................................. 70
2. Discussion................................................................................................................................ 74
C. Certification of Consumer Eligibility for Lifeline ......................................................................... 91
1. Background.............................................................................................................................. 93
2. Discussion................................................................................................................................ 97
a. Initial and Annual Certification Requirements ................................................................. 97

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b. Annual Re-Certification of Consumer Eligibility........................................................... 129
D. Tribal Lifeline Eligibility ............................................................................................................. 149
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 150
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 153
E. Electronic Signature and Interactive Voice Response Systems ................................................... 167
F. Automatic and Coordinated Enrollment ...................................................................................... 170
VII. REFORMS TO ELIMINATE WASTE, FRAUD & ABUSE.......................................................... 179
A. National Lifeline Accountability Database.................................................................................. 179
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 180
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 182
a. Functionality of Database and Obligations of ETCs....................................................... 188
b. USAC’s Additional Duties To Eliminate Duplicative Claims........................................ 210
c. Other Issues..................................................................................................................... 218
d. Cost ................................................................................................................................. 225
B. Toll Limitation Service Support .................................................................................................. 226
C. Link Up ........................................................................................................................................ 240
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 240
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 245
D. Subscriber Usage of Lifeline-Supported Service......................................................................... 255
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 255
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 257
E. Minimum Consumer Charges ...................................................................................................... 264
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 264
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 266
F. Marketing & Outreach ................................................................................................................. 271
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 271
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 274
G. Audits and Enforcement............................................................................................................... 283
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 283
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 285
VIII.
PAYMENT OF LOW-INCOME SUPPORT............................................................................... 300
IX. MODERNIZING THE PROGRAM .................................................................................................. 310
A. Bundled Services.......................................................................................................................... 310
B. Support for Broadband................................................................................................................. 321
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 321
2. Creation of a Pilot Program................................................................................................... 323
3. Legal Authority ..................................................................................................................... 328
4. Structure of the Pilot Program............................................................................................... 333
a. Service Provider Qualifications ...................................................................................... 334
b. Data Gathering and Sharing............................................................................................ 336
c. Duration of Pilot Program............................................................................................... 337
d. Services to Be Supported ................................................................................................ 339
e. Consumer Qualifications................................................................................................. 343
f.
Use of Pilot Program Funds ............................................................................................ 345
g. Other Factors To Be Considered..................................................................................... 350
5. Pilot Project Data Gathering and Evaluation......................................................................... 354
X. MANAGING THE SIZE OF THE LOW-INCOME FUND .............................................................. 355
XI. ELIGIBLE TELECOMMUNICATIONS CARRIER REQUIREMENTS ........................................ 361
A. Facilities-Based Requirements for Lifeline-Only ETCs .............................................................. 361
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 361
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 368
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B. Impact of New Rules on Prior Forbearance Conditions .............................................................. 382
C. Additional Rule Amendments...................................................................................................... 384
XII. APCC PETITION FOR RULEMAKING AND INTERIM RELIEF .............................................. 392
XIII. FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING................................................................. 399
A. Establishing an Eligibility Database ............................................................................................ 399
B. Advancing Broadband Availability for Low-Income Americans through Digital Literacy
Training........................................................................................................................................ 416
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 417
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 421
C. Limits on Resale of Lifeline-Supported Services ........................................................................ 448
1. Background............................................................................................................................ 448
2. Discussion.............................................................................................................................. 449
a. Limiting Lifeline Support to the ETCs Directly Serving the Lifeline Customers .......... 451
b. Re-examining the Scope of the Incumbent LEC Resale Obligation............................... 452
c. Implementation Issues..................................................................................................... 458
D. Lifeline Support Amount for Voice Service ................................................................................ 462
E. Tribal Lands Lifeline and Link Up Support................................................................................. 474
F. Adding Women, Infants, and Children Program to the Eligibility Criteria ................................. 483
G. Establishing Eligibility for Homeless Veterans ........................................................................... 486
H. Mandatory Application of Lifeline Discount to Bundled Service Offerings ............................... 488
I.
“Own Facilities” Requirements ................................................................................................... 494
J. Eligible Telecommunications Carrier Requirements ................................................................... 502
K. Record Retention Requirements .................................................................................................. 505
XIV.
DELEGATION TO REVISE RULES ......................................................................................... 507
XV.
PROCEDURAL MATTERS ....................................................................................................... 508
A. Filing Requirements..................................................................................................................... 508
B. Paperwork Reduction Act Analysis ............................................................................................. 509
C. Congressional Review Act........................................................................................................... 511
D. Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis .......................................................................................... 512
E. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis......................................................................................... 513
XVI.
ORDERING CLAUSES .............................................................................................................. 514
APPENDIX A – Final Rules
APPENDIX B – Proposed Rules
APPENDIX C – Certification Requirements for Lifeline Subscribers
APPENDIX D – Lifeline Verification Survey Results for 2011 and 2007
APPENDIX E – Initial Commenters
APPENDIX F – Reply Commenters
APPENDIX G – Further Inquiry Public Notice Commenters
APPENDIX H – Further Inquiry Public Notice Reply Commenters
APPENDIX I – USAC Disbursement Public Notice Commenters and Reply Commenters
APPENDIX J – Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
APPENDIX K – Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

I.

INTRODUCTION

1.
In this Order, we comprehensively reform and begin to modernize the Universal Service
Fund’s Lifeline program (Lifeline or the program). Building on recommendations from the Federal-State
Joint Board on Universal Service (Joint Board), proposals in the National Broadband Plan, input from the
Government Accountability Office (GAO), and comments received in response to the Commission’s
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March 2011 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,1 the reforms adopted in this Report and Order (Order)
substantially strengthen protections against waste, fraud, and abuse; improve program administration and
accountability; improve enrollment and consumer disclosures; initiate modernization of the program for
broadband; and constrain the growth of the program in order to reduce the burden on all who contribute to
the Universal Service Fund (USF or the Fund). We take these significant actions, while ensuring that
eligible low-income consumers who do not have the means to pay for telephone service can maintain their
current voice service through the Lifeline program and those who are not currently connected to the
networks will have the opportunity to benefit from this program and the numerous opportunities and
security that telephone service affords.
2.
This Order is another step in the Commission’s ongoing efforts to overhaul all USF
programs to promote the availability of modern networks and the capability of all American consumers to
access and use those networks. Consistent with previous efforts, we act here to eliminate waste and
inefficiency, increase accountability, and transition the Fund from supporting standalone telephone
service to broadband.2 In June 2011, the Commission adopted the 2011 Duplicative Program Payments
Order
, which made clear that an eligible consumer may only receive one Lifeline-supported service,
established procedures to detect and de-enroll subscribers receiving duplicative Lifeline-supported
services, and directed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to implement a process to
detect and eliminate duplicative Lifeline support—a process now completed in 12 states and expanding to
other states in the near future.3 Building on those efforts, the unprecedented reforms adopted in today’s
Order could save the Fund up to an estimated $2 billion over the next three years, keeping money in the


1 Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service et al., CC Dkt. No. 96-45 et al., Recommended Decision, 25 FCC
Rcd 15598 (Jt. Bd. 2010) (2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision); FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION,
OMNIBUS BROADBAND INITIATIVE, CONNECTING AMERICA: THE NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN (2010) (NATIONAL
BROADBAND PLAN), available at http://www.broadband.gov/plan; U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE,
REPORT TO CONGRESSIONAL REQUESTERS, GAO 11-11, TELECOMMUNICATIONS: IMPROVED MANAGEMENT CAN
ENHANCE FCC DECISION MAKING FOR THE UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND LOW-INCOME PROGRAM (2010) (2010 GAO
REPORT); Lifeline and Link Up Reform and Modernization et al.,WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking, 26 FCC Rcd 2770 (2011) (NPRM or Lifeline and Link Up NPRM). See also infra Appendices E & F
listing comments and replies.
2 See Joint Statement on Broadband, GN Dkt. No. 10-66, Joint Statement on Broadband, 25 FCC Rcd 3420 (2010).
The Commission has already made important strides in this area: the Commission has modernized the E-rate
program, by enabling schools and libraries to get faster Internet connections at lower cost. Schools and Libraries
Universal Service Support Mechanism et al.
, CC Dkt. No. 02-6 et al., Sixth Report and Order, 25 FCC Rcd 18762
(2010) (E-rate Sixth Report and Order). The Commission has established a Connect America Fund (CAF) to spur
the build out of broadband networks, both mobile and fixed, in areas of the country that are uneconomic to serve.
See Connect America Fund et al., WC Dkt. No. 10-90 et al., Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking, FCC 11-161 (rel. Nov. 18, 2011) (USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM), pets. for review
pending
, Direct Commc'ns Cedar Valley, LLC v. FCC, No. 11-9581 (10th Cir. filed Dec. 8, 2011) (and consolidated
cases). The Commission has proposed changes to the rural health care program so patients at rural clinics can
benefit from broadband-enabled care, such as remote consultations with specialists anywhere in the country. Rural
Health Care Universal Service Support Mechanism
, WC Dkt. No. 02-60, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 25 FCC
Rcd 9371 (2010) (Rural Health Care NPRM).
3 Lifeline and Link Up Reform and Modernization et al, Report and Order, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., 26 FCC Rcd
9022 (2011) (2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order); Letter from Sharon E. Gillett, Chief, Wireline
Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, to D. Scott Barash, Acting Chief Executive Officer,
Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), WC Dkt. Nos. 11-42 et al., 26 FCC Rcd 9022 (Wireline
Comp. Bur. Jun. 21, 2011) (June Guidance Letter); Letter from Sharon E. Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition
Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, to D. Scott Barash, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Universal
Service Administrative Company (USAC), WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., DA 11-1986 (2011) (December Guidance
Letter
).
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pockets of American consumers that otherwise would have been wasted on duplicative benefits, subsidies
for ineligible consumers, or fraudulent misuse of Lifeline funds.
3.
These savings will reduce growth in the Fund, while providing telephone service to
consumers who remain disconnected from the voice networks of the twentieth century. Moreover, by
using a fraction of the savings from eliminating waste and abuse in the program to create a broadband
pilot program, we explore how Lifeline can best be used to help low-income consumers access the
networks of the twenty-first century by closing the broadband adoption gap. This complements the recent
USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, which reoriented intercarrier compensation and the high-
cost fund toward increasing the availability of broadband networks, as well as the recently launched
Connect to Compete private-sector initiative to increase access to affordable broadband service for low-
income consumers.
4.
To make the program more accountable, the Order establishes clear goals and measures
and establishes national eligibility criteria to allow low-income consumers to qualify for Lifeline based on
either income or participation in certain government benefit programs. The Order adopts rules for
Lifeline enrollment, including enhanced initial and annual certification requirements, and confirms the
program’s one-per-household requirement. The Order simplifies Lifeline reimbursement and makes it
more transparent. The Commission adopts a number of reforms to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the
program, including creating a National Lifeline Accountability Database to prevent multiple carriers from
receiving support for the same subscribers; phasing out toll limitation service (TLS) support; eliminating
Link Up support except for recipients on Tribal lands that are served by eligible telecommunications
carriers (ETCs) that participate in both Lifeline and the high-cost program;4 reducing the number of
ineligible subscribers in the program; and imposing independent audit requirements on carriers receiving
more than $5 million in annual support. These reforms are estimated to save the Fund up to $2 billion
over the next three years. As part of these reforms we establish a savings target of $200 million in 2012
versus the program’s status quo path in the absence of reform, create a mechanism for ensuring that target
is met, and put the Commission in a position to determine the appropriate budget for Lifeline in early
2013 after monitoring the impact of today’s fundamental overhaul of the program and addressing key
issues in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), including the appropriate monthly
support amount for the program. Using savings from the reforms, the Order establishes a Broadband
Adoption Pilot Program to test and determine how Lifeline can best be used to increase broadband
adoption among Lifeline-eligible consumers. We also establish an interim base of uniform support
amount of $9.25 per month for non-Tribal subscribers to simplify program administration.

II.

BACKGROUND

5.
Procedural History. Ensuring the availability of communications services for low-
income households has long been a partnership among, and a significant priority for, the states, the
federal government, and the private sector.5 In May 2010, the Commission sought the Joint Board’s input


4 Throughout this document, “Tribal lands” include any federally recognized Indian tribe’s reservation, pueblo or
colony, including former reservations in Oklahoma, Alaska Native regions established pursuant to the Alaska Native
Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688), and Indian Allotments, as well as Hawaiian Home Lands—areas held in trust
for native Hawaiians by the state of Hawaii, pursuant to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, Pub. L. No.
67-34, 42 Stat. 108, et.seq., as amended (1921). This definition is consistent with the definition of Tribal lands
recently adopted in our order establishing the Connect America Fund. USF/ICC Transformation Order and
FNPRM
, FCC 11-161 at para. 197. We accordingly amend the current definition of Tribal lands for purposes of the
low-income program in section 54.400(e).
5 The Commission originally established the Lifeline and Link Up programs pursuant to its general authority under
sections 1, 4(i), 201, and 205 of the Communications Act of 1934. See Federal-State Joint Board on Universal
(continued….)
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on the Commission’s program rules governing eligibility, verification, and outreach.6
6.
In its 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, the Joint Board recommended that the
Commission: (1) encourage automatic enrollment as a best practice for all states; (2) adopt uniform
minimum verification procedures and sampling criteria that would apply to all ETCs in all states; (3)
allow states to utilize different and/or additional verification procedures so long as those procedures are at
least as effective in detecting waste, fraud, and abuse as the uniform federal procedures; (4) require ETCs
to submit the data results of their verification sampling to the Commission, the states, and USAC and
make the results available to the public; and (5) adopt mandatory outreach requirements for all ETCs that
receive low-income support.7 Additionally, the Joint Board asked the Commission to seek further
comment on whether the current eligibility requirements of household income at or below 135 percent of
the federal poverty guidelines should be raised to 150 percent; the costs and benefits of minimum uniform
eligibility requirements; the costs and benefits of database certification and verification of eligibility;
whether to expand the program to include broadband; and whether a minimum monthly rate should apply
to all Lifeline subscribers.8 The Joint Board also recommended that the Commission adopt a principle
pursuant to its section 254(b)(7) authority “that universal service support should be directed where
possible to networks that provide advanced services, as well as voice services.”9
7.
In March 2011, the Commission incorporated the Joint Board’s recommendations in a
comprehensive rulemaking to reform and modernize Lifeline.10 In addition to the specific
recommendations and issues raised by the Joint Board, the Commission sought public comment on a
number of additional ways to strengthen the program, including establishing performance goals for the
program, strengthening the program’s audit regime, granting blanket forbearance from the Act’s facilities
requirement, establishing a flat rate of reimbursement, reforming TLS and Link Up support, and
expanding Tribal Lifeline eligibility.11
8.
Subsequently, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) issued a public notice in
August 2011 to develop a more complete record on certain issues raised in the rulemaking proceeding,
including reforming the current verification methodology to better protect against waste, fraud, and abuse;
limiting the availability of Lifeline support to one discount per residential address; ensuring that only
eligible costs are supported by Link Up; and determining whether and how the program could effectively


(Continued from previous page)
Service, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd 8776, 8952-53, para. 329 (1997) (subsequent history
omitted) (Universal Service First Report and Order).
6 The Commission asked the Joint Board to recommend any changes to these aspects of the program given
significant technological and marketplace changes since the current rules were adopted. Specifically, the
Commission asked the Joint Board to review: (1) the combination of federal and state rules that govern which
customers are eligible to receive discounts through the Lifeline and Link Up programs; (2) best practices among
states for effective and efficient verification of customer eligibility, both at initial customer sign-up and periodically
thereafter; (3) the appropriateness of various outreach and enrollment programs; and (4) the potential expansion of
the low-income program to broadband, as recommended in the National Broadband Plan. See Federal-State Joint
Board on Universal Service et al.,
CC Dkt. No. 96-45 et al., 25 FCC Rcd 5079 (2010) (2010 Joint Board Referral
Order
).
7 See generally 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision.
8 See id.
9 Id, at 15625, para. 75.
10 See generally Lifeline and Link Up NPRM.
11 Id. at 26 FCC Rcd at 2782-86, 2793-96, 2800-03, 2863-64, 2811-15, paras 28-45, 65-79, 95-102, 306-309, 126-
41.
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support broadband adoption by low-income households.12
9.
The Commission adopted the additional universal service principle recommended by the
Joint Board in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM.13 In addition, the Commission revised
the definition of the supported service to be “voice telephony services.”14
10.
Since the release of the NPRM, we have made significant improvements to the
administration of the program to reduce waste. As noted above, the Commission’s 2011 Duplicative
Program Payments Order
made clear that an eligible consumer may only receive one Lifeline-supported
service,15 established procedures to detect and de-enroll subscribers with duplicate Lifeline-supported
services, and directed USAC to implement a process to detect and eliminate duplicative Lifeline
support—a process completed in 12 states which will expand to cover a majority of states over the course
of this year.16 In addition, we have worked closely with the states and the Administrator, USAC, to
strengthen enforcement and oversight of Lifeline.17
11.
History and Purpose of Low-Income Program. Universal service has been a national
objective at least since the enactment of the Communications Act of 1934, in which Congress stated its
intention to “make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States . . . a rapid, efficient,
Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable
charges.”18
12.
The Lifeline program was implemented in 1985 in the wake of the 1984 divestiture of
AT&T. Its initial purpose was to ensure that any increase in local rates that occurred following major
changes in the marketplace would not put local phone service out of reach for low-income households and
result in service disconnections.19 At the time, the Commission was concerned that the implementation of
subscriber line charge (SLC) would force low-income consumers to drop voice service, which, the
Commission found, had “become crucial to full participation in our society and economy[,] which are
increasingly dependent upon the rapid exchange of information.”20 The program made carriers whole


12 Further Inquiry Into Four Issues in the Universal Service Lifeline and Link Up Reform and Modernization
Proceeding
, Public Notice, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., 26 FCC Rcd 11098 (Wireline Comp. Bur. Aug. 5, 2011)
(Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice).
13 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 43-45. Section 254(a)(2) of the Act
requires the Commission to act on recommendations of the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service within
one year. See 47 U.S.C. § 254(a)(2). In this Order, we are acting on the remaining recommendations in the 2010
Joint Board Recommended Decision
.
14 USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 77.
15 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 9026, para. 7 (amending sections 54.401 and 54.405
to codify the restriction that an eligible low-income consumer cannot receive more than one Lifeline-supported
service at a time).
16 Id. at 9030-31, paras. 15-16.
17 See Letter from Chairman Julius Genachowski, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, to State
Commissioners, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 (Dec. 12, 2011).
18 47 U.S.C. § 151 (creating the Federal Communications Commission).
19 MTS and WATS Market Structure, and Amendment of Parts 67 & 69 of the Commission’s Rules and
Establishment of a Joint Board
, Report and Order, 50 Fed. Reg. 939 (Jan. 8, 1985) (MTS and WATS Market
Structure Report and Order
).
20 Id. at 942, para. 11. (“We adopt the Joint Board’s recommendation concerning measures to offset the effect of
subscriber line charges on low income houses. In this regard, we agree with their conclusion that the proposed
subscriber line charges should not have an adverse effect on universal service.”).
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after waiving the SLC for low-income consumers.21 Link Up was established to offset the high, non-
recurring charges assessed by incumbent local exchange carriers for commencing telephone service.22
13.
In 1996, Congress codified the Commission’s and the states’ commitment to advancing
the availability of telecommunications services to all Americans, and established principles upon which
“the Commission shall base policies for the preservation and advancement of universal service.”23
Among other things, Congress articulated national goals that services should be available at “affordable”
rates and that “consumers in all regions of the nation, including low-income consumers, . . . should have
access to telecommunications and information services.”24 Based on recommendations of the Joint
Board, the Commission revised and expanded the Lifeline program after passage of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act).25
After implementation of the 1996 Act, all states
participated in the program and the level of federal Lifeline/Link Up support steadily increased.26
14.
Since the 1996 Act, the program has been administered by USAC under Commission
direction, although many key attributes of the program are implemented at the state level, including
consumer eligibility, ETC designations, outreach, and verification. Moreover, ETCs have been integral in
the offering of the program to low-income consumers. Lifeline support is passed on to the subscriber by
the ETC, which provides discounts to eligible households and receives reimbursement from the Universal
Service Fund for the provision of such discounts.27 Lifeline now provides a discount to non-Tribal
subscribers averaging $9.25 per month for telephone charges, and Link Up provides a discount of up to
$30 on the cost of commencing telephone service for qualifying low-income households.28 For residents


21 See id.
22 See MTS and WATS Market Structure et al., CC Dkt. No. 78-72 et al., Recommended Decision and Order, 2 FCC
Rcd 2324, 2332, para. 68 (1987) (MTS and WATS Market Structure Recommended Decision and Order).
23 47 U.S.C. § 254(b).
24 See 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(1),(3); see also 47 U.S.C. § 151.
25 See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8952, paras. 326-28. The Joint Board is comprised
of FCC commissioners, state utility commissioners, and a state consumer advocate representative. See 47 U.S.C. §§
254(a)(1), 410(c).
26 See Universal Service Administrative Company, 1Q 2012 Filing, Appendices at LI 06 (Historical Data Support
Amounts Claimed by ETCs Each Month - January 1998 through June 2011), available at
http://www.usac.org/about/governance/fcc-filings/2012/quarter-1.aspx.
27 Carriers file FCC Forms 497 to receive reimbursement for providing support to eligible subscribers. See
Universal Service Administrative Company, Low-Income, Step 6: Submit Lifeline and Link Up Worksheet,
http://usac.org/li/telecom/step06/default.aspx (last visited Feb. 1, 2012). ETCs may file their Forms 497 on either a
monthly or quarterly basis, and are reimbursed by USAC on a monthly basis. These disbursements may be based on
a projection for the prior month’s support. Universal Service Administrative Company, Low-Income, Step 7:
Payment Process and Status, http://usac.org/li/telecom/step07/default.aspx (last visited Feb. 1, 2012). In order to
promote greater accuracy in low-income program payment-processing, the Commission’s Office of the Managing
Director (OMD) directed USAC to propose an administrative process for disbursing low-income support to ETCs
based on verified claims for reimbursement, rather than projected claims. In response, USAC developed and filed a
proposed plan to disburse support to ETCs based on actual claims, rather than projections. In September 2011, the
Wireline Competition Bureau sought comment on USAC’s proposal. See Inquiry into Disbursement Process for the
Universal Service Low Income Program
, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd 13131 (Wireline
Comp. Bur. 2011); Erratum (rel. Oct. 3, 2011) (Lifeline Disbursement Public Notice).
28 See Letter from Karen Majcher, Vice President, High Cost and Low Income Division, Universal Service
Administrative Company, to Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., (filed Jan. 10, 2012) (USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter) (stating that the
(continued….)
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of Tribal lands, Lifeline provides an additional $25 discount on monthly telephone charges, and Link Up
provides up to an additional $70 discount on the cost of commencing telephone service for low-income
households.29 These amounts may be supplemented by additional funding provided from state universal
service funds in some states.
15.
Evidence suggests that Lifeline has been instrumental in increasing the availability of
quality voice service to low-income consumers. Indeed, many low-income consumers have stated in our
record that without a Lifeline subsidy, they would be unable to afford service.30 They have also noted the
hardships they would face without access to phone service.31 Telephone subscribership among low-
income Americans has grown significantly since the Lifeline program was initiated in 1984. Eighty
percent of low-income households had telephone service in 1984, compared to 95.4 percent of non-low-
income households.32 Since the inception of Lifeline, the gap between telephone penetration rates for
low-income and non-low-income households has narrowed from about 12 percent in 1984 to 4 percent in
2011.33 Moreover, states that provide higher monthly Lifeline subsidies per household exhibited greater
growth in phone subscribership from 1997 to the present.34
16.
There is also evidence that Lifeline has increased the penetration rate of voice service by
keeping low-income consumers connected to the network.35 As shown in Chart 1, the gap in penetration


(Continued from previous page)
vast majority of Lifeline subscribers receive support in the $8-10 range with an average amount of $9.25 in
September 2011). In addition, ETCs may be reimbursed for the incremental costs of their provision of Toll
Limitation Service to eligible households. 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(c).
29 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.403(a)(4) (Lifeline); 54.411(a)(3) (Link Up).
30 The Commission received many letters from Lifeline subscribers, which have been placed in the record of this
proceeding, expressing their need for Lifeline as their only connection to family, health care providers, and work
opportunities. One disabled Lifeline subscriber in Tennessee describes her Lifeline service as exactly that – a
“lifeline”: “I have a 17-year old daughter with Down Syndrome. We help each other everyday [sic]. I do the
thinking and she does what she can understand...[Lifeline] provides me a way to contact help if something happens
and my daughter doesn’t understand what we might need help for... but she does understand if I tell her ‘Mommy
needs the phone.’ … it gives me peace of mind to know I can always call for help.”
31 Id.
32 See FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, INDUSTRY ANALYSIS AND TECHNOLOGY DIVISION, UNIVERSAL
SERVICE MONITORING REPORT at text accompanying table 3.2 (2011) (2011 MONITORING REPORT) (where “low-
income” is defined as households making $9,999 or less), available at
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db1229/DOC-311775A1.pdf.
33 The Commission’s telephone subscription penetration rate is based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population
Survey (CPS). The specific questions asked in the CPS are: “Does this house, apartment, or mobile home have
telephone service from which you can both make and receive calls? Please include cell phones, regular phones, and
any other type of telephone.” And, if the answer to the first question is “no,” this is followed up with, “Is there a
telephone elsewhere on which people in this household can be called?” If the answer to the first question is “yes,”
the household is counted as having a telephone “in unit.” If the answer to either the first or second question is “yes,”
the household is counted as having a telephone “available.” FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, WIRELINE
COMPETITION BUREAU, INDUSTRY ANALYSIS AND TECHNOLOGY DIVISION, TELEPHONE SUBSCRIBERSHIP IN THE
UNITED STATES at 2 (Dec. 2011) (2011 WCB SUBSCRIBERSHIP REPORT).
34 See 2011 MONITORING REPORT at Chart 3.12.
35 See Letter from Matthew Brill, Counsel, Cricket, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission,WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Dec. 1, 2011) (noting that, in any given month, a substantially smaller
percentage of Cricket’s Lifeline subscribers deactivate their accounts—as compared to Cricket’s non-Lifeline
subscribers and arguing that “this disparity confirms that the Lifeline subsidy has a significant positive impact on the
(continued….)
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rates between households earning less than $10,000 and all households has steadily narrowed since the
inception of Lifeline. When consumers are able to only intermittently remain on the network, they are not
fully connected to society and the economy because, among other things, they are unable to apply for and
receive call-backs for jobs or reach important social services, health care, and public safety agencies on a
constant basis. The Commission has found that the low-income program “provide[s] the best source of
assistance for individuals to obtain and retain universal service, and, therefore, help maintain and improve
telephone subscribership”36 and fulfill our obligations under section 254 of the Act.
Chart 137
17.
There are substantial benefits to increasing the availability of communications services,
including both voice and broadband service, for low-income Americans. As an initial matter, all
consumers, not just low-income consumers, receive value from the network effects of widespread voice
and broadband subscribership.38 Moreover, voice service remains a prerequisite for full participation in
our economy and society.39
Those consumers without affordable, quality voice services are at a


(Continued from previous page)
ability of Cricket’s low-income subscriber base to maintain continuous access to the PSTN.”) (Cricket Dec. 1 ex
parte
Letter).
36 Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8845, para. 124 (emphasis added).
37 2011 MONITORING REPORT at Table 3.2 (for 1997 to 2011 data); 2011 WCB SUBSCRIBERSHIP REPORT at Table
6.14 (for 1984-1996 data). In FCC statistical reports, “low-income” is defined as those subscribers earning $9,999
or less in 1984 dollars. See 2011 MONITORING REPORT AT 3-12. $9,999 in 1984 dollars is equal to $21,780 in 2011
dollars. See id. at Table 3.3.
38 See One Economy Comments at 12 (“While individuals will discover personal socioeconomic gains from
adoption of broadband, a population of broadband adopters will lead to significant progress around strengthening
educational outcomes, increasing innovation and entrepreneurship, reducing healthcare costs, and improving the
efficiency of government services.”).
39 See, e.g., Letter from Olivia Wein, National Consumer Law Center, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Aug. 26, 2011) (NCLC Aug. 26 ex parte Letter)
(continued….)
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disadvantage in accessing social and economic resources and opportunities. Voice service allows
consumers to connect with public safety and health care resources.40 As many commenters note, voice
service is particularly important for low-income consumers, who often must juggle multiple jobs and
interviews for new employment as well as keep in contact with social service agencies.41 As noted by
several members of Congress, “a cell phone can literally be a Lifeline for families and provide low-
income families, in particular, the means to empower themselves.”42 If quality voice service is not
affordable, low-income consumers may subscribe to voice service at the expense of other critical
necessities, such as food and medicine, or may be unable to purchase sufficient voice service to obtain
adequate access to critical employment, health care, or educational opportunities.43 And if low-income
consumers initially subscribe to phone service, but intermittently lose access because they cannot
consistently pay for the service, many of the benefits for individuals and the positive externalities for the
economy and society will be lost.
18.
Access to affordable, robust broadband service is equally important.44 As stated in the
USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, “[a]ll Americans should have access to broadband that is
capable of enabling the kinds of key applications [that drive broadband adoption] . . . including education
(e.g., distance/online learning), health care (e.g., remote health monitoring) and person-to-person
communications (e.g., VoIP or online video chat with loved ones serving overseas).” Indeed, the
evidence indicates that increased broadband adoption and usage increases educational and economic
outcomes for low-income consumers.45 As one commenter argues, “broadband access is a prerequisite of


(Continued from previous page)
(noting that “access to phone service is a necessity in modern times.”); Letter of Dr. George Korn, Rainbow/Push
Coalition, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1-2
(arguing that “[w]ithout phone service, the most basic processes and activities become difficult, limiting options and
possibilities for the poor and pushing them to the fringe of society.”).
40 Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 9 (noting the importance of voice service for public safety); Letter from
Professor David Super, Georgetown Law, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission,
WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 3-4 (filed Nov. 7, 2011) (Prof. Super Nov. 7 ex parte Letter); see also MTS and WATS
Market Structure Report and Order
, 50 Fed. Reg. at 941 (“Significant increases in the price of basic telephone
service could isolate many of the elderly and poor by depriving them of the ability to obtain medical and police
assistance or communicate with family and friends.”).
41 See, e.g., NCLC Aug. 26 ex parte Letter at 1 (noting that “phone service is key to helping low-income consumers
find work, housing, access and maintain contact with health care professionals and education providers, accessing
emergency services, as well as remaining connected to support networks such as family and friends and community
services.”).
42 Letter from Senators Robert Menendez, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown, and & Jeanne Shaheen, to Hon.
Julius Genachowski, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, OL Dkt. No. 11-9 (filed Sept. 13, 2011).
43 See generally Prof. Super Nov. 7 ex parte Letter; see also Letter from Debra R. Berlyn, Chairperson, Federal
Communications Commission Consumer Advisory Committee, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 3 (noting the importance of the low income program to
“ease connections” to health care, education and potential employers).
44 See, e.g., One Economy Comments at 33; AT&T Reply Comments, Attachment (Attach.) at 1 (“access to
broadband leads to improved education, better health care delivery and other societal advances.”).
45 See, e.g., AT&T Reply Comments, Attach. at 1; MAG-Net Comments, Attach. A at 4 (“In some low-income areas
where laptops or netbook-like devices and home broadband connections have been provided to children, and the
technology was thoughtfully integrated into learning and instruction, research shows positive effects on student
academic performance, engagement, and attitude.”).
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social and economic inclusion.”46 However, the latest census data indicates that there is a substantial gap
in broadband adoption by income.47 The Commission has recognized this challenge and has started to
help narrow the adoption gap.48 Connect to Compete is a private-sector initiative through which the
largest cable companies will be offering low-cost broadband to families with school-aged children
receiving free school lunches.49 These actions, while important, are only first steps in addressing the
adoption gap that low-income consumers face, and we continue to encourage and support those programs
that are well underway. In this Order, we adopt an additional approach—a pilot program to explore the
most effective way to modernize the Lifeline program to provide low-income consumers access to
broadband service.
19.
Role of the States. Currently, the program operates under a patchwork of state and
federal requirements. Within the framework established by the 1996 Act and the Universal Service First
Report and Order
, each state administers its own program, which has provided the states the freedom to
experiment and to develop new ways of making the program more effective and efficient. Although
Lifeline is a federal program, its administration varies significantly among the states, including on key
policies such as eligibility and verification. There is significant variation among the states in the
percentage of eligible households participating in the program, which may be due to differing state
eligibility and verification requirements, the extent of outreach, the process for enrolling subscribers, the
number and type of ETCs in the state, support levels, and other factors.50
20.
Lifeline Providers & Subscribers. The telecommunications marketplace has changed
significantly over the last fifteen years, with a wide array of wireline and wireless services that compete
with traditional incumbent telephone companies to provide voice service51 When the program was first
established in the 1980s, mobile phones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) did not exist as a retail
consumer product, only incumbent telephone companies provided local telephone service, and the
program was designed for carriers whose rates were regulated. Today, consumers have various options
for fixed or mobile voice services, many of which are not rate regulated.


46 MAG-Net Comments at 2.
47 U.S. DEP’T OF COMMERCE, ECONS. & STATISTICS ADMIN. & NAT’L TELECOMM. & INFO. ADMIN., EXPLORING THE
DIGITAL NATION: HOME BROADBAND INTERNET ADOPTION IN THE UNITED STATES 8, available at
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/esa_ntia_us_broadband_adoption_report_11082010_1.pdf (Nov.
2011) (EXPLORING THE DIGITAL NATION).
48 See, e.g., Applications filed by Qwest Communications International Inc. and CenturyTel, Inc. d/b/a CenturyLink
for Consent to Transfer Control
, WC Dkt. No. 10-110, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 4194, 4211,
4219, paras. 35-37 (2011); Applications of Comcast Corporation, General Electric Company and NBC Universal,
Inc.
, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 26 FCC Rcd 4238, 4333, para. 233 (2011).
49 Press Release, Federal Communications Commission, FCC “Connect to Compete” Tackle Barriers to Broadband
Adoption (Nov. 9, 2011), available at http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-and-connect-compete-broadband-fact-sheet
(detailing private/non-profit partnership providing qualifying families with $9.95 monthly broadband service and
reduced price equipment).
50 See NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 172 (citing Mark Burton et al., Understanding Participation in Social
Programs: Why Don’t Households Pick up the Lifeline?
, 7 B.E. J. ECON. ANAL. & POL’Y 57 (2007), available at
http://faculty.msb.edu/jtm4/Papers/BEJEAP.2007.pdf; Janice A. Hauge et al., Whose Call Is It? Targeting Universal
Service Programs to Low-Income Households’ Telecommunications Preferences
, 33 TELECOMM. POL’Y 129, 136-38
(2009), available at http://warrington.ufl.edu/purc/purcdocs/papers/0805_Hauge_Whose_Call_Is.pdf).
51 The Commission promulgated rules under the 1996 Act that enabled competitive wireless and wireline carriers to
be designated as ETCs eligible to receive federal universal service support. See Universal Service First Report and
Order
, 12 FCC Rcd at 8969-73, paras. 364-72.
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21.
As the telecommunications industry has evolved, so too has the program. Beginning in
2005, the Commission permitted on a case-by-case basis non-facilities based providers, including prepaid
wireless carriers, to obtain low-income support from the Universal Service Fund.52 Since 2006, the
program has experienced a measurable shift in support distribution. In 2010, competitive providers (the
vast majority of which are mobile wireless providers) received nearly 55 percent of total program
support.53 Wireless Lifeline enrollment has greatly increased, consistent with the same trend toward
wireless service in the general population. The Commission recently found that 92 percent of Americans
subscribed to mobile phone service.54 More than 30 percent of adults in the general population live in
households with only wireless phones,55 while more than 45 percent of 18-24 year olds have “cut the
cord.”56 Wireless services have taken on particular importance to low-income consumers, who are more
likely to reside in wireless-only households than consumers at higher income levels.57
22.
Low-income consumers currently qualify for the program through various means,
depending upon which state the consumer resides. They either can certify or demonstrate that they are
enrolled in specific assistance programs or that their annual income falls below a specified percentage of
the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). As shown in Table 1 below, the qualifying income threshold for
Lifeline varies depending on size of the household and the particular qualifying income threshold for that
state. In eight states and two territories, households with income at or below 135 percent of the Federal
Poverty Guidelines are eligible. In twelve states and the District of Columbia, households with income at
150 percent of the FPG are eligible. Other states, including Oregon, do not permit enrollment based on
income; in these states, consumers may enroll only if they are enrolled in certain other public benefits
programs.


52 See Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; Telecommunications Carriers Eligible for Universal Service
Support; i-wireless Petition for Forbearance from 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A)
, CC Dkt. No. 96-45 et al., WC Dkt. No.
09-197, Order, 25 FCC Rcd 8784 (2010) (i-wireless Forbearance Order); Telecommunications Carriers Eligible for
Universal Service Support; Virgin Mobile USA, L.P. Petitions for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications
Carrier in the State of Alabama et al.
, WC Dkt. No. 09-197, Order, 25 FCC Rcd 17797 (2010) (Virgin Mobile 2010
ETC Order
); Virgin Mobile USA, L.P. Petition for Forbearance from 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A) et al., CC Dkt. No.
96-45, Order, 24 FCC Rcd 3381 (2009) (Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order); Federal-State Joint Board on
Universal Service; Petition of TracFone Wireless, Inc. for Forbearance
, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Order, 20 FCC Rcd
15095 (2005) (TracFone Forbearance Order). These carriers are not eligible to receive high-cost support.
53 2011 MONITORING REPORT at 2-9.
54 See Implementation of Section 6002(b) of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 et al., Fifteenth Report,
WT Dkt. No. 10-133, 26 FCC Rcd 9664, para 168 (2011).
55 See STEPHEN J. BLUMBERG & JULIAN V. LUKE, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL, NATIONAL CENTER FOR HEALTH
STATISTICS, WIRELESS SUBSTITUTION: EARLY RELEASE OF ESTIMATES FROM THE NATIONAL HEALTH INTERVIEW
SURVEY, JANUARY – JUNE 2011, at 1 (2011), available at
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/wireless201106.pdf.
56 Id. at 2-3.
57 See id. at 3 (finding that adults living in or near poverty were more likely than higher income adults to be living in
wireless-only households). Furthermore, consumers today often purchase packages of services that allow them to
call anywhere in the country, with no additional charge for long distance calling.
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Table 1 – Federal Poverty Guidelines58

Annual Income of

Annual Income of

Persons in Family or Household
135 percent FPG
150 percent FPG
1
$14,702
$16,336
2
$19,859
$22,066
3
$25,016
$27,796
4
$30,173
$33,526
23.
The Lifeline-eligible population has increased significantly over the past decade. Since
1999, real median household income in the U.S. has declined by 7.1 percent, while households at the
bottom of the income scale have seen their income decline by 12.1 percent.59 In 2010, 46.2 million
Americans were living in poverty, defined as living at or below the benchmark established in the FPG,
compared to 31.6 million in 2000.60 As household income has declined and more carriers have offered
Lifeline-supported service, the program has experienced significant growth.61 In the absence of today’s
Order, which manages the size of the Fund in part by establishing a savings target, the program would
provide an estimated $2.4 billion in support in 2012;62 that compares to an inflation-adjusted $582 million
it provided in 1998 when five million subscribers participated in the program.63 The initial growth in the
program after the implementation of the 1996 Act was due in large part to the expansion of the program
to all fifty states and the increased level of monthly per household support compared to levels prior to the
1996 Act.64 In 2000, the Commission began providing enhanced support to households on Tribal lands.65
The program continued to grow between 2001 and 2004 due, in part, to increases in the federal subscriber
line charge, to which Lifeline support levels have historically been tied.66 Meanwhile, over the years,
wireless companies increasingly sought ETC designations, providing additional options for reaching more
low-income consumers with Lifeline service. Since 2005, a number of pre-paid wireless providers have
become Lifeline-only ETCs,67 competing for low-income subscribers by marketing telephone service that


58 Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines, 76 Fed. Reg., 3637-38 (Jan. 20, 2011).
59 UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU, INCOME, POVERTY, AND HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE IN THE UNITED
STATES: 2010, at 5 (Sept. 2011), available at http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf.
60 Id. at 62.
61 Other factors have also contributed to growth in the program – for instance, some subscribers have received
duplicate support and some may have received the subsidy even though they were not eligible.
62 See infra note 956.
63 See 2011 MONITORING REPORT at Table 2.1. Adjustments for inflation were calculated using the Bureau of Labor
Statistics’ Consumer Price Index Inflation Calendar. See http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm (last
visited Feb. 2, 2012).
64 See 2010 UNIVERSAL SERVICE MONITORING REPORT at Chart 2-2.
65 See Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; Promoting Deployment and Subscribership in Unserved and
Underserved Areas, Including Tribal and Insular Areas,
CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Twelfth Report and Order,
Memorandum Opinion and Order, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 15 FCC Rcd 12208 (2000) (2000
Tribal Lifeline Order
). In 2010, $102.7 million was provided to households on Tribal lands. 2011 MONITORING
REPORT at Table 2.2.
66 Support levels grew from an inflation-adjusted $819 million in 2002 to $927 million in 2004. See 2010
UNIVERSAL SERVICE MONITORING REPORT at Chart 2-2.
67 See, e.g., TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15095; Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service;
TracFone Wireless, Inc.
, Petition for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in New York et al.,
(continued….)
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provides a specified number of minutes at no charge to the consumer.68 This development has expanded
choices in many states for low-income consumers, who now have greater access to mobile services than a
decade ago,69 but it has also led to significant growth in the Fund in the last several years, and has likely
contributed to the increasing telephone penetration rate of consumers making less than $10,000 a year.70
Pre-paid wireless ETCs now account for more than 40 percent of all Lifeline support.71 Link Up support
has also increased significantly–approximately 230 percent over the last three years. USAC projects that
it will distribute $180 million in Link Up support to ETCs in 2012 compared to $122.9 million in Link Up
disbursements in 2011 and $37.2 million in 2008.72 It is against this backdrop that we institute the
reforms below to ensure that qualifying low-income consumers can access the voice and broadband
networks of this nation to fulfill Congress’ goal of providing universal service, and the Commission’s
goal of modernizing the program, while safeguarding it from waste, fraud, and abuse and constraining the
growth of the Fund to make it more efficient and effective to better serve consumers.

III.

PERFORMANCE GOALS AND MEASURES

24.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission recognized that “[c]lear
performance goals and measures should enable the Commission to determine not just whether federal
funding is used for intended purposes, but whether that funding is accomplishing the program’s ultimate
objectives.”73
The GAO previously noted in 2010 that while the Commission had adopted some
performance measures for the low-income program, it had not quantified its goal of increasing telephone


(Continued from previous page)
Order, 23 FCC Rcd 6206 (2008) (TracFone ETC Designation Order); Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order, 24 FCC
Rcd at 3381.
68 For example, TracFone noted that the initial SafeLink Wireless offering was 68 free minutes per month until a
competitor offered 200 free minutes, to which TracFone responded with its 250-minute per month offer. See Letter
from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, Attach. at 5 (filed Dec. 7, 2010) (TracFone Dec. 7 Ex Parte Presentation).
69 NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 173. According to some, mobile phones are becoming more essential than
landline phones for low-income consumers. See, e.g., Hauge et al., supra note 50, at 2. Pre-paid wireless offerings
are often preferred by low-income or unemployed/under-employed consumers because they enable consumers to
better manage expenses. See, e.g., Nexus Comments onTracFone Link Up Petition, at Attach. 1, 6 (Declaration of
August Ankum and Olesya Denney, QSI Consulting).
70 See supra Chart 1.
71 See Universal Service Administrative Company, 1Q 2012 Filing, Appendices at LI04 (Quarterly Low-Income
Disbursement Amounts by Company (3Q2011), available at http://www.usac.org/about/governance/fcc-
filings/2012/quarter-1.aspx. For the first three quarters of 2011, two ETCs that operate as prepaid wireless resellers,
TracFone, and Virgin Mobile, together account for 40.8% of program support as of year end 2011. See id.
72 See Universal Service Administrative Company, 1Q Filing, Fund Size Projections for First Quarter 2012, at 19
(Nov. 2, 2011), ,available at http://www.usac.org/about/governance/fcc-
filings/2012/Q1/1Q2012%20Quarterly%20Demand%20Filing.pdf (detailing that USAC projects total annual 2012
Link Up support to be approximately $183.48 million); USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter at 3; 2011 Monitoring
Report at Table 2-2.
73 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2783, para 32. In 2007, the Commission adopted measures to
improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the program and noted that the key goal of the Lifeline program was to
increase phone service subscribership among low-income households. The Commission did not, however, adopt
comprehensive performance goals for the Low Income program at that time because it did not have sufficient data
available to determine what those goals should be. Comprehensive Review of the Universal Service Fund
Management, Administration, and Oversight et al.
, WC Dkt. No. 05-195 et al., Report and Order, 22 FCC Rcd
16372, 16394-95, paras. 50-51 (2007) (2007 Comprehensive Review Order).
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subscribership among low-income households and had not developed and implemented specific outcome-
based performance goals and measures for the program.74 In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the
Commission sought comment on program goals and measures related to ensuring low-income Americans
have access to voice and broadband service while minimizing the size of the program.75
25.
Clear performance goals and measures will enable the Commission to determine whether
Lifeline is being used for its intended purpose and is accomplishing the program’s objectives. We adopt
the following performance goals for both voice and broadband, as well as associated measurements,
reflecting our ongoing commitment to preserve and advance universal service: (1) ensure the availability
of voice service for low-income Americans; (2) ensure the availability of broadband service for low-
income Americans; and (3) minimize the contribution burden on consumers and businesses.
26.
While we adopt separate goals for voice and broadband service today, we are mindful of
the emergence of voice capability offered as an application over broadband service.76 A significant and
growing number of consumers are subscribing to broadband service in the home and for mobile devices.
Some consumers also are using over-the-top voice offerings such as Skype and Google Voice, with their
broadband connections for some, if not all, of their voice service needs.77 As the market evolves towards
“voice as an application” over broadband service, we believe it is appropriate for the Commission to
examine in the future whether it is appropriate to retain separate goals for voice and broadband service.

A.

Ensure the Availability of Voice Service for Low-Income Americans

27.
Goal. We adopt as our first goal ensuring the availability of voice service for low-
income Americans. We find that this goal helps effectuate Congress’s universal service directives in
sections 254(b)(1) and 254(b)(3) of the 1996 Act that quality services should be available at affordable
rates and to consumers throughout the nation.78
28.
We note that “availability” of voice service includes, but is a broader concept than, the
physical deployment of voice networks. Consistent with the Commission’s proposals in the Lifeline and
Link Up NPRM
, we find that voice service is only available to low-income consumers to the extent that it
is affordable.79
29.
Measurements. We will evaluate progress towards our first goal by measuring the extent
to which low-income consumers are subscribing to voice service, based on the Census Bureau’s Current


74 2010 GAO REPORT at 24-26.
75 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, at 2783, 2786, paras. 34, 43-45.
76 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 750.
77 See id. at n.1320 (noting that the transition to bill and keep will result in the development and extension of a “wide
range of IP calling services” including Google Voice and Skype, “a process that may ultimately result in the sale of
broadband services that incorporate voice at a zero or nominal charge”).
78 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(1), (b)(3); see also Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2780, para 29 (noting that
Section 254 includes principles that “services should be available at ‘just, reasonable and affordable’ rates, and that
consumers in all regions of the nation, including low-income consumers, should have access to telecommunications
and information services that are reasonably comparable to services in urban areas at reasonably comparable rates”).
79 In the NPRM, we proposed availability and affordability as separate goals. See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26
FCC Rcd at 2784, 2785-86, paras. 36, 42, 43. There was substantial support in the record for both concepts. See,
e.g.,
Consumer Groups Comments at 13-14, GCI Comments at 13-14. We agree with commenters that both
concepts are important, but find that ensuring voice service is affordable is a component of ensuring it is available.
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Population Survey (CPS) penetration data.80 We find that subscription rates are a reasonable proxy for
availability generally. Because subscription rates show the extent to which low-income consumers
subscribe to voice service, they provide a reasonable indication that service is in fact available – i.e.,
sufficiently robust and affordable and there are sufficient networks in place – to serve those consumers.81
30.
We therefore adopt as an outcome measure for our first goal the voice service penetration
levels of low-income households.82 Progress towards our goal of ensuring the availability of voice
service to low-income consumers will be indicated by a narrowing of the difference between this outcome
measure and the voice service penetration levels of non-low-income households. We conclude that
comparing penetration levels for low-income households and the “next-highest income” bracket is the
correct approach to evaluating the extent to which the Lifeline program is succeeding in mitigating the
effects of low income as a barrier to telephone service subscription.83
31.
There are several plausible ways of defining “low-income” and the “next-highest
income” bracket. For example, “low-income” could be defined as households at 0 to 135 percent of the
FPG, and the “next-highest income” bracket could be households at 135 to 175 percent of the FPG (which


80 We note that, under CPS’s survey methodology, all consumers of voice service, including those consumers who
may only subscribe to broadband along with “over the top” VoIP service, would be counted as having voice service
“available.” See 2010 WCB SUBSCRIBERSHIP STUDY.
81 See USF-ICC Transformation Order and FNRPM, FCC 11-161 at para. 50 (“The first performance goal we adopt
is to preserve and advance voice service…. As a performance measure for this goal, we will use the telephone
penetration rate, which measures subscription to telephone service. The telephone penetration rate has historically
been used by the Commission as a proxy for network deployment and, as a result, will a consistent measure of the
programs’ effects.”). Consumers, including low-income consumers, may not subscribe to a service if it is not of
sufficiently high quality and does not provide the features that they need, because consumers face transaction costs
in obtaining even free Lifeline service.
82 Some ETCs and other commenters argue that, pursuant to the Commission’s first goal, the Commission should
promote and measure the availability of voice service for every person, not just every household. See GCI
Comments at 13; Cricket Comments at 2. However, because we adopt a one-per-household rule below and the
census data is only available on the household level, we decline to adopt this approach.
83 The record reflects disagreement regarding the standard the Commission should use for a comparison of
penetration rates. While there is some support for the Commission’s proposal in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM to
compare the voice penetration rates of low-income households eligible for low-income support with penetration
rates of households in the next highest income group, others suggest a different approach. For example, some
commenters argue for a comparison of the voice penetration rate for low-income households to the penetration rate

for all other households. Compare GCI Reply Comments at 11-12 (“GCI and others support the FCC’s proposal to
establish, as an outcome measure of the first performance goal (availability), the difference between voice service
subscribership rates for low-income households eligible for the Lifeline and voice subscribership rates for the
households in the next higher income level”) with Consumer Groups at 15 (arguing that the Commission should
compare the penetration rate of low-income consumers to all other consumers). We do not adopt a comparison of
the penetration rates of low-income households to all other households because we believe such a measurement
would not be consistent with our goals. Penetration rates for the highest income households are significantly higher
than the penetration rates of households between, for example, 135 percent and 175 percent of the poverty line. See
2011 MONITORING REPORT at Chart 3.2. Therefore, the average penetration rate of all households above 135
percent of the poverty line is higher than the average penetration rate for households between 135 percent and 175
percent of the poverty line. If the Commission compared and adopted as an outcome measure the equalization of the
penetration rates of low-income households to all other households, the low-income penetration rate target would
always be higher than penetration rate for households in the next higher income bracket. Such an outcome measure
would imply that Commission favors higher telecommunications penetration for low-income consumers than for the
next highest income group. No party argued explicitly for such an approach and we do not believe that it is
consistent with our goal to ensure the availability of voice service for low-income Americans.
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may include some Lifeline subscribers) or households at 175 percent to 200 percent of the FPG (which
would be less likely to include Lifeline subscribers). We recognize that there may be trade-offs with any
approach adopted. We therefore delegate authority to the Bureau to define “low-income” and the “next-
highest income” bracket for the purpose of comparing penetration rates that balances the goal of
accurately measuring the impact of the Lifeline program with administrative feasibility.84
32.
We decline to adopt the take rate of the program as the outcome measure for our goal of
ensuring voice service availability to low-income consumers.85 The goal of the program is to increase the
availability of voice service, which we will measure through the extent to which low-income consumers
subscribe to phone service. This measure is more directly relevant to this goal than the take-rate of the
Lifeline program.86

B.

Ensure the Availability of Broadband Service for Low-Income Americans

33.
Goal. As we recently did for the high-cost fund in the USF/ICC Transformation Order
and FNPRM, we establish an express broadband service goal for Lifeline, in addition to Lifeline’s voice
service goal. We adopt as our second program performance goal ensuring the availability of broadband
service for low-income Americans. We find that this goal implements Congress’s directives in sections
254(b)(2) and (b)(3) that all consumers, including low-income consumers, should have access to
information services, and is consistent with the Recovery Act and the National Broadband Plan’s
recommendations.87 There is also substantial support in the record for this goal.88 It also implements
Congress’s direction in section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that we “utiliz[e] …


84 We conclude that it is important to measure telephone penetration for low-income consumers on Tribal lands in
light of the unique needs of those consumers and the fact that telephone penetration on Tribal lands has historically
lagged telephone penetration for the nation as a whole. However, we do not adopt a separate measurement for low-
income penetration on Tribal lands at this time because the necessary data is not available from the Census Bureau.
For example, the current yearly Census survey sample size on Tribal lands is not sufficiently large to produce a
statistically significant penetration rate for Tribal lands for low-income consumers or the “next-highest” income
bracket. We expect the Bureau to continue to monitor the available Tribal lands telephone penetration data. If data
is sufficient to create a statistically valid estimate of low-income penetration and the “next highest” income bracket
on Tribal lands becomes available, we direct the Bureau to establish a separate measurement for progress towards
our first goal with respect to Tribal lands. We also direct the Bureau to publish Tribal penetration data in its
statistical reports to the extent that such information is reliable and statistically significant.
85 See, e.g., IN URC Comments at 9 (arguing for the importance of increasing the take rate).
86 Lifeline take rates may change because of exogenous factors (such as business model and marketing by Lifeline
operators) that are unrelated to the design or implementation of the program. See Letter from Dr. George Korn,
Communications Consultant, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, at 2 (filed Sept. 23, 2011) (Rainbow PUSH Sept. 23 ex parte Letter) (noting that “45 million
Americans are currently receiving food stamps. This equates to an increase of 64% percent since January 2008”).
Take rates also increase with the size of the benefit available under the program, and Lifeline provides a relatively
small benefit compared to other programs, indicating that at least some consumers will not sign up due to transaction
costs. See Hauge et al., supra note 50, at 8-9.
87 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(2), (b)(3); 47 U.S.C. 1305; American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 § 6001(b)(3), 47
U.S.C. § 1305(b)(3) (noting that the purpose of the broadband technology opportunities program is to, among other
things, to provide funding to organizations “to facilitate greater use of broadband service by low-income,
unemployed, aged, and otherwise vulnerable populations); NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at XIII (noting a key goal
of the plan is to ensure low-income Americans can afford broadband); Chapter IX (Adoption and Utilization).
88 See, e.g., NASUCA Comments at 8-10; cf. Consumer Groups Comments at 16; GCI Comments at 18, 21; NJ
DRC Comments at 8.
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regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.”89
34.
For broadband to be “available” to a low-income consumer, a broadband network (or
networks) must have been deployed to the consumer, and the broadband service offered over the network
must be affordable and provide a sufficient level of robustness (e.g., bandwidth) to meet basic broadband
needs. Many low-income consumers cannot subscribe to fixed or mobile broadband because it is not
affordable or does not provide the features that they believe they need at a price they can afford.90 Some
low-income consumers, including some residing on Tribal lands, cannot subscribe to fixed or mobile
broadband because such services are not available in their communities.91 This understanding of the goal
that we adopt today is consistent with the plain meaning of “available” and is consistent with (although
distinct from) our findings in our recent Broadband Progress Reports, in which we have observed that an
inquiry into availability requires us to examine more than strict physical deployment.92
35.
Measurements. As with our first goal, as an outcome measure of the availability of
broadband service to low-income consumers, we adopt the broadband penetration rate of low-income
consumers, i.e. the extent to which low-income consumers are subscribing to broadband. Progress
towards our goal of ensuring the availability of broadband service to low-income consumers will be
indicated by a narrowing of the difference between this outcome measure and the broadband service
penetration levels of non-low-income consumers in the “next highest income” bracket. Also consistent
with our first goal, we delegate authority to the Bureau to define the “low-income” and the “next-highest
income” brackets for the purpose of comparing broadband penetration rates in a way that balances
accuracy with administrative feasibility.93 We decline to adopt alternative or additional measures for this
goal at this time for the same reasons discussed above with respect to voice service.94


89 47 U.S.C. § 1302(a). As discussed in paragraph 332, infra, we do expect federal support for low-income
consumers’ purchase of broadband services to remove barriers to infrastructure investment.
90 See, e.g., John Horrigan, Federal Communications Commission, Omnibus Broadband Initiative, Broadband
Adoption and Use in America
3-7 (OBI Working Paper No. 1, 2010) (Broadband Adoption and Use in America),
available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-296442A1.pdf.
91 See Improving Communications Services for Native Nations, CG Dkt. No. 11-41, Notice of Inquiry, 26 FCC Rcd
2672, 2673, para. 1 (2011) (Native Nations NOI).
92 See 2011 Seventh Broadband Progress Report, 26 FCC Rcd at 8020-21, paras. 18-20.
93 We note that NTIA, in cooperation with the Census Bureau, currently publishes information on broadband
penetration by income level. See EXPLORING THE DIGITAL NATION, supra note 47. We also note that the Census
Bureau, in consultation with the Commission, is developing questions regarding broadband adoption for possible
inclusion in the American Community Survey starting in 2013. See Proposed Information Collection; Comment
Request; The American Community Survey 2013 Content Changes and Internet Response Mode, 76 Fed Reg. 81474
(Dec. 28, 2011). The ACS currently collects information on income level and the Bureau, may, as necessary,
analyze the broadband data sets in context with other social, housing, and economic data available from the ACS.
94 As with telephone penetration, we conclude that it is important to measure broadband penetration for low-income
consumers on Tribal lands in light of the unique needs of those consumers and the fact that broadband penetration
on Tribal lands has historically lagged behind broadband penetration for the nation as a whole. However, we do not
adopt a separate measurement for low-income broadband penetration on Tribal lands at this time because, as with
telephone penetration, the necessary data is not available from the Census Bureau or NTIA. If data sufficient to
create a statistically valid estimate of low-income broadband penetration and the “next highest” income bracket on
Tribal lands becomes available, we direct the Bureau to establish a separate measurement for progress towards our
second goal with respect to Tribal lands. We also direct the Bureau to publish Tribal broadband penetration data in
its statistical reports to the extent that such information is reliable and statistically significant.
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36.
As with our first goal, we do not find that it is appropriate at this time to establish a
minimum standard of robustness or measure the extent to which low-income consumers are purchasing
broadband service which meets such a standard. This approach is consistent with the purpose of the
Lifeline program, namely to offset the cost of services purchased by low-income consumers, rather than
the network provider’s cost to construct a network.95 In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and
FNPRM
, the Commission adopted a speed benchmark for fixed broadband provided by CAF recipients.
The purpose of the benchmark is to ensure that the fixed networks funded will be capable of providing a
particular level of service, but carriers can offer, and consumers can purchase, a lower (or higher) level of
fixed or mobile broadband service if they so choose.96 As part of the broadband pilot program described
below, we will collect information regarding affordability and the robustness of broadband available to
low-income consumers. We will revisit whether standards for the robustness for service broadband for
low-income households are appropriate when we have a better understanding of the factors driving
broadband adoption among low-income consumers.

C.

Minimize the Contribution Burden on Consumers and Businesses

37.
Goal. We adopt as our third program performance goal minimizing the contribution
burden on consumers and businesses. This goal is consistent with our longstanding recognition that our
efforts to advance universal service must be balanced against the universal service contribution burden on
all consumers, particularly those consumers who are just above the threshold of “low-income” that we
adopt as a uniform floor for the program in this Order.97 Indeed, as the Commission has found and the
courts have recently reiterated, if the universal service burden is too high, the affordability of service will
be placed in jeopardy, undermining the very purpose of the universal service program.98
38.
Consistent with this third goal, at this time, we decline to distinguish between fixed and
mobile services in our goals of ensuring the availability of voice and broadband service to low-income
Americans. The Lifeline program is designed to ensure that low-income Americans remain connected to
essential communications while minimizing the contribution burden on all other Americans so that the
broader goals of universal service are not jeopardized. While low-income consumers may derive utility
from both fixed and mobile services, we find that our combined goals are best satisfied by ensuring that
Lifeline affords consumers a choice to determine which of the communications offerings is essential for
them—either fixed or mobile service.99
39.
Measurements. In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission sought comment on
several metrics to measure progress towards increasing the efficiency of the program and the elimination


95 See MTS and WATS Market Structure Report and Order, 50 Fed. Reg. at 941-42 (noting that the purpose of the
Lifeline program is to offset the cost of an increased SLC on low-income consumers).
96 See USF/ICC Transformation Order, FCC 11-161, at para. 94.
97 For example, the burden of a particular contribution factor is greater on a household between 135 percent and 175
percent of the federal poverty guidelines than on a household at 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
98 See, e.g., Vermont Pub. Serv. Bd. v. Fed. Commc’n Comm’n, 661 F.3d 54, 65 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (finding that, in the
context of section 254, “as the Commission rightly observed, it has a responsibility to be a prudent guardian of the
public’s resources.”); Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8845-46, para. 125; see also High-
Cost Universal Service Support et al.
, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Order on Remand and Memorandum Opinion and Order,
25 FCC Rcd 4072, 4087, para. 28 (2010) (stating that “if the universal service fund grows too large, it will
jeopardize other statutory mandates, such as ensuring affordable rates in all parts of the country.”).
99 We believe that the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM will increase the reach of fixed and mobile
networks to ensure that both are physically available to consumers. Without such availability, low-income
consumers would have limited choice between fixed or mobile service.
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of waste.100 We find the measures outlined below are appropriate to measure progress towards our third
goal and adopt them.
40.
First, the Commission sought comment on whether it should measure the burden the
program places on all consumers over time by measuring the inflation-adjusted Lifeline/Link Up
expenditure per American household.101 We note that we recently adopted a similar measure with respect
to the high-cost program in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM.102 We adopt the proposed
measure, which will divide the total inflation-adjusted expenditures of the low-income program each year
by the number of American households and express the measure as a monthly dollar figure. This
calculation will rely on publicly available data and will therefore be transparent and easily verifiable.
Through this measure and the similar measures adopted in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and
FNPRM
, we will be able to determine whether the overall universal service contribution burden is
increasing or decreasing for the typical American household.103
41.
Second, the Commission sought comment on whether it should monitor the extent to
which the actions we take in this Order will eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse—factors that increase the
burden on contributors without a countervailing benefit.104 In the NPRM, the Commission proposed
establishing an erroneous payments benchmark and focusing on keeping erroneous payments below that
benchmark.105 Commenters disagree on whether such a benchmark is appropriate.106 We expect that the
duplicates database adopted in this Order will eliminate a substantial amount of payments to ineligible
and duplicative subscribers.107 It is appropriate to measure the extent of savings from elimination of these
duplicative payments. We delegate authority to the Bureau to determine the detailed design and
implementation of this calculation.
42.
Third, the Commission inquired whether there is a way to measure increases in the
percentage of low-income voice subscribership relative to the amount of funding spent per household
receiving a Lifeline subsidy.108 Such a comparison would be an appropriate measure to determine if
Lifeline funding is being used consistent with our third goal. We will make such a comparison by
examining the relationship between the aggregate spending on the low-income program and changes in
low-income penetration rates. We delegate to the Bureau the authority to determine the detailed design


100 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2785, paras. 38-41.
101 See id. at 2785, para. 38.
102 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para 58.
103 For example, in 2010, this was $0.95 per household per month. See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at
2785, para. 38.
104 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2875, para 39.
105 See id.
106 See GCI Comments at 16 (“The FCC’s proposed performance measure suggests that the FCC should conclude
that funding is excessive if the number or percentage of ineligible subscribers surpasses a certain threshold—even
though the ETCs that provide Lifeline service have no choice when it comes to providing service to consumers who
self-certify their eligibility and also cannot tell if individual consumers subscribe from more than one provider.”); NJ
DRC Comments at 16.
107 Consumer Cellular Comments at 6 (“Most importantly, all of the Commission’s goals—to maximize the value of
the fund to low income consumers, to maximize the efficiency of fund administration, and to eliminate the potential
for waste, fraud, and abuse—can be realized as the natural and expected consequence of expeditiously moving to
implement the database described in Section VII of the NPRM.”).
108 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2785, para 40.
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and implementation of this calculation.
43.
Using the adopted goals and measures, the Commission will, as required by the
Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), monitor the performance of our low-income program
as we implement the changes outlined in this Order.109 If the program is not meeting these performance
goals, we will consider corrective actions. Likewise, to the extent that the adopted measures do not help
us assess program performance, we will revisit them as well. We recognize that the many rule changes
and reforms in this Order may affect the ongoing utility of these goals and measures. We therefore may
need to adjust the goals and measurements adopted here once the Commission, consumers, ETCs, and
other stakeholders have had experience with the revised rules.

IV.

VOICE SERVICES ELIGIBLE FOR DISCOUNTS

44.
Background. In 1997, pursuant to section 254 of the Act, the Commission established
nine services supported by the federal universal service mechanisms, including the low-income
program.110 In light of the changes in technology and in the marketplace, the Commission sought
comment in the USF/ICC Transformation NPRM on simplifying the core functionalities of the supported
services into the overarching concept, “voice telephony service.”111 Subsequently, in the Lifeline and
Link Up NPRM
, the Commission sought comment on similarly amending the definition of “Lifeline”
supported services in section 54.401 to provide support for “voice telephony service.”112
45.
In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission eliminated its
former list of nine supported services and amended section 54.101(a) of its rules to specify that “voice
telephony service” is supported by the federal universal service mechanisms.113 The Commission found
this to be a more technologically neutral approach that focuses on the functionality offered, and not on the
specific technology used to provide the supported service, while allowing services to be provided over
any technology platform.114 In adopting the new definition of “voice telephony,” the Commission
eliminated certain services and functionalities from the list of supported services, consistent with its
findings regarding the evolution of the marketplace.115


109 If the Commission identifies an outcome as a “priority goal,” then it must review progress quarterly. Otherwise
performance must only be reviewed annually. See 31 U.S.C. §§ 1116, 1120-1121, as amended by GPRA
Modernization Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-352 §§ 4-5 (2010). Agencies are currently working with OMB to
define their priority goals, which will be published in February 2012.
110 47 U.S.C. § 254(c)(1); 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.101(a)(1)-(9), 54.401(a)(3). At that time, the Commission defined the
supported services in functional terms to encompass voice grade access to the public switched network; local usage;
dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) signaling or its functional equivalent; single-party service or its functional
equivalent; access to emergency services; access to operator services; access to interexchange service; access to
directory assistance; and toll limitation to qualifying low-income consumers. See Universal Service First Report
and Order
, 12 FCC Rcd 8776 at 8810, para. 61.
111 Connect America Fund et al., WC Dkt. No. 10-90 et al., Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Further Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking, 26 FCC Rcd. 4554, 4590, para. 96 (2011).
112 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2843, paras. 239, 243.
113 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 78.
114 Id.
115 Id. at para. 77 & n.114. To more clearly reflect the Commission’s intent to specify the attributes of “voice
telephony” in the new definition, the Commission subsequently further revised section 54.101 on its own motion to
eliminate language stating that voice telephony service “include[s] certain functionalities” to eliminate the
possibility that the list could be interpreted as non-exhaustive. See Connect America Fund et al., WC Dkt. No. 10-
90 et al., Order on Reconsideration, FCC 11-189, para. 3, n. 8 (rel. Dec. 23, 2011) (USF/ICC Transformation Order
(continued….)
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46.
In 2005, the Commission concluded that an applicant seeking ETC designation by the
Commission must demonstrate that it offers local usage comparable to that offered by the incumbent
LEC.116 In its 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, the Joint Board urged the Commission to
consider prepaid wireless Lifeline issues, including the need for minimum standards of service for
Lifeline recipients.117
Additionally, the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates
(NASUCA) adopted a resolution recommending that the Commission consider establishing minimum
standards of service for pre-paid wireless Lifeline service, expressing concerns that “free” Lifeline calling
plans offered by some wireless ETCs include limited usage minutes and require subscribers needing
additional minutes to purchase those minutes from the carrier, and indicating that it is not evident whether
such calling plans offer local usage comparable to available incumbent carriers’ calling plans.118
Accordingly, the Commission sought comment on adopting minimum standards for all ETCs offering
Lifeline service.119
47.
Discussion. We now update the definition of Lifeline to be consistent with our newly
revised definition of the supported service as “voice telephony service.”120 As we recently noted in the
USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, voice telephony may be provisioned over broadband (IP-
enabled) networks.121
By updating the definition, we allow carriers to provide service using new
technologies that will result in additional options and benefits to Lifeline consumers. At this time, we do
not find it necessary to require ETCs that offer service at no charge to Lifeline subscribers to adhere to
additional service requirements.
48.
Consistent with our recent amendment to section 54.101, eligible Lifeline telephony
services therefore must provide voice grade access to the public switched telephone network or its
functional equivalent; minutes of use for local service provided at no additional charge to end users;122
access to emergency 911 and enhanced 911 service to the extent the local government in an eligible
carrier’s service area has implemented 911 or enhanced 911 systems; and toll limitation at no charge to
qualifying low-income consumers subject to the requirements and limitations discussed more fully


(Continued from previous page)
on Reconsideration).
116 Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Report and Order, 20 FCC Rcd 6371, 6380,
para. 20 (2005) (ETC Designation Order).
117 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15627, para. 80.
118 National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, Resolution 2010-02, Calling for Reform of the
Lifeline Program, Including Reform for Prepaid Wireless Lifeline Services, at 2-3 (June 15, 2010) (NASUCA
Resolution
).
119 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2817, para. 253 (inquiring whether the Commission should establish
national parameters for a basic Lifeline service).
120 See USF/ICC Transformation Order on Reconsideration, FCC 11-189 at para. 3. In response to the Lifeline and
Link Up NPRM
, some commenters supported amending the definition of Lifeline to provide support for “voice
telephony service.” See Cricket Comments at 15-16; Florida PSC Comments at 29.
121 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 63 (explaining how consumers are
increasingly obtaining voice services over broadband networks as well as over traditional circuit switched telephone
networks).
122 We note that the Vermont Public Service Board has filed a Motion for Clarification regarding this aspect of the
definition adopted in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, which will be addressed after receipt of
public comment on this petition. See Vermont Public Service Board Motion For Clarification, WC Dkt. No. 10-90
et al., at 3 (filed Dec. 28, 2012).
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below.123 As explained in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, this approach simply shifts
to a technologically neutral approach by defining supported services in functional terms, ensuring that
voice service can be provided over any platform.124 Under this revised definition of Lifeline, we expect
low-income consumers will receive the same quality voice service that they receive today.125
49.
In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission noted that many
providers do not distinguish between local and long distance usage, and concluded that carriers may
satisfy the obligation to provide local usage via service offerings that bundle local and long distance
minutes. We conclude this finding is also applicable to Lifeline service offerings.126 We therefore
conclude that it is appropriate to eliminate the “local” qualifier from the current definition of Lifeline,127
and we amend section 54.401 of our rules as provided in Appendix A of this Order.128 We also note that,
as discussed more fully below, ETCs are not required to offer toll limitation service to low-income
consumers if the Lifeline offering provides a set amount of minutes that do not distinguish between toll
and non-toll calls.129 We make both of these changes in recognition of the changing way services are
provided in today’s marketplace.
50.
While we applaud the work the states have done to require pre-paid ETCs to offer a
minimum set of monthly minutes, we do not find it necessary to impose minimum federal service
standards. To the extent possible, service standards should be determined by the communications
marketplace.130 Based on the record, the market is increasing the number of minutes that pre-paid


123 See infra section VII.B (discussing the requirements and limitations of toll limitation service).
124 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 77-78.
125 See Windstream USF/ICC Transformation NPRM Comments at 20 (urging Commission to amend the definition
of supported services to focus on functionality offered, not the specific technology used to provide supported
services). Some commenters, however, argue that the term “voice telephony” is too vague, and that such a
modification may result in a lower standard of voice service despite the fact that many consumers already receive
voice service over broadband networks. See Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 8-9 (arguing that redefining
the currently supported services could lead to lower standards for voice services); NASUCA Comments at 26-27
(stating that the term “voice telephony” is unnecessarily vague); NJ DRC Comments at 24; compare AT&T
USF/ICC Transformation NPRM Comments at 10 (noting that circuit-switched networks are rapidly yielding to
packet-switched networks, which offer voice as well as other types of services as demonstrated through significant
increase in VoIP subscriptions).
126 See revised section 54.401(a) of the Commission rules (defining Lifeline as amended in this Order).
127 Distinctions between local and long distance calling are becoming irrelevant in light of flat rate service offerings
that do not distinguish between local and long distance calling. Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2844,
para. 242; FL PSC Comments at 29 (supporting amendment to replace “basic local service” with the term “voice
telephony service” based on changes in the marketplace); but see OH PUC Comments at 23 (supporting redefining
Lifeline and maintaining “local” qualifier in the new definition).
128 See USF/ICC Transformation Order on Reconsideration, FCC 11-189, para. 3. Revised section 54.401(a)(3)
states: “That provides voice telephony service to subscribers as provided in § 54.101(a).”
129 See infra section VII.B. In the event a Lifeline-only ETC provides to subscribers a set amount of “all distance”
minutes whereby the subscriber can make local or toll calls without incurring additional charges, that Lifeline-only
ETC does not meet the “facilities” requirement of section 214(e)(1)(a) if the only facilities used enables a subscriber
to access a call center to purchase additional minutes when the set amount of all distance minutes are exhausted.
Likewise, if the subscriber must purchase additional minutes to make international calls, such facilities used by the
ETC to permit the subscriber to purchase additional international minutes cannot be relied upon to meet the facilities
requirement of section 214.
130 See Sprint Comments at 17; see also TracFone Comments at 40.
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wireless ETCs are offering. For example, TracFone initially provided approximately 68 minutes of
airtime per month to subscribers, but due to competition from other providers, it now provides up to 250
minutes a month. As soon as another wireless ETC began offering Lifeline programs that included 200
free monthly minutes, TracFone reassessed its offerings and added a new 250 minute calling plan.131
TracFone notes that within days of announcing its revised calling plan, competing ETCs increased their
service offerings to include 250 minutes.132 Our determination not to impose minimum federal service
requirements is consistent with the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, where we noted that the
Commission has never prescribed a minimum amount of local access minutes, and therefore declined to
do so in that Order.133 The Commission will monitor service levels and if necessary, reassess the need to
establish minimum service requirements for Lifeline providers.134 While we do not adopt minimum
service requirements for any ETCs offering Lifeline service, we expect all ETCs to continue to offer low-
income subscribers innovative and sufficient service plans.

V.

SUPPORT AMOUNTS FOR VOICE SERVICE

51.
Background. In the Lifeline & Link Up NPRM, the Commission sought comment on
whether there is a more appropriate reimbursement framework than the current four-tier system for
determining federal support amounts for Lifeline.135 The Commission asked whether it should adopt a
different framework for carriers that do not charge a subscriber line charge or that do not allocate their
costs between the intrastate and interstate jurisdictions.136


131 See TracFone Comments at 40.
132 See id.
133 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 78 n.115.
134 Given both the Commission and states’ shared interest in this matter, we encourage federal and state staff to
continue to share information regarding ETCs matters, including ETC service levels. Section 54.401(d) requires
newly designated ETCs to provide information to USAC demonstrating that their Lifeline plan meets the
requirements of the Lifeline rules prior to receiving reimbursement. We amend section 401(d) to specify more
clearly that newly designated ETCs must provide information to USAC about their Lifeline service plans prior to
receiving reimbursement. In the event ETCs choose to offer, as an additional option to low income consumers, the
Lifeline discount to other retail service offerings, including bundles, that are available to the general public, ETCs
are not required to submit the terms and conditions of each such retail service offering to the Commission or USAC,
but rather may provide links to public websites outlining the terms and conditions of such plans. In addition, as set
forth more fully below, see supra section XI.C, we require all ETCs to submit annually information regarding the
terms and conditions of the Lifeline plans for voice telephony service offered specifically to qualified low income
consumers through the program during the previous year, including the number of minutes provided and whether
there are additional charges to the consumer for service including minutes of use and/or toll calls.
135 See Lifeline & Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2846, para. 248; see 47 C.F.R. § 54.403.
136 See Lifeline & Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2847, para. 249. We note that TracFone filed a petition for
rulemaking and a waiver request in 2009 that raised some of these issues. In its petition for rulemaking, TracFone
sought to amend the definition of Tier One Lifeline support as defined in section 54.403(a)(1). TracFone Wireless,
Inc.’s Petition for Waiver of
47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(i), CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Petition (filed May 4, 2009) (TracFone
Tier One Petition
). On March 30, 2009, the Commission released a public notice seeking comment on TracFone’s
petition for rulemaking. Public Notice, Report No. 2885, RM-11526 (rel. March 30, 2009),
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=6520204555. TracFone requested that the Commission detach Tier
One support from the SLC in effect for the ILEC and allow all ETCs to receive the maximum available ($6.50 per
household) in all service areas. TracFone Tier One Petition at 7-10. Additionally, TracFone requested that the
Commission require ETCs claiming the maximum Tier One amount because of the rule amendment to provide an
additional, unreimbursed $3.50 in Lifeline benefits per month. Id. Two parties commented on the proceeding.
YourTel, a small carrier based in Missouri and a participant in the Lifeline program, concurred with TracFone that
Tier One support should be disconnected from the SLC. See YourTel TracFone Tier One Petition Comments at 1.
(continued….)
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52.
Lifeline was originally implemented in 1985 to ensure that the federal Subscriber Line
Charge (SLC), imposed in the aftermath of the breakup of AT&T, would not put local phone service out
of reach for low-income households. Since its inception, the amount of support has been tied to the SLC,
a flat monthly charge that incumbent local exchange carriers assess on their subscribers to recover some
of their network costs assigned to the interstate jurisdiction. Support levels for competitive ETCs are
based on the SLC of the incumbent carriers in the relevant service area.
53.
Lifeline support today consists of four tiers, each of which must be passed directly from
the ETC to the qualifying low-income consumer in the form of discounts off the subscriber’s monthly
service.137 All ETCs receive Tier One support for each qualifying consumer, which equals the incumbent
local exchange carrier’s Subscriber Line Charge, capped at $6.50.138 Tier Two support provides an
additional $1.75 per month in federal support, which is available in all states and made available to the
ETC if it certifies with USAC that it will pass through the full amount of support to qualifying
consumers.139 Tier Three support provides an amount equal to one-half the amount of any state-mandated
Lifeline support or Lifeline support otherwise provided by the carrier, up to a maximum of $1.75 per
month in federal support, if the ETC passes through the full amount of support to the consumer.140
Finally, Tier Four support provides eligible subscribers living on Tribal lands up to an additional $25 per
month towards reducing basic local service rates.141 In September 2011, non-Tribal Lifeline subscribers
received an average monthly benefit of $9.25.142


(Continued from previous page)
YourTel contended that the current Tier One support system is “no longer valid in today’s wireline environment
where niche carriers have higher costs.” Id. The Independent Telephone & Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA)
disagreed, and stated that the Tier One support “is intended to be a proxy for interstate loop costs, and relies upon
the determination that the SLC represents a fair approximation of that amount.” ITTA TracFone Tier One Petition
Comments at 4.
137 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.403; see also Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8971, para. 368. The
amount the household pays for phone service depends on the price charged by the carrier for Lifeline service and the
amount of federal Lifeline support that a household receives, which in turn depends in part on the state and (if
applicable) Tribal land in which the household is located. Some ETCs, such as TracFone and Virgin Mobile, offer
service at no charge to customers. The net result is that households pay significantly different amounts for their
Lifeline-supported service dependent upon their Lifeline carrier and in which state they reside.
138 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(1). The SLC is a flat, monthly charge that incumbent local exchange carriers assess
directly on end users of telecommunications service to recover a portion of their revenue assigned to the interstate
jurisdiction. Not all ILECs are at the $6.50 cap and the SLC varies among ILECs. Federal-State Joint Board on
Universal Service
, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Report and Order, 17 FCC Rcd
3752, 3767, para. 35 n. 81 (2002); USAC, Step 1: Lifeline Support, http://usac.org/li/telecom/step01/Lifeline.aspx
(last visited Feb. 2, 2012).
139 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(2). When adopting Tier Two support in 1997, the Commission sought to increase
subscribership in those states that previously did not participate in the program. See Universal Service First Report
and Order
, 12 FCC Rcd at 8962-64, paras. 350-53.
140 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(3). When adopting Tier Three support in 1997, the Commission sought to increase
subscribership and encourage states to provide matching discounts to eligible consumers. See Universal Service
First Report and Order
, 12 FCC Rcd at 8963-64, para. 353. We understand that some states do not provide
matching state discounts through explicit support, but rather mandate that the carrier reduce its rates by such
amounts to qualify for Tier Three support.
141 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(4).
142 See USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter. Support ranges from a low of $4.25 per month to a high of $10.00 per
month. See id.
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54.
Discussion. In order to simplify administration of the program and revise our rules in
light of current marketplace conditions, we now change the Lifeline reimbursement structure for non-
Tribal support and seek further comment in the FNPRM on the establishment of an appropriate amount
for Lifeline reimbursement. Here, on an interim basis, we replace Tiers One, Two and Three with a
uniform flat-rate reimbursement.143
55.
As an initial matter, we find that an incumbent telephone company’s SLC is no longer the
appropriate metric for determining the amount of Lifeline reimbursement.144 In particular, the prices
consumers face in the marketplace are what determine affordability and adoption decisions, not the
network costs of the incumbent LEC (the original basis for the SLC).
56.
In addition, since the Commission adopted the tiered structure of support in 1997 and
revised it in 2000,145 significant marketplace changes have occurred. Many low-income consumers take
Lifeline service from competitive ETCs, who do not assess SLCs on their subscribers and whose cost
structures are wholly unrelated to the SLC.146 The majority of Lifeline support is provided to wireless
carriers, whose rates are not regulated by the Commission or the states, and who do not participate in
jurisdictional separations.147
57.
For wireless ETCs, Lifeline support is determined by the SLC of the ILEC in the area
they serve. Given that wireless ETCs typically serve a state with multiple ILECs, it is administratively
burdensome for both the ETC and USAC to determine the correct amount of Tier 1 support. As
commenters note, the variation in the SLC makes it difficult for ETCs to offer rates that apply nationwide
or even to determine the Lifeline discount for a given consumer.148 For example, in Florida, wireless
carriers such as TracFone and T-Mobile must submit a weighted average of the SLCs that their
subscribers would face if service were purchased from their local ILEC for Tier One reimbursement.149
This administrative burden causes wireless carriers to incur significant costs in ascertaining ILEC SLCs
across the ETC’s service area.


143 See, e.g., Cincinnati Bell Comments at 13-14; COMPTEL Comments at 25; CTIA Comments at 18-19; OH PUC
Comments at 26; AT&T Comments at 3-4, 6; Cricket Reply Comments at 13; Sprint Reply Comments at 2, 12.
144 See, e.g., Cincinnati Bell Comments at 13-14; COMPTEL Comments at 25; CTIA Comments at 18-19; OH PUC
Comments at 26; AT&T Comments at 3-4; Cricket Reply Comments at 13; Sprint Reply Comments at 2, 12. See
TracFone Tier One Petition
; YourTel Comments on TracFone Tier One Petition at 1. But see MI PSC Comments at
10; NASUCA Comments at 28.
145 Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd 8776 at para. 367; 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC
Rcd at 12302-03.
146 UNIVERSAL SERVICE ADMINISTRATIVE COMPANY, 2010 ANNUAL REPORT 13 (2011), available at
http://usac.org/about/governance/annual-reports/2010.html. See 47 C.F.R. §§ 69.104, 69.152(d)(1), 69.152(q). The
Commission acknowledged that non-incumbents do not charge SLCs in the Universal Service First Report and
Order
, but ultimately opted to require that all ETCs pass Lifeline discounts in the amount of the SLC through to
eligible consumers. See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8970-71, paras. 366-67.
147 47 U.S.C. § 332.
148 Cincinnati Bell Comments at 13-14; COMPTEL Comments at 25; Cricket Nov. 22 ex parte Letter at 1.
Commenters also point out that the tiered structure complicates comparison of Lifeline plans. CTIA Comments at
19; AT&T Comments at 10.
149 See Universal Service Administrative Company, 1Q 2012 Filing, Appendices at LI 10 (Tier One Amounts
Reported by All Companies - 2Q2011), available at http://www.usac.org/about/governance/fcc-filings/2012/quarter-
1.aspx.
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58.
Given this evolution, there are two aspects of reimbursement that must be changed to
better reflect the realities of the telecommunications marketplace: the structure of the reimbursement
mechanism, be it tiered or flat, and the level of reimbursement. We do not have a basis in the record
before us to determine at this time the appropriate total level of Lifeline support that should be provided
to each low-income consumer to meet our universal service goals established above. However, we agree
with commenters that the current structure based on the SLC and Tiers One through Three is
administratively burdensome and would benefit from simplification. Therefore, we eliminate Tiers One,
Two and Three and replace them with a flat rate. Currently, Tier One support, which is equivalent to the
relevant SLC, ranges from $2.24 per month to $6.50 per month, while Tier Two support ranges from $0
to $1.75 per month, with the vast majority of ETCs receiving the maximum Tier Two support.150 Tier
Three support ranges from $0 to $1.75 and the average combined support is $9.25. Therefore, on an
interim basis, beginning with April 2012 disbursements, we set the flat rate to the current average amount
of non-Tribal Lifeline support provided today, i.e., $9.25 per line per month.151 This flat rate will be
provided for all subscribers equally, regardless of whether they subscribe to wireline or wireless Lifeline
service, and will significantly simplify administration for ETCs.152 In the attached FNPRM, we seek
comment on what amount of support should be provided to ETCs over the long term.
59.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission sought comment on whether Tier
Four support is reasonable or whether it creates a price floor for carriers serving Tribal lands.153 We
received little comment on whether Tier Four support is sufficient, excessive, or insufficient. In light of
the limited record on this issue, we decline to make any changes to Tier Four support (i.e., support for
low-income consumers residing on Tribal lands) (hereinafter Tribal Lands support) or its structure at this
time. Therefore, subscribers who receive Tribal Lands support will continue to receive Tribal Lands
support plus the interim flat rate in lieu of Tiers One, Two and Three support.

VI.

CONSUMER ELIGIBILITY & ENROLLMENT

60.
In the 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, the Joint Board recommended that the
Commission adopt uniform minimum verification procedures and sampling criteria that would apply to
all ETCs in all states and that the Commission seek comment on adopting uniform minimum program-
and income-based eligibility criteria for ETCs in all states.154
In light of the Joint Board’s
recommendations and the record before us, we adopt uniform eligibility criteria applicable in all states.
We codify a rule limiting Lifeline support to a single discount per household and adopt policies to assist
in the implementation of this rule. We modify the Lifeline certification rules to adopt a uniform set of
requirements that will increase consistency in certification practices across states and encourage
accountability by consumers and ETCs. We also replace the current methodology employed by ETCs to
annually verify consumer eligibility with an annual self-certification of continued eligibility that will
serve as a minimum threshold process to be performed in all states. We take several steps to advance the
availability of Lifeline and Link Up support for low-income consumers living on or near Tribal lands.
We will also continue to encourage coordinated enrollment while placing restrictions on automatic


150 USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter.
151 We chose $9.25 per line per month based on September Lifeline reimbursement data from USAC, which is the
latest month in which all ETCs sought reimbursement for Lifeline. We note that this amount is $0.07 higher than
the average 2010 reimbursement amount set forth in the 2011 Monitoring Report at Table 2.3.
152 We note that some ETCs will receive more support under a flat rate of $9.25 per month, and some will receive
less. See 2011 MONITORING REPORT at Table 2.3 (showing a range of support by state.) Regardless, we do not
expect that the interim flat rate reimbursement of $9.25 per month to increase the size of the Fund.
153 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2847, para. 250.
154 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15601, 15607, paras. 8-9, 26.
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enrollment consistent with our measures to eliminate waste. Finally, in order to further modernize the
program, we permit the use of electronic signatures, including interactive voice responses, for the
purposes of consumer certification.
61.
The specific eligibility and certification requirements adopted below are a minimum floor
for determining and verifying consumer eligibility for the federal Lifeline program. The rules we adopt in
this Order are a core set of requirements necessary to make the program more accountable and to ensure
that the program operates efficiently and effectively. State commissions may include additional
qualifying eligibility criteria and impose additional certification requirements that they believe are
necessary to ensure that ETCs are using support consistent with the statute and our implementing
regulations, so long as those additional reporting requirements do not create burdens that thwart
achievement of the objectives of our universal service policies and regulations, including those set forth in
this Report and Order, or otherwise conflict with federal law.

A.

Uniform Eligibility Criteria

62.
Background. Today, eligibility requirements for the Lifeline program vary from state to
state.155 Lifeline eligibility is based upon participation in certain means-tested programs and, in most
states, upon income. The federal default Lifeline eligibility criteria—which apply in eight states and two
territories (i.e., “federal default states”)—require consumers to either: (1) have a household income at or
below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines;156 or (2) participate in at least one of a number of
federal assistance programs.157 Under the current Commission rules, the District of Columbia and the 42
remaining states and three territories with their own programs have established their own eligibility
criteria for the Lifeline program that are based solely on income or factors directly related to income.158
Many states have adopted eligibility criteria very similar to the federal default criteria,159 but some states
have not.160 This current patchwork of eligibility criteria means that consumers in some states qualify for


155 Compare Washington Telephone Assistance Program,
http://www.utc.wa.gov/consumers/telephone/Pages/telephoneAssistanceProgram.aspx (last visited Feb. 2, 2012),
with 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(b), (c) (federal default eligibility criteria). The State of Washington’s Telephone Assistance
Program uses a mix of federal (SNAP, TANF, Supplemental Security Income) and state eligibility criteria (Medical
Assistance, Refugee Assistance, DSHS Chore Services, Community Options Program, and General Assistance).
The phrase “Lifeline program” refers to the federal Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline program.
156 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(b). Based on the current Federal Poverty Guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and
Washington, DC, annual income of 135 percent of the guidelines is $14,702 for a one-person household or family;
$19,859 for a two-person household or family; $25,016 for a three-person household or family; and $30,173 for a
four-person household or family. For each additional member of a household above four, $5,157 is added, so for an
eight-person household, the maximum annual income would be $50,801. Annual Update of the U.S. Dep’t. of
Health and Human Servs. Poverty Guidelines, 76 Fed. Reg. 3,367, 3,637-38 (Jan. 20, 2011).
157 Federal programs qualifying consumers for the low-income program are: Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Federal Public
Housing Assistance; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); National School Lunch Program’s
free lunch program; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Low-income consumers living on
Tribal lands may also qualify by participation in one of several additional assistance programs: Bureau of Indian
Affairs general assistance; Tribally-administered TANF; or Head Start (only those meeting its income-qualifying
standards). See 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(c).
158 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.409, 54.415.
159 Currently, every state, with the exception of Idaho, Virginia, Colorado, and Montana, uses at least four of the
seven programs utilized by the federal default states.
160 For example, Oregon and Colorado do not have income-based Lifeline eligibility, while Ohio sets income
eligibility at 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Oregon Telephone Assistance Program,
(continued….)
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Lifeline support while similarly situated consumers in states without those same qualifying criteria for the
federal program may not be eligible for federal support.
63.
In the 2010 Joint Board Referral Order, the Commission asked the Joint Board “to
undertake a thorough review of the existing consumer eligibility requirements, as well as the certification
and documentation requirements imposed on ETCs.”161
During its deliberations, the Joint Board
recommended that the Commission seek comment on whether to adopt uniform federal minimum
income- and program-based eligibility standards that would apply in all states, provided that the impact of
uniformity is reasonable.162
The Joint Board noted that uniform eligibility requirements could be
burdensome on some states in terms of cost and administration, but recognized that such uniformity could
simplify ETC certification of consumer eligibility and may increase program participation.163 The Joint
Board also recommended that the Commission seek comment on raising the program’s income eligibility
criterion of 135 percent or below of FPG to 150 percent or below of FPG.164
64.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission proposed a core set of federal
eligibility eligibility requirements that would apply for the Lifeline program in all states, and sought
comment on permitting states to adopt additional measures that could complement the federal
standards.165 As recommended by the Joint Board, the Commission also sought comment on raising the
minimum income eligibility to 150 percent.166
65.
Discussion. We amend our rules to require all states to utilize, at a minimum, the income
and program criteria currently utilized by federal default states for the Lifeline program.167 In so doing,
we establish baseline eligibility requirements for the Lifeline program on top of which states may adopt
additional program or income criteria to address the unique circumstances facing consumers in their
states.168
66.
Uniform eligibility criteria for the Lifeline program will simplify the development of an
eligibility database, an important tool in preventing ineligible consumers from enrolling in the federal


(Continued from previous page)
http://www.oregon.gov/PUC/rspf/otap.shtml (last visited Feb. 2, 2012); Colorado Department of Human Services,
Low-Income Telephone Assistance, http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDHS-SelfSuff/CBON/1251589753838
(last visited Feb. 2, 2012); OH PUC Comments at 15.
161 2010 Joint Board Referral Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 5081, para. 6.
162 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15601, paras. 8-9.
163 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15601, paras. 8-9.
164 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15601, para. 10.
165 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2820-21, paras. 152-56.
166 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2821-22, para. 157.
167 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(a), (b).
168 For example, if a state wishes to adopt participation in a certain federal or state assistance program not included
in the Commission’s list of eligible programs, the state may do so, provided the program is based on income or
factors directly related to income. See Georgia Public Service Commission – Lifeline Assistance Program & Link-
Up Georgia, http://www.psc.state.ga.us/consumer_corner/cc_telecom/advisory/lifeline.asp (last visited Feb. 2,
2012); see also Florida Public Service Commission – Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up Florida Brochure,
http://www.floridapsc.com/utilities/telecomm/lifeline/engbrochure.aspx (last visited Feb. 2, 2012); Kansas
Corporation Commission – Kansas Lifeline Program, http://www.kcc.state.ks.us/pi/lifeline.htm (last visited Feb. 2,
2012); 47 C.F.R. § 54.409 (permitting “narrowly targeted qualification criteria that are based solely on income or
factors directly related to income”).
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program.169 Moreover, together with an eligibility database, uniform eligibility criteria will facilitate the
auditing process because all ETCs will operate under a set of baseline rules.170 There is also widespread
support for uniformity of eligibility criteria from various consumer groups, states, and ETCs.171
Commenters, including consumer advocates and ETCs, agree that uniformity ensures that consumers in
all states have comparable access to the program.172 Currently, ETCs operating in multiple states have to
develop state-specific policies and procedures to ensure compliance with state-specific program eligibility
requirements, but with uniform eligibility requirements, consumers will face more streamlined enrollment
procedures, while there would be fewer regulatory burdens on service providers. 173
67.
A few state commissions that commented oppose uniform eligibility criteria for the
federal Lifeline program.174 One state commission notes that state laws may need to be changed due to
adoption of uniform eligibility requirements.175 Another state commission argues that changing state laws
to implement uniform eligibility criteria would be burdensome.176 We believe that any increased burden
from the establishment of uniform eligibility criteria for the federal Lifeline program, while not quantified
in the record, may not be substantial. It is important to note that the uniform eligibility criteria we adopt
in this Order only apply to the federal Lifeline program.177 Thus, a state would only be burdened insofar
as the state has its own Lifeline fund and adoption of uniform eligibility criteria increases enrollment in
that state.178 For example, if a state does not currently include the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance
Program (LIHEAP) as a program conferring Lifeline eligibility, our adoption of a uniform floor of
eligibility would immediately render that state’s LIHEAP customers eligible for Lifeline, provided those
subscribers were not already enrolled in another qualifying program. If a state were to find that
uniformity increases demand on its own state fund, it could adjust its state Lifeline support per household
without increasing its overall fund size, among other options. The potential for increased costs to states
from our adopting uniform eligibility criteria are further diminished by the fact that many Lifeline-only


169 COMPTEL Comments at 19.
170 COMPTEL Comments at 19-20.
171 AARP Comments at 5-6; Benton/PK/UCC Comments at 5; CA PUC Reply Comments at 6-7; CenturyLink
Comments at 16-18; COMPTEL Comments at 18-19; Conexions Comments at 8; Consumer Groups Reply
Comments at 6-8; Cricket Comments at 11-12; CTIA Comments at 18-19; DC PSC Comments at 4-5; GCI
Comments at 45-46; NASUCA Comments at 20-22; NJ DRC Reply Comments at 26; OH PUC Comments at 14;
Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 12-13.
172 See, e.g., COMPTEL Comments at 18-19; Conexions Comments at 8; AARP Comments at 6.
173 CenturyLink Comments at 16 (“Standard minimum criteria should enable easier program administration across
multiple states.”); Cricket Comments at 11 (“Cricket fully supports this proposal, which would create greater
consistency in eligibility and verification requirements nationally. It also would help to eliminate ambiguities in
certain state regulatory frameworks and streamline the administration of Low-Income support programs by ETCs.”);
CTIA Comments at 18.
174 FL PSC Comments at 19; MI PSC Comments at 7; MS PSC Comments at 13.
175 The Oregon Commission states that “changes in income qualification levels (such as the suggested increase from
135 percent to 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines) will require changes in Oregon law.” OR PUC Comments
at 2.
176 See MI PSC Comments at 7.
177 47 C.F.R. § 54.409.
178 We note that most states and territories, with the exceptions of Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Virginia, maintain
eligibility criteria very similar to or more permissive than the federal default criteria.
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ETCs, including TracFone and Virgin Mobile, do not take from state funds.179 Therefore, we conclude
that the benefits of uniformity of eligibility criteria for the federal Lifeline program outweigh any
potential costs to states.180
68.
We decline at this time to adopt a uniform national rule mandating that households with
150 percent of the FPG be eligible for Lifeline/Link Up. The record was mixed on this proposal.181 We
conclude that we should evaluate the impact of the other changes we adopt today before taking steps that
could increase program demand.

B.

One-Per-Household

69.
We take several steps to more effectively target low-income support by codifying a one-
per-household requirement, while creating a framework that will more clearly delineate the obligations
and expectations for both qualifying households and ETCs. First, we codify a rule limiting Lifeline
support to a single subscription per household and define “household.” Second, recognizing that there are
instances where multiple households (i.e., families) reside at the same address we implement procedures
to enable applicants in such circumstances to demonstrate at enrollment that other Lifeline recipients
residing at the same address are a separate household. Third, we adopt a requirement that, prior to
providing service to a consumer, an ETC must obtain that consumer’s permanent residential address,
unless they only have a temporary address. Fourth, we codify additional protections to be implemented
by those ETCs that serve consumers without a permanent residential address, in order to assist ETCs in
more easily verifying such consumers’ continued eligibility for the program. Fifth, we clarify that
Lifeline is available to otherwise eligible low-income consumers residing in areas zoned as “commercial”
if the consumer certifies at enrollment that the address of record provided by the consumer is his or her
residential address.
1.

Background

70.
The Commission previously has stated that eligible low-income consumers may receive
low-income support for “a single line in their principal residence.”182 This requirement historically was
intended to target support where it was needed most and to maximize the number of Americans with
access to the telephone network. Commonly known as the “one-per-household” limitation, in practice
this requirement has been implemented by providing one Lifeline discount per residential address.183
71.
Beginning in 2005, the Commission has on a case-by-case basis permitted non-facilities-


179 Some states do not have or do not assert jurisdiction over wireless carriers, and some states do not have state
funds. Additionally, some ETCs choose not to accept state funds due to attached conditions and ease of
administration.
180 In furtherance of our goal of uniformity, we clarify that participants in Medicaid, a qualifying means-tested
assistance program, are eligible for Lifeline even if their Medicaid participation consists solely of assistance in
payment of Medicare Part B premiums.
181 AARP Comments at 6; Benton/PK/UCC Comments at 5; Budget/GreatCall/PR Comments at 6; Conexions
Comments at 8; Consumer Groups Reply Comments at 7; Cox Comments at 9; Keep USF Fair Comments at 2;
MAG-Net Comments at 13-14; OH PUC Comments at 15; Open Access Comments at 2-3. But see One Economy
Comments at 16-17; OR PUC Comments at 2; USTelecom Comments at 8.
182 Lifeline and Link Up, WC Dkt. No. 03-109, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 19
FCC Rcd 8302, 8306, para. 4 (2004) (2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM); Universal Service First
Report and Order
, 12 FCC Rcd 8776 at 8957, para. 341.
183 Some parties dispute that the Commission has ever adopted a one-per-household requirement. See, e.g., CTIA
Comments at 13-16; GCI Comments at 37; AT&T PN Comments at 3. We disagree. As discussed in greater detail
below, the aforementioned orders, see infra para. 76, established such a principle.
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based providers, including prepaid wireless carriers, to obtain low-income support from the Universal
Service Fund.184 When designating certain non-facilities-based wireless carriers as Lifeline-only ETCs,
the Commission has directed those carriers to establish safeguards to comply with the one-per-household
rule, including requiring Lifeline consumers to self-certify under penalty of perjury upon service
activation and then annually thereafter that they are the head of household and only receive Lifeline
supported service from that carrier.185 The greater availability of Lifeline services from a variety of
providers has increased the likelihood that a residence may receive more than one Lifeline-supported
telephone service.186 Thus, notwithstanding existing program protections, including certification and
verification requirements,187 low-income consumers may be obtaining more than one Lifeline service per
household, either knowingly or unwittingly.
72.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission proposed to adopt a one-per-
residential address requirement that would limit program support to a single subscription per residence,
with “residence” defined as a U.S. Postal Service address.188 The Commission also sought comment in
the NPRM on how best to apply its proposed one-per-residence rule in non-traditional living situations,
such as group living facilities and Tribal communities, in order to ensure that Lifeline is available to such
consumers but also to prevent instances of duplicative support.189
73.
In June 2011, the Commission codified a prohibition on qualifying individual consumers
receiving more than one Lifeline subsidy at a given time.190 In August 2011, the Bureau sought additional
comment on limiting Lifeline support to one discount per residential address.191


184 See i-Wireless Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 8784; Virgin Mobile 2010 ETC Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 17797;
Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order, 24 FCC Rcd at 3381; TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15095.
185 See, e.g., Telecommunications Carriers Eligible for Universal Service Support, Federal-State Joint Board on
Universal Service, Conexions Petition for Forbearance
, WC Dkt. No. 09-197, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Order, 25 FCC
Rcd. 13866, 13871, para. 17 (2010) (Conexions ETC Order); Telecommunications Carriers Eligible for Universal
Service Support, Virgin Mobile USA, L.P. Petition for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier
, WC
Dkt. No. 09-197, Order, 25 FCC Rcd. 17797, 17804, para. 20 (2010) (Virgin Mobile ETC Order).
186 Beginning in May 2011, the Commission asked USAC to begin conducting state-specific in-depth data
validations (IDVs) after USAC audits undertaken in the course of ongoing oversight over the Low Income Program
revealed that multiple ETCs were seeking reimbursement for Lifeline service provided to the same individual, and in
some instances, to more than one individual living in the same residence. See 2011 Duplicative Program Payments
Order
, 26 FCC Rcd at 9023, para.3. Adoption of a rule clarifying the one-per-household policy will similarly
advance our efforts to eliminate duplicative Lifeline payments and guard against waste, fraud, and abuse.
187 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.409, 54.410. For example, currently, certification rules applicable in federal default states
require consumers that receive income-based support to self-certify under penalty of perjury as to their qualification
to receive support and as to the number of individuals in their household. See 47 C.F.R. § 54.410(b). Prior to
designating a wireless carrier as a Lifeline-only ETC, the Commission has required each carrier to take specific
steps to further comply with the single supported service per household rule and establish safeguards to prevent
consumers from receiving Lifeline-supported service from multiple ETCs. See i-Wireless Forbearance Order, 25
FCC Rcd at 8790, para. 16; Virgin Mobile 2010 ETC Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 17804, para. 21; Virgin Mobile
Forbearance Order
, 24 FCC Rcd at 3387, 3392, paras. 12, 25; TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at
15103-04, para. 18. These requirements are only applicable to Lifeline-only ETCs designated as such by the
Commission, and not state-designated Lifeline ETCs.
188 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2805-08, paras. 106-16.
189 See id. at 2707-10, paras. 113-14, 116-25.
190 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 9026, para. 7.
191 See Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice.
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2.

Discussion

74.
As an initial matter, we reiterate that under no circumstances may a single consumer
receive more than one Lifeline-supported service.192 We also now codify a rule limiting Lifeline support
to a single subscription per household.193 We define “household” in a manner consistent with the
definition used in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as “any individual or group of
individuals who are living together at the same address as one economic unit.”194 For the purposes of this
rule, an economic unit consists of all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and
expenses of a household.195 In light of extensive comment received in response to the Lifeline and Link
Up NPRM
and the Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice, we believe that a one-per-household rule defined
as an economic unit is a reasonable way to ensure that voice and broadband service are available to low-
income consumers while minimizing the contribution burden on consumers and businesses.196


192 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order. In this Order, we move the codified restriction from section
54.401(a) to revised section 54.409(c).
193 For commenters supporting a one-per-household rule, see, e.g., Cricket Comments at 8-9; Benton/PK/UCC
Comments at 4; Consumer Groups Reply Comments at 4-5; CA PUC Reply Comments at 3, 5; LCCHR Comments
at 8; NHMC Reply Comments at 1, 3.; Sprint Reply Comments at 1, 8; Letter from John T. Nakahata, Counsel, GCI,
to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Jan. 13,
2012) (GCI Jan. 13 ex parte Letter).
194 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services establishes eligibility for the Low-Income Home Energy
Assistance Program. See 42 U.S.C. § 8622(5). See, e.g., Benton/PK/UCC Comments at 4; Consumer Group
Comments at 18-19; LCCHR Comments at 8; USTelecom Comments at 20.
195 For the purposes of the rule we adopt today, “adults” are persons eighteen years of age or older, and children
living with their parents or legal guardians are considered to be part of their parent or guardian’s household. A
household may include related and unrelated persons. If a low-income consumer has no/minimal income, but lives
with someone else who provides financial support to him/her, the low-income consumer should be considered to be
part of that person’s household. An economic unit consists of adults contributing to and sharing in the income and
expenses of a household. Examples of persons living together at an address that may constitute separate economic
units are multi-generational families living together (e.g., parents living with their adult children) or unrelated adult
roommates. See, e.g., Letter from John T. Nakahata, Counsel, GCI, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at Attach. (filed Jan. 23, 2012) (GCI Jan. 23 ex parte
Letter); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food & Nutrition Service (FNS), Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
Prescreening Tool, Household Size, available at https://stars.fns.usda.gov/wps/pages/household.jsf (stating that a
“household” is everyone who lives in a home (including children) and shares income and household expenses (bills,
food, etc.). They may be related or unrelated) (last visited Feb. 2, 2012); see also Committee on National Statistics,
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council of the National Academies,
Estimating Eligibility and Participation for the WIC Program: Final Report at 51-52 (Michele Ver Ploeg and David
M. Betson, eds., 2003), available at http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10804&page=52; Nebraska
Health & Human Services, Nebraska WIC Program, Family Size/Economic Unit Determination, WIC Procedure
Manual, Volume 1 (Clinic Services & Management), Section D, (1999), available at
http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Documents/section%20D%20page%204%20Family%20Size%20Determination.pdf;
California WIC Program Manual, Certification, Eligibility Requirement, Determination of Income Eligibility, WIC
210-03 (2009), available at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/wicworks/Documents/WPM/WIC-WPM-210-03.pdf.
196 There is a wide variety of practices among Lifeline providers today. See, e.g., Letter from John T. Nakahata,
Counsel, GCI, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at
2 (filed Nov. 23, 2011) (GCI Nov. 23 ex parte Letter) (stating that GCI currently employs a nuclear family approach
to a one-per-household limitation under which a consumer is not eligible for service if either anyone else residing
at the consumer's physical address has Lifeline-supported wireline service, or anyone in the consumer's nuclear
family (defined as spouse and minor children) has Lifeline-supported wireless service); Letter from Mitchell F.
Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC
(continued….)
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75.
A one-per-household limitation is also consistent with our prior determination that
eligible consumers may receive universal service low-income support for “a single line in their principal
residence,”197 as well as other existing Lifeline program rules. For example, today, in those states where
eligibility is permitted based on a percentage of income above the FPG, consumers may qualify for
Lifeline based on income level by demonstrating that their household income is at or below 135 percent
of the FPG.198 Similarly, as several commenters observe,199 most of the underlying public assistance
programs on which consumers rely to meet the Lifeline eligibility criteria also are based on a “household
unit.”200 Because use of the household unit is already well-established, we believe that a one-per-
household rule is a reasonable extension of our current program rules, and is unlikely to cause confusion
among consumers and ETCs.
76.
We disagree with those parties who dispute that the Commission has ever adopted a one-
per-household requirement.201 We believe that the Commission, in prior orders, has established such a
requirement for the Lifeline program.202 We acknowledge, however, that this rule has not been a model
of clarity in the past and may have caused unnecessary confusion among consumers and ETCs. We
thereby remedy this issue today by codifying the one-per-household requirement in our Lifeline program
rules.
77.
We also take steps to anticipate and resolve instances where multiple households reside at
the same address. In cases where multiple households reside at an address, including in Tribal
communities and group living facilities, program applicants must affirmatively certify that other Lifeline
recipients residing at that address are part of a separate household, i.e., a separate economic unit that does
not share income and expenses.203 The Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice noted that at least one ETC


(Continued from previous page)
Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., enclosure at 6 (filed Nov. 10, 2011) (TracFone Nov. 10 ex parte Letter) (stating that TracFone
currently limits its Lifeline enrollment to “one-per-residence”). A codified one-per-household rule as described
above will make the Fund size more predictable because all ETCs will be adhering to the same rule.
197 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM, 19 FCC Rcd at 8306, para. 4; Universal Service First Report and
Order
, 12 FCC Rcd at 8957, para. 341.
198 Section 54.400(f) of the Commission’s rules defines “income” for the purposes of establishing income-based
eligibility for Lifeline as “all income actually received by all members of the household.” 47 C.F.R. § 54.400(f).
See also Annual Update of the 2011 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Poverty Guidelines, 76 Fed.
Reg. 3,367, 3,637-38 (Jan. 20, 2011) (Federal Poverty Guidelines).
199 See, e.g., AT&T PN Comments at 2; CTIA Reply Comments at 10; Consumer Groups Comments at 19-20;
Benton Foundation Comments at 4; LCCHR Comments at 8.
200 Some examples of federal benefit programs that define “household” or “family” for the purpose of establishing
eligibility include the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch Program (NLSP), Food Distribution Program on Indian
Reservations (FDPIR), and Section 8 Public Housing Assistance.
201 See, e.g., CTIA Comments at 13-16; GCI Comments at 37.
202 See 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM, 19 FCC Rcd at 8306, para. 4; Universal Service First Report
and Order
, 12 FCC Rcd at 8957, para. 341.
203 See Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Greenberg Traurig, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed June 1, 2011) (TracFone June 1 ex
parte
Letter); see also, e.g., CA PUC Reply Comments at 2 (noting that California permits Lifeline support in
situations where multiple, qualified households reside at the same address); Cox PN Comments at 14-15; Letter
from Sindy Y. Yun, Staff Counsel, California Public Utilities Commission, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. Nos. 11-42 et al., Attach. A, at 5 (filed June 28, 2011) (California PUC
Resolution T-17321, discussing California’s Lifeline “roommate rule”) (CA PUC June 28 ex parte Presentation).
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already has procedures in place to comply with a one-per-household limitation in situations where
multiple consumers claim the same U.S. Postal Service address, and sought comment on whether to
require ETCs to implement similar processes to ensure compliance with a one-per-household rule.204
Generally, this process allows the ETC to provide Lifeline service to multiple qualified residents at an
address and also comply with the one-per-household limitation. However, some commenters responding
to the Public Notice raised concerns about such an “escalation” process, arguing that the low-income
consumers’ applications will typically be rejected and the consumer must initiate a dispute resolution
process with the ETC to reverse that decision.205 Thus, we find that it is preferable to implement
procedures to enable applicants to demonstrate at the outset that any other Lifeline recipients residing at
their residential address are part of a separate household. This will minimize burdens in resolving
disputes, making it easier for consumers to enroll in the program.
78.
As explained below in the database section, upon receiving an application for Lifeline
support, all ETCs must check the duplicates database to determine whether an individual at the
applicant’s residential address is currently receiving Lifeline-supported service.206 The ETC must also
search its own internal records to ensure that it does not already provide Lifeline-supported service to
someone at that residential address. If nobody at the residential address is currently receiving Lifeline-
supported service, the ETC may initiate Lifeline service after determining that the household is otherwise
eligible to receive Lifeline and obtaining all required certifications from the household. If the ETC
determines that an individual at the applicant’s residential address is currently receiving Lifeline-
supported service, the ETC must take an additional step to ensure that the applicant and the current
subscriber are part of different households. To enable applicants to make this demonstration, the ETC
must require applicants to complete and submit to the ETC a written document, to be developed by
USAC as discussed below, containing the following: (1) an explanation of the Commission’s one-per-
household rule; (2) a check box that an applicant can mark to indicate that he or she lives at an address
occupied by multiple households; (3) a space for the applicant to certify that he or she shares an address
with other adults who do not contribute income to the applicant’s household and share in the household’s
expenses or benefit from the applicant’s income, pursuant to the definition we adopt here today; and (4)
the penalty for a consumer’s failure to make the required one-per-household certification (i.e., de-
enrollment).207 All ETCs must collect the completed document upon initial program enrollment from
those consumers who apply for Lifeline using a residential address that the ETC determines is already
receiving Lifeline-supported service.208


204 Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 11102, para. 2(a)(ii).
205 See, e.g., Consumer Groups PN Comments at 5; Benton PN Comments at 16; cf. Consumer Advocates PN
Comments at 8-9.
206 The one-per-household rule we adopt today applies to all ETCs, whether designated as such by a state or by the
Commission.
207 For ease of administration, the ETC may also choose to provide pre-populated options for applicants to provide
further explanation about their address being occupied by multiple households (e.g., share a home with relatives that
do not share income or expenses, live with an adult roommate who does not share in the applicant’s income or
expenses, applicant resides in a group housing facility). We expect that it will be advantageous for ETCs to begin
gathering such information, as it will assist them in more easily populating the duplicates database, once it is
implemented.
208 Thus, the first low-income consumer applying for Lifeline at a given address will not need to provide a one-per-
household worksheet to the ETC. As described in the Certification section, below, ETCs must also obtain a
certification from each consumer that he or she complies with the one-per-household requirement. See supra section
VI.C (Certification of Consumer Eligibility for Lifeine). This certification must be provided by each Lifeline
subscriber at initial enrollment and annually thereafter. See supra para. 120. In the event that a Lifeline subscriber
(continued….)
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79.
We direct USAC, within 30 days of the Order’s publication in the Federal Register, to
develop and submit to the Bureau a form consistent with the above requirements to assist ETCs in
providing Lifeline to low-income households sharing an address. Additionally, within 30 days of this
Order’s publication in the Federal Register, USAC should develop print and web materials to be posted
on USAC’s website that both USAC and ETCs can use to educate consumers about the one-per-
household rule.209 By requiring applicants to provide this information as part of the initial program sign-
up process, we will alleviate delays in the enrollment process, as it is less likely that an application will be
rejected due to multiple households sharing an address and will reduce the burden on the part of both the
consumer and the ETC. Additionally, this process will assist persons living at an address shared by
multiple households to select the telephone service of their choice, wireless or wireline, without
encountering unreasonable barriers due to not being the “first resident” at an address to apply for
Lifeline.210
80.
We decline to adopt the one-per-residential address rule proposed in the NPRM in part
because it would be inappropriate to exclude otherwise eligible consumers solely because they lack a
unique residential address.211 Consumers may live in residences for which there is no unique U.S. Postal
Service address or where multiple persons or families share a residential address, and this may be
particularly common for low-income consumers.212 Based on the record before us, we decline to adopt a
rule that would potentially have the unintended consequence of excluding low-income consumers from
participation in Lifeline.213 In contrast, by codifying the one-per-household requirement, we will enable
eligible low-income consumers, including consumers in non-traditional living situations, to receive


(Continued from previous page)
joins a household that also obtains Lifeline (i.e., becomes part of that economic unit), that subscriber will no longer
be entitled to the Lifeline benefit. For example, if an adult Lifeline subscriber moves in with his or her parents, who
also obtain Lifeline, and becomes a part of the parents’ economic unit, only the subscriber’s parents would be
entitled to continue receiving Lifeline benefits.
209 For example, USAC should develop a tool similar to WIC’s that helps consumers to determine if they are eligible
for Lifeline. See, e.g., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Women, Infants and
Children (WIC) Prescreening Tool, Household Size, https://stars.fns.usda.gov/wps/pages/household.jsf# (last visited
Jan. 30, 2012); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program Prescreening Eligibility Tool, http://www.snap-step1.usda.gov/fns/ (last visited Jan. 30, 2012).
210 Commenters state that ETCs have interpreted the Commission’s existing “one-per-household” rule by providing
one Lifeline discount per residential address; thus, in some cases, only one resident at an address shared by multiple
households has been able to obtain Lifeline service. See, e.g., Fletcher School Reply Comments at 6. MFY Legal
Services Reply Comments at 2.
211 See Amvensys Comments at 6; GCI Reply Comments 2 at 2; MAG-Net Reply Comments at 6-8; NATOA
Comments at 3; NHMC Reply Comments at 3; AT&T Comments at 17; Consumer Groups Comments at 18-19;
YourTel Comments at 3.
212 See, e.g., GCI Comments at 38; NHMC Reply Comments at 3; Consumer Groups Comments at 19-20; State of
Alaska Reply Comments at 2; Letter from James E. Dunstan, Brian Tagaban & W. Greg Kelly, Navajo Nation
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NNTRC), to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 5 (filed Jan. 20, 2012) (NNTRC Jan. 20 ex parte Letter).
213 Commenters provided numerous examples of these living situations, including: unrelated adults living together;
multiple families living together; and multi-generational families living together; residents of Tribal lands; as well as
group living facilities, such as nursing homes, domestic abuse shelters, and persons occupying commercially zoned
facilities. See, e.g., GCI Reply Comments at 10; LCCHR Comments at 8; COMPTEL Comments at 16; Sprint
Comments at 11-12; MAG-Net Reply Comments at 9; Verizon Reply Comments at 5; MA DTC Comments at 7;
YourTel Comments at 2; Cricket Reply Comments at 10; MI PSC Comments at 6; MFY Legal Services Reply
Comments at 2.
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Lifeline support.
81.
Several commenters recommend that the Commission adopt a rule allowing for one
Lifeline-supported service per consumer, which they assert is the best means to ensure the availability of
telephone service for low-income consumers.214 Other commenters advocate for adoption of a more
limited “one-per-person rule,” for example recommending that we adopt such a rule only for residents of
Tribal lands or group living facilities.215 In support of a one-per-person rule, such commenters point to
the increasing wireless penetration rate, as well as the varied living situations of low-income
consumers.216 They state that although the increasing availability of wireless Lifeline services has
increased consumer choice, it has also made it more difficult to enforce a one-per-household or one-per-
residence requirement.217
Such commenters also point out that the challenges in applying the
Commission’s existing one-per-household policy have been exacerbated by the fact that some residences,
such as those on Tribal lands, lack a unique U.S. Postal Service address.218 Other commenters point to
the potential public safety impact of a rule permitting only one Lifeline-supported service per household
or residential address.219


214 See, e.g., GCI Comments at 39-40; COMPTEL Comments at 15; NALA/PCA Comments at 2; NHMC Reply
Comments at 1, 3; Budget/GreatCall/PR Comments at 9-10. In response to the Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice,
a few commenters mistakenly stated that the Commission already adopted a one-per-qualifying consumer rule in the
2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order. See, e.g., AT&T Public Notice Comments at 1-2; CTIA Public Notice
Reply Comments at 3-4. To the contrary, in that order, the Commission explicitly prohibited a qualified low-income
individual from receiving more than one Lifeline-supported service at the same time; it did not hold that each such
person was entitled to Lifeline benefits. 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, 26 FCC Rcd. 9022 at 9026-28,
paras. 8-14.
215 See, e.g., SBI Comments at 9-10 (recommending that the Commission provide one Lifeline discount per eligible
adult to eligible residents of Tribal lands whose annual household income is at or below the federal poverty level,
which SBI estimates would cost approximately $25 million with a 32 percent program take rate); Letter from John
T. Nakahata, Counsel, GCI, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No.
11-42 et al., at 2-3 (filed Dec. 6, 2011) (stating that Lifeline-supported wireless services should be available to each
eligible adult on Tribal lands and estimating that this would expand service to an additional 22,000 adults in Alaska)
(GCI Dec. 6 ex parte Letter); Letter from Steven M. Chernoff, Counsel, PR Wireless d/b/a Open Mobile, to Marlene
H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 5 (filed Jan. 25, 2012)
(stating that if a one-per-qualifying-adult rule is adopted for Tribal lands, it would be essential to extend such a rule
to Puerto Rico, which has economic and infrastructure conditions similar to many Tribal areas) (PR Wireless Jan. 25
ex parte Letter). But see Letter from Michael R. Romano, Senior Vice President – Policy, NTCA, to Marlene H.
Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Dec. 22, 2011)
(stating that there is no reason to base a rule of general applicability on unique circumstances that may be faced in
specific areas) (NTCA Dec. 22 ex parte Letter).
216 See, e.g., NHMC Reply Comments at 1, 3; Sprint Reply Comments at 8; GCI Comments at 39-40; COMPTEL
Comments at 15; Budget/GreatCall/PR Comments at 9-10.
217 Commenters point out that multiple members of a family, for example, or adult roommates may each sign up for
a separate plan from different companies so that each person has his or her own subscription. Additionally, low-
income consumers, such as residents of nursing homes or shelters, may share a residence with other similarly
situated consumers, each of whom may wish to obtain a Lifeline service.
218 SBI Comments at 10-12; GCI Reply Comments at 10; Consumer Groups Comments at 19-20; State of Alaska
Reply Comments at 2.
219 Commenters state, for example, that one member of a household could take a mobile phone with them outside of
their residence, leaving the rest of the household members without a phone. Letter from David A. LaFuria, Counsel,
SBI, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed
Nov. 25, 2011) (SBI Nov. 25 ex parte Letter); GCI PN Comments at 13; Letter from John T. Nakahata, Counsel,
GCI, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 3 (filed
(continued….)
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82.
Although we acknowledge these concerns and issues, the program’s ability to subsidize
service for each eligible low-income individual is tempered by the need to minimize the contribution
burden the program places on all consumers. A one-per-person rule could potentially increase the size of
the low-income program by a significant percentage above the projected Fund size with the one-per-
economic unit rule we adopt in this Order. By codifying a one-per-economic unit rule rather than a one-
per-person rule, the Commission can strike an appropriate balance between ensuring that support is
available for eligible low-income families and that universal service funds are spent in a fiscally prudent
way.220 Moreover, the expected savings from strict enforcement of a one-per-economic unit rule may be
utilized to implement other measures to modernize the Lifeline program, such as the broadband pilot
program we adopt below,221 that will assist in meeting the challenges of broadband adoption for low-
income consumers.
83.
Contrary to assertions in the record that a one-per-household rule overlooks the
importance of mobility for low-income consumers, the rule we adopt today will allow eligible low-
income households to select the Lifeline service, whether landline or mobile, that best meets their
needs.222 We recognize the public safety concerns raised by some commenters with respect to a one-per-
household rule. However, as noted above, the potential benefits of a one-per-person rule must be
balanced against the corresponding increase in the burden on the consumers and businesses that
contribute to USF.223 The Lifeline program can play an important safety role for low-income consumers,
particularly those in isolated rural areas; however, in some limited instances consumers may need to seek
out other alternatives to ensure phone coverage in emergency situations (e.g., non-Lifeline prepaid
wireless services or postpaid wireline services). Additionally, as we clarify below, eligible consumers
may choose to apply their Lifeline discount to the purchase of family shared calling plans, which may
mitigate commenters’ public safety concerns by making voice service available to more than one person
in a household at any given time.224
84.
We acknowledge those comments that urge the Commission to use caution to ensure that
the rules we adopt do not impose additional or excessive administrative costs on ETCs, including small
carriers.225 The rules we adopt here will not unreasonably burden ETCs, including those with a small
number of Lifeline subscribers, as the rules will require ETCs to obtain information from only a limited
number of consumers about their household arrangements, specifically those who are residing in group
living facilities or at addresses shared by multiple households.226 This information is necessary to assist


(Continued from previous page)
Dec. 6, 2011) (GCI Dec. 6 ex parte Letter); Letter from Tom W. Davidson, Counsel, GRTI, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Jan. 24, 2012) (GRTI Jan. 24
ex parte Letter).
220 See, e.g., Cricket PN Comments at 2-3; Consumer Groups Comments at 17-18; CA PUC Reply Comments at 3,
5; Cricket Reply Comments at 10. See also supra Section III.C (Performance Goals & Measures).
221 See infra section IX.B (Broadband Pilot).
222 See, e.g., Amvensys Comments at 7; GCI Reply Comments at 6; PR Wireless Jan. 25 ex parte Letter at 1-2;
NHMC Reply Comments at 3.
223 See supra section III.C (Performance Goals & Measures).
224 See infra section IX.A (Bundled Services).
225 See, e.g., NTCA Comments at 3-4; MITS Reply Comments at 7-8.
226 A few commenters contend that the Commission should not require ETCs to collect potentially sensitive
information about low-income consumers’ household living arrangements. See, e.g., AT&T Comments at 18; CTIA
Reply Comments at 11; COMPTEL PN Comments at 6-7.
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qualifying consumers in such living situations to obtain Lifeline service and to document their compliance
with the one-per-household rule. As noted above, USAC will develop materials print and web materials
that ETCs can use to educate consumers about the one-per-household rule. We stress that we are
requiring consumers to furnish only as much information as is needed for the ETC to verify the
consumer’s compliance with the one-per-household rule, which allows more than one Lifeline-supported
service at a given address in specific circumstances.227 We are not expecting a consumer, for example, to
list the names of other residents of their household or explain personal or familial relationships on the
Lifeline application form. Rather, as stated above, it would be sufficient for a consumer to state that he or
she shares an address with other adults who do not contribute income to their household or share in the
household expenses. We are not imposing an obligation on ETCs to investigate or inquire further about
the specifics of those household arrangements.
85.
Lifeline Address Requirement. We adopt a requirement that, prior to providing service to
a consumer, ETCs must obtain that consumer’s residential address, which the consumer must indicate is
his or her permanent address, and a billing address for the service (if the consumer’s billing address
differs from his or her residential address).228 We also adopt a requirement that Lifeline participants
provide their new address to the ETC within 30 days of moving. As described in the Database section
below, ETCs will be required to enter this address in the duplicates database within 10 business days of
receipt to determine if a subscriber is receiving Lifeline support from another ETC.229 It is important that
ETCs obtain accurate address information for all subscribers so that such information can be used to
detect potential cases of duplicative support, and for eligible consumers to promptly notify the ETC of
any changes in their address.
86.
In the record of the NPRM, we observed that some ETCs have not permitted consumers
to obtain Lifeline support when using a P.O. Box as their mailing address.230 Instead, ETCs have required
applicants seeking Lifeline support to provide a residential address on their application to ensure that the
subscriber is eligible for supported service and is not receiving more than one subsidized service.231 We
sought comment on whether to codify a rule requiring ETCs to collect the residential addresses of their
Lifeline applicants before they provide discounted service, meaning that if a consumer receives mail at a
P.O. Box, the consumer would have to provide a residential address to which his or her service would be
tied.232
87.
Lifeline applicants will not be permitted to use a P.O. Box address as their Lifeline
address. We are concerned that some subscribers could list a P.O. Box as their address in an effort to
avoid complying with our one-per-household requirement. Moreover, requiring a residential address to


227 We acknowledge the challenges associated with the lack of addresses on Tribal lands and discuss this issue
further below. See infra para. 166. The record indicates that residential addresses are frequently non-existent on
Tribal lands and, where present, often differ significantly from residential addresses off Tribal lands. See, e.g., SBI
Comments at 14-16.
228 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2807-08, para. 115 and Appendix A, 47 C.F.R. § 54.408(a)(2)
(proposed rule). The rule is supported by CenturyLink and the Missouri Public Service Commission. See
CenturyLink Comments at 8; MO PSC Comments at 11–12.
229 See infra section VII.A (National Lifeline Accountability Database).
230 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2792, para. 63. See, e.g., City of Cambridge TracFone One-Per-
Household Clarification Comments at 2; NNEDV TracFone One-Per-Household Clarification Reply Comments at
2; SBI TracFone One-Per-Household Clarification Comments at 4-5; POTS TracFone One-Per-Household
Clarification Comments at 2.
231 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2792, para. 63.
232 Id.
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serve as the Lifeline address will facilitate the discovery of duplicative support for a particular household
or subscriber.233 Thus, requiring a residential address is an important tool in reducing the potential for
waste, fraud, and abuse in the program. We recognize that there are also circumstances where an
applicant may not have a permanent residential address due to a temporary living situation or because the
address is not recognized by the post office.234 In the case of temporary living situations, the applicant
must provide a temporary residential address or other qualifying address, such as the address of a
temporary shelter, or a friend or family member, which could be used to perform a check for duplicative
support and trigger the requirement that the consumer complete the one-per-household document
referenced above.235 In the case of addresses not recognized by the post office, including residences on
Tribal lands, the applicant must provide a descriptive address which could be used to perform a check for
duplicative support and trigger the requirement to complete the one-per-household document. For the
consumer’s billing address, an ETC may accept a P.O. Box or General Delivery address in lieu of a
residential address.236
88.
Persons with temporary addresses. As stated above, the one-per-household rule will be
applicable to individuals residing in group living facilities, including, but not limited to, nursing homes,
shelters, halfway houses, boarding houses, and apartment buildings without individual unit numbers.
This rule and its associated procedures will provide an administratively feasible means for ETCs to
provide Lifeline-supported service to residents of these facilities, while also reducing the risk of waste,
fraud, and abuse. Some group living facilities, however, may serve consumers who lack a permanent
address. In the 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, the Joint Board recommended that the
Commission consider how to best serve such populations while also maintaining a commitment to
preventing waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.237
89.
We agree with those commenters who state that consumers without permanent addresses
should not be precluded from participation in Lifeline. However, we also share the Joint Board’s concern
with respect to the “inherent difficulties of serving and verifying such highly mobile populations.”238
Accordingly, we adopt additional protections to be implemented by those ETCs that serve consumers
without a permanent address, in order to assist ETCs in more easily confirming such consumers’
continued eligibility for the program. Specifically, we adopt a rule requiring ETCs to inquire on their
Lifeline application forms whether the applicant’s address is a temporary one. If it is, the ETC must


233 See, e.g., MO PSC Comments at 5; IN URC Comments at 4. As discussed above, while our rules will allow
ETCs to provide service to multiple households at an address, this will require the consumer to take affirmative steps
to confirm that his or her housing arrangement involves multiple households at the same address and to certify that
no more than one Lifeline subsidy is received by his or her household.
234 See, e.g., GCI Jan. 13 ex parte Letter; Letter from David A. LaFuria, Counsel, SBI, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Dec. 6, 2011) (SBI Dec. 6 ex
parte
Letter); Letter from Erica M. Olsen, MSW, Technology Safety Specialist, National Network to End Domestic
Violence (NNEDV), WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed July 27, 2011) (NNEDV July 27 ex parte Letter).
235 See supra paras. 77-79. See, e.g., Family Services Manual, Oregon Department of Human Services,
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section D (Non-Financial Eligibility), Residency,
http://apps.state.or.us/cf1/EligManual/EMnlFrame.htm?Page+ID=06-toc (noting that persons without fixed
residential addresses can provide the address of a shelter or the address of a friend to receive SNAP benefits) (last
visited Feb. 2, 2012).
236 See USPS.com, Research Delivery Options, General Delivery, https://www.usps.com/manage/research-delivery-
options.htm.
237 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15602-03, paras. 12-14.
238 Id. at 15603, para. 14.
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verify with the subscriber every 90 days that he/she continues to rely on that address.239 As noted above,
if the subscriber has moved, the ETC must update the database with the information within 10 business
days of receipt of that information.240 Similar to the non-usage requirement for prepaid Lifeline service,
if the subscriber fails to respond within 30 days of the ETC’s attempts to verify the temporary address, the
subscriber must be de-enrolled from Lifeline pursuant to the program’s de-enrollment rules. This
requirement will enable consumers with temporary addresses to reap the benefit of the Lifeline program,
but will also alleviate the concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse raised by the Joint Board in the 2010
Joint Board Recommended Decision
.241
90.
Application of the One-Per-Household Rule to Commercially Zoned Buildings. As noted
in the NPRM, there are instances where otherwise eligible applicants have been denied Lifeline service
because they live in facilities that are zoned for commercial, rather than residential use.242
Such
commercial residences typically tend to be group living facilities, such as single-room occupancy
buildings, lodging houses, rooming houses, and shelters, rather than individual residences.243 Several
commenters responding to the NPRM state that otherwise eligible consumers should not be denied
Lifeline service due to their residence in these commercially zoned facilities.244 We agree. Accordingly,
we clarify that if the consumer is otherwise eligible for Lifeline and the consumer certifies at enrollment
that the address of record provided by the consumer is his or her residential address, the consumer should
not be denied Lifeline because of residence in an area that is commercially zoned.

C.

Certification of Consumer Eligibility for Lifeline

91.
In this section, we adopt uniform and consistent measures to check low-income
consumers’ initial and ongoing eligibility for Lifeline. The measures we adopt today will increase
consistency in certification practices and reduce the number of ineligible consumers in the Lifeline
program.245 First, we take several steps in this Order to move expeditiously toward the goal of having an
automated means to determine Lifeline eligibility for all consumers. Second, we amend section 54.410 of


239 We do not impose a requirement as to what method ETCs must use to verify the address of such subscribers. For
example, a free-of-charge text message confirming the subscriber’s address or a confirmation from a group living
facility that the subscriber resides there could be sufficient to satisfy this requirement.
240 See supra para. 85.
241 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15602-03, paras. 12-14. We do not expect this
requirement to impose unreasonable burdens on ETCs. As stated above, we do not prescribe the method that ETCs
must use to verify the address of those subscribers utilizing temporary addresses. See supra n.239. Moreover, in
most cases this rule is likely to be applicable to only a small portion of an ETC’s Lifeline subscriber base. Thus, the
rule we adopt today properly balances our obligation to provide access to telecommunications services for eligible
low-income consumers with our responsibility to ensure that funds are spent in a fiscally responsible way.
242 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2808, para. 117.
243 Id. at 2808, paras. 117-18.
244 See, e.g., CenturyLink Comments at 13; FL PSC Comments at 17; MA DTC Comments at 5; Media Action
Grassroots Network Comments at 19; MI PSC Comments at 6; MFY Legal Reply Comments at 2.
245 To date, “certification” has referred to the initial determination of eligibility for enrollment in the program, and
“verification” has referred to the subsequent determinations of ongoing eligibility after a subscriber has already been
enrolled in and is receiving support from the program. See, e.g., 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC
Rcd at 15606-15611, paras. 23-34. As detailed below, we replace this approach today with a process requiring
ETCs to make and obtain certain initial and annual attestations relating to consumer eligibility for Lifeline.
Accordingly, in the Discussion section below we use the term “certification” to collectively refer to the procedures
that ETCs (or states, where applicable) must employ to check both the initial and ongoing eligibility of their Lifeline
subscribers.
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the Commission’s rules to require that ETCs (or the state Lifeline program administrator, where
applicable) check the eligibility of low-income consumers seeking to enroll in Lifeline either by accessing
electronic eligibility databases, where available, or by reviewing documentation from the consumer
demonstrating his/her eligibility for Lifeline service.246
Third, we amend section 54.410 of the
Commission’s rules to require Lifeline subscribers to make initial and annual certifications under penalty
of perjury concerning their eligibility for Lifeline. Fourth, we amend section 54.410 of the Commission’s
rules to require that all Lifeline subscribers certify upon enrollment in Lifeline and annually thereafter
that the subscriber’s household is receiving no more than one Lifeline-supported service. Fifth, we
amend section 54.416 of the Commission’s rules to require ETCs to certify to their compliance with our
rules on an annual Lifeline eligible telecommunications carrier certification form and when submitting
FCC Forms 497 to USAC for reimbursement.
92.
We also take several actions to improve the current methodology employed by ETCs to
verify ongoing consumer eligibility for Lifeline. First, we amend section 54.410 of the Commission’s
rules to replace the existing verification procedures and methodology with a uniform annual re-
certification requirement to be performed through the end of 2012 by ETCs in all states (or the state
Lifeline program administrator, where applicable), while also allowing ETCs to leverage existing
databases to more easily confirm the continued eligibility of their subscribers. Second, we establish a
process to transition, beginning in 2013, the responsibility for annual subscriber re-certification to USAC,
at the ETC’s election. Third, we amend section 54.405 of the Commission’s rules to adopt a procedure
for de-enrolling those subscribers who do not respond to an ETC’s or state’s annual re-certification
efforts, which will encourage consumer accountability and ensure that universal service support is not
directed toward consumers who may not be eligible for Lifeline. Fourth, to provide the Commission and
the states with a more complete set of consumer eligibility data, we codify a rule requiring ETCs in all
states to share their annual re-certification results with USAC, the Commission, and their respective state
commissions, where the carrier is subject to state jurisdiction.
1.

Background

93.
The Commission’s current rules regarding the certification and verification of consumer
eligibility for Lifeline differ based on whether a state maintains its own universal service low-income
program. States with their own low-income programs may establish rules to govern the initial
certification and ongoing verification of consumers’ eligibility for Lifeline support.247 Such states are
referred to as “non-federal default states.” In states without their own low-income programs, referred to
as “federal default states,” ETCs must follow the federal certification and verification requirements set
forth in sections 54.409, 54.410, and 54.416 of the Commission's rules.248 Thus, ETCs providing Lifeline
service in multiple states may be required to comply with various state and/or federal certification and
verification procedures. Moreover, certification and verification requirements may even vary from ETC
to ETC within a given state because some states do not assert jurisdiction over certain carriers within the
state (e.g., wireless ETCs).249 In such circumstances, the federally-designated ETCs may be subject to


246 Throughout this section, we use the term “state Lifeline program administrator”, “states” and “state agencies”
interchangeably to include any governmental agency within a state, or its agents, that may perform functions relating
to consumer eligibility.
247 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.410(a)(1), (c)(1).
248 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.409(d); 54.410(a)(2), (c)(2); 54.416.
249 Under the current rules, when a state commission mandates Lifeline support but does not impose certification and
verification requirements on certain carriers or customers within the state, the affected carriers must follow federal
default criteria for certification and verification purposes. See Lifeline and Link Up, WC Dkt. No. 03-109, Order
and Declaratory Ruling, 25 FCC Rcd 1641, 1641-42, 1645, paras. 1, 9 (2010) (Lifeline Declaratory Ruling).
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different standards from the state-designated ETCs in the same state.
94.
Initial Certification of Consumer Eligibility.
Certification is the process by which
eligible consumers establish their qualification for Lifeline. Certification occurs at the time a consumer is
applying to enroll in Lifeline.250 To qualify for universal service low-income support, a consumer must
first demonstrate that he or she meets the eligibility criteria set forth in federal or state rules, as applicable.
Sections 54.409 and 54.410 of the Commission’s rules provide two options for consumers in federal
default states to choose between to establish eligibility for Lifeline: (1) consumers may self-certify that
they are eligible for Lifeline support based on participation in certain federal programs;251 or (2)
consumers may provide documentation showing that they meet the income threshold requirements set
forth in the Commission’s rules.252 Non-federal default states, however, exhibit variation in permitted
certification practices, particularly with respect to the proof required by low-income consumers seeking to
enroll in Lifeline based on participation in a qualifying state or federal program.253 According to the 2010
GAO study of the Lifeline program, 25 states currently require consumers to provide documentation of
enrollment in a qualifying program.254
95.
Annual Verification of Continued Eligibility. Currently, section 54.410 of the
Commission’s rules sets out a bifurcated structure for ETCs to follow when verifying consumers’
ongoing eligibility for Lifeline. Pursuant to section 54.410(c)(1) of the Commission’s rules, ETCs in
non-federal-default states must comply with the verification procedures established by the states, each of
which may adopt its own method for verifying continued consumer eligibility.255 GAO’s 2010 report
noted wide variation in methods employed by non-federal-default states to verify consumers’ ongoing
eligibility for Lifeline.256 Section 54.410(c)(2) of the Commission’s rules requires ETCs in federal
default states to annually verify the continued eligibility of a statistically valid random sample of their
consumers.257 The size of annual samples are based on a number of factors, including the number of


250 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM, 19 FCC Rcd at 8317, para. 23.
251 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(b), (c), (d)(1).
252 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.409(b), (d)(2), 54.410(a)(2). Currently, consumers in federal default states who wish to qualify
for Link Up support based on income levels must present documentation showing they meet the income threshold
requirements in the Commission’s rules. 47 C.F.R. § 54.416.
253 According to GAO, 16 states permit self-certification under penalty of perjury, 25 states require documentation
of enrollment in a qualifying program, and 9 states have in place automatic enrollment of eligible consumers. 2010
GAO REPORT at 51.
254 Id.
255 47 C.F.R. § 54.410(c)(1).
256 See 2010 GAO REPORT at 51. According to GAO, 14 states conduct random audits of Lifeline recipients, 20
states require periodic submission of supporting documents, 13 states require an annual self-certification, 13 states
use an online verification system using databases of public assistance participants or income reports, and 17 states
conduct verification by confirming the continued eligibility of a statistically valid sample of Lifeline recipients. Id.
257 47 C.F.R. § 54.410(c)(2); see also Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2879-81, Appendix B (overview
of the current sampling methodology used by ETCs in federal default states). Subscribers who are sampled in
federal default states and who qualify for Lifeline under program-based eligibility criteria must present proof of their
continued eligibility and self-certify under penalty of perjury that they continue to participate in a qualifying public
assistance program. See 47 C.F.R. § 54.410(c)(2). Subscribers who are sampled in federal default states and who
qualify for Lifeline based on income must present current documentation of income and self-certify under penalty of
perjury as to the number of individuals in the subscriber’s household and that the documentation presented
accurately represents their household income. Id. ETCs are required to retain copies of the self-certifications but
not the underlying documentation of income. See 47 C.F.R. § 54.417.
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Lifeline subscribers served by the ETC and the previously estimated proportion of Lifeline subscribers
served that are “inappropriately taking” Lifeline service.258 However, the current methodology assumes
that no more than six percent of consumers would be found ineligible in any given year.259
96.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission suggested several changes to the
Lifeline certification and verification rules aimed at improving the integrity of the program by
strengthening federal requirements and introducing greater consistency nationwide.260 The Commission
developed such proposals drawing, in large part, on recommendations of the Joint Board and the findings
of the GAO in its 2010 review of the low-income program.261 GAO, for example, found that the Lifeline
program lacks an adequate front-end mechanism to prevent ineligible consumers from receiving program
support, and that there are risks associated with self-certification of subscriber eligibility.262 Additionally,
the Joint Board recommended that, to promote nationwide uniformity in the verification of consumer
eligibility for Lifeline, the Commission adopt uniform, minimum verification procedures and sampling
criteria that would apply to ETCs in all states.263 The changes we adopt today directly address the GAO’s
critiques and the Joint Board’s recommendations.
2.

Discussion

a.

Initial and Annual Certification Requirements

97.
Eligibility Databases. We find that establishing a fully automated means for verifying
consumers’ initial and ongoing Lifeline eligibility from governmental data sources would both improve
the accuracy of eligibility determinations, ensuring that only eligible consumers receive Lifeline benefits,
and reduce burdens on consumers as well as ETCs. We therefore direct the Bureau and USAC to take all
necessary actions so that, as soon as possible and no later than the end of 2013, there will be an automated
means to determine Lifeline eligibility for, at a minimum, the three most common programs through
which consumers qualify for Lifeline.264 Several states have already developed qualifying databases
through which a Lifeline subscriber’s initial and continued eligibility can be verified, and in some cases
eligibility determinations are performed by a third-party administrator rather than ETCs. In other states,
ETCs can directly access an eligibility database.265
We take several steps in this Order to move


258 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, at 26 FCC Rcd at 2879-81, Appendix B (Sample Size Table); see also 2004
Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM
, 19 FCC Rcd at 8365, Appendix J-1.
259 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2879-81, Appendix B (“In all instances, the estimated
proportion P should never be less than .01 or more than .06.”).
260 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2824-31, paras. 167-98.
261 See generally 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision; 2010 GAO REPORT.
262 See 2010 GAO REPORT at 37.
263 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15607, para. 26. However, the Joint Board
recommended that states be permitted to utilize different and/or additional verification procedures, as long as those
procedures are at least as effective in detecting waste, fraud, and abuse as the minimum federal procedures. Id. at
15608, para. 28. For additional discussion of the Joint Board’s recommendations with respect to verification, see
infra discussion at section VI.C.2.b (Annual Re-Certification of Consumer Eligibility).
264 Based on the information in the record, most consumers qualify for Lifeline through Medicaid, SNAP, and SSI.
See infra para. 104 and n.1060. We recognize that meeting this goal will require coordinated action among
numerous parties outside of the Commission.
265 As the record indicates, there are at least nine states with an automated means for ETCs or state administrators to
determine consumer participation in at least some programs which qualify consumers for Lifeline support. See
Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 5 (filed Jan. 24, 2012) (noting that TracFone has access
(continued….)
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expeditiously toward the goal of having an automated means to determine Lifeline eligibility for all
consumers. First, we direct the Wireline Competition Bureau to reach out to the other federal government
agencies responsible for the qualifying programs to help facilitate access to the data necessary to
determine subscriber eligibility. Second, we direct the Bureau to host a series of workshops including
non-governmental entities such as ETCs, technical experts, and database vendors to identify pragmatic
solutions to issues regarding the establishment of one or more databases. Finally, we seek additional
targeted comment on implementation issues in the attached further notice.266
98.
Determination of Initial Program Eligibility. We first amend section 54.410 of the
Commission’s rules to require all ETCs, prior to enrolling a new subscriber in Lifeline, to access state or
federal social services eligibility databases, where available, to determine a consumer’s program-based
eligibility.267 By accessing state or federal social service eligibility data, ETCs will more efficiently and
accurately determine whether a consumer is eligible for low-income support.268 As discussed below, we
conclude that a rule requiring ETCs to access databases where available at enrollment to confirm
program-based eligibility is necessary in light of evidence demonstrating that consumer self-certification
of program-based eligibility does not effectively prevent ineligible consumers from enrolling in
Lifeline.269 Where ETCs access state or federal databases to make determinations about consumer
eligibility for Lifeline, we do not require ETCs to obtain from a new subscriber documentation of his or
her participation in a qualifying federal program. The ETC or its representative must note in its records
what specific data was relied upon to confirm the consumer’s initial eligibility for Lifeline (e.g., name of
a state database.) This rule will reduce administrative burdens on ETCs by allowing them to leverage
existing systems and processes. In states where the ETC is not responsible for the initial determination of
consumer eligibility, a state agency or third-party administrator, as applicable, may query the database in
lieu of the ETC doing so.
99.
We recognize that some ETCs will not have access to centralized consumer eligibility
data in the near-term, or may only have access to eligibility data for a subset of the social services
programs in a given state. In states where ETCs are responsible for establishing eligibility (i.e., there is


(Continued from previous page)
to eligibility information in Florida, Wisconsin, Maryland, Texas and Washington state) (TracFone Jan. 24 ex parte
Letter); Letter from Shana Knutson, Staff Attorney, Nebraska Public Service Commission, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. Nos. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Aug. 8, 2011) (NE PSC
Aug. 8 ex parte Letter); Letter from Jon Cray, Residential Service Protection Fund Program Manager, Public
Utilities Commission of Oregon, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt.
11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Aug. 24, 2011) (OR PUC Aug. 24 ex parte Presentation); NY PSC Comments at 10; Letter
from Robert W. Wilhelm, Jr., Regulatory Pricing Manager, Cincinnati Bell, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary,
Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Aug. 30, 2011) (discussing data access
to Ohio energy assistance program) (Cincinnati Bell Aug. 30 ex parte Letter).
266 See infra FNPRM, section XIII.A (Establishing an Eligibility Database).
267 This discussion focuses on certification requirements for consumers seeking Lifeline support. ETCs must also
follow the certification procedures set forth in section 54.410, as modified, to determine an eligible resident of
Tribal lands’ initial eligibility for Link Up.
268 See, e.g., Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Nov. 22, 2011) (TracFone Nov. 22 ex parte Letter);
Letter from Danielle Frappier, Counsel, Nexus Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Nov. 18, 2011) (proposing that ETCs participating in the Lifeline
program engage in a cooperative effort to establish a database to screen for duplicative Lifeline subscriptions and
confirm consumer eligibility) (Nexus Nov. 18 ex parte Letter).
269 See infra paras. 102-05.
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no state administrator, and the state commission or other state agency is not making eligibility
determinations) and there is no automated means for ETCs to check electronic databases for eligibility, an
ETC must review documentation to determine eligibility for new subscribers until such time as a
qualifying eligibility database is available.270 In states where the ETC is not responsible for the initial
determination of consumer eligibility, a state agency or third-party administrator, as applicable, may
obtain consumer documentation in lieu of the ETC doing so.271
100.
No later than June 1, 2012, ETCs in states where carriers are responsible for checking
consumer eligibility must implement certification procedures to document the eligibility of those
consumers seeking to qualify for Lifeline under program-based criteria.272 Consistent with our current
Lifeline rules, ETCs in states where carriers are responsible for checking consumer eligibility must have
already implemented procedures to document the eligibility of consumers seeking to qualify for Lifeline
under income-based criteria.273 ETCs will be required to comply with these documentation requirements
unless access to an electronic eligibility or income database is available.
101.
Acceptable documentation of program eligibility would include: (1) the current or prior
year’s statement of benefits from a qualifying state, federal or Tribal program; (2) a notice letter of
participation in a qualifying state, federal or Tribal program; (3) program participation documents (e.g.,
the consumer’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) electronic benefit transfer card or
Medicaid participation card (or copy thereof); or (4) another official document evidencing the consumer’s
participation in a qualifying state, federal or Tribal program. Acceptable documentation of income
eligibility includes the prior year's state, federal, or Tribal tax return, current income statement from an
employer or paycheck stub, a Social Security statement of benefits, a Veterans Administration statement
of benefits, a retirement/pension statement of benefits, an Unemployment/Workmen's Compensation
statement of benefits, federal or Tribal notice letter of participation in General Assistance, or a divorce


270 For comments in support of a rule requiring consumers to provide documentation of program-based eligibility,
see, e.g., Letter from Sen. Claire McCaskill, United States Senate, to Hon. Julius Genachowski, Chairman, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Dec. 9, 2011) (Sen. McCaskill Letter);
CenturyLink Comments at 16-17; NY PSC Comments at 7; MI PSC Comments at 8; OH PUC Comments at 18;
Cricket Reply Comments at 13; DC PSC Comments at 5; MO PSC Comments at 13; NE PSC Comments at 12;
Letter from Commissioner Anne Boyle, Nebraska Public Service Commission, to Hon. Julius Genachowski,
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed July 21, 2011) (stating that self-
certification exacerbates the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program) (Comm’r Boyle Letter);
Letter from Norina T. Moy, Director, Government Affairs, Sprint Nextel, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Jan. 18, 2012) (Sprint Jan. 18 ex parte Letter).
271 We note that while we require upfront documentation of program eligibility where a carrier cannot access state or
federal eligibility data evidencing the consumer’s participation in a qualifying program, the amended re-certification
process we adopt today reduces burdens on consumers and carriers by eliminating the requirement that Lifeline
subscribers in federal default states provide annual documentation of their continued eligibility. See infra section
VI.C.2.b.
272 We recognize that ETCs may choose to enroll consumers online or by phone. We do not discourage ETCs from
employing these types of enrollment methods, but stress that ETCs choosing to utilize them must have a means for
verifying eligibility pursuant to the rules set forth in this order.
273 The rule we adopt today does not modify the current rule requiring consumers qualifying for Lifeline under
income-based criterion to present documentation of household income to the ETC prior to enrolling in the program.
See 47 C.F.R. § 54.410(a). Where ETCs access state or federal databases to make determinations about consumer
income-based eligibility for Lifeline, we do not require ETCs to obtain from a new subscriber documentation of his
or her household income. The ETC or its representative must note in its records what specific data was relied upon
to confirm the consumer’s initial eligibility for Lifeline (e.g, name of a state income database).
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decree, child support award, or other official document containing income information.274 While ETCs
will be required to examine such documentation as appropriate to verify a consumer’s program or
income-based eligibility for initiating Lifeline service, ETCs are not required to and should not retain
copies of the documentation.275
Rather, pursuant to section 54.417 of our rules, the ETC or its
representative should establish policies and procedures to review such documentation and must keep
accurate records detailing how the consumer demonstrated his or her eligibility. Within 45 days of the
effective date of this Order, USAC should develop training materials to educate ETCs on the types of
documentation, consistent with the list of documentation described above, that may be presented by low-
income consumers to demonstrate program and income-based eligibility for Lifeline.276
102.
We view the documentation requirement as necessary to protect the integrity of the
program. Recent verification data provides troubling evidence that suggests additional measures are
needed to prevent ineligible consumers from signing up for Lifeline. Up to an estimated 15 percent of
existing Lifeline subscribers could be ineligible for Lifeline benefits, potentially representing hundreds of
millions of dollars in support that could have been used to serve eligible subscribers.277 As an example,
Appendix D, Tables 1 and 2 summarize the percentage of subscribers deemed ineligible for Lifeline based
on the results of verification surveys conducted by ETCs in 2011 and 2007.278 The verification survey
data for 2011 and 2007 separately reports ineligibility and non-response rates. Based on USAC’s
preliminary results for 2011, 9 percent of subscribers surveyed responded that they were no longer
eligible for Lifeline, in comparison to the 27 percent of subscribers who failed to respond to the carriers’
verification surveys.279 Similarly, in 2007, 12 percent of subscribers surveyed responded that they were
no longer eligible for Lifeline, in comparison to the 10 percent of consumers who failed to respond to the


274 We clarify that the consumer must provide either documentation of income that covers a full year (e.g., pay
stubs) or three consecutive months’ worth of the same types of document within the previous twelve months. As
noted by GCI, the current language of 47 C.F.R. § 54.410 could be construed to preclude some consumers from
obtaining Lifeline support within the first three months of the calendar year, because three months’ worth of
documentation is unavailable. See Letter from John T. Nakahata, Counsel, General Communications Inc., to
Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Dec. 19,
2011) (GCI Dec. 19 ex parte Letter).
275 See also, e.g., YourTel Comments at 12-13 (stating that carriers should not be required to retain documents
containing potentially sensitive information).
276 These materials should be developed in conjunction with the print and web materials that USAC creates to assist
ETCs in educating consumers about the one-per-household rule. See supra para. 79.
277 Staff conservatively assumes that ineligible subscribers could constitute up to 15 percent of the total Lifeline
subscribers in 2011 – 2014.
278 See Appendix D, Tables 1 and 2; see also Letter from Karen Majcher, Vice President High Cost and Low Income
Division, to Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt.
Nos. 11-42, 03-109, CC Dkt. No. 96-45 (Jan. 10, 2012) (USAC Certification & Verification Letter and Data); Letter
from Karen Majcher, Vice President High Cost and Low Income Division, Universal Service Administrative
Company, to Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt.
Nos. 11-42, 03-109, CC Dkt. No. 96-45 (Jan. 24, 2012) (USAC 2011 Verification Results Letter).
279 Appendix D, Table 1; USAC 2011 Verification Results Letter at 1, 3. In the 2011 verification survey results
compiled by USAC, 4,694 subscribers were found to be ineligible for Lifeline, out of a total of 52,865 subscribers
surveyed by ETCs (or the state Lifeline administrator, where applicable). In addition, 14,219 or 27 percent of
subscribers surveyed could be deemed ineligible for Lifeline due to failure to respond to the carrier or state
administrator’s verification efforts. That is, at least 9 percent of subscribers surveyed in 2011 were found to be
ineligible for Lifeline. In the 2007 Lifeline verification survey, 23,360 subscribers were found to be ineligible for
Lifeline, out of a total of 203,057 subscribers surveyed.
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carriers’ verification surveys.280
Moreover, in some cases, a substantial percentage of subscribers
surveyed were found to be ineligible for the program.281 This data suggests that existing certification
practices may be insufficient to prevent ineligible consumers from enrolling in Lifeline.282
103.
Lifeline subscribership data also reflects troubling evidence suggesting that ineligible
consumers may be enrolling in the program at a particularly rapid rate in states that do not require
documentation of program-based eligibility at sign-up. For example, subscribership data demonstrates
that the number of Lifeline subscribers in Louisiana, which does not require documentation of program
participation at enrollment, increased by 1,565 percent from 2008 to 2011.283 In comparison, the number
of Lifeline subscribers in Kansas, which requires program participants to provide documentation of
participation in a qualifying federal program, increased by 105 percent from 2008 to 2011.284 Lifeline
participation rates in other states reflect a similar trend. It is critical that the Commission put in place


280 See Appendix D, Table 2; see also USAC Certification & Verification Letter and Data at 2-3. In the 2007
Lifeline verification survey, 23,360 subscribers were found to be ineligible for Lifeline, out of a total of 203,057
subscribers surveyed. Therefore, at least 12 percent of subscribers surveyed in 2007 were found to be ineligible. In
addition, 19,572 subscribers, i.e., 10 percent of the sample, could be deemed to be ineligible for Lifeline due to
failure to respond to the carrier or state administrator’s verification efforts. One commenter asserts that the results
of its verification surveys do not reflect a significantly higher percentage of ineligible consumers in those states that
currently require documentation of program eligibility as compared to states that do not. Letter from Mitchell F.
Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC
Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Aug. 3, 2011) (TracFone Aug. 3 ex parte Letter) (noting that 34.9 percent of
Safelink consumers in Louisiana could not verify continued eligibility for Lifeline, as opposed to 30.5 percent of
Safelink consumers in Missouri). See also Nexus Reply Comments at 11-13; cf. AARP Comments at 9 (stating that
there is no basis to believe that large numbers of consumers will fraudulently assert eligibility for Lifeline,
particularly if verification surveys are conducted on a yearly basis).
281 See Appendix D, Table 1 (in Alabama, for example, which permits consumers to self-certify their participation in
a qualifying federal or state program, see, e.g., TracFone Jan. 24 ex parte Letter, nearly twenty percent of
subscribers surveyed in 2011 were found to be ineligible for Lifeline).
282 We do recognize that it is not unusual for consumers to fail to respond to surveys. At the time same, a
subscriber’s failure to confirm his or her continuing eligibility for Lifeline is potentially suggestive that the
consumer may not be eligible for the program. See Comm’r Boyle Letter at 2 (noting that if an application to
participate in Nebraska’s Lifeline program is not supported by documentation, the state returns it and asks the
consumer to provide documentation to demonstrate program eligibility; however, a significant number of persons do
not respond when asked to produce such documentation, despite verbally asserting that they are eligible to
participate in the program).
283 The number of Lifeline subscribers in Louisiana grew from approximately 38,000 in 2008 to 626,000 in 2011
(annualized based on 11 months subscriber data), which is an increase of 1565 percent. See Letter from Karen
Majcher, Vice President High Cost and Low Income Division, Universal Service Administrative Company, to
Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et
al.
, at 2 (filed Jan. 23, 2012) (USAC Low Income Support and Subscriber Claims Letter).
284 The number of Lifeline subscribers in Kansas grew from 26,737 in 2008 to 54,680 in 2011 (annualized based on
11 months subscriber data), which is an increase of 105 percent. It should be noted that the difference in poverty
rates between Kansas and Louisiana remained same in 2008 and 2010 and is expected to remain same in 2011. See
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2010 County-Level Poverty Rates,
http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/povertyrates/ (last visited Jan. 30, 2012); United States Census Bureau, State
Rankings, Statistical Abstract of the United States, Persons Below Poverty Level, 2008,
http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/ranks/rank34.html (last visited Jan. 30, 2012). Thus, it does not
appear that the disparity in poverty rates contributed to the higher growth in Lifeline subscribership in Louisiana.
See USAC Low Income Support and Subscriber Claims Letter at 2. This growth rate could be explained by new
entrants providing low-income consumers telephone service, including mobile service, for the first time.
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measures immediately to address this situation.
104.
Requiring consumers to present documentation demonstrating their participation in a
qualifying program prior to enrollment in Lifeline will go a long way towards ensuring that only qualified
consumers benefit from the program, thereby reducing waste, and possibly fraud and abuse in the
program.285 As we noted in the NPRM, self-certification does little to guard against those persons who
wish to intentionally defraud the Lifeline program by enrolling in the program despite their
ineligibility.286 Similarly, self-certification does not exclude consumers who are ineligible to participate
in the program but mistakenly enroll due to misunderstanding the eligibility requirements. Recent data
from two of the ETCs with the largest number of Lifeline subscribers indicates that an overwhelming
majority of consumers today sign up for Lifeline on the basis of program eligibility.287 Additionally, state
data indicates that most low-income consumers qualify for Lifeline based on participation in Medicaid,
SSI, and SNAP.288 Requiring that consumers present documentation of eligibility before receiving
subsidized phone service will help to reinforce that they are signing up for a federal benefit.
105.
A new rule requiring consumers to provide documentation of program-based eligibility as
part of the initial enrollment process is consistent with the existing rule applicable in federal default states
requiring documentation for income-based eligibility. It is also consistent with enrollment requirements
in nearly all federal benefits programs. Several of the federal benefits programs that constitute qualifying
programs for Lifeline, including SNAP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Federal Housing
Assistance Program, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), require
consumers to present several forms of documentation to enroll in the benefit program.289 Moreover, as


285 See, e.g., Sen. McCaskill Letter; Comm’r Boyle Letter; Cricket Reply Comments at 13; NE PSC Comments at 12.
286 One commenter states that a requirement that consumers provide documentation of both program- and income-
based eligibility will not prevent outright fraud, as consumers may fabricate eligibility documentation in order to
obtain benefits. See Letter from Joan M. Griffin, Counsel, Emerios, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 5 (filed Nov. 3, 2011) (Emerios Nov. 3 ex parte Letter).
To protect against such scenarios, we expect that ETCs will enact appropriate safeguards to prevent fraudulent
enrollments. Further, as detailed below, any individual who willfully and knowingly violates any rule or regulation
of the Commission may be subject to penalties and permanent program de-enrollment. See infra para. 115.
287 See, e.g., TracFone Aug. 3 ex parte Letter (stating that, since 2008, TracFone has enrolled nearly 5 million
households in its Lifeline program, of which 99 percent qualified based on program-based criteria); Letter from
Jamie M. Tan, Director, Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Aug. 15, 2011) (noting that, in AT&T’s experience, the vast majority
of Lifeline customers qualify via participation in public assistance programs, rather than on the basis of documenting
household income); see also Solix Aug. 31 ex parte (stating that in Texas and California, approximately 70 percent
of consumers qualify for Lifeline based on program eligibility, while 30 percent qualify based on income level)
(AT&T Aug. 15 ex parte Letter); see also CA PUC June 28 ex parte Presentation, Attachment B, at 18.
288 See, e.g., WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES, REPORT TO THE LEGISLATURE,
WASHINGTON TELEPHONE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, YEAR 21 OF PROGRAM OPERATION: JULY 1, 2007 THROUGH JUNE
30, 200811 (2008), available at http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/main/legrep/Leg1208/WTAP2008LegReport.pdf; CA
PUC June 28 ex parte Presentation, Attachment B, at 18.
289 See 7 U.S.C. § 2020(e)(3); 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(f)(1)(i), (4), (5) (verification of eligibility for SNAP); Social Security
Online, Nutrition Assistance Programs, http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10100.html#apply (last visited Feb. 2, 2012);
Social Security Online, Supplemental Security Income, http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/11000.html#part4 (last visited Feb.
2, 2012); HUD’s Public Housing Program,
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/rental_assistance/phprog (last visited Feb. 2, 2012); U.S.
Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Community Services, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance
Program (LIHEAP), http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/brochure/brochure.html (last visited Feb. 2, 2012);
Letter from Cheryl A. Leanza, Policy Advisor, United Church of Christ, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
(continued….)
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noted above, GAO found that a number of states already require that consumers initiating Lifeline service
provide documentation of enrollment in a qualifying program.290 For example, Missouri, Texas, and
Nebraska currently require proof of participation in a qualifying program to establish program-based
eligibility for Lifeline.291 Thus, given that many consumers are already subject to such requirements, it is
not unreasonable to extend the applicability of those requirements to cover ETCs in all states.
106.
Some commenters expressed concern that a rule requiring consumers to show
documentation of eligibility upon enrollment will discourage program enrollment because not all
consumers have documentation to prove eligibility, and many low-income consumers lack access to
technology (such as fax machines, copiers, and scanners) that would assist them in submitting
documentation to ETCs.292
For example, one commenter asserts that Nebraska, which requires
consumers to provide documentation of participation in a qualifying federal program to establish
eligibility for Lifeline, has a program enrollment rate below the national average.293
We are not
persuaded that requiring documentation of program eligibility will unduly reduce enrollment in Lifeline
or otherwise significantly hinder low-income consumers from obtaining needed telephone services.
Generally, consumers who qualify for Lifeline under program-based criteria receive documentation
evidencing their participation in a qualifying program.294 Further, as Chart 2, below, demonstrates,


(Continued from previous page)
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1-2 (stating that most anti-poverty programs that are
qualifying programs for Lifeline require consumers to provide documentation of income, either a pay stub or by
getting their employer to complete a verification form) (LCCHR Nov. 21 ex parte Letter); see also USDA, Food &
Nutrition Service, WIC Prescreening Tool, https://stars.fns.usda.gov/wps/pages/start.jsf (last visited Feb. 2, 2012).
290 See supra para 94.
291 See, e.g., MO PSC Comments at 3-4; Solix Comments at 3; NE PSC Comments at 12-13. Other examples of
states that require documentation of enrollment in a qualifying program include Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
See South Carolina Lifeline and Link-Up Telephone Assistance Application, available at
http://www.regulatorystaff.sc.gov/imagesUpload/LifelineApplication.pdf; Letter from Joseph K. Witmer, Esq.,
Assistant Counsel, Pennsylvania PUC, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC
Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., (filed July 7, 2011) (Pennsylvania PUC July 7 ex parte Letter).
292 See, e.g., COMPTEL Comments at 19-20; Consumer Groups Comments at 24-25; GCI Comments at 48; Keep
USF Fair Comments at 2; MAG-Net Comments at 20; NASUCA Reply Comments at 13-14; Nexus Reply
Comments at 11; USTelecom Comments at 6; Rainbow PUSH Comments at 1; OpenAccess Comments at 4;
TracFone Comments at 28-29; YourTel Comments at 12-13; State of Alaska Reply Comments at 3; see also Letter
from Commissioner Deborah Taylor-Tate, Federal Communications Commission, to Julius Genachowski,
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Aug. 1, 2011) (Comm’r Tate
Aug. 1 ex parte Letter); Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (July 28, 2011) (TracFone July 28
ex parte Letter); TracFone Aug. 3 ex parte Letter; Emerios Nov. 3 ex parte Letter at 4; Letter from George Korn,
Advisor to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Rainbow PUSH, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Dec. 9, 2011) (Rainbow PUSH Dec. 9 ex parte Letter).
293 TracFone July 28 ex parte Letter at 2; see also Emerios Nov. 3 ex parte Letter at 4 (stating that consumers who
are required to provide documentation of program-based eligibility may opt not to complete the Lifeline sign-up
process).
294 For example, program participants may receive an identification card or number (Medicaid, SNAP), an electronic
benefit transfer card (SNAP), a voucher (Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)), a notice of eligibility or
other written decision letter (SSI, LIHEAP, Federal National School Lunch, TANF, Food Distribution Program on
Indian Reservations, BIA General Assistance). See, e.g., 24 C.F.R. § 982.302(a) (Section 8 Issuance of Voucher); 7
C.F.R. § 245.6(C)(6) (National School Lunch Program Notice of Approval); 47 C.F.R. §§ 274.1, 274.2 (setting out
how state agencies may issue SNAP benefits to households using an Electronic Benefit Transfer system); LCCHR
Nov. 21 ex parte Letter (stating that “most federal benefits programs provide an award letter or notice of eligibility
(continued….)
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Lifeline subscriber data also demonstrates that program enrollment continues to increase significantly in
states that currently require consumers to provide documentation of program-based eligibility, such as
Kansas.295 Nonetheless, to the extent that the balance we strike here is more burdensome for consumers
in those states that currently allow self-certification, we anticipate that the documentation requirement
will be temporary until eligibility can be better addressed through a database solution.
Chart 2
Comparison of Lifeline Growth Rate in States Requiring Documentation of Program Eligibility Versus
States Permitting Self-Certification of Program Eligibility296

Compound

Annual

Eligible

Growth

HH (in

Take Rate*

State

Requirement

Rate

thousands)
(2011)
(2008 -
(2010)
2011)
KS
Documentation
28%
229
25%
OR
Database
4%
278
19%
MD
Self-certification
250%
325
75%
LA
Self-certification
155%
518
121%
107.
As the record demonstrates, state agencies and non-profit organizations often play an
important role in facilitating access to benefits for low-income individuals.297 State agencies and non-
profit organizations may be able to assist low-income consumers if low-income consumers do not have
the ability to transmit documentation to their chosen ETC. Additionally, some ETCs enroll consumers
using a variety of methods, including at retail stores (i.e., in person). We encourage ETCs to provide
consumers with multiple options for presenting documentation of eligibility, including in-person and by


(Continued from previous page)
when an individual or household is deemed eligible and also a card to help maneuver in the system”); USDA,
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, Electronic Benefit Transfer, http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ebt/ (last visited Feb.
2, 2012); Social Security Online, Glossary, Appeal (Appeal Rights), http://www.ssa.gov/glossary.htm (last visited
Feb. 2, 2012); USDA, FNS HANDBOOK 501 FOR FDPIR 5-3, http://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/hdbks-
instruct/FNS501/Chap05-
Certification.pdf#xml=http://65.216.150.153/texis/search/pdfhi.txt?query=handbook+501&pr=FNS&prox=page&ro
rder=500&rprox=500&rdfreq=500&rwfreq=500&rlead=500&rdepth=0&sufs=0&order=r&cq=&id=4ea87d7c39;
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Application for Financial Assistance and Social Services
Instructions, at 17, http://www.bia.gov/idc/groups/mywcsp/documents/collection/idc014233.pdf.
295 For instance, the number of Lifeline subscribers in Kansas grew from approximately 26,737 in 2008 to 54,680
(annualized based on 11 months subscribers data) in 2011. That is, the number of Lifeline subscribers in Kansas
increased at a 28 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 2008 and 2011. See USAC Low Income
Support and Subscriber Claims Letter
at 2.
296 See USAC Low Income Support and Subscriber Claims Letter at 2.
297 See, e.g., MFY Legal Services Reply Comments at 1; Open Access Comments at 2, 7-8; Consumer Groups
Comments at 2-5; Letter from Martha Deaver, Executive Director, Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home
Residents, to Julius Genachowski, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al.
(filed Apr. 13, 2011).
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mail.
108.
Some commenters responding to the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM voice concerns about
the costs ETCs will incur in implementing a system to collect and verify consumer documentation of
program-based eligibility.298 We acknowledge that compliance with the rule we adopt here will involve
some administrative costs for ETCs; however, we conclude that those costs are outweighed by the
significant benefits gained by protecting the Fund from waste, fraud, and abuse.299 As noted above, we
estimate that up to 15 percent of current Lifeline subscribers may be ineligible for the program,
potentially representing as much as 360 million dollars of support per year.300 We expect that a rule
requiring ETCs to obtain documentation of program participation from new Lifeline applicants, in
conjunction with our efforts to implement a Lifeline database,301 will enable the Commission to recapture
those funds and prevent unbridled future growth in the Fund. The resulting cost savings will in turn
benefit those consumers who contribute to the Universal Service Fund, new qualifying low-income
consumers, and our goal to modernize the program for a broadband future. Further, while we will require
consumers to provide documentation of program- and income-eligibility to ETCs (or states, where
applicable) at enrollment, consumers will no longer be required to provide such documentation as part of
the annual verification process in federal default states.302
Moreover, consumers will not need to
demonstrate eligibility at enrollment (or annually) once that function is addressed through a database. We
expect that these changes will reduce the burdens on both consumers and ETCs.
109.
Other commenters state that a rule requiring ETCs to verify documentation of consumers’
program eligibility would raise privacy concerns.303 As noted above, without accessing a state or federal
eligibility database or collecting documentation of consumer eligibility for Lifeline, ETCs cannot reliably
confirm that a consumer is eligible for Lifeline. We believe that the privacy concerns raised in the record
are minimal in light of the fact that ETCs in several states currently collect documentation of program-
based eligibility and the Commission is unaware of abuses resulting from that system. Thus, when
balancing the benefits with the potential burdens of such a rule, we conclude such concerns do not
outweigh the significant benefits of adopting such a rule.
110.
One commenter recommends that the Commission require carriers themselves, rather
than their agents or representatives, to review all documentation of eligibility.304 The commenter notes


298 See, e.g., AT&T Reply Comments at 15-16; USTelecom Comments at 6; MITS Reply Comments at 7; Sprint
Reply Comments at 11; Consumer Cellular Comments at 20; Cox Comments at 4; Emerios Nov. 3 ex parte Letter at
4-5.
299 Immediate adoption of a rule requiring documentation of program-based eligibility will enable the Commission
to realize cost savings in the near term, which can in turn be used to, among other things, fund efforts to modernize
the Lifeline program. See infra section IX.B (Support for Broadband).
300 See supra para. 102. Assuming that the Low-Income program provides an estimated $2.4 billion in support in
2012, see infra section X (Managing the Size of the Low-Income Fund), 360 million represents fifteen percent of
that amount.
301 See infra Sections VII.A (National Lifeline Accountability Database) and XIII.A (Establishing an Eligibility
Database).
302 See infra section VI.C.2.b (Annual Re-certification of Consumer Eligibility).
303 See, e.g., AT&T Reply Comments at 15-16; Rainbow PUSH Comments at 1; CTIA Comments at 21-22;
USTelecom Comments at 6.
304 Letter from Kathleen O’Brien Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory Affairs, T-Mobile, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 3 (filed Dec. 16, 2011) (T-Mobile
Dec. 16 ex parte Letter).
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that, for example, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has procedures in place requiring carriers to
deal directly with consumers to reduce incentives for illicit third party behavior.305 We do not find it
necessary to adopt such a rule at this time. The Commission has consistently found that “[l]icensees and
other Commission regulatees are responsible for the acts and omissions of their employees and
independent contractors,” and has held the regulated party responsible for violations of the Commission’s
rules committed by agents.306 Thus, ETCs may permit agents or representatives to review documentation
of consumer program eligibility for Lifeline. However, the ETC remains liable for ensuring the agent or
representative’s compliance with the Lifeline program rules.
111.
Content of Consumer Eligibility Certifications. We next amend the Commission’s rules
to require consumers to make certifications concerning their eligibility for Lifeline when initially
enrolling in the Lifeline program. All ETCs must also obtain a signed certification from the consumer
that complies with section 54.410 of our rules.307 No later than June 1, 2012, ETCs in all states (or the
state Lifeline program administrator, where applicable) must update their Lifeline certification processes
to enable consumers to comply with the requirements listed below.308 ETCs will also be required to
verify each subscriber’s compliance with the Lifeline eligibility rules annually by requiring each
subscriber to submit an annual re-certification complying with the requirements described below.309 As
discussed below, we will permit interactive voice response systems to be used for both enrollment and
annual recertifications, as well as text messages for annual recertifications.310
112.
We do not anticipate that these requirements will impose unreasonable burdens on low-
income consumers, many of whom already provide certifications as part of the Lifeline enrollment
process.311 Further, the requirements we adopt today will help to educate low-income consumers about


305 Id.; see Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; Petition of TracFone Wireless for Forbearance from 47
U.S.C.
§ 214(e)(1)(A) and 47 C.F.R. § 54.201(i); Compliance Plan, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, at 15 (filed Oct. 11, 2005)
(agreeing that TracFone will have direct contact with all Lifeline applicants, including processing of the applicants’
applications); Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; Virgin Mobile USA, L.P. Petition for Forbearance
from 47 U.S.C.
§ 214(e)(1)(A); Petition for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in the State of
New York et. al
, Compliance Plan, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, at 7-8 (same) (filed Apr. 3, 2009).
306 See, e.g., Bethune-Cookman College, Inc., File Number EB-08-TP-0406, Forfeiture Order, 24 FCC Rcd. 4513,
4515, para. 8 (Enf. Bur. 2009) (citing Eure Family Limited Partnership, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 17 FCC
Rcd 21861, 21863,-64, para. 7 (2002)); MTD, Inc., Memorandum Opinion and Order, 6 FCC Rcd 34 (1991)
(holding that a company's reliance on an independent contractor to construct a tower in compliance of FCC rules
does not excuse that company from a forfeiture); Wagenvoord Broadcasting Co., Memorandum Opinion and Order,
35 FCC 2d 361 (1972) (holding a licensee responsible for violations of FCC rules despite its reliance on a consulting
engineer); Petracom of Joplin, L.L.C., 19 FCC Rcd 6248 (Enf. Bur. 2004) (holding a licensee liable for its
employee's failure to conduct weekly EAS tests and to maintain the “issues/programs” list).
307 In states that determine subscriber’s eligibility for Lifeline services, the state administrator should provide
prospective subscribers with the certification forms, collect completed forms from subscribers, and provide them to
ETCs. ETCs should update their annual certification forms to conform to the list of requirements provided in
Appendix B.
308 ETCs may choose to use a single document for their Lifeline program application and certification form.
309 See discussion infra section VI.C.2.b (Annual Re-Certification of Consumer Eligibility).
310 See infra VI.E (Electronic Signature).
311 See, e.g., Telecommunications Carriers Eligible for Universal Service Support; NTCH, Inc. Petition for
Forbearance from 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(5) and 47 C.F.R. § 54.207(b); Cricket Communications, Inc. Petition for
Forbearance
, WC Dkt. No. 09-197, Order, 26 FCC Rcd 13723, 13730, para. 15 (2011) (Cricket / NTCH
Forbearance Order
); Telecommunications Carriers Eligible for Universal Service Support; PlatinumTel, LLC
Petition for Forbearance; CAL Communications, Inc. Petition for Forbearance; ReCellular, Inc. (MSA Wireless)
(continued….)
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the Lifeline program rules and remind them of the actions that are necessary to ensure their compliance.
In this way, we will prevent consumers from being de-enrolled from Lifeline due to lack of awareness of
program rules.
113.
First, where a subscriber’s eligibility cannot be determined through a database, consistent
with the rule we adopt above requiring documentation of program-based eligibility for Lifeline, we
amend section 54.410 of the Commission’s rules to require ETCs (or states, where applicable) to obtain
each consumer’s signature on a document312 certifying under penalty of perjury that the consumer’s
household receives benefits from a qualifying state or federal assistance program, specifying the program
in which the consumer’s household is enrolled, or has income at or below 135 percent of the FPG, and
that the consumer, if required to do so, presented documentation that accurately represents the consumer’s
household income or participation in such program. Consumers must provide this certification to the
ETC (or state agency or third-party administrator, where applicable) upon enrolling in Lifeline and
annually thereafter.
114.
Second, consistent with the proposal in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, we amend
section 54.410 of our rules to require that a consumer notify its ETC within 30 days if he or she no longer
qualifies for Lifeline service. Specifically, a consumer must notify its telephone service provider within
30 days if (1) the consumer ceases to participate in a federal or state qualifying program or programs or
the consumer’s annual household income exceeds 135 percent of the FPG (if that is the criterion by which
that consumer qualified for Lifeline); (2) the consumer is receiving more than one Lifeline-supported
service; or (3) the consumer, for any other reason, no longer satisfies the criteria for receiving Lifeline
support.313 ETCs (or states where, applicable) must set forth the notification requirement on their
program certification form. The notification requirement must be explained in clear, easily
understandable language. Additionally, prior to enrolling in Lifeline, consumers must attest under penalty
of perjury that they understand the notification requirement, and that they may be subject to penalties if
they fail to follow this requirement. Any consumer found to be ineligible for Lifeline support will be de-
enrolled from the program pursuant to the procedures set forth in section 54.405(e) of the Commission’s
rules.314 Currently, consumers who are no longer eligible for Lifeline support may lack the incentive to
notify their telephone service provider of their changed eligibility status, or they may not recognize the
importance of doing so. The rule we adopt here will make clear that subscribers must contact their
telephone service provider once they are no longer eligible for Lifeline support.
115.
Third, we amend section 54.410 of our rules to require all ETCs (or states, where
applicable) to obtain each consumer’s initials or signature on a document, under penalty of perjury, when
the consumer enrolls in Lifeline and annually thereafter, attesting that the information contained in the
consumer’s application remains true and correct to the best of his or her knowledge and acknowledging


(Continued from previous page)
Petition for Forbearance, WC Dkt. No. 09-197, Order, 26 FCC Rcd 13788, 13795, para. 17 (2011) (PlatinumTel
Forbearance Order
). See also 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.409(c)-(d); 54.410(b)(2).
312 See infra VI.E (Electronic Signature).
313 For commenters supporting this rule, see DC PSC Comments at 8; OH PUC Comments at 19-20; MO PSC
Comments at 15.
314 Some commenters express concern about the Commission’s ability to enforce such a rule. See DC PSC
Comments at 8; OH PUC Comments at 19-20; CenturyLink Comments at 18. We emphasize that the Commission
does not seek to penalize consumers who inadvertently sign up for Lifeline due to misunderstandings about their
eligibility under program rules. However, to the extent that persons intentionally defraud the Lifeline program by
knowingly participating in the program despite their ineligibility, such behavior will not be tolerated. We note that,
pursuant to section 503 of the Act, any person who “willfully or repeatedly” and knowingly violates “any rule, or
regulation, or order issued by of the Commission” may be subject to penalties. 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(1)(B).
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that providing false or fraudulent information to receive Lifeline benefits is punishable by law.315 We
also require ETCs to explain that Lifeline is a government benefit program and consumers who willfully
make false statements in order to obtain the benefit can be punished by fine or imprisonment or can be
barred from the program.316 We expect that by requiring ETCs and/or states to inform consumers that
Lifeline is a government benefit and about the penalties for noncompliance with program requirements,
we will more effectively reduce both inadvertent and purposeful instances of waste, fraud, and abuse.
116.
Fourth, we amend section 54.410 of the Commission’s rules to require that ETCs (or
states, where applicable) inform consumers about the annual re-certification requirement, described in
more detail below, on the certification form that is completed upon program enrollment and annually
thereafter. Specifically, ETCs or states should obtain the consumer’s initials or signature acknowledging
that the consumer may be required to re-certify his or her continued eligibility for Lifeline at any time,
and that failure to do so will result in the termination of the consumer’s Lifeline benefits.317 We expect
that such a reminder would lessen non-response rates for ETCs’ annual re-certification surveys by
increasing consumer awareness of the annual re-certification requirement and of consumers’ obligation to
respond to ETCs’ and/or states’ re-certification efforts.
117.
Fifth, as noted in the one-per-household section, above, we adopt a requirement that
Lifeline participants provide their new address to their ETC within 30 days of moving.318 As described in
the Database section below, ETCs will be required to enter this address in the duplicates database within
10 business days of receipt to determine if a subscriber is receiving Lifeline support from another ETC.319
ETCs (or states, where applicable) should notify their Lifeline subscribers of this requirement on their
initial and annual certification forms using clear, easily understandable language.
118.
Sixth, as explained below, to eliminate incidences of duplicative support, we require
ETCs to collect subscribers’ date of birth and last four digits of the Social Security number (or an official
Tribal government identification card number (for eligible consumers living on Tribal lands who lack a
social security number) to verify the subscriber’s ID through the National Accountability Database.320
ETCs must collect this information on their initial and annual certification forms and the Lifeline
subscriber must attest that the information is correct.
119.
Seventh, as discussed below, we amend our rules to clarify that Lifeline service is a non-
transferable benefit.321 Prepaid ETCs (i.e., ETCs that do not assess or collect a monthly fee from their
Lifeline subscribers) or the state Lifeline program administrator, where applicable, must inform
consumers about this rule in clear, easily understandable language on their initial and annual certification
form. The certification form should inform consumers that a Lifeline subscriber may not transfer his or


315 See Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service et al., CC Dkt. No. 96-45 et al., i-Wireless, LLC’s Revised
Compliance Plan, at 8 (filed Sept. 9, 2011); TracFone Safelink Application Forms, available at
https://www.safelinkwireless.com/Safelink/blank-application/.
316 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.8 (permitting the Commission to suspend and debar individuals from activities associated
with or related to the low-income program).
317 See, e.g., Telecommunications Carriers Eligible for Universal Service Support; Cricket Communications, Inc.
Petition for Forbearance
; Cricket Communications, Inc. Compliance Plan, WC Dkt. No. 09-197, at 5 (filed Sept.
23, 2011).
318 See infra para. 85.
319 See infra para. 197
320 See infra para. 184.
321 See infra para. 257.
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her service to any other individual, including another eligible low-income consumer.
120.
Initial and Annual One-per-Household Certification. As discussed in more detail above,
we adopt a “one-per-household” rule for Lifeline.322 We therefore adopt initial and annual certification
rules tied to that requirement. Specifically, we amend section 54.410 of the Commission’s rules to
require that all ETCs (or state Lifeline program administrators, where applicable) obtain a certification
from each subscriber, under penalty of perjury, that the subscriber’s household is receiving no more than
one Lifeline-supported service. Each eligible Lifeline consumer served by an ETC must attest at the time
of enrollment and annually thereafter that he or she receives Lifeline-supported service only from that
ETC and, to the best of his or her knowledge, no one in the subscriber’s household is receiving a Lifeline-
supported service. By June 1, 2012, ETCs in all states (or the state program administrator, where
applicable) must update their Lifeline certification form to enable consumers to comply with the one-per-
household certification requirement.
121.
As the Commission noted in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, requiring such
certifications at sign-up and on an ongoing basis thereafter will inform the consumer of program
requirements and periodically remind him or her that support is available for only one Lifeline-supported
service per household.323 Each ETC’s or state’s certification form must also explain in plain, easily
comprehensible language that: (1) Lifeline is a federal benefit; (2) Lifeline service is available for only
one supported service per household; (3) a household is defined, for purposes of the Lifeline program, as
any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address and share income and
expenses; and (4) a household is not permitted to receive Lifeline benefits from multiple providers.324
The certification form must also contain language stating that violation of the one-per-household
requirement constitutes a violation of the Commission’s rules and will result in the consumer’s de-
enrollment from the program, and could result in criminal prosecution by the United States
government.325
122.
Additionally, ETCs (or states, where applicable) will be required to verify each
subscriber’s compliance with the one-per-household rule annually by requiring each subscriber to submit
an annual re-certification complying with the requirements described above.326 Any subscriber who
indicates that he or she is receiving more than one Lifeline-supported service per household, or neglects


322 See supra section VI.B (One-Per-Household).
323 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2824, para. 167. We proposed in the NPRM to adopt a rule
requiring ETCs to obtain an initial certification and annual re-certifications documenting their subscribers’
compliance with the proposed one-per-residential-address rule. Id. at paras. 167-69. However, because we choose
to adopt a one-per-household rule today in lieu of the NPRM’s one-per-address-proposal, it is appropriate to modify
the certification required by Lifeline subscribers to ensure compliance with the one-per-household rule.
324 Enrolling a consumer in Lifeline without first explaining the one-per-household rule and asking the consumer
whether another member of his or her household is already receiving Lifeline-supported service is a violation of our
rules.
325 See also OH PUC Comments at 17 (noting that ETCs should include on their certification forms a warning that a
violation of the one per household requirement may result in immediate removal from the program). In its
comments, NASUCA states that “a form signed by a customer might eliminate some duplicative support but it will
not eliminate outright fraud.” NASUCA Comments at 23. We acknowledge that there may be situations where
consumers provide false certifications of their eligibility for Lifeline, despite the provided warnings. We expect that
such consumers will be discovered through the process set forth above for detecting duplicative Lifeline
subscriptions and will be de-enrolled pursuant to our rules. Additionally, such consumers, if discovered to have
provided a false certification, may be subject to harsher penalties, including possible prosecution.
326 See infra section VI.B (One-per-Household).
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to make the required one-per-household certification on his or her certification form, must be de-enrolled
from Lifeline pursuant to the process for resolving duplicative Lifeline subscriptions described in section
54.405(e)(2) of our rules.327 Any non-responders will be de-enrolled, after notification and an appropriate
waiting period, pursuant to the process set forth in section 54.405(e)(4) of our rules.
123.
We do not expect that these certification requirements will impose unreasonable burdens
on low-income consumers. As described above, the initial and annual certification form must explain the
one-per-household requirement to the consumer in plain and simple language, so the consumer
understands what he or she is signing and what the consumer must do to comply with the one-per-
household requirement. In addition, to help consumers understand the certifications and program rules,
we expect ETCs to verbally explain the certifications to consumers when they are enrolling in person or
over the phone. With respect to those enrolling via the Internet, we expect ETCs to highlight the
certifications that are required. They may do so, for example, by requiring consumers to acknowledge
each certification before moving on to the next field. ETCs should not bury these certifications in their
contracts. If included in a contract, these certifications should be at the beginning of the contract and
stand out to the consumer. At this time, we do not require consumers to provide documentation (e.g., tax
forms) to ETCs in order to establish their compliance with the one-per-household rule.328 Rather, we will
permit consumers to self-certify that they comply with this requirement upon enrollment and annually
thereafter, which will simplify the certification process for low-income consumers and provide a
minimally invasive means for the Commission to enforce low-income consumers’ compliance with the
one-per-household rule.
124.
This requirement also will not impose unreasonable burdens on ETCs, including ETCs
considered to be small businesses. We note that some ETCs already request similar certifications from
their subscribers, and we see no reason why requiring all ETCs to do so in the future would be
unreasonably burdensome.329 Moreover, we anticipate that any burden to ETCs or consumers would be
outweighed by the potential cost savings associated with the prevention of waste, fraud, and abuse in the


327 As above, this requirement will not impose unreasonable burdens on ETCs, including small ETCs. ETCs may
obtain the one-per-household certification as part of their existing verification processes, and the costs of doing so
should be minimal. Similarly, ETCs already have de-enrollment processes in place to de-enroll those consumers
who are found to be ineligible for Lifeline. See 47 C.F.R. § 54.405(c)-(d). It will not impose unreasonable costs or
administrative burdens to require ETCs to extend those processes to include any subscribers who fail to comply with
the one-per-household certification requirement we adopt today.
328 See supra paras. 77-79. Unlike the process of establishing program-based eligibility for Lifeline, it is not clear
what, if any, documentation a consumer could submit to an ETC to make such a showing. See, e.g., AT&T PN
Comments at 4-6; GCI PN Comments at 20-21 It is appropriate to require consumers to present some evidence of
their eligibility for government benefits (i.e., documentation of participation in a qualifying state or federal
program); however, we recognize the need to balance the potential burdens to consumers with the adoption of rules
to guard against waste, fraud, and abuse. As such, we conclude that the self-certification requirement listed above
will be the least burdensome alternative to accomplish our goal of ensuring consumers’ compliance with the one-
per-household rule and thereby preventing waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program.
329 See Cricket / NTCH Forbearance Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 13730, para. 15; PlatinumTel Forbearance Order, 26
FCC Rcd at 13795, para. 17; i-Wireless Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 8790, para. 16; Virgin Mobile
Forbearance Order
, 24 FCC Rcd at 3387, para. 12; TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15103, para. 18.
See also
Letter from John J. Heitmann & Josh Guyan, Counsel for Link Up for America Coalition, to Marlene H.
Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 6 (filed Oct. 3, 2011) (stating
that their members have agreed to 1) explain in clear and plain language to new customers that they may not receive
more than one Lifeline supported service; 2) require all Lifeline applicants to confirm on the application form that
he or she is not receiving Lifeline supported service from any other Lifeline provider; and 3) require all Lifeline
applicants to self-certify that they receive Lifeline services only from the ETC) (Link Up for America Coalition Oct.
3 ex parte Letter).
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program. By taking steps to eliminate support for ineligible consumers and prevent duplicative Lifeline
claims, the one-per-household certification requirement we adopt today is consistent with our program
goal of ensuring that support for low-income voice and broadband service minimizes the contribution
burden on consumers and businesses.330
125.
Eligible Telecommunications Carrier Certifications. We also add section 54.416 to the
Commission’s rules to require ETCs to make certain certifications when the ETC conducts its annual re-
certification of its consumers’ ongoing eligibility for Lifeline, as described below. We also amend
section 54.407 of the Commission’s rules to require ETCs to make certain certifications when submitting
an FCC Form 497 to USAC for reimbursement. As with respect to the consumer certifications set forth
above, we expect the administrative burdens for ETCs to comply with these rules to be minimal.331
126.
First, we amend section 54.416 of the Commission’s rules to require that an officer of the
eligible telecommunications carrier certify that the carrier has procedures in place to review consumers’
documentation of income- and program-based eligibility. Eligible telecommunications carriers must
make this certification annually to the Administrator as part of the carrier’s submission of re-certification
data pursuant to section 54.416. In instances where an eligible telecommunications carrier confirms
consumer eligibility by relying on official program eligibility data, such as a state or federal database, an
officer of the carrier must attest to what data the ETC uses to confirm consumer eligibility in each state.332
By requiring ETCs to provide these certifications annually, we will help ensure ETCs’ compliance with
the rules we adopt above relating to the documentation of program-based eligibility for Lifeline.333
127.
Second, we adopt a rule requiring that an officer of each ETC must attest that the carrier
is in compliance with all federal Lifeline certification procedures. This rule will help to protect the Fund
from waste, fraud, and abuse by ensuring that ETCs are accountable for their compliance with program
rules. Eligible telecommunications carriers must make this certification annually to the Administrator as
part of the carrier’s submission of re-certification data pursuant to section 54.416.334
128.
Third, we adopt a rule in section 54.407 requiring that each ETC certify when it seeks
reimbursement that the carrier has obtained a valid certification form for each consumer for whom the
ETC seeks Lifeline reimbursement. This rule will protect low-income consumers by preventing an ETC
from enrolling a consumer in their Lifeline program without his or her consent and seeking
reimbursement for that consumer.335 This rule will also protect against waste, fraud, and abuse by
ensuring that ETCs claim support for only those subscribers that are eligible for the program and who
have agreed to comply with the Lifeline program requirements.
b.

Annual Re-Certification of Consumer Eligibility

129.
Consistent with the recommendations of the Joint Board, we amend section 54.410 of the
Commission’s rules to adopt a set of uniform re-certification procedures that all ETCs should perform
annually to verify the ongoing eligibility of their Lifeline subscriber base. These standards will serve as a


330 See supra section III.C (Performance Goals & Measures).
331 The Commission currently directs ETCs to make certain certifications relating to the Lifeline program. See 47
C.F.R. § 54.410(b). In this section, we do not substantially change those requirements; rather, we simply add
additional certifications that the ETC must make annually and when seeking reimbursement from the Fund.
332 See discussion supra section VI.C. (Certification of Consumer Eligibility for Lifeline).
333 See id.
334 See infra section VI.C.2.b (Annual Re-Certification of Consumer Eligibility for Lifeline).
335 See infra section VI.F (Automatic and Coordinated Enrollment).
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minimum threshold for re-certification procedures to be performed by all ETCs, but will allow ETCs in
specific circumstances to leverage existing state verification processes to more easily verify the ongoing
eligibility of their subscriber base each year.336
130.
Pursuant to the new rule we adopt today, all ETCs (or states, where applicable) must re-
certify the eligibility of their Lifeline subscriber base as of June 1, 2012 by the end of 2012 and report the
results to USAC by January 31, 2013.337 This re-certification may be done on a rolling basis throughout
the year, at the ETC’s election.338 Where ongoing eligibility cannot be determined through access to a
qualifying database either by the ETC or the state, and there is no state administrator verifying the
continued eligibility of Lifeline subscribers, by the end of 2012, an ETC must re-certify the continued
eligibility of all of its subscribers by contacting them—which can be done in any of a number of ways,
including in person, in writing, by phone, by text message, by email, or otherwise through the Internet—
to confirm their continued eligibility pursuant to the rules established in this Order.339 Specifically, all
such ETCs must obtain from each Lifeline subscriber by the end of 2012 a re-certification form that
contains each of the required certifications described above.340
131.
In states where a state agency or a third party has implemented a database that carriers
may query to re-certify the consumer’s continued eligibility, the carrier (or state agency or third-party,
where applicable) must instead query the database by the end of 2012 and maintain a record of what
specific data was used to re-certify eligibility and the date of re-certification.341 If a subscriber’s address
cannot be verified through the state data, ETCs who do not bill their subscribers must contact the
subscriber every year to obtain a valid address, which may be accomplished during the annual
certification process.
132.
In contrast to the current verification rules, which require all sampled subscribers (but no
other subscribers) to provide documentation of their continued eligibility for Lifeline, the rule we adopt
today will apply to all Lifeline subscribers enrolled in the program as of June 1, 2012, while allowing
those consumers to provide self-certifications without associated documentation. Such certifications may


336 Adoption of a set of uniform, minimum verification procedures is supported by CenturyLink, Cincinnati Bell,
Consumer Groups, Cricket, TracFone, US Telecom, YourTel, and the NY PSC. CenturyLink Comments at 18-19;
Cincinnati Bell Comments at 9; Consumer Groups PN Comments at 14; Cricket Reply Comments at 12-13;
TracFone Reply Comments at 4-6; US Telecom Comments at 5; YourTel Comments at 12; NY PSC Comments at
9-10.
337 Consistent with the the Wireline Competition Bureau’s practice with respect to the issuing reminders via Public
Notice to the federal default states, the Bureau will publish a Public Notice after June 1, 2012 to remind ETCs that
they must re-certify all of their subscribers of record as of June 1, 2012 by December 31, 2012 and to report their
results to USAC by January 31, 2013.
338 We delegate to the Wireline Competition Bureau the authority to establish, in coordination with USAC, a
process for facilitating the collection of consumer re-certifications on a rolling basis. See, e.g., Letter from Matthew
A. Brill, Counsel, Cricket Communications, Inc., to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Jan. 24, 2012) (Cricket Jan. 24 ex parte Letter) (recommending
that annual re-certifications be permitted on a rolling basis).
339 See infra para. 132.
340 See supra paras. 111-24; see also, e.g., TracFone Reply Comments at 5-6; Letter from Norina Moy, Director,
Government Affairs, Sprint Nextel, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC
Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Nov. 14, 2011) (Sprint Nov. 14 ex parte Letter).
341 In states where a state agency or third-party is responsible for performing annual recertification functions, the
state or its agent should provide the ETC with a copy of each Lifeline subscriber’s re-certification form.
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be obtained through a written format, an Interactive Voice Response system, or a text message.342
Regardless of the format used to re-certify the subscriber’s continued eligibility for Lifeline, ETCs (or the
state Lifeline administrator or other state agency, where applicable) must convey all of the required
information set forth in the amended section 54.410 and obtain from the subscriber an individual
certification for each requirement set forth in the rule.343 Any text messages must be sent to the phone
number associated with the supported service, and text responses must be sent from that phone number.
Carriers (or the state Lifeline program administrator, where applicable) must report the results of this
annual re-certification process, as described below, to USAC by January 31, 2013.344 Carriers must also
file an annual Lifeline eligible telecommunications carrier certification form with USAC, beginning on
January 31, 2013, that complies with the certification requirements discussed above.345
133.
Ongoing eligibility of Lifeline subscribers must continue to be verified annually after
2012; however, we expect that ETCs will increasingly gain access to automated means of verifying
subscriber eligibility. In those instances where ongoing eligibility cannot be determined through access to
a qualifying database either by the ETC or the state, and there is no state administrator verifying
continued eligibility, ETCs retain the responsibility for annual subscriber re-certification. However, after
2012, ETCs may elect to have USAC administer the self-certification process on their behalf. We direct
USAC to work with the ETCs and the Bureau to develop a plan for USAC to conduct annual re-
certifications in lieu of ETCs, with such annual certifications starting in 2013. If an ETC chooses to
perform the annual self-certifications itself, it must re-certify the continued eligibility of all of its
subscribers by contacting them—which can be done in any of a number of ways, including in person, in
writing, by phone, by text message, by email, or otherwise through the Internet—to confirm their
continued eligibility pursuant to the rules established in this Order.346 Additionally, all carriers must
continue to file an annual Lifeline ETC certification form with USAC that complies with the certification
requirements discussed above.347
134.
This amendment to our rules will work in lock step with other measures we implement
today. Because consumers in states without eligibility databases will be required to provide
documentation at enrollment to establish program eligibility, we find a requirement that ETCs or program


342 See infra section VI.E (Electronic Signature).
343 Section 54.410 requires that the subscriber be provided with program information, including that Lifeline is a
federal benefit available to only one line per household. In addition, the subscriber must certify that he or she
continues to be eligible for the program and will notify the carrier within 30 days if he or she no longer satisfies the
criteria for receiving Lifeline support. A message that merely asks “Are you still eligible for Lifeline?” would not
convey the necessary information that must be provided to the subscriber, nor would a message that directs the
consumer to a url where the full certification information is listed. In order to convey to and obtain all of the
required information from the subscriber via text messages, we expect that the ETC (or state administrator or
agency) will need to send and receive multiple messages to the subscriber. Similarly, when re-certifying the
subscriber by phone or IVR, the subscriber must be prompted to certify the individual requirements set forth in
section 54.410.
344 See infra paras. 147-48 (collection and submission of re-certification data). But see Cricket Jan. 24 ex parte
Letter at 2 (recommending that the Commission retain the existing August 31 filing deadline for re-certifications or
a similar mid-year deadline and require re-certification to be performed on a rolling basis).
345 See supra paras. 125-28 (ETC certifications).
346 See supra paras. 111-24 (Consumer certifications). This re-certification may be done on a rolling basis
throughout the year. We delegate to the Wireline Competition Bureau the authority to establish, in coordination
with USAC, a process for facilitating the collection of consumer re-certifications on a rolling basis.
347 See supra paras. 125-28 (ETC certifications).
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administrators, where applicable, verify all Lifeline subscribers’ documentation on an annual basis to be
unnecessary.348
The upfront documentation requirement will serve as a sufficient initial check of
consumer eligibility and alleviate the need for ETCs or third-party administrators to obtain documentation
from subscribers on a recurring basis as part of the back-end re-certification process. Additionally, some
commenters note that by eliminating the requirement that consumers provide annual documentation of
continued eligibility to their ETC, we could reduce the burden of annual verifications on both consumers
and ETCs.349 The collection of annual self-certifications from all consumers as part of the re-certification
process will also assist in obtaining updated address information from their subscribers, which can
ultimately be used to populate the duplicates database that we adopt today.350
135.
Further, by requiring ETCs, or program administrators, where applicable, to annually re-
certify the eligibility of their entire subscriber base, we will remedy the problems associated with
sampling noted by the Commission in the NPRM. In contrast to the current sampling methodology, all of
an ETC’s Lifeline subscribers will be subject to annual re-certification requirements. The current
sampling methodology, while statistically significant and sufficient for some data analysis purposes, fails
to assess the actual eligibility of a large number of subscribers nationwide and, more importantly, leaves
enrolled in the program subscribers that are not eligible. In contrast, the approach we adopt today will
assess the eligibility of all current subscribers to the program. Moreover, any subscribers that fail to
respond to the ETC’s or administrator’s re-certification attempts must be de-enrolled from Lifeline
pursuant to the de-enrollment procedures set out in our rules, as described in more detail below.351 These
protections will assist the Commission to more effectively protect the Fund from waste, fraud, and
abuse.352
136.
After consideration of the record, we decline to adopt the verification methodologies
proposed in the NPRM for several reasons. We decline to rely solely on statistical sampling because we
remain concerned that it will not be sufficient to detect and remedy instances of subscriber ineligibility.353
As the Commission noted in the NPRM, the current methodology fails to identify the ineligible
subscribers that are not part of the sample.354 The rule we adopt today remedies that problem by ensuring
that the eligibility of all Lifeline subscribers will be re-certified on an annual basis and is consistent with
our obligation to protect the Fund from waste, fraud, and abuse.355
137.
With respect to sample-and-census, the Commission received feedback from commenters


348 See supra paras. 98-110 (Determination of Initial Program Eligibility).
349 See, e.g., Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 3, 10 (filed Oct. 17, 2011) (estimating that by requiring
all ETCs to obtain a signed certification from each consumer that the consumer is eligible to receive Lifeline and
does not receive Lifeline service from any other carrier could save the fund approximately $270 million per year)
(TracFone Oct. 17 Ex Parte Presentation); Sprint Nov. 14 ex parte Letter at 1-2 (estimating that if all Lifeline
subscribers are required to annually re-certify their continued Lifeline eligibility, the fund could save approximately
$150 million per year).
350 See infra section VII.A (National Lifeline Accountability Database).
351 See infra paras. 141-46.
352 See, e.g., GRTI Comments at 16-17; MO PSC Comments at 16; Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 9-10.
353 See, e.g., DC PSC Comments at 5-6; TracFone Reply Comments at 5.
354 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2826-27, para. 181.
355 In the NPRM, the Commission noted that it has the means to identify ineligible subscribers that are not part of an
ETC’s statistical survey, including but not limited to the use of audits. Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at
2821, para. 181 n.316.
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– ETCs in particular – expressing concern that the census component would be overly burdensome.356
These commenters state that if a full census were triggered it would be excessively costly and
burdensome for ETCs, particularly ETCs with a small number of Lifeline subscribers, to collect and
verify the eligibility documentation of their entire subscriber base.357 We adopt what is expected to be a
less burdensome method of checking the eligibility of an entire subscriber’s base as it does not require the
consumer to produce documentation of continued eligibility.
138.
We also considered alternatives that would require ETCs to verify only a portion of their
Lifeline subscriber base, including allowing small ETCs within a state to perform sampling in the
aggregate rather than on an individual basis, requiring ETCs with a minimal number of Lifeline
subscribers to sample fewer subscribers than larger ETCs, and allowing all ETCs to sample a lesser
percentage of their Lifeline subscriber base. The approach we adopt today strikes an appropriate balance
between these interests by helping to identify and de-enroll ineligible subscribers, while imposing fewer
burdens on consumers and ETCs than a full census survey (i.e., requiring consumers to annually produce
documentation to verify continued eligibility).358 Some commenters note that the costs for an ETC to
seek out and obtain annual self-certifications from subscribers could be significantly lower than the costs
of performing a full verification with examination of the underlying documentation.359
139.
We also do not believe that the re-certification process we adopt today will be overly
burdensome to consumers.360 As noted above, the amendments to section 54.410 will permit consumers
to annually re-certify to their continued eligibility for Lifeline without requiring associated documentation
as is currently mandated by our program rules for consumers in federal default states.361 While all
consumers will be required to provide an annual self-certification of continued eligibility, we expect that
elimination of the requirement that consumers annually provide supporting eligibility documentation will
enable consumers to more easily respond to verification surveys, thereby reducing the number of Lifeline
subscribers de-enrolled for failure to respond to carrier verification efforts. Additionally, as discussed
below, we direct the Wireline Competition Bureau and the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau


356 See, e.g., MITS Reply Comments at 5; GCI Comments at 4; CTIA Comments at 20.
357 See, e.g., NTCA Comments at 5-7; MITS Reply Comments at 5; TCA Comments at 3-4; TSTCI Reply
Comments at 1-2.
358 But see GCI Nov. 23 ex parte Letter at 3-4 (stating that an annual recertification requirement would be
burdensome and would be disruptive to consumers, who may lose service if they do not respond to the ETC’s
recertification requests); see also Letter from Alan Buzacott, Executive Director, Federal Regulatory Affairs,
Verizon, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2
(filed Jan. 17, 2012) (Verizon Jan. 17 ex parte Letter).
359 See, e.g., Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Aug. 24, 2011) (stating that in 2010, TracFone spent
$4.75 per verified subscriber to ascertain that each subscriber remained head of household and received Lifeline
service only from TracFone; however, to verify the continued eligibility of their Lifeline subscribers by contacting a
statistically valid sample of its subscriber base, TracFone’s cost per verified subscriber was $66.69) (TracFone Aug.
24 ex parte Letter); Letter from Norina Moy, Director, Government Affairs, Sprint Nextel, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (Sprint Aug. 12 ex parte Letter).
But see Letter from Mary L. Henze, Assistant Vice President, Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., Attach. At 3 (AT&T Jan. 24 ex parte
Letter).
360 See, e.g., GCI Nov. 23 ex parte Letter at 3-4; Verizon Jan. 17 ex parte Letter at 2.
361 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.410(c)(2).
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to coordinate with USAC, states, consumer groups, and ETCs to facilitate a consumer outreach campaign
to educate consumers about the Lifeline program rules.362 By educating consumers about the annual self-
certification requirement adopted in the Order, we expect that we will reduce the number of subscribers
that fail to respond to an ETC’s or administrator’s re-certification attempts. Further, by ensuring that all
Lifeline subscribers annually verify their continued eligibility for the program, we expect to regain cost
savings that will benefit those consumers and companies who contribute to the Universal Service Fund.363
140.
In the NPRM, the Commission sought comment on the Joint Board’s recommendation
that “states be allowed to utilize different and/or additional verification procedures so long as those
procedures are at least as effective in detecting waste, fraud, and abuse as the uniform minimum required
procedures.”364 Pursuant to the rule we adopt today, as a condition of receiving federal Lifeline support,
ETCs in all states, or the state Lifeline program administrator, where applicable, must perform the re-
certification processes adopted in this Order.365 We recognize that states may wish to impose additional
requirements where they have their own Lifeline programs and specific concerns that may not be
applicable to ETCs in all states.366 States may supplement the federal re-certification methodology with
their own procedures specifically tailored to state-specific program requirements.367 Those supplemental
procedures, however, must be performed in addition to, but not in lieu of, the uniform, minimum
standards we adopt today for those ETCs who receive support from the federal Universal Service Fund.368
141.
Procedures to be followed after annual re-certification. In the Lifeline and Link Up
NPRM, the Commission proposed to amend section 54.405 of the Commission’s rules to adopt a
procedure for de-enrolling those subscribers who do not respond to an ETC’s verification surveys.369
Specifically, the Commission proposed a rule requiring ETCs to provide a written notice of impending
service termination to the subscriber, separate from the subscriber’s bill, and then give the subscriber 30


362 See infra paras. 281-82.
363 See supra section III.C (Performance Goals and Measures).
364 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2825, para. 176 (citing 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision,
25 FCC Rcd at 15608, para. 28).
365 Some states, such as Arkansas, North Carolina, and New York, have adopted verification methodologies akin to
the Commission’s current sampling formula. As discussed above, the Commission’s current sampling methodology
is flawed due to its inability to detect potentially large numbers of ineligible Lifeline subscribers and we replace it
today with a uniform re-certification requirement. See supra para. 136. To ensure the benefits of this rule change
accrue nationwide, it is necessary to mandate that ETCs in all states, at minimum, annually re-certify the continued
eligibility of their Lifeline subscriber base. In those states where verification functions are performed by the state
and not ETCs, all states are expected to implement procedures to comply with the verification processes adopted
here.
366 See OR PUC Comments at 3, Alaska Commission Reply Comments 2 at 14-15, CenturyLink Comments at 19,
MA DTC Comments at 9, DC PSC Comments at 5-6.
367 For example, some states have verification procedures in place where the subscriber must provide proof of
continued eligibility. See, e.g., CA PUC PN Comments at 9-10.
368 The state of California, for example, requires all Lifeline subscribers to annually provide a re-certification
(verification) form to Solix, the third-party administrator of California’s Lifeline program. CA PUC PN Comments
at 9; Solix Comments at 6. Solix also verifies the eligibility of 3 percent of the existing Lifeline subscribers in
California by requesting documentation to confirm the subscribers’ ongoing eligibility. CA PUC PN Comments at
9-10; Solix Comments at 6. The re-certification procedure we adopt today would not preclude California from
implementing procedures to examine the eligibility documentation of a random sample of Lifeline subscribers.
369 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2829-30, para. 192.
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days after the date of the letter to demonstrate that his or her Lifeline service should not be terminated.370
In order to protect the program against waste, fraud, and abuse, we amend our rules to codify the
proposed de-enrollment procedure.371
142.
We amend section 54.405 of the Commission’s rules to require ETCs to de-enroll within
30 days Lifeline subscribers who do not respond to the carrier’s or state’s attempts to re-certify the
subscriber within a 30-day period. When contacting their Lifeline subscribers to perform the annual re-
certification process, ETCs (or the state Lifeline program administrator, where applicable) must notify
their subscribers in writing that failure to respond to the re-certification request could result in de-
enrollment from that carrier’s Lifeline program. By codifying a specific requirement that all ETCs de-
enroll subscribers for non-responsiveness, we will ensure that support is not distributed where subscribers
fail to evidence their ongoing eligibility for Lifeline.
143.
We similarly amend section 54.405 of our rules to provide that, where the carrier has a
reasonable basis to believe that the subscriber no longer meets the Lifeline-qualifying criteria (including
instances where a subscriber informs the ETC or the state that he or she is ineligible for Lifeline), the
ETC must send notification of impending termination in writing separate from the subscriber's monthly
bill. Carriers must allow subscribers 30 days following the date of the impending termination letter in
which to demonstrate continued eligibility.372
144.
We do not anticipate that the de-enrollment processes we adopt today will unreasonably
burden low-income consumers. As stated above, ETCs in federal default states currently de-enroll
Lifeline subscribers for failure to respond to an ETC’s verification survey. However, no standardized de-
enrollment process is presently in place to provide subscribers with notice of impending de-enrollment
and an opportunity to demonstrate their continued eligibility for Lifeline. The processes we adopt here
will ensure that Lifeline subscribers are notified of their impending de-enrollment and are given an
additional period of time during which they may re-certify to their continued eligibility.
145.
Moreover, we adopt a requirement above that ETCs must inform consumers about the
annual re-certification requirement on the certification form that is completed upon initial program
enrollment and annually thereafter.373 On their annual re-certification materials, ETCs or the program
administrator, as applicable, must clearly and succinctly inform subscribers that they are being contacted
to re-certify their continuing eligibility for Lifeline. The subscribers must be informed that if they fail to
respond, they will be considered ineligible for Lifeline and de-enrolled from the program.374 ETCs and
states may also choose to notify subscribers about the re-certification requirements in their Lifeline
outreach materials.375 By taking these actions, ETCs and states will ensure that consumers are aware of
the importance of responding to re-certification efforts, and that they are not inadvertently disconnected


370 Id. at 2872, Appendix A, 47 C.F.R. § 54.405(e) (proposed rule).
371 For commenters supporting adoption of a de-enrollment requirement for non-responders, see DC PSC Comments
at 6; TracFone Comments at 32; MI PSC Comments at 8.
372 See id. In such cases, section 54.405(d) of the Commission’s rules currently requires ETCs to allow subscribers
60 days following the date of impending termination to demonstrate continued program eligibility. See 47 C.F.R. §
54.405(d). We amend section 54.405 of the Commission’s rules to reduce that period of time to 30 days, in order to
more effectively reduce instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.
373 See supra para. 116.
374 See also MI PSC Comments at 8.
375 See MI PSC Comments at 8; Consumer Groups Comments at 25-26.
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due to a lack of understanding of program rules.376
146.
We also do not expect that these rules will impose significant burdens on ETCs
(including small ETCs), many of whom already have similar de-enrollment processes in place.377 These
processes are also consistent with our current rules, which already require ETCs in all states and
territories to terminate Lifeline service if the carrier has a reasonable basis to believe that a subscriber no
longer satisfies the qualifying criteria.378
147.
Collection and submission of re-certification data. Currently, the Commission has access
to verification results only from ETCs in federal default states and in a handful of non-federal-default
states that require ETCs to submit verification results annually to USAC.379 As the Commission noted in
the NPRM, USAC presently receives verification results for a total of 17 states and territories.380 In the
2010 Recommended Decision, the Joint Board recommended that all ETCs in all states should be required
to submit the data results of their verification sampling to USAC, the Commission, and their respective
states, in order to obtain a more complete set of verification data.381 The Joint Board also recommended
that ETCs’ verification results be made publicly available.382 The Commission sought comment on the
Joint Board’s recommendations in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM.383
148.
We codify a rule requiring all ETCs in all states (or the state administrator, where
applicable) to submit their aggregated re-certification data to USAC and the Commission by January 31,
2013.384 We delegate to the Wireline Competition Bureau the authority to coordinate with USAC to


376 See Consumer Groups Comments at 25-26 (stating that the Commission should be cautious in requiring ETC’s to
de-enroll consumers who decline to respond to ETC’s verification attempts and recommends a phase-in of the rule,
if adopted, to allow outreach).
377 Between 2008 and 2011, under the Commission’s verification methodology for federal default states, no
distinction was made between subscribers who are ineligible for Lifeline and those who do not respond to an ETC’s
verification survey. See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2879-81, Appendix B; see also Deadline for
Annual Lifeline Verification Surveys and Certifications
, WC Dkt. No. 03-109, Public Notice, 25 FCC Rcd 7272,
7277, para. 8 (Wireline Comp. Bur. 2010) (Verification Public Notice). Thus, subscribers are routinely de-enrolled
by ETCs in federal default states. Moreover, other ETCs may already de-enroll subscribers who fail to respond to
their verification surveys. See, e.g., TracFone Comments at 32.
378 47 C.F.R. § 54.405(c),(d).
379 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2830, para. 193.
380 In addition to the federal default states, the following non-federal-default states require ETCs to submit their
verification results to USAC: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and West
Virginia.
381 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15607-08, paras. 26-27.
382 Id.
383 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2830, paras. 193-94.
384 As stated above, the annual re-certification procedures we adopt today will serve as a uniform, minimum set of
processes to be followed by all ETCs in all states. By adopting a uniform set of re-certification standards, we will
remedy the problems that result from having a patchwork of procedures that vary on a state-by-state basis. For
example, a uniform re-certification methodology will reduce compliance costs and administrative burdens on ETCs.
See CTIA Comments at 20; Cincinnati Bell Comments at 9; Cricket Comments at 11-12; TracFone Comments at 31-
32; YourTel Comments at 12. Moreover, a uniform rule will ensure that adequate checks for ineligible consumers
are being performed by ETCs in all states, thereby reducing potential waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.
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determine an appropriate format for the submission of such data.385 All eligible telecommunications
carriers must also provide this re-certification data to the relevant state commission, where the carrier is
subject to state jurisdiction, and to the relevant Tribal government, for subscribers residing on
reservations or Tribal lands. If an ETC opts to continue performing the annual re-certification process
after 2012, the ETC must provide the results of its attempts to obtain signed certifications from all
consumers attesting to their continued eligibility for Lifeline to USAC, the Commission, and the relevant
state commission, where the carrier is subject to state jurisdiction, by January 31 of each year, beginning
on January 31, 2014. All ETCs performing annual re-certifications after 2012 must also provide, by
January 31 of each year, their annual recertification results for subscribers residing on reservations or
Tribal lands to the relevant Tribal government.

D.

Tribal Lifeline Eligibility

149.
In this Order, we take steps to advance the availability of Lifeline support for low-income
consumers living on or near Tribal lands. First, we amend section 54.409 of the Commission’s rules to
clarify that low-income residents of Tribal lands may be eligible for program support based on either
income or participation in certain federal or Tribal assistance programs. Second, we amend section
54.409 of the Commission’s rules to expand program-based eligibility to participants in the Food
Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), a federal program that provides food to low-
income households living on Indian reservations and to Native American families residing in designated
areas near reservations and in the State of Oklahoma. Third, we establish a process for Tribal
governments to seek designation of off-reservation lands as Tribal lands for the purpose of receiving
enhanced Lifeline support and remove the term and definition of “near reservation” from section
54.400(e) of our rules. Fourth, we clarify that, pursuant to section 54.410 of the Commission’s rules,
low-income residents of Tribal lands may self-certify as to their residency on Tribal lands.
1.

Background

150.
In its 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, the Commission adopted measures to significantly
enhance Lifeline and Link Up support for low-income residents living on Tribal lands.386 The
Commission defined an eligible resident of Tribal lands as a low-income consumer living on a
reservation, with a reservation defined as “any federally recognized Indian tribe’s reservation, pueblo, or
colony, including former reservations in Oklahoma, Alaska Native regions established pursuant to the
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688), and Indian allotments.”387 The changes were a direct
response to the disproportionately low subscribership to telecommunications services among Tribal
communities at the time. For example, in 2000, only an estimated 47 percent of Tribal households had
phone service compared to 94 percent of all American households and 76.7 percent of rural households
earning less than $5,000 per year.388 The rules adopted in 2000 were designed to address this urgent
challenge.


385 This format should be such that data can be easily submitted to USAC by ETCs, states, and third-parties, as
applicable, and to minimize the administrative burdens for compliance with the rules we adopt today.
386 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12231-32, paras. 20-85. An eligible resident of Tribal lands is
defined as a qualifying low-income consumer living on or near a reservation, with a reservation being defined as
“any federally recognized Indian tribe’s reservation, pueblo, or colony, including former reservations in Oklahoma,
Alaska Native regions established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688), and Indian
allotments.” 47 C.F.R. § 54.400(e); see also 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd 12217-19, paras. 16-19. See
infra
paras. 156-63 for a discussion of “near reservation” lands.
387 47 C.F.R. § 54.400(e); see also 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd 12217-12219, paras. 16-19.
388 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12211, 12212, para. 2.
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151.
Relying on both section 254 and the unique trust relationship between the federal
government and American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages,389 the Commission created a fourth
tier of Lifeline support, providing up to an additional $25 (for a maximum of $35) per month in Lifeline
support to qualifying low-income consumers living on Tribal lands.390 The Commission also expanded
Link Up to allow qualifying residents of Tribal lands to receive up to an additional $70 (for a maximum
of $100) off of the cost of commencing telephone service.391 Moreover, the Commission broadened the
program-based eligibility criteria for Lifeline to include the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) general
assistance program, Tribally-administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Head Start, and the
National School Lunch Program’s free lunch program.392
152.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission proposed further changes to the rules
to expand opportunities for eligible households on Tribal lands to receive Lifeline support and to permit
Tribal governments to designate additional areas as Tribal lands eligible for support.393
2.

Discussion

153.
Income-based eligibility. We first revise sections 54.409(a) and 54.409(c) of our rules to
more clearly reflect that residents of Tribal lands are eligible for Lifeline support based on income.394
Consumers living on Tribal lands may qualify for Tribal lands support if the consumer’s household
income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines; consumers may also qualify through
participation in any Tribal-specific federal income assistance program identified in our rules or
participation in any other qualifying income assistance program identified in subsection 54.409(b) of our
rules. The record suggests, and we agree, that this revision will eliminate any perceived confusion about
the availability of income-based eligibility to residents of Tribal lands395 and reduce the uncertainty that


389 Id. at 12221-22, para. 22.
390 Id. at 12230-31, para. 42. Such support is commonly referred to as Tier 4, or enhanced, Lifeline support.
391 Id. at 12238-39, para. 59. Such support is commonly referred to as enhanced Link Up support.
392 Id. at 12245, para. 68.
393 Id. at 2810-17, paras. 126-41.
394 In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission observed that significant confusion exists among ETCs,
USAC and Tribal governments about whether residents of Tribal lands can qualify for enhanced support based on
income. Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2811, para. 127. The Commission noted that interpretations
of section 54.409 of the Commission’s rules appear to differ despite consistent language in the 2000 Tribal Lifeline
Order
and the 2003 Tribal Lifeline Order. Both of those orders stated that the new rules enhancing support
represented an expansion of the low-income program; therefore, income-based eligibility for Tribal Lifeline, which
existed prior to the amendments, remained intact. See, e.g., 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12245, para.
68 (“Specifically, we expand the federal default qualification criteria for eligibility for Lifeline and Link Up
assistance . . . .” (emphasis added)); Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; Promoting Deployment and
Subscribership in Unserved and Underserved Areas, Including Tribal and Insular Areas
, Twenty-Fifth Order on
Reconsideration, Report and Order, Order, and Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, 18
FCC Rcd 10958, 10970, para. 23 (2003) (2003 Tribal Lifeline Order) (“[T]he Commission broadened the federal
default qualification criteria to enable low-income individuals living on tribal lands to qualify for this enhanced
support . . . . We make this clarification to ensure that those otherwise eligible to participate in the enhanced
programs will have the full opportunity to do so.” (emphasis added)).
395 As stated in the NPRM, “The Commission’s current rules regarding Tribal eligibility for Lifeline support have
been subject to differing interpretations. Specifically, ETCs, USAC, and Tribal groups have indicated there has been
inconsistency and confusion among federal default and non-default states regarding whether residents of Tribal
lands may qualify for participation in the program based on income, even though there is language in Commission
orders so indicating.” See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM 26 FCC Rcd at 2811, para. 127.
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qualifying consumers on Tribal lands have faced in securing Lifeline support.396
154.
Program-based eligibility. We also amend section 54.409 of our rules to expand the
number of assistance programs that will qualify eligible residents of Tribal lands for program support.
We add the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, a food assistance program for Tribal
communities, to the list of programs through which participating consumers living on Tribal lands may
qualify for program support. In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission noted that, while
residents of Tribal lands may qualify for Lifeline support based on participation in the SNAP, they may
not qualify based on participation in FDPIR.397 The Commission observed that because both programs
have income-based eligibility criteria, but households may not participate in both programs, some
residents of Tribal lands do not qualify for Lifeline support simply because they choose to participate in
FDPIR rather than SNAP.398 Indeed, the Commission observed that members of more than 200 Tribes
currently receive benefits under FDPIR, and that elderly Tribal residents often opt for FDPIR benefits.399
The Commission proposed amending section 54.409 of our rules to add FDPIR to the list of qualifying
programs through which participating consumers living on Tribal lands may qualify for Lifeline
support.400
155.
Permitting SNAP beneficiaries to qualify for low-income support but not FDPIR
beneficiaries is inconsistent with our program goals when the SNAP and FDPIR programs utilize such
similar eligibility criteria.401 Moreover, the record reflects that our current approach excludes from the
low-income program the very population that the Commission has attempted to support through its Tribal
lands Lifeline program – low-income consumers living on Tribal lands.402 We therefore agree with
commenters that including FDPIR as a qualifying program will allow more low-income residents on
Tribal lands to receive Lifeline support, which will further the Commission’s goal of increasing access to


396 Commenters who addressed this issue expressed support for amending the rule to make clear that residents of
Tribal lands qualify for Lifeline based on income. CenturyLink Comments at ii-iii, 14; GRTI Comments at 11;
YourTel Comments at 10. But see Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 4-5 (urging the Commission to proceed
with care in implementing changes to the eligibility criteria to ensure that consumers currently eligible for Tier 4
support in Alaska are not inadvertently excluded from the program).
397 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2812, para. 129.
398 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2812, para. 130. For a summary of the eligibility criteria for SNAP,
see United States Department of Agriculture, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Eligibility
Criteria, http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm (last visited Jan. 30, 2012). For a
summary of the eligibility criteria for FDPIR, see United States Department of Agriculture, FD Programs, About
FDPIR, http://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/programs/fdpir/about_fdpir.htm (last visited Jan. 30, 2012); see also Food
Distribution Fact Sheet, October 2010, available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/programs/fdpir/pfs-fdpir.pdf.
399 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2812, para. 130.
400 Id. at para. 131; see also id. at Appendix A, 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(b) (proposed rule).
401 See Letter from Duke Storen, Director, Office of Strategic Initiatives, Partnerships, and Outreach, United States
Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, to Marlene Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 (filed Sept. 2, 2011) (USDA FDPIR Letter).
402 Commenters generally supported the addition of FDPIR as a qualifying program for residents of Tribal lands.
See, e.g., GRTI Comments at 11-12 (noting that consumers who could otherwise participate in SNAP but choose to
participate in FDPIR may be unnecessarily excluded from Lifeline eligibility, and that cultural and language barriers
faced by Tribal members when attempting to qualify for federal aid programs exacerbate the problem of inadvertent
disqualification); YourTel Comments at 9-10 (noting that one state, Oklahoma, already includes FDPIR in its list of
qualifying programs, and that it supported making the same change on the federal level); see also USDA FDPIR
Letter,
at 1; CenturyLink Comments at 14.
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telecommunications services by low-income residents of Tribal lands.
156.
Designation of Off-Reservation Areas for Tribal Support. We next adopt the proposal in
the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM to establish a process for Tribal governments to seek designation of off-
reservation areas as Tribal lands for purposes of determining eligibility for Tribal lands Lifeline support.
This process will apply to Tribal governments seeking qualification for enhanced Lifeline support for
Tribal communities whose land does not meet the definition of “reservation” contained in section
54.400(e) of our rules.
157.
In the 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, the Commission limited the availability of enhanced
low-income program support to qualified low-income consumers living on Tribal lands, which it defined
to include both reservations and near reservation areas. The Commission defined near reservation as
“those areas or communities adjacent or contiguous to reservations,” and noted that other federal
programs supporting Tribes have generally considered such areas to be Tribal lands.403 Shortly after the
adoption of the 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, however, the Commission became aware that its definition of
near reservation potentially encompassed wide areas in which communities do not face the economic and
geographic barriers faced by communities on reservations.404 Thus, in the Near Reservation Stay Order,
the Commission stayed the implementation of the enhanced support rules set forth in the 2000 Tribal
Lifeline Order
as applied to “qualifying low-income consumers living near reservations,” and sought
comment on alternative methods of reaching low-income Tribal consumers living off-reservation.405
158.
We are concerned that the current definition of Tribal lands and the associated stay have
precluded many potentially eligible low-income consumers from receiving Tribal lands Lifeline support
as intended by the 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order. Although they reside in off-reservation areas, such
consumers may face the same levels of poverty, geographic isolation, and lack of access to
telecommunications services faced by communities on reservations.406
We also recognize the
Commission’s concerns, as discussed in the Near Reservation Stay Order, about the potential over-
inclusiveness of the current definition of Tribal lands. Accordingly, we adopt a process today that will
enable us to more effectively target Lifeline support to qualified residents of Tribal lands.
159.
Under the rule we adopt today, a Tribal government may seek designation of off-
reservation lands as Tribal lands by filing a petition for designation with the Commission’s Wireline
Competition Bureau and Office of Native Affairs and Policy, to whom we jointly delegate the authority to
resolve such petitions. The Office of Native Affairs and Policy will also be responsible for initiating
consultation with each Tribal government submitting a designation petition. In establishing this process
allowing Tribal governments to designate off-reservation areas as Tribal lands, we rely on the precedent
articulated by the Commission in establishing a similar process for radio stations seeking to serve Tribal
lands.407 By making individualized designations of off-reservation Tribal lands, the Commission will


403 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12218, para. 17.
404 For example, well-served population centers such as Phoenix, Arizona and Sacramento, California were
considered near reservation areas. 2003 Tribal Lifeline Order, 18 FCC Rcd at 10965, para. 13.
405 Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; Promoting Deployment and Subscribership in Unserved and
Underserved Areas, Including Tribal and Insular Areas
, Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, CC
Dkt. No. 96-45, 15 FCC Rcd 17112, 17113-15, paras. 2-6 (2000) (Near Reservation Stay Order).
406 See, e.g., LCCHR Comments at 9-10 (noting the low penetration rates for American Indians for basic telephone
service and asserting that the Commission should direct support toward Tribal lands and Tribal members with low
subscribership rates).
407 See Policies to Promote Rural Radio Service and to Streamline Allotment and Assignment Procedures, MB Dkt.
No. 09-52, RM-11528, Second Report and Order, First Order on Reconsideration, and Second Further Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking, 26 FCC Rcd 2556, 2561-63, paras. 8-11 (2011) (Rural Radio Second Report and Order).
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more effectively reach those Tribal consumers and communities that are most in need while at the same
time reducing over-inclusiveness that could expand eligibility beyond what is appropriate to serve our
goal of increasing access to telecommunications services on Tribal lands.
160.
A petition for designation of off-reservation lands as Tribal lands for purposes of
qualifying for Tribal lands Lifeline support must be formally made by a duly authorized official of a
federally recognized Tribe and must establish good cause for such designation. The requirement that
designation be formally requested by a duly authorized official of a federally recognized Tribe is
consistent with our requirement that only residents of Tribal lands may qualify for enhanced low-income
support, based on the government-to-government relationship between Tribal governments and the
federal government.408 A request for designation must provide sufficient evidence of: (1) a nexus
between the area or community and the Tribe; and (2) a description of how Tribal lands Lifeline support
to the designated area would aid the Tribe in serving the needs and interests of its citizens and further the
Commission’s goal of increasing telecommunications access on Tribal lands.
161.
To satisfy the first requirement, a Tribal government seeking designation for off-
reservation Tribal lands must submit evidence probative of a connection between a defined community or
area and the Tribe itself. A designation petition should explain that the communities or areas associated
with the Tribe do not fit the definition of Tribal lands contained in section 54.400(e) of the Commission’s
rules. Geographically identifiable factors, such as evidence that the area is one to which the Tribe
delivers services to its citizens or to which the federal government delivers services specifically intended
for Tribal members, would be probative.409
Evidence that a Tribe has a defined seat, such as a
headquarters or office, in combination with evidence that Tribal citizens live and/or are served by the
Tribal government in the immediate environs of such a government seat, would also be probative of a
nexus between that community and the Tribe. A Tribal government might also provide a showing under
the standard enunciated in section 83.7(b)(2)(i) of Part 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations,410 that
more than 50 percent of Tribal members live in a geographical area exclusively or almost exclusively
composed of members of the Tribe.411 Additionally, Tribal governments might provide other indicia of
community, such as Tribal institutions (e.g., hospitals or clinics, museums, businesses) or activities (e.g.,
conferences, festivals, fairs).412 The designation petition should also detail, pursuant to the second
requirement adopted in section 54.412 of our rules, how the provision of Tribal lands Lifeline support to
the community or area would aid the Tribe in serving the needs of its community and thus would further
the goals of the enhanced Lifeline program.
162.
The Tribal government must also clearly describe a defined area for the off-reservation


408 See generally Statement of Policy on Establishing a Government-to-Government Relationship with Indian Tribes,
Policy Statement, 16 FCC Rcd 4078 (2000) (Tribal Policy Statement). See also 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC
Rcd at 12213-14, para. 5.
409 For example, areas to which the federal government provides services to Tribal members could include federal
service areas used by the Indian Health Service, Department of Energy, or Environmental Protection Agency.
Probative evidence might also include evidence of Census Bureau-defined Tribal service areas used by agencies
such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development. See Rural Radio Second Report and Order, 26 FCC
Rcd at 2561, para. 7.
410 25 C.F.R. § 83.7(b)(2)(i). Title 25 encompasses the responsibilities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Part 83
is entitled “Procedures for Establishing that an American Indian Group Exists as an Indian Tribe.”
411 See Rural Radio Second Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 2562, para. 9.
412 Id.
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lands for which it seeks designation as Tribal lands.413 This requirement is consistent with the purposes
of enabling Tribes to serve their citizens, to perpetuate Tribal culture, and to promote self-government.414
In addition, the showing must demonstrate the Tribal character of the area or community for which Tribal
lands designation is sought. The need for such a demonstration is in line with the purposes underlying
Tribal lands enhanced low-income support, namely to promote telecommunications deployment and
subscribership on Tribal lands, consistent with our obligations under the historic federal trust relationship
between the federal government and federally recognized Indian Tribes to encourage Tribal sovereignty
and self-governance.415 We note that it is the express intent of the Commission that any such designation
shall be used solely for the Lifeline program and shall not be used for other purposes – such as eligibility
for the Tribal Mobility Fund established in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM.
163.
In conjunction with this action, we also adopt the proposal in the Lifeline and Link Up
NPRM to remove the term and definition of “near reservation” from section 54.400(e) of our rules. We
acknowledge that leaving the language in the rules after staying its implementation may have caused
confusion. We also acknowledge that the term “near reservation” was overly broad, designating large
areas that do not possess characteristics warranting Tribal lands low-income support. We expect that the
designation process we adopt today will eliminate any lingering confusion associated with this term and,
consistent with the 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, will enable the Commission to target Tribal lands Lifeline
support to underserved consumers living off of reservations. We do not anticipate the removal of the near
reservation language from our rules to have any adverse impact on consumer eligibility for Tribal lands
support. Moreover, the record supports the adoption of a process for designating off-reservation areas as
Tribal lands in lieu of maintaining or modifying the term “near reservation,”416 and we therefore make
that change today.
164.
Self-certification of Tribal land residence. We also adopt the proposal in the Lifeline and
Link Up NPRM to clarify that, pursuant to section 54.410 of the Commission’s amended rules, consumer
self-certification is sufficient to meet the Tribal lands residency requirement for enhanced Lifeline
support. In 2008, Qwest Communications (Qwest) (now known as CenturyLink) sought review of a
USAC decision which found that Qwest provided enhanced Lifeline support to subscribers who did not
reside on eligible Tribal lands and failed to provide enhanced Lifeline support to subscribers who were
eligible residents of Tribal lands.417 Qwest argued that it had secured signed documents from consumers
self-certifying their participation in a qualifying program and residence on a reservation, and had thus
fulfilled its obligation to demonstrate the consumers’ residence on Tribal lands as required by
Commission rules.418
The Commission sought comment on the Qwest Petition in 2008,419 and


413 See Rural Radio Second Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 2586, para. 58 (noting that Tribal lands may be very
small or irregularly shaped).
414 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2814, para. 136.
415 See Tribal Policy Statement, 16 FCC Rcd at 4080-81; 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12213-14, para.
5.
416 Commenters generally found this proposal to be non-controversial. Specifically, CenturyLink expressed its
support for the implementation of a new designation process for off-reservation Tribal lands, adding that once the
process is in place, the Commission should maintain a list of Tribal lands designated under the process.
CenturyLink Comments at 14.
417 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2815, para. 138; see also Request for Review by Qwest
Communications International, Inc. of the Decision of the Universal Service Administrator
, WC Dkt. No. 03-109
(filed Apr. 25, 2008) (Qwest Petition).
418 Qwest Petition at 6-9.
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commenters generally urged the Commission to continue allowing low-income consumers to self-certify
to their residency on Tribal lands.420
165.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission proposed to eliminate the option for
consumers to self-certify to their program-based eligibility for Lifeline support, but to maintain a rule
allowing consumers to self-certify to their residence on Tribal lands.421 The Commission noted that there
is consensus among ETCs and Tribes that Tribal addresses are often difficult, if not impossible, to
determine, and that requiring ETCs to document Tribal residency would significantly undermine the goal
of increasing access to telecommunications services on Tribal lands by discouraging carriers from serving
Tribal communities.422
166.
As proposed in the NPRM, we clarify that, pursuant to section 54.410 of the
Commission’s amended rules, consumer self-certification is sufficient to meet the residency requirement
of Tribal lands Lifeline support.423 Thus, a low-income consumer applying for Tribal lands low-income
support must certify upon program enrollment that he or she is an “eligible resident of Tribal lands,” as
defined in section 54.400(e) of our rules. The record indicates that residential addresses are frequently
non-existent on Tribal lands and, where present, often differ significantly from residential addresses off
Tribal lands.424 Further, the record strongly suggests that imposing an address verification requirement
for Tribal land residence would be unduly cumbersome and counterproductive to our goal of increasing
access to telecommunications services on Tribal lands.425 We therefore agree with commenters, who urge
us to keep the rule as is.

E.

Electronic Signature and Interactive Voice Response Systems

167.
Background. The Commission’s Lifeline and Link Up rules require subscribers or
potential subscribers to the program to sign documents certifying to program eligibility in order to obtain
the service. Sections 54.409(c) and (d) of our rules, for example, require ETCs to “obtain [a] consumer's


(Continued from previous page)
419 Comment Sought on Qwest Request for Review of a Decision of the Universal Service Administrative Company,
WC Dkt. No. 03-109, Public Notice, 23 FCC Rcd 7845 (Wireline Comp. Bur. 2008).
420 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2816, para. 139 (citing AT&T Qwest Petition Comments, WC Dkt.
No. 03-109 (filed Jun. 16, 2008); USTelecom Association Qwest Petition Comments, WC Dkt. No. 03-109 (filed
Jun. 16, 2008); Alltel Communications, LLC Qwest Petition Reply Comments, WC Dkt. No. 03-109 (filed Jul. 1,
2008); Rural Cellular Corporation Qwest Reply Comments, WC Dkt. No. 03-109 (filed Jul. 1, 2008); SBI Qwest
Petition Reply Comments, WC Dkt. No. 03-109 (filed Jul. 1, 2008).
421 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2816-17, para. 141.
422 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2816, para. 139.
423 We also grant Qwest’s April 2008 request for review of the USAC audit finding. We find that Qwest was
compliant with the Commission’s Lifeline rules that existed at the time, as clarified herein.
424 See, e.g., SBI Comments at 14-16. SBI cited a letter to the Commission from the Navajo Nation describing the
absence of addressing systems on Tribal lands and the significant challenges that the absence has posed to the
provision of basic services like mail and emergency medical dispatch. See SBI Comments at 14-15. SBI noted that
when a consumer provides an address commonly seen in Tribal communities such as “5 MI NE OF ROCKWELL
STORE,” reliable verification of the address is all but impossible. SBI Comments at 15. See also NNTRC Jan. 20
ex parte Letter at 5.
425 See, e.g., CenturyLink Comments at 15; SBI Comments at 14-16; USTelecom Comments at 6-7. Because we
have already addressed the proposal on self-certification as to income and program participation above, we limit our
discussion in this section to the proposal on self-certification as to residence on Tribal lands. See supra section VI.C
(Certification of Consumer Eligibility).
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signature on a document certifying under penalty of perjury” that the consumer meets certain Lifeline
eligibility requirements.426 Similarly, section 54.410 requires ETCs to verify their subscribers’ continued
eligibility by having subscribers self-certify under penalty of perjury to certain requirements relevant to
continued eligibility.427 In the NPRM, the Commission proposed to allow consumers to electronically
sign the “penalty of perjury” requirements of sections 54.409(c), 54.409(d), and 54.410 of the
Commission’s rules and sought comment on the rules defining and guidelines for accepting electronic
signatures for Lifeline enrollment, certification, and verification.428
The Commission also sought
comment on whether interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which record and save an applicant’s
certification of eligibility over the telephone, are an acceptable method to verify a consumer’s signature
under sections 54.409(c), 54.409(d), and 54.410 of the Commission’s rules.429
168.
Discussion. We clarify that ETCs may obtain electronic signatures from potential or
current subscribers certifying eligibility to receive support under “penalty of perjury” pursuant to section
54.410 of the Commission’s rules. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-
Sign Act)430 and Government Paperwork Elimination Act431 establish that an electronic signature, defined
by the E-Sign Act as an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a
contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record, has the
same legal effect as a written signature.432 The E-Sign Act grants federal agencies, including the
Commission, the authority to issue rules and guidance in accordance with section 101 of the E-Sign Act,
which states that “a signature, contract, or other record relating to such transaction may not be denied
legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form,” before specifying further
requirements regarding verifiability, accuracy, and consumer consent.433 Because our Lifeline rules make
no distinction between electronic and written signatures, the operative effect of the E-Sign Act is to
permit the use of electronic signatures for the purposes of certifying eligibility to receive support under
penalty of perjury.434 The record supports the use of electronic signatures by consumers as a way to
simplify the enrollment process.435 As such, we find that it is in the public interest to clarify that
electronic signatures may be relied upon for purposes of the Lifeline program rules, including the
certification requirements adopted herein. We also determine that, for purposes of annual certifications,


426 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(c), (d).
427 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.510.
428 See NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2839, para. 224.
429 See id. at 2839, para. 225. In addition, one ETC has filed a request with the Commission seeking permission to
enroll Lifeline consumers online and by telephone using an IVR. See Letter from Peter Lurie, Virgin Mobile USA,
L.P., to Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No.
09-197 (filed March 4, 2010).
430 See 15 U.S.C. §§ 7001-7004 (2006).
431 See 44 U.S.C. §§ 3501-20 (2006).
432 See 15 U.S.C. §§ 7001-7004 (2006); 44 U.S.C. §§ 3501-20 (2006).
433 See 15 U.S.C. §§ 7001-7004 (2006).
434 One commenter agrees with our analysis: Comptel states that electronic signatures are already allowed under the
E-Sign Act, which includes IVRs. COMPTEL Comments at 22. Furthermore, we interpret “document” in 47 C.F.R.
§ 54.409(c) and (d) to constitute a record that may be saved pursuant to the record keeping requirements set forth in
47 C.F.R. § 54.410.
435 See, e.g., Amvensys Comments at 9; CenturyLink Comments at 21-22; COMPTEL Comments at 22; Emerios
Comments at 17; GCI Comments at 52; NALA/PCA Comments at 6; Solix Comments at 3; YourTel Comments at
14.
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ETCs may rely upon text messages from Lifeline consumers when such communications are received in
response to the annual certification request from the consumer’s Lifeline-supported phone number.
169.
Though ETCs may now rely on electronic signatures, including IVR recordings, we note
that our recordkeeping requirements remain unchanged.436 Indeed, our requirements, as written, are not
affected by the inclusion of electronic records; ETCs are still required to maintain records to document
compliance with all Commission and state requirements governing the Lifeline program, including copies
of text messages for annual certifications.437 Nevertheless, we adopt a rule to clarify that an electronic
signature is an acceptable method to verify a consumer’s signature under section 54.410 of the
Commission’s rules. While we make clear that ETCs may rely on electronic signatures to obtain a
consumer's signature on a document certifying under penalty of perjury, ETCs must keep accurate and
verifiable records and must comply with the certification requirements set forth in section VI.C, above.

F.

Automatic and Coordinated Enrollment

170.
Background. In this section, we limit automatic enrollment in the program by state
agencies and, at the same time, encourage the use of coordinated enrollment. Coordinated enrollment is a
mechanism that permits but does not compel consumers to enroll in Lifeline and Link Up at the same time
they enroll in a qualifying public assistance program.438 Coordinated enrollment is distinguishable from
“automatic” or “automated” enrollment, which entails a state or authorized agent automatically enrolling
an eligible consumer in Lifeline without the consumer submitting a Lifeline application or expressly
authorizing the enrollment.439 In automatic enrollment programs, an eligible consumer is automatically
enrolled in a Lifeline program without their affirmative consent.440 The Texas PUC matches ETCs’
current subscribers’ names to eligibility data from state social services databases.441 Eligible subscribers
are automatically enrolled in the Lifeline program of their carrier (if that carrier is an ETC). The Lifeline
discount is then provided to the subscriber unless they opt out after having received notification of their
enrollment. Other states have similar processes.442
171.
In 2010, the National Broadband Plan recommended that the Commission encourage
state agencies responsible for Lifeline and Link Up to streamline benefit enrollment and suggested the use
of unified online applications for social services.443 In the 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, the
Joint Board recommended that coordinated and automatic enrollment should be encouraged as a best
practice,444 but also recommended that the Commission not mandate coordinated enrollment before


436 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.417.
437 See id.
438 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2831, para 199. The Commission and its staff have long
encouraged coordinated enrollment as a way to improve the efficiency of the low-income program. In 2004, for
example, the Commission encouraged states to implement coordinated enrollment. See 2004 Lifeline and Link Up
Order and FNPRM
, 19 FCC Rcd at 8318, para. 25.
439 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2831-32, para 200 (“Unlike automatic or automated enrollment,
coordinated enrollment requires eligible consumers to affirmatively choose to enroll in the Lifeline program.”).
440 See id.
441 See Solix Comments at 3-4.
442 See, e.g., NY PSC Comments.
443 NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 173.
444 In its recommended decision, the Joint Board used the term “automatic” or “automated” enrollment to mean both
automatic enrollment and coordinated enrollment as defined in this order. See 2010 Joint Board Recommended
Decision
at n.26 (citing LIFELINE ACROSS AMERICA WORKING GROUP, REPORT OF THE FCC/NARUC/NASUCA
(continued….)
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seeking comment on the various administrative, technological and funding issues of such a
requirement.445 Thus, in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission suggested that coordinated
enrollment be encouraged as a best practice by the states and sought comment on the steps that the
Commission could take to further facilitate coordinated enrollment.446 The Commission sought comment
on the overall costs and benefits of coordinated enrollment as the Joint Board recommended.447
172.
Discussion. We limit the ability of states and their agents to automatically enroll a
consumer in Lifeline without the consumer’s express authorization in order to protect the Fund against
duplicative Lifeline support, increase adherence to consumer certification rules, and ensure that all ETCs
have an opportunity to compete for subscribers. At the same time, we agree with the Joint Board that
coordinated enrollment has substantial benefits and should be facilitated.
173.
While automatic enrollment programs increase consumer enrollment in Lifeline, some
features of these programs may have the unintended consequences of excessively burdening the Fund,
may undermine Commission objectives to reduce waste and prevent duplicative support, and limit ETCs’
opportunities to compete for consumers.448 For example, in one state, Verizon must apply the Lifeline
discount to any existing Verizon wireline consumer identified as receiving benefits from the that state’s
Office of Temporary Disability Assistance.449 The consumer subsequently receives a letter from the state
explaining that they have been enrolled in Verizon’s Lifeline program and must opt-out if they do not
want the discount. A substantial number of consumers will likely not exercise that option and stay with
the default selection regardless of their actual preference or whether they are receiving Lifeline from
another provider.450 Not only can competition among ETCs for low-income consumers be frustrated by
automatic enrollment processes that favor a single provider, but this process may lead to duplicative
claims. For example, a Verizon wireline subscriber that is automatically enrolled in Verizon’s Lifeline
program and given the Lifeline discount may already be receiving Lifeline support from a wireless
Lifeline provider.451 Automatic enrollment may also prevent ETCs from complying with certification and
other requirements we adopt in this Order meant to reduce waste in the Fund. In states with automatic


(Continued from previous page)
WORKING GROUP ON LIFELINE AND LINK-UP: “LIFELINE ACROSS AMERICA” 6-9 (2007), available at
http://www.lifeline.gov/LLLUReport.pdf (WORKING GROUP REPORT).
445 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision at paras 18-22.
446 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, FCC Rcd at 2832-33, paras. 201-04.
447 See id. at 2833, para 204.
448 See 47 U.S.C. § 254(d) (“A State may adopt regulations to provide for additional definitions and standards to
advance universal service within that State only to the extent that such regulations…do not rely on or burden
Federal universal support mechanisms.”).
449 See NY PSC Comments at 10.
450 See Telecommunications Carriers’ Use of Customer Proprietary Network Information and Other
Customer Information, et al
., Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Dkt. No. 04-36 et
al.,
para 44 (2007) (noting that customers may inadvertantly provide consent to share private information if consent
is provided unless the consumer affirmatively opts out).
451 For example, both TracFone and Virgin Mobile provide Lifeline service in New York. See Assurance Wireless,
How To Qualify for Assurance Wireless, available at
http://www.assurancewireless.com/Public/HowToQualify.aspx (last visited at Jan. 18, 2012); Safelink Wireless;
New York Questions, available at https://www.safelinkwireless.com/Safelink/program_info/faq/newyork; see also
USAC Low-Income Disbursement Tool, http://usac.org/li/tools/disbursements/default.aspx (reflecting Lifeline
disbursements to Safelink and TracFone in New York) (last visited Feb. 5, 2012).
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enrollment, automatically enrolled consumers are unable to attest, under penalty of perjury, that they are
the only person in their household receiving Lifeline prior to enrollment.452 In light of the rule changes
we adopt today, states with automatic enrollment programs must modify those programs, as necessary, to
comply with our rules, so that consumers are not automatically enrolled without consumers’ express
consent.
174.
While we place limitations on how states’ automatic enrollment processes can be utilized,
we encourage coordinated enrollment and recognize coordinated enrollment as a best practice in light of
the overwhelming support in the record and the benefits of coordinated enrollment. We also note that
coordinated enrollment processes can increase the effectiveness of state eligibility databases which are
currently in use and any national eligibility database which the Commission may adopt in the future.453
175.
A number of states currently engage in or are implementing coordinated enrollment.454
For example, in 2007, Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Florida Public
Service Commission (FL PSC) established a coordinated enrollment system in which applicants to three
Lifeline eligible programs (Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) can
also apply for Lifeline benefits at the same time.455 When a consumer receiving benefits from DCF
enrolls in one of these three DCF programs online, the consumer is also presented with the option to
enroll in Lifeline.456 If the consumer affirmatively enrolls in Lifeline, the consumer selects an ETC from
a list.457 The list of consumers and their ETC selections are sent to the FL PSC. The FL PSC then sends
each ETC the list of consumers who selected that ETC as their Lifeline provider.458 Nebraska has a
similar coordinated enrollment process in which at least some consumers apply for Lifeline at the
Nebraska social services office where those consumers apply for and receive other qualifying benefits.459
176.
In response to the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, many commenters argue that the
Commission should maintain the current policy of encouraging coordinated enrollment as a best
practice.460 Commenters report that coordinated enrollment is an efficient and effective means of
increasing participation in the Lifeline and Link Up programs while protecting against waste in the Fund.


452 See supra paras. 120-124.
453 As AT&T argues, an eligibility database would enable coordinated enrollment on a wider scale. See AT&T
Reply Comments at 2 (“We support the Commission requiring states to implement coordinated enrollment, a
process that we see as logically linked to a national Lifeline consumer database.”).
454 See, e.g., DC PSC Comments at 6-7 (“The DC PSC notes that, in the District of Columbia, there have been
discussions to consolidate the utility discount program certification activities with the public assistance certification
activities performed by the Income Maintenance Administration (‘IMA’), which handles public assistance
applications in the District of Columbia….The DC PSC intends to continue its efforts to promote Lifeline adoption
through coordinated or automatic enrollment.”); FL PSC Comments at 23.
455 See FL PSC Comments at 20, 23. Lifeline consumers in Florida whose eligibility is based on a program that
DCF does not administer (Supplemental Security Income, Section 8 Federal Public Housing, Low-Income Home
Energy Assistance, National School Free Lunch, or Bureau of Indian Affairs Programs) might be required to provide
additional documentation proving participation in these programs. Id. at 20.
456 See id. at 23.
457 See id.
458 See id.
459 See NE PSC Aug. 8 ex parte Letter at 1 (noting that some consumers receive lifeline applications from the
NDHHS).
460 See NASUCA Comments at 24; see also Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 14.
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Commenters argue that coordinated enrollment helps ensure that only eligible consumers are enrolled,461
increases awareness in the program,462 makes enrollment more convenient for eligible subscribers,463 and
by doing so, expands program participation.464 Others suggest that the Commission should make monies
available from the Fund for states to use toward implementation of coordinated enrollment.465 While
some commenters support mandatory coordinated enrollment,466 the majority oppose such a mandate as
administratively and technologically infeasible and financially burdensome.467 We decline at this time to
impose coordinated enrollment obligations on states but instead, given the substantial benefits offered by
coordinated enrollment, continue to encourage state social service agencies to coordinate enrollment in
Lifeline with other qualifying benefit programs.
177.
We also note that coordinated enrollment is, in many cases, facilitated through access to
state social services databases which allow for real-time verification of eligibility.468 Verifying eligibility
at the beginning of the application process, either through coordinated enrollment at a state social services
agency and/or by accessing an eligibility database at the time of application increases efficiency and
effectively manages consumer expectations by ensuring that consumers know early in the process
whether they are eligible for a supported service.469
178.
Some states and ETCs query eligibility databases after the consumer has submitted their
application but before the ETC initiates service.470
While these processes are not, by definition,
coordinated enrollment, they assist in improving administration of the Fund. By enabling the carrier or
state to check eligibility prior to service activation, eligibility databases will likely eliminate a substantial


461 See AT&T Reply Comments at 2; see also NJ DRC Comments at 21.
462 See, e.g., CenturyLink Comments at 20; DC PSC Comments at 6; NJ DRC Reply Comments at 24.
463 See CenturyLink Comments at 20.
464 See NJ DRC Reply Comments at iii. FL PSC Comments at 23; Benton/PK/UCC Comments at 5; MAG-Net
Comments at 14.
465 See, e.g., Consumer Groups Reply Comments at 8 (arguing that “without financial incentives to address the cost
of developing and implementing these systems, coordinated enrollment will languish as little more than a best
practice”).
466 See, e.g., AT&T Reply Comments at 2; LCCHR Comments at 8-9; Benton/PK/UCC Comments at 5.
467 See, e.g., Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 13; FL PSC Comments at 23; MO PSC Comments at 17; NY
PSC Comments at 10; NASUCA Comments at 24 (stating that the Commission lacks the authority to impose such a
mandate); IN FSSA Comments at 1; MITS Reply Comments at 3.
468 See supra para. 165.
469 See TracFone Aug 3 ex parte Letter at 3. (“ETCs are able to access those data bases and determine whether
applicants for the Lifeline programs are enrolled in qualifying programs, without imposing a documentation burden
on those applicants.”).
470 NE PSC Aug. 8 ex parte Letter (“Once a subscriber obtains the application from the NPSC, NDHHS, or from the
carrier, and submits it to the NPSC, the NPSC staff reviews the application for completeness. If the subscriber’s
eligibility is based on Medicaid, Food Stamps or Kids Connection, then the NPSC staff accesses NDHHS
information via a secured file and NPSC staff verifies that the subscriber is on the said program.”); OR PUC Aug.
24 Ex Parte Presentation at 2 (“When an applicant contacts the Oregon Commission or submits an Oregon-specific
Lifeline application via mail, fax or online, the Oregon Commission’s staff searches the Oregon Commission
database using the applicant’s complete Social Security number followed by the phone number and the first few
letters of their first and last name…”); Letter from Sally Brown, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Washington, to
Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 at 3 (filed Aug. 30, 2011)
(describing three-way call between the consumer, ETC and social services agency at time of customer enrollment in
Lifeline in order to verify Lifeline eligibility).
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amount of waste in the Fund. In the FNPRM, we seek further comment on the feasibility of establishing
and/or mandating the use of databases capable of providing real-time eligibility verification.471

VII.

REFORMS TO ELIMINATE WASTE, FRAUD & ABUSE

A.

National Lifeline Accountability Database

179.
In this Order, we establish a National Accountability Database (“database”) to detect and
prevent duplicative support in the Lifeline/Link Up program. We direct USAC to establish a database to
both eliminate existing duplicative support and prevent duplicative support in the future. To accomplish
these purposes the database must have a number of core functions, including the ability to receive and
process subscriber information provided by ETCs to identify whether a subscriber is receiving a Lifeline
benefit from another ETC. The database will utilize subscriber data provided by ETCs to identify and
reduce current instances of duplicative support. The database must also be capable of accepting queries
from an ETC to enable them to determine if a prospective subscriber is already receiving Lifeline support
from another ETC. The record indicates that the cost to the Fund of establishing the database with these
functions will be substantially outweighed by the amount of duplicative support which will be eliminated
through operation of the database.
1.

Background

180.
As explained below, our ongoing oversight has revealed that a substantial number of
subscribers are receiving duplicative Lifeline support, which includes individuals receiving two or more
Lifeline benefits from ETCs as well as two or more individuals in a household receiving benefits from
multiple ETCs. We conclude that without implementing additional measures to prevent duplicative
Lifeline support, such waste will continue to increase, especially as additional ETCs begin offering
Lifeline service. There is currently no mechanism for an ETC to verify, on its own, whether a prospective
subscriber is receiving Lifeline benefits from another ETC because ETCs cannot view each other’s
subscriber lists. 472 As a result, some subscribers receive Lifeline benefits from multiple carriers.
181.
The Commission has taken steps to address waste and duplicative payments. The
National Broadband Plan recommended that the Commission should “consider whether a centralized
database for online certification and verification is a cost-effective way to minimize waste, fraud, and
abuse.”473 In the 2010 Joint Board Referral Order, the Commission asked the Joint Board to examine
ways to eliminate waste, including how a database might streamline certification and verification and
check for duplicative support “based on numerous such proposals in the record.”474 In the 2010 Joint
Board Recommended Decision
, the Joint Board observed that many stakeholders recognize that a
database could eliminate duplicative claims and “provide accurate and up-to-date information on


471 See infra section XIII(A).
472 See Sprint Reply Comments at 10 (“Lifeline service providers currently have no means to prevent duplicate
discounts…and have experienced significant de-enrollment of otherwise eligible Lifeline customers because those
customers fail to provide proof of their on-going eligibility during the verification process. A national database
would effectively address both of these situations.”); Verizon and Verizon Wireless Comments at 10. We note that
ETCs participating through the duplicates resolution process have been informed by USAC which of their customers
in certain states are receiving duplicative support. However, this process is temporary and does not allow the ETC
to determine whether a prospective customer is already receiving support from another ETC.
473 NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 173.
474 See 2010 Joint Board Referral Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 5079 n.88 (noting that commenters believed a national
database could prevent “double dippers who seek to obtain Lifeline-supported service from two different
providers.”) (internal quotations omitted).
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customers’ eligibility,”475 but it concluded that it did not have “the level of operational details or
associated tangible cost estimates necessary to implement a national database” at that time.476 The Joint
Board recommended that the Commission seek further comment on whether to adopt a database and how
it would be administered and implemented.477 In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission
proposed several measures to modernize the Lifeline and Link Up programs and sought comment on both
immediate and permanent measures to prevent waste in the Lifeline program, including the creation of a
database to check for eligibility and duplicative support.478 The vast majority of parties filing comments
support a database and provide recommendations regarding its design and implementation.479 In the 2011
Duplicative Program Payments Order
, the Commission established an interim process to eliminate
duplicative support.480 This process has been successful in eliminating substantial amounts of duplicative
support. Indeed, according to data provided by USAC, it is estimated that over $35 million will be saved
per year from the elimination of duplicative support in twelve states,481 and we anticipate there will be
additional savings as USAC expands its examination to additional states.
2.

Discussion

182.
To prevent waste in the Universal Service Fund, we now create and mandate the use by
ETCs of a National Lifeline Accountability Database with specified features and functionalities,
described more fully below, to ensure that multiple ETCs do not seek and receive reimbursement for the
same Lifeline/Link Up subscriber.482 This action represents an important step in addressing potential
waste, fraud, and abuse in the program; addressing the concerns the Commission has identified in the last
eighteen months; and responding to recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office in
its 2010 report.483
183.
The database will have certain basic functions to prevent, detect, and eliminate
duplicative Lifeline and Link Up support. This includes the ability to receive and process subscriber
information provided by ETCs to identify whether a subscriber is receiving a Lifeline benefit from
another ETC, and the ability to allow authorized users, including ETCs and states, to query the database
to determine if a prospective consumer already is receiving Lifeline service.484


475 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15612, para. 38.
476 Id. at 15611, para. 37.
477 Id. at 15610, para. 36.
478 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2788-93, paras. 52-64.
479 See, e.g., Solix Comments; Solix Reply Comments; Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel for TracFone and
West to Marlene Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, ex parte Presentation, WC Dkt. No. 11-
42 et al. (filed May 19, 2011) (West May 19 Presentation); Emerios Comments; Emerios Reply Comments; AT&T
Comments at 11-15.
480 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 9030-9032, paras. 15-18.
481 See Letter from Karen Majcher, Vice President, USAC, to Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau,
Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Jan. 10, 2012) (USAC 2011 IDV Process
Letter
).
482 To the extent a state agency or administrator enrolls consumers in the Lifeline program, the agency or
administrator should perform the functions described below, in lieu of ETCs. In this section, obligations are placed
on ETCs only to the extent there is no state agency or third party administrator that can perform this function.
483 2010 GAO REPORT at 35 (noting that the Commission must adequately address the risk of duplicative claims).
484 By “authorized users” we mean entities which are permitted to query the database to detect duplicative support.
As we explain below, we establish a process for USAC to authorize database access for those parties who will
(continued….)
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184.
The database cannot serve its intended purpose unless ETCs (or states, where enrollment
is performed by a state agency or third party) populate the database with the information necessary to
detect duplicative support. We therefore adopt a rule requiring each ETC to submit the name, address,
and phone number of each of its Lifeline subscribers,485 the subscribers’ service initiation and de-
enrollment dates (when de-enrollment occurs), the means through which the subscriber qualified for
support (e.g., Medicaid or income), the last four digits of the Social Security number486 and date of birth
of the subscriber, the amount of Lifeline support received by the subscriber each month (e.g., flat rate or
Tribal lands support) as well as whether the subscriber has also received Link Up support, and if so, the
address, and date of service initiation to which Tribal Link Up support applied. The database and related
processes must be able to accommodate non-traditional addresses, such as addresses on Tribal lands not
recognized by the U.S. Postal Service.487 This data will be utilized by USAC and ETCs to eliminate
duplicative claims, will assist USAC in its auditing processes and may also facilitate the “auto-
generation” of Form 497s in the future. ETCs must provide this information for existing subscribers to
the database within 60 days of the Bureau providing notice that the database is ready to accept ETC
information and for new subscribers upon initiation of service thereafter.488
185.
We set a target date to have the database operational as soon as possible and no later than
a year from release of the Order. Once the database is operational and has been populated with the initial
subscriber information necessary to check for duplicative support (i.e., ETCs’ existing subscriber data
provided within 60 days of Bureau notice), we direct USAC to identify those subscribers currently
receiving duplicative support and resolve those claims for duplicative support pursuant to the “scrubbing”
process explained below.489 We direct USAC to assist subscribers and ETCs in resolving disputes over
duplicative support as necessary and establish processes to manage the “exceptions” to the definition of
“duplicative support” adopted elsewhere in this Order.490 Once the database is capable of being queried
by authorized entities to detect duplicative support on an ongoing basis, we direct USAC to provide
notice to the Commission, and the Bureau shall release a public notice that the database is fully
operational. ETCs’ obligation to query the database to detect duplicative support, as explained below,
will be effective 30 days following release of the Bureau notice.
186.
We direct USAC, in coordination with the Bureau and the Office of the Managing


(Continued from previous page)
require or would benefit from database access, such as ETCs, state administrators, state social services agencies, and
third-party administrators (e.g., Solix in California).
485 Throughout this Order, the phrase “to the database” means to USAC, the third party administering the database
and/or the database itself.
486 For those consumers living on Tribal lands who lack a Social Security number, an official Tribal identification
card number may be provided in lieu of the last four digits of a Social Security number. This is the case everywhere
noted in the Order where a consumer is required to provide the last four digits of a Social Security number.
487 See supra paras. 165-66, in which we note record support for the fact that residential addresses are frequently
non-existent on Tribal lands and, where present, often differ significantly from residential addresses off Tribal lands
(citing SBI Comments at 14-16).
488 As noted below, ETCs operating in states that check for duplicative Lifeline and Link Up support are not
obligated to provide such data to the national database.
489 We anticipate that this process will be similar to the process described in the June 21, 2011 Guidance Letter. See
generally June Guidance Letter.
That process involved collecting subscriber lists from ETCs, determining those
consumers who have duplicative service, facilitating the selection of a default ETC, and allowing the consumer to
override the default ETC selection. See id., at 3-5.
490 See, e.g., supra para. 81 (discussing the fact that some consumers may not have postal addresses).
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Director (OMD), to take all necessary steps to develop and implement, as quickly as possible, a database
and associated processes capable of performing the functions outlined in this section of the Order
consistent with our rules. We direct USAC to submit an implementation plan covering all of its
responsibilities as it relates to the operation of the database and its related duties discussed below in this
section to OMD and the Bureau for review and approval no later than 10 days after the effective date of
this Order.
187.
Finally, as we discuss in more detail below, we also direct the Bureau and USAC to take
all necessary steps so that as soon as possible, and no later than the end of 2013, there will be an
automated means to verify eligibility for a significant majority of Lifeline subscribers. In the near term,
we expect that our documentation and certification requirements will substantially reduce the number of
ineligible consumers while the Commission seeks targeted comment on the issues involved in creating an
eligibility database.491 We reiterate that to the extent that states have developed a database or other
electronic means to check subscriber eligibility, ETCs must use those databases.492
a.

Functionality of Database and Obligations of ETCs

188. The database must have certain capabilities to detect and eliminate duplicative support.
These include, among other things, the capability to: (1) receive and process subscriber information
provided by ETCs sufficient to identify whether a subscriber is receiving a Lifeline benefit from another
ETC; (2) allow ETCs and other authorized entities to query the database to determine if a prospective
subscriber seeking Lifeline service is already receiving a Lifeline benefit; and (3) maintain the proprietary
nature of the data housed in the database by protecting it from theft, loss or disclosure to unauthorized
persons.
189.
We also require ETCs to, among other things, provide to the database subscriber name,
address, phone number, the last four digits of Social Security number, date of birth, Lifeline service
initiation and de-enrollment date (when applicable), and amount of federal Lifeline support being sought
for that subscriber.493 To the extent that a state agency or other authorized third party has not already
done so with respect to a new subscriber, ETCs must also query the database prior to enrolling a new
subscriber to determine whether a prospective subscriber is already receiving Lifeline from another ETC.
ETCs are prohibited from receiving support for any prospective subscriber already receiving Lifeline
benefits from another ETC.
190.
ETC Duty To Provide Particular Data To the Database. The database must be designed
both to identify subscribers currently receiving duplicative support and to avoid future instances of
duplicative support by providing a means for ETCs and other authorized users to query the database to
determine if prospective subscribers are already receiving Lifeline service from another ETC. To perform
these functions, the database must be able to match subscriber records from different ETCs. ETCs must
provide the subscriber information described below for existing subscribers to the database within 60 days
of the Bureau providing notice that the database is capable of accepting subscriber information and for
new subscribers upon initiation of service thereafter.494
191.
Based on a review of the record and our experience with the process established in the


491 See sections VI (Certification of Consumer Eligibility); XIII.A (Eligibility Database).
492 See supra para. 91.
493 We include phone numbers because, among other things, they will assist with USAC auditing procedures and
will assist in the transfer of benefits between consumers.
494 As noted below, ETCs operating in states that check for duplicative Lifeline and Link Up support are not
obligated to provide such data to the national database.
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2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, we require ETCs (or other authorized users) to provide to the
database the name, address, and phone number of each of its Lifeline and Link Up subscribers. We also
require ETCs, to the extent that they do not already do so, to request that their subscribers provide the last
four digits of their Social Security number to the ETC and their date of birth, and, once received, for the
ETC to provide that information to the database. We find that both date of birth and the last four digits of
the Social Security number are necessary to perform the identification verification check described
below.495
192.
We are mindful that many ETCs do not currently collect subscribers’ dates of birth and
the last four digits of subscribers’ Social Security number and may not have retained information
regarding the means through which the subscriber qualified for Lifeline. However, we expect that the
burden of collecting such information from both new and existing subscribers would be small because all
ETCs must annually re-certify all of their subscribers and this information could be collected along with
other information necessary for re-certification at that time. New subscribers can provide their date of
birth and last four digits of their subscribers’ Social Security number at the time of their application for
Lifeline.496 As discussed in the FNPRM attached to this Order, we remain interested in expanding the use
and functionality of the database to improve checks for initial and continuing eligibility.497
193.
USAC has had substantial experience with standardizing (i.e., placing in a proper format)
and verifying addresses (determining whether the address is valid and deliverable) as part of the
duplicates resolution process, and commenters and USAC have found that the standardization and
verification of addresses and names makes the identification of duplicative benefits faster and more
reliable.498 However, as USAC has explained, substantial time and effort was expended to correct


495 See, e.g., Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 at 2 (filed Dec. 5, 2011) (noting that by collecting the last four
digits of customers’ Social Security numbers and date of birth, TracFone has been able to “confirm that customers
are who they say that they are who they claim to be.”); Letter from Joan M. Griffin, Counsel, Emerios, to Marlene
H. Dortch, Secretary, FCC, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., Attach A. FCC National Database Industry and Collaboration
Proposal at 5 (filed Aug. 3, 2011) (Emerios Database Proposal) (arguing that the name, address, date of birth and
last four digits of Social Security number are necessary to verify the identity of an applicant); Nexus Nov. 18 ex
parte
Letter (arguing that a privately organized database to check for duplicate support “could also incorporate
additional safeguard measures, such as ‘third party ID Verification’ which consists of ETCs collecting information
such as the subscriber’s date of birth and the last four digits of his or her Social Security number.”).
496 As explained supra section VI, ETCs must also determine customers’ eligibility as well and therefore can
provide the means of qualification to the database.
497 Several commenters support AT&T’s proposal that subscribers should be identified with a unique identifier or
Personal Information Number (PIN). AT&T Comments at 11-15. However, we do not adopt AT&T’s proposal. To
the extent that AT&T’s PIN proposal could eliminate duplicative support, we conclude that the burden and
uncertainty of implementing AT&T’s system for that purpose would outweigh the benefits of such a proposal.
AT&T’s proposal assumes that a third party at the state level (e.g., state PUC) would issue and manage PIN
numbers (see AT&T Comments at 11) and there is no guarantee that states would be willing or economically able to
take-on such an administrative function in the absence of explicit federal support. We note that we are seeking
comment on the extent to which the Commission should provide support to states to implement eligibility databases
in the attached FNPRM.
498 See MS PSC Comments at 7-8 (noting that one of the requirements for a database to function properly would be
to devise input requirements that would allow defined parameters with the same fields an input parameters and the
database must be designed such that all data is submitted in a consistent manner); DC PSC Comments at 3 (arguing
that subscriber information should be provided “in compatible formats, to reduce the administrative burden of
comparing lists in different formats.”).
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information provided by ETCs. Moreover, because the ETCs have the direct relationship with the
subscriber with whom the ETC may have to interact to obtain the necessary information to correct the
subscriber’s address, we direct ETCs to standardize and verify addresses in their records prior to
submission of the address data to the database.499 We expect that having ETCs verify and standardize the
address data on the front-end will substantially reduce the total time needed to load the database with the
necessary subscriber information and will therefore speed up the process of identifying and eliminating
duplicative support. At least three months prior to the ETCs providing subscriber information to the
database pursuant to the scrubbing process below, USAC shall provide, subject to Bureau review and
approval, detailed information to the ETCs regarding address standardization and address verification
requirements and the proper format to use in submitting such information. We direct USAC to work with
the ETCs to develop a process to ensure that all Lifeline subscribers’ addresses can be loaded into the
database, including the minority of cases where a subscriber’s valid address cannot be verified. That is,
the database must be able to accommodate those situations, such as on Tribal lands, where a U.S. postal
address is not available or recognized.500 This process is subject to Bureau review and approval. We also
require the database to include the functionality to standardize and verify addresses to speed the process
of loading customer information into the database.
194.
We also mandate that ETCs provide the dates of service initiation and termination (when
it occurs) of each subscriber and the amount of support being sought for the subscriber (e.g., flat rate or
Tribal lands support) to the database. This information, along with name, address, and phone number will
help facilitate the preparation of Form 497s and USAC’s auditing efforts. Indeed, commenters have
argued that the foregoing information can be used to provide a basis for carrier reimbursement and to
“autogenerate” Form 497s.501 While we do not adopt such an approach in this Order given limited
comment on implementing such a process, we expect that automating the reimbursement process through
the autogeneration of Form 497s would both reduce fraud and ETCs’ compliance burden. Information
regarding support levels will also provide USAC with an additional auditing tool through which USAC
can compare an ETC’s subscriber records with the records provided to the database.
195.
We also direct ETCs (or other authorized users) to provide the means of qualification for
Lifeline (e.g., Medicaid, SNAP, TANF) to the database.502 We find that the inclusion of such information
in the database would assist in the transition to any eligibility database adopted pursuant to the attached
FNPRM. Moreover, Commission analysis of such data on an aggregated basis would provide valuable


499 See USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter at 2 (describing the data steps necessary to correct ETC address data).
Several ETCs have indicated that their consumer data is currently not in a standardized format. Cincinnati Bell
Comments at 6; see also TSTCI Reply Comments at 2. However, we find that some carriers have already
implemented similar standardization processes without an explicit requirement, indicating that the burden of doing
so is limited. See TracFone June 1 ex parte Letter at 1. As explained, some consumers rely on non-standardized
addresses (e.g., Tribal lands, rural route numbers). See supra para. 81; infra paras. 165-66. In those cases, we
direct USAC to work with ETCs through the exception management process described below so that such customers
can receive Lifeline service and ETCs can receive reimbursement from the fund where appropriate.
500 See Emerios Reply Comments at 9 (noting that there was widespread support for using a consistent format for
address data and in those cases where a USPS address does not adequately characterize a location, rules can be
defined in the database to take care of most of these situations).
501 See, e.g., Emerios Comments at ii (arguing that requiring ETCs to use to the duplicates database to obtain
reimbursement would eliminate the need for ETCs to file Form 497 in its current form and create incentives for
ETCs to use the platform).
502 We recognize that ETCs may not have retained this information during subscriber sign-up. Therefore, ETCs are
required to collect such information for existing customers either before or during the first annual recertification
process established in this order. We find that this approach will minimize the burden on ETCs.
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insight regarding the operation of the Lifeline program.503 The database must retain all data related to
consumers who receive Lifeline and Link Up for ten years after the consumer receives Link-Up or de-
enrolls from Lifeline. As explained in more detail below, we also direct ETCs seeking Link Up support
to provide each subscriber’s name, residential address, and date of Link Up service to the database to
assist in USAC’s auditing efforts, and the database must retain the record of Link Up assistance for ten
years in order to facilitate USAC’s oversight over the Fund. The Commission may revisit these
obligations in the future so that the processes outlined in this Report and Order adequately address
potential vulnerabilities to the Fund that may arise.
196.
Timely Transmission of Data. Many commenters argue that for the database to
effectively provide a means for ETCs to determine if prospective subscribers are already receiving
Lifeline support, subscriber data must be provided as rapidly as possible from the ETC to the database at
the time the consumer signs up for service.504 Without real-time or near real-time updates to the database,
there is an increased risk that some subscribers will receive duplicative benefits for at least some period of
time, causing unnecessary confusion.505 At the same time, many ETCs argue that it may be burdensome,
particularly for smaller ETCs with limited resources and larger ETCs with less flexible back-office
systems, to provide subscriber information to a database in real-time.506
197.
Although real-time or near real-time updates would likely reduce waste in the Fund and
reduce the likelihood of duplicative claims, we do not mandate real-time updates at this time, but rather
adopt the following rule applicable to new subscribers to promote real-time updates. Except with respect
to the scrubbing process described below, in those cases where two or more ETCs provide information to
the database for the same subscriber, the ETC whose information was received by the database first will
be entitled to reimbursement from the Fund for that subscriber, regardless of which ETC the consumer


503 For example, California currently collects such information, indicating that the majority of customers qualify for
Lifeline in that state through SNAP, Medicaid and SSI. See CA PUC June 28 ex parte Presentation, Attach.
(Request for Proposal) at 18.
504 See, e.g., Emerios Comments at i-ii, 2; Verizon Reply Comments at 2; CenturyLink Comments at 21; Sprint
Comments at 4; Consumer Groups Comments at 23-24.
505 For example, if the database were only updated once a week, a consumer could sign up for Lifeline service from
ETC A, and then, later that day, sign up for Lifeline service from ETC B. While the consumer might only receive
duplicative benefits from both ETCs for a short time, one of the ETCs and USAC would likely incur costs to de-
enroll the consumer from duplicate support and consumer’s expectations would be upset. See Emerios Reply
Comments at 8 (arguing for real-time database updates and asserting that daily or periodic updates would create
administrative problems and would result in duplicate claims); id. (noting that without real-time updates, a Lifeline
consumer might go without 911 or other phone services if that consumer moved into a house where another
consumer had already been receiving Lifeline support because the database might indicate that two consumers were
seeking support at a single address); Cincinnati Bell Comments at 11 (“If the database is out of date, a person could
appear to have duplicate benefits when in fact the person simply switched service providers at the same address and
the old provider had not yet updated the database.”).
506 See Cincinnati Bell Comments at 11 (“However, realtime updates also create significant expenses and
administrative burdens that must be balanced against the potential benefits.”); Letter from Matthew A. Brill,
Counsel, Cricket, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et
al.,
at 2 (filed June 15, 2011) (Cricket June 15 ex parte Letter) (“In addition, the Commission should not require
ETCs to upload subscriber information to any Lifeline database in real time. Any such mandate would impose
substantial development costs on ETCs. In particular, Cricket does not have any means of electronically bonding
with the databases maintained by third-party administrators in real time (such as Solix, in California), and
developing such capabilities—particularly for multiple databases/administrators—would entail considerable
investment in new IT systems.”).
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signed up with first.507 We acknowledge that this approach may place those ETCs that are unable or
unwilling to update the database in near real-time at a disadvantage. However, we find that this approach
will reduce the amount of duplicative support and encourage the prompt transmission of data without
imposing the burdens that a blanket requirement to provide data in near- or real-time would impose. With
respect to subscribers already in the database, ETCs must (subject to the exception for subscriber de-
enrollments described below) update the database within 10 business days after receiving notice of a
change in subscriber data that is also housed in the database (e.g., subscriber’s address changes, or
changes in a subscriber’s means of qualification for Lifeline).
198.
Receipt of Information by the Database. We next address the ability of the database to
receive, process, and utilize the information we require ETCs to provide. In order to identify subscribers
currently receiving duplicative support and provide a means for ETCs to determine if prospective
subscribers are already receiving Lifeline service from another ETC, the database must be capable of
receiving and processing subscriber data sent by ETCs. Indeed, commenters recognize that this capability
is crucial to any database designed to identify and eliminate duplicative support.508 We therefore require
that the database must be capable of receiving and processing data provided by ETCs both in real-time
and via periodic batches.509 We direct USAC to provide ETCs with guidance, subject to Bureau review
and approval, regarding how carriers must submit data to the database subject to both real-time and batch
processes.
199.
Database Access and Output. Once the database receives the necessary information from
ETCs, it is equally important that ETCs and other authorized parties be able to query the database to
determine if prospective subscribers are already receiving support from another ETC. The process
established in the 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order has been effective in detecting and
resolving duplicative support among certain ETCs in select states.510 However, that process, by design,
only identifies duplicates that already exist; it does not prevent consumers from signing up for duplicative
support from more than one ETC at the time of service initiation.511 There is widespread agreement that a
permanent solution to duplicative claims requires that ETCs are able to determine if a prospective
subscriber is already receiving a Lifeline benefit at the time the prospective subscriber requests service or
seeks a Lifeline benefit from that ETC.512 Therefore, the database must be capable of providing


507 We clarify that this rule only applies to new subscribers who sign up for Lifeline following the initial loading of
the database by ETCs. Existing subscribers receiving duplicative support identified once the initial loading of the
database occurs will be de-enrolled according to the “scrubbing” process described below.
508 See, e.g., Emerios Comments at 10 (“The [database] should include the following processing steps, at a
minimum, to initially populate the database and determine existing duplicates: Transfer of data on program
beneficiaries from … ETCs to the administrator; data processing to identify dual-benefit households and individuals
…”).
509 See Emerios Database Proposal at 4 (arguing that the database must have “sufficient capacity, response speed,
and recognition accuracy, and be flexible enough to incorporate batch processes or be fully automated. This will
allow ETCs to readily integrate database activities with their existing workflows, giving them the flexibility and
speed to continue enrollments without new burdens.”).
510 See generally USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter.
511 See TracFone Comments at 16.
512 See GCI Comments at 27-28 (“ETCs must be able to access the database (on a ‘read only’ basis) for at least two
reasons. First, to prevent duplicate subscriptions, they must be able to access the database to ascertain whether any
particular applicant for Lifeline service already receives Lifeline service from another ETC (although the identity of
the other ETC should be masked). Second, they must be able to review their own Lifeline subscriber lists as
reflected in the database in order to assess whether it accurately reflects their own records listing Lifeline
subscribers. This would enable ETCs to inform USAC of variances between the lists and resolve discrepancies”);
(continued….)
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verification upon query from an eligible querying party whether a prospective subscriber is currently
receiving Lifeline support.513 The database must also provide information necessary (e.g., error codes) to
the querying party to understand the result of a database response that the prospective subscriber is either
already receiving duplicative support, or if the database was unable, with the information provided, to
make such a determination.514 The database must permit ETCs to compare the subscriber information
attributable to that ETC (and only that ETC) housed in the database to the ETC’s own subscriber list and
establish a process for doing so.515 This feature will provide an additional check on the accuracy of the
database while protecting consumers.
200.
Several parties have argued that the database must be capable of verifying the identity of
a subscriber through a third party identity verification service, prior to an ETC submitting for support for
that subscriber. TracFone estimates that such a “front-end” identity verification check, if done by all
ETCs, could save the Fund $192 million annually.516 An identification verification process would utilize
a subscriber’s name, address, date of birth and the last four digits of the social security number, and
compare that information to publicly available databases, to determine if all of the information provided
by the subscriber is valid (e.g., Joe Smith really lives at 123 Main St., is 29 years old and the last four
numbers of his social security number are 4444). This check would reduce the possibility that applicants
and/or ETCs submit incorrect information either purposefully, in order to evade the one per household
rule or to seek reimbursement for non-existent subscribers, or inadvertently. Moreover, by validating a
subscriber’s date of birth, minors will be prevented from signing up for service. We expect that this
functionality can be added to the database at minimal cost.517 We also note that several ETCs have
already been performing routine identification checks using subscribers’ date of birth and social security
number even though they are not explicitly required to do so by our rules, indicating that the burden of
performing such verifications is low.518


(Continued from previous page)
AT&T Comments at 11-12; CGM Comments at 3 (“critical stakeholders including USAC, State regulators and
ETCs will all maintain access to the data for particular and managed purposes . . . this can be set up [with] security
so that privacy is safeguarded”).
513 GCI Comments at 3 (arguing that a database “would enable ETCs to ascertain whether an applicant for Low-
income Program service already subscribes with an ETC (which no ETC would currently know).”). id. at 27 (“[T]o
prevent duplicate subscriptions, [ETCs] must be able to access the database to ascertain whether any particular
applicant for Lifeline service already receives Lifeline service from another ETC (although the identity of the other
ETC should be masked) …”); CGM Comments at 4 (“ETCs will want to access this database in real time to
authenticate new users …”).
514 See Emerios Database Proposal at 7 (arguing that the database should “provide error codes and descriptions in
real-time…”).
515See Cincinnati Bell Comments at 11; GCI Comments at 28 (“First to prevent duplicate Lifeline subscriptions,
[ETCs] must be able to access the database to ascertain whether any particular applicant for Lifeline service already
receives Lifeline service from another ETC (although the identity of the ETC should be masked). Second, they must
be able to review their own Lifeline subscriber lists as reflected in the database in order to assess whether it
accurately reflects their own records listing Lifeline subscribers.”).
516See TracFone Nov. 10 ex parte Letter, Attach. at 6.
517See, e.g., Experian, Experian GSA Catalog, available at
http://www.experian.com/assets/government/brochures/gsa-catalog.pdf (noting that the cost of its Precise ID product
costs approximately 25 cents per query per the GSA schedule, depending upon volume).
518 See, e.g., TracFone Nov. 10 ex parte Letter, Attach. at 6; Letter from Mathew S. O’Brien, Century Corporation,
to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Jan.
23, 2012) (explaining that a number of carriers are using Century Corporation’s products to standardize and
(continued….)
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201.
Because of the benefits and limited costs of identification verification, we conclude that
the database must have the capability of performing an identification verification check when an ETC or
other party submits a query to the database about a potential consumer. In response to the query, the
database must indicate whether the subscriber’s identity can be verified, and if not, provide error codes to
indicate why the identity could not be verified. To ensure that subscribers are not mistakenly denied
benefits, USAC must establish a process, as part of the resolution process described below, so that those
consumers who failed the identification verification are able to either provide additional information to
verify their identity, or correct errors in the information utilized to validate the subscriber’s
identification.519 As noted above, the database and identification verification process must be able to
accommodate consumer addresses that are not recognized by the U.S. Postal Service (e.g., residences on
Tribal lands). We direct USAC to facilitate this process by publishing its processes and rules used to
verify subscriber identification. We anticipate that these processes will involve both automated processes
and well as manual fall-out processes in those small number of cases where an automated process cannot
verify a subscriber’s identification. ETCs may not receive reimbursement for those subscribers whose
identities could not be verified through the identification verification process.
202.
Some State PUCs and state and local social service agencies are also involved in the
process of enrolling consumers in Lifeline and must have the ability to query the database to check for
duplicative support. ETCs, state, local and Tribal governmental agencies (including state regulatory
commissions and social service agencies which may assist low-income consumers with signing up for
Lifeline service) and their authorized agents, must be able to query the database with a prospective
subscriber’s identifying information to determine if he or she is already receiving Lifeline support from
another ETC.520 We also direct USAC to establish a process to qualify and provide individualized access
to authorized users.521 USAC must submit that process for review and approval by the Bureau.
203.
ETC Duty To Query the Database. ETCs must ensure that they do not provide a Lifeline
benefit to a consumer that is already receiving a Lifeline benefit from another ETC. We therefore require
that within 30 days following Bureau notice that the database is capable of accepting queries, all ETCs
must begin querying the database to check to see if a prospective subscriber is already receiving service
from another ETC at a residential address prior to seeking reimbursement from the Fund.522 If the ETC


(Continued from previous page)
implement the capture of DOB and the last four digits of subscriber’s Social Security numbers and that Century
Corporation is “[e]ngaging the services of LexisNexis to validate the identity of program enrollees in real-time”).
519 Low-income consumers and ETCs seeking Lifeline benefits must comply with all statutory, regulatory and
procedural requirements in order to obtain the discount. Denial of this support does not violate an ETC’s or a
consumer’s due process rights and does not deprive the ETCs or consumer of a protected property interest absent a
legitimate claim of entitlement to the Lifeline benefit. See Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748, 756
(2005); see also Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972) (“To have a property interest in a benefit, a
person clearly must have more than an abstract need or desire for it. He must have more than a unilateral expectation
of it. He must, instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it.”).
520 See supra para. 178. It may be more efficient, and provide consumers with a faster response, if states are able to
query the duplicates database prior to sending the application to the ETC in these situations. We direct USAC to
establish a process to qualify state and local government agencies and their authorized agents to query the database.
State and local government agencies may only query the database for the purpose of implementing and managing
the program in their states.
521 AT&T Comments at 11-12; CGM Comments at 3 (“[C]ritical stakeholders including USAC, State regulators and
ETCs will all maintain access to the data for particular and managed purposes . . . this can be set up [with] security
so that privacy is safeguarded”).
522 This rule does not apply to ETCs in those instances where it receives notice from a state Lifeline administrator or
its agent that the administrator or its agent has queried the Database about a prospective subscriber.
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queries the database, and discovers that the prospective consumer is already receiving a Lifeline benefit
from another ETC at that address, the querying ETC may not seek a Lifeline benefit for that consumer
unless and until the consumer de-enrolls from the ETC from whom they are receiving service. As
explained above, if, based on the query, the ETC determines that an individual at the prospective
consumer’s residential address other than the prospective consumer is currently receiving a Lifeline-
supported service at that address, the ETC must take an additional steps to ensure that the prospective and
current subscriber are part of different households.523 Only if the ETC takes these steps and determines
that the prospective and current subscriber at the same address are in different households can the ETC
receive reimbursement for the prospective subscriber.
204.
If a carrier does not query the database prior to signing up a consumer or has not received
notice from a state Lifeline administrator or its agent that it has performed a query on behalf of the ETC,
the ETC may not receive Lifeline benefits for that consumer, regardless of whether the ETC has already
provided a Lifeline discount to the consumer.524 To assist with compliance with this rule, the database
must have the capability of logging the time a query was made, the party who made the query, and the
information (e.g., name, address) that was submitted in the query.
205.
Transfer of Benefits and Consumer De-enrollment. With increased competitive choices
for consumers seeking Lifeline supported services, we seek to simplify the process for subscribers to
transfer their Lifeline supported service from one ETC to another. In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the
Commission sought comment on whether subscribers should be able to take their Lifeline benefits with
them when they change ETCs.525
In at least some cases, the transfer of benefits could also be
accompanied by the porting of a number. Commenters agree that the database should facilitate, as
necessary, benefit transfers from one provider to another.526 Without the ability to handle benefit
transfers, there is a risk that subscribers will lose their Lifeline benefit when they change ETCs.527 For
these reasons, the database must include features which facilitate the process of transferring Lifeline
benefits from one ETC to another in as expeditious and transparent a manner as possible.528 We direct


523 See supra para. 78.
524 As explained above, only the ETC which first populates the database with a new customer’s information will be
eligible to receive support from the fund for that consumer. See supra para. 197.
525 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2837, para. 217.
526 See Consumer Groups Reply Comments at 6 (“The Commission must provide a clear and consumer-friendly
process to switch carriers…Carriers should also be obliged to promptly coordinate ‘switch’ requests with the
database administrator so that the duplicates database does not act to prevent customers from shopping for better
Lifeline service.”); National Consumer Law Center Comments at 24; Rate Counsel Reply Comments at 8;
Consumer Groups Reply Comments at 6-7; AT&T Comments at 6 (AT&T notes that in its proposal, benefits would
be “fully portable to the service provider of a consumer’s choice.”); Letter from Jennifer Brandon, Executive
Director, Community Voice Mail, to Marlene Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt.
No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Jun. 23, 2011) (Community Voice Mail June 23 ex parte Letter) (“Numerous policy
issues need to be clarified as part of the design process including … portability of Lifeline status…”).
527 For example, if a consumer switches from ETC A (through which it was receiving Lifeline support) to ETC B
and the database does not contain a benefit porting function, when ETC B queries the database to determine if the
consumer already has Lifeline support, the database may indicate that the consumer is already receiving a Lifeline
benefit from ETC A.
528 It is important to note that the rules which we adopt here are independent of and do not affect the carrier change
and slamming rules.
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USAC to submit for Bureau review and approval a process for facilitating the transfer of benefits.529
206.
We also adopt a rule that ETCs must update the database with any subscriber de-
enrollments within one business day of de-enrollment. De-enrollment may occur due to, for example,
subscriber inactivity, subscriber initiated deactivation or the porting of a number to another carrier.530 This
rule will not only assist the process of transferring benefits from one ETC to another, but will provide an
added check against the possibility that ETCs would receive subsidies for subscribers who are no longer
enrolled with that ETC.
207.
Security. In its Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission acknowledged that the data
housed in the database may include sensitive personal information subject to protection under state and
federal privacy laws.531 Indeed, as many of the commenters note, some of the data fields that we now
require ETCs to transmit to the database constitute particularly sensitive information.532
There is
widespread consensus that the information in the database must be subject to the highest protections.533
Moreover, the mere fact that a consumer receives Lifeline benefits (and therefore receives other
government social services benefits or has a particular income level) is also sensitive personal
information.534
For these reasons, the database must have sufficient safeguards to maintain the
proprietary or personal nature of the information in the database by protecting it from theft or loss.
208.
Link Up Support on Tribal Lands. Elsewhere in this Order, we eliminate Link Up
support for ETCs serving non-Tribal subscribers and for Lifeline-only ETCs serving Tribal lands. We
also require ETCs to provide information related to Link Up support provided to subscribers so that
USAC is able to determine whether an ETC is improperly seeking reimbursements for the same consumer
at the same principal place of residence. Subscribers may not receive Link Up support more than once at
their residential address.535 Sixty days following Bureau notice that the database is capable of receiving
subscriber information, we require ETCs offering Link Up support to provide the subscriber’s name,
residential address, and date of Link Up service to the database so that USAC is able to efficiently track


529 We recognize that this process may overlap with the dispute resolution and exception management processes
outlined below.
530 We note that ETCs’ failure to do so would be subject to enforcement action.
531 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2838, paras. 220-221.
532 FL PSC Comments at 24 (“Section 364.107, Florida Statutes, requires that personal identifying information of a
participant in a telecommunications carrier’s Lifeline Assistance Plan be confidential.”).
533 See, e.g., FL PSC Comments at 24 (“Whether USAC or a third party administrator is used, any national database
of Lifeline subscribers/applicants would have to be maintained by an independent administrator under strict
confidentiality provisions to protect the Lifeline subscriber’s/applicant’s personal identifying information.”); Solix
Comments at 8 (“Additionally data security must be designed into all system components and interfaces. In support
of satisfying relevant data security and privacy laws, secure transfer methods such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
encryption or SFTP should be required.”); NASUCA Comments at 25 (“It goes without saying that NASUCA
would emphasize the need to maintain consumer privacy as a high priority in the establishment of a national
database.”); CA PUC Reply Comments at 10 (“We share the Missouri PSC’s concerns regarding a national
database. Any such system must be established and maintained with federal dollars, and it must ensure privacy
protection and online security of customer information.”).
534 This information also may be protected as CPNI. See 47 U.S.C. § 222(h)(1)(A) (requiring telecommunications
carriers to protect “customer proprietary network information.” The statute defines CPNI as “information that
relates to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, location, and amount of use of a
telecommunications service subscribed to by any customer of a telecommunications carrier, and that is made
available to the carrier by the customer solely by virtue of the carrier-customer relationship…”).
535 47 C.F.R. § 54.411(a)(1), (c).
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Link Up support.536 ETCs seeking to provide Link Up support to residents on Tribal lands must query the
database prior to requesting Link Up support to determine if the consumer has already received Link Up
support at that location.537 If the ETC determines from the query that the consumer has already received
Link Up support at that residential address, the ETC may not receive reimbursement for that consumer.
The database must retain submitted Link Up records for ten years.
209.
National Database. We conclude that the database should be national in scope. In the
Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission sought comment on whether to establish state or regional
databases or a national database.538 The record persuades us that the Commission should adopt a national
database to prevent duplicative support and should not establish multiple state or regional databases.539
For example, Emerios argues that the cost of establishing and implementing a nationwide system would
be “dramatically lower, as the incremental cost of a larger, single, pre-qualification system would be
much less than the cost of multiple smaller state systems.”540 Emerios also estimates that creation of a
national database would cost only 30 percent more than the creation of a system for a single state with a
large number of Lifeline/Link Up benefit recipients.541 Furthermore, a single nationwide database would
provide significant efficiencies because ETCs need only train staff to use a single system.542 A single
nationwide database could be deployed more rapidly than multiple state systems because national or
regional ETCs would only need to interface with one system, and the physical infrastructure, connections,
and all related components would be located in a single location (or several locations to establish
sufficient redundancy).543 The security risks associated with a single nationwide system would likely be
less than the risks associated with multiple state systems.544 AT&T argues that it would be easier to audit
a single nationwide database provider.545 In light of these advantages, we conclude that the database


536 This duty does not apply to ETCs operating in states whose opt-out certification has been approved by the
Bureau.
537 This duty does not apply to ETCs in those instances where it receives notice from a state Lifeline administrator
or its agent that the administrator or its agent has queried the Database about a prospective subscriber.
538 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2838, para 222.
539 See Emerios Comments at 7-8 (arguing for a national database instead of separate state databases because 1) a
national database would be more cost-effective, 2) a national database could be deployed more rapidly, and 3) a
national database would pose fewer security risks); Nebraska PSC Comments at 6 (arguing that having one entity in
charge of a single database would reduce the number of errors and streamline the process of duplicate resolution);
AT&T Comments at 5 (stating that, “auditing a provider’s compliance with the Commission’s Lifeline rules will
also be simpler and more effective … because the requirement to interface with the national database provides a
consistent control point that is more conducive to standard auditing methods.”); but see OR PUC Comments at 3
(noting that states are better handle verification of eligibility); CGM Comments at 2 (same).
540 Emerios Comments at 8.
541 See id.
542 See id.
543 See Emerios Comments at 8; Letter from Thomas Cohen, Counsel, Emerios, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary,
Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. at 2 (filed June 22, 2011) (Emerios June 22 ex
parte
Letter) (“In addition, at a minimum, the system should have a redundant location ideally with a hot/hot
configuration to ensure the highest level of uptime.”).
544 See id.
545 See AT&T Comments at 5 (“[A]uditing a provider’s compliance with the Commission’s Lifeline rules will also
be simpler and more effective … because the requirement to interface with the national database provides a
consistent control point that is more conducive to standard auditing methods.”).
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should be national in scope.546
b.

USAC’s Additional Duties To Eliminate Duplicative Claims

210.
A database with the functions described above is a key building block of any permanent
solution to reduce duplicative Lifeline claims. However, a database by itself is only one of the
components of such a solution. As several commenters note, human intervention and non-electronic
means may be necessary in some cases to identify and eliminate duplicative support.547 We therefore
direct USAC to implement processes to complement the implementation and functionality of the database
described above. As discussed in more detail below, we direct USAC to implement a process to mitigate
the risk that consumers are improperly denied access to Lifeline benefits, to implement a “scrubbing
process” to substantially reduce if not eliminate current duplicative support, and to establish a dispute
resolution process for managing duplicative claims.
211.
Continuation of IDVs. As noted above, the IDV process undertaken by USAC in 12
states has resulted in significant savings to the Fund.548 Until the duplicates database is operational, we
direct USAC, consistent with the 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, to continue with in-depth
data validations targeted at uncovering duplicative Lifeline support. We direct the Bureau to select the
states and ETCs that should be subject to the IDVs, and require USAC to follow the consumer outreach
requirements set forth in the 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order.549 In the course of identifying
duplicative subscribers, USAC shall also identify those subscribers receiving multiple Lifeline service
offerings at the same address and notify such subscribers about the one-per-household requirement
established in this Order. USAC shall provide notice to these subscribers that they must select a single
Lifeline provider for their economic unit and provide them with a copy of the one-per-household
worksheet. We direct the Bureau and USAC to work with ETCs to facilitate outreach to these subscribers
and to develop a process for resolving the duplicative support within a household. We direct USAC to
continue with the IDVs at the Bureau’s direction until ETCs (or state agencies, where applicable) can
determine if someone is receiving Lifeline benefits from another provider via the National Lifeline
Accountability Database.
212.
Exception Management. Any duplicates elimination process must balance the need to
reduce waste in the Fund against mistakenly denying consumers Lifeline benefits. In the Lifeline and
Link Up NPRM
, the Commission recognized that it might be appropriate to establish “exceptions” to the
rules restricting the availability of Lifeline so that consumers are not improperly denied access to Lifeline
benefits. There was widespread support for the Commission to adopt a process to permit consumers
falling within these exceptions to remain eligible to receive benefits.550 For example, as explained, some


546 We note that the selection of a single, national database to assist in the elimination of duplicate support does not
prejudge the geographic parameters of any database which may be adopted at a later date to verify eligibility.
547 See, e.g., Letter from Eric Seguin, Solix, to Marlene H. Dortch, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt.
No. 11-42 et al., Attach. at 4 (filed June 15, 2010) (discussing exception management process); Emerios Database
Proposal at 6-7, 10 (discussing need for a “Customer Preference Resolution Process” and the need for a call center
to answer customer questions during the scrubbing process).
548 See USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter.
549 2011 Duplicative Payments Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 9029, 9030-31, paras. 13, 16.
550 See, e.g., Cricket Comments at 8-9; Verizon Reply Comments at 5; Smith Bagley Comments at 10-12;
Benton/PK/UCC Comments at 4; NASUCA Comments at 18; NY PCS Comments at 8; TracFone Comments at 13.
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residences on Tribal lands lack U.S. Postal Service addresses.551
Without an exception process,
consumers with addresses not recognized by the U.S. Postal Service may be inappropriately denied
support.552
213.
We direct USAC to implement a process to manage these exceptions so that consumers
are not improperly denied access to Lifeline benefits. To the extent possible, the database should be
designed to recognize and manage exceptions without human intervention to limit ongoing costs.
However, as several commenters argue, it may not be feasible or desirable to eliminate all human
intervention. 553 USAC, for example, may have to consider utilizing call center representatives to manage
exceptions.554 To provide sufficient flexibility to address exception management, we direct USAC to
implement a process that will provide sufficient flexibility to address current and future exceptions,
consistent with our rules.555 We further direct USAC to propose such a process to the Bureau for
approval within six months after the effective date of this Order. USAC may only implement such a
process once approval is given by the Bureau. USAC’s proposal shall include estimates on how much
their proposal will cost.
214.
Duplicates Scrubbing Process.
In June 2011, the Commission directed USAC to
establish processes to notify subscribers that they are receiving duplicative support, explain that they can
select the provider from which to receive a Lifeline benefit, and facilitate the selection of a single
provider for receipt of Lifeline support.556 This process has been successfully implemented in a number of
states to take interim steps to eliminate duplicative support while ensuring that subscribers continue to
receive Lifeline benefits.557 Pursuant to the Commission’s instructions, USAC matched subscribers of a
number of ETCs in a handful of states.558 In its Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission anticipated
that a similar “scrubbing” process would need to be undertaken to eliminate duplicative support once
ETCs populate the database with the required subscriber information.559 Many commenters agree and
provide detailed proposals for implementation.560 For example, West argues that, like the Duplicates


551 See supra para. 193.
552 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2807, para. 113.
553 See Emerios June 22 ex parte Letter at 3 (“The cost of exception staff is significant and will rise as the
Commission increases the need for exception handling. A well designed system that encourages automation will
reduce this cost and improve the customer experience.”).
554 See Emerios Database Proposal at 12 (discussing scenarios where live intervention may be necessary to manage
exceptions).
555We note that under its Memorandum of Understanding with the FCC, USAC must “procure all goods and services
in an open, neutral, lawful, and cost effective manner.” See USAC/FCC Memorandum of Understanding at 4,
available at http://transition.fcc.gov/omd/usac-mou.pdf (emphasis added).
556 See generally June Guidance Letter.
557 See generally USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter.
558 See June Guidance Letter (“This letter provides guidance to USAC on the process it should follow in identifying
and resolving duplicative Lifeline claims found through IDVs conducted in specific states …”).
559 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2791, paras. 59-60 (discussing population of database).
560 See Presentation of West Corporation, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 5 (filed June 13, 2012) (West June 13 ex
parte
Presentation) (describing “scrubbing” process); Letter from James Bradford Ramsey, NARUC, to Marlene H.
Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed June 17, 2011)
(NARUC June 17 ex parte Letter) (“The FCC needs to detail a process for selecting the default lifeline provider in
cases where a customer with more than one lifeline service provider either refuses or fails to make a timely selection
after being notified that only one carrier can get the support and a choice must be made.”).
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Resolution Process, a scrubbing process must involve, at a minimum, identification of duplicative
benefits, the selection of a default provider, notification of subscribers of their default selection, and a
means for subscribers to select the Lifeline provider of their choice.561
215.
Given the success of the Duplicate Resolution Process to date and support in the record
for the creation of a similar industry-wide process, we direct USAC to develop and implement, subject to
Bureau approval a scrubbing process modeled on the duplicates resolution process. We direct USAC to
provide a plan to the Bureau within two months after the effective date of this order on how the scrubbing
process would be implemented. This scrubbing process should begin once the Bureau approves USAC’s
plan, and ETCs have provided their existing subscriber lists and accompanying data to either USAC or
the database, as directed by the Bureau, and USAC has developed an exception management process.
The database must be sufficiently capable of handling whatever functions, if any, are necessary to
implement the scrubbing process.
216.
As part of the scrubbing process, USAC should identify those subscribers receiving
duplicative support, establish a process to select a default Lifeline provider for each subscriber, provide
notice to the subscriber that they will be de-enrolled from all Lifeline support except for support from
their default provider unless they override the default selection, and provide subscribers a means to do so.
Consistent with the Duplicates Resolution Process, USAC must provide subscribers information and
perform outreach regarding how subscribers with more than one Lifeline subscription can continue
receiving service under the Lifeline program from the ETC of their choosing.562 We direct the Wireline
Competition Bureau to work with USAC as necessary so that these outreach efforts are implemented
smoothly.
217.
Dispute Resolution Process. As the database and duplicates scrubbing process is
implemented, ETCs will de-enroll existing subscribers receiving duplicative support. Going forward,
ETCs will query the database to determine which prospective subscribers are already receiving support
from another ETC. Despite best efforts, in any such situation, it is possible that some subscribers and
prospective subscribers may be improperly identified as receiving or applying for duplicative support.
For example, we expect that this process will ensure that consumers will not be denied support in those
cases where the database is not updated with de-enrollment information quickly enough. To protect these
current and prospective subscribers, several commenters suggest that the Commission put in place a
process so that those persons denied access to Lifeline benefits based on a finding of duplicative support
are able to dispute that finding and have a means of correcting inaccurate information in the database.563
We direct USAC to establish processes to manage and resolve disputes over duplicative support
consistent with our rules.564 We further direct USAC to provide such a process to the Bureau for approval
within six months after the effective date of this Order. USAC may only implement such a process once
approval is given by the Bureau.
c.

Other Issues

218.
Compliance with Laws and Regulations Regarding Privacy. In the Lifeline and Link Up
NPRM, the Commission sought comment on whether the transmission of information to or storage of
information by a database would violate any laws and regulations regarding privacy.565
Some


561 See West June 13 ex parte Presentation at 5.
562See generally June Guidance Letter.
563 See Community Voice Mail June 23 ex parte Letter at 1 (“Numerous policy issues need to be clarified as part of
the design process including … a dispute resolution process…”).
564 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.719 et seq.
565 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2838, paras. 220-21.
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commenters raise concerns regarding privacy and urge the Commission to examine the matter closely
before implementing the database.566 As explained above, ETCs must provide the consumer’s name,
address, telephone number, the amount of support provided, date of initiation and termination of Lifeline
service, the last four digits of social security number, date of birth, the means through which the consumer
qualified (e.g., Medicare or income), whether the consumer has received Link Up support, the address
where the support was provided, and the date of initiation of Link Up service.567
219.
We do not believe that federal privacy laws are implicated by the transmission or use of
this information for the purposes outlined in this Order.568 This includes the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act (ECPA), which includes provisions limiting the ability of a provider of “electronic
communication service,” such as an ETC, to “divulge a record or other information pertaining to a
subscriber to or customer of such service” to the extent such divulgence is made to a governmental
entity.569 ECPA permits a divulgence that is “necessarily incident to the rendition of the service or to the
protection of the rights or property of the provider of that service.”570 In light of the findings we make in
this Order about the need to develop a database to detect and prevent duplicative support, we conclude
that divulging information about Lifeline and Link Up subscribers as required by this Order is
“necessarily incident to the rendition of the service.” The Lifeline program must be run efficiently and in
compliance with the principles in section 254, including the public interest, convenience, and necessity.571
As this Order explains, we must take steps now to reduce the amount of waste, fraud, and abuse in these
programs, and that necessarily includes the creation of a database to identify and eliminate duplicate
subscriptions. This would not be possible without the cooperation of participating ETCs. In any event,
we also conclude that we have sufficient authority under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended,
to require ETCs to provide the required subscriber information notwithstanding ECPA. Sections 215,


566 See Cincinnati Bell Comments at 4 (arguing that a national duplicates database “may raise insurmountable
hurdles relative to the protection of customer proprietary network information”).
567 See supra at paras. 188-192.
568 As the Commission explained in the 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, the transmission of customer
data to a third party in order to eliminate duplicative support does not violate section 222 of the Act or the
Commission’s CPNI rules. See 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 9029, n.48. Similarly,
to the extent that the information transmitted by ETCs to the database or the information provided to authorized
parties querying the database is CPNI, these disclosures are permitted by the exceptions in section 222(d). See 47
U.S.C. § 222(h); 47 U.S.C. § 222(d)(1)-(2) (permitting disclosure “to initiate, render, bill, and collect for
telecommunications services” and “to protect the rights or property of the carrier, or to protect users of those
services and other carriers from fraudulent, abusive, or unlawful use of, or subscription to, such services”).
569 See 18 U.S.C. § 2702(c) (restricting disclosure of “a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or
customer of” an electronic communication service), (c)(6) (allowing divulgence “to any person other than a
governmental entity”); id. § 2703(c)(1) (providing that “[a] governmental entity may require a provider of electronic
communication service to disclose a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such
service” only under certain circumstances). We also observe that it is not at all clear whether transmitting
information to this database constitutes divulgence to “a governmental entity” within the meaning of ECPA. See id.
§§ 2702(c)(6), 2703(c)(3); id. § 2711(4) (defining “governmental entity” for this purpose as “a department or agency
of the United States or any State or political subdivision thereof”). The information will be transmitted to a database
that will be developed by USAC, in coordination with the Bureau and Office of Managing Director, and will not be
operated by this Commission. See supra para. 186. Although the Commission generally has access to all
information in USAC’s possession, see 47 C.F.R. § 54.702(j), the Commission does not intend routinely to access
the specific “information pertaining to a subscriber” that is protected by ECPA.
570 18 U.S.C. § 2702(c)(3).
571 See 47 U.S.C. § 254(b), (c), (e)(2).
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218, and 220572 clearly demonstrate Congress’s intent that the Commission must have access to relevant
information in the possession of carriers in order to conduct necessary oversight. In particular, section
220(c) provides that “[a]ny provision of law prohibiting the disclosure of the contents of messages or
communications shall not be deemed to prohibit the disclosure of any matter in accordance with the
provisions of this section.” Although we do not require access to the contents of any communications for
present purposes, this provision demonstrates Congress’s intent that other provisions of law should not be
held to override our specific authority to access information needed to perform oversight, including non-
content information, which generally is less sensitive than the contents of communications.573 Thus, even
to the extent that ECPA might otherwise restrict the transmission of subscriber information to the
database, we interpret sections 215, 218, and 220 to give the Commission authority to direct ETCs to
provide this information to USAC notwithstanding ECPA.574
220.
Many parties argue that the Commission should establish safeguards so that the data in
the database is only used to check for duplicative support and related functions and for no other
purpose.575 For example, some commenters raise concerns that ETCs might “troll” the database to
determine which prospective subscribers are or are not currently receiving Lifeline service and tailor
marketing to those prospective subscribers accordingly.576 We conclude that the database must have
sufficient protections so that all the data housed in the database may only be used to perform the functions
and processes described in this Order and may not be used for any other purpose, including marketing or
subscriber retention. This includes a function that logs, by time, every query and datafield upload or
datafield change by an ETC. The database must have a feature such that each time the database is
accessed, the accessing party must sign (electronically or otherwise) an acknowledgement that the
database and the information in the database may only be used to perform the functions and processes
described in this Order, and for no other purpose. Moreover, ETCs may only query the database to check
to see if a prospective subscriber already has support from another ETC and to audit the ETC’s own data


572 47 U.S.C. §§ 215, 218 (“The Commission may obtain from such carriers and from persons directly or indirectly
controlling or controlled by, or under direct or indirect common control with, such carriers full and complete
information necessary to enable the Commission to perform the duties and carry out the objects for which it was
created.”); 47 U.S.C. § 220(c) (“The Commission shall at all times have access to and the right of inspection and
examination of all accounts, records, and memoranda, including all documents, papers, and correspondence now or
hereafter existing, and kept or required to be kept by such carriers . . . .”).
573 When these provisions of the Communications Act were enacted, there was no specific statutory provision
prohibiting the disclosure of non-content information, so Congress would have had no need to refer to such
prohibitions in section 220(c). See generally House Comm. on the Judiciary, Electronic Communications Privacy
Act of 1986
, H.R. Rep. No. 647, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 25-26.
574 Cf. Qwest Communications International Inc. v. FCC, 229 F.3d 1172, 1176-80 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (deferring to the
Commission’s reasonable interpretation of section 220 in reading it together with the Trade Secrets Act).
575 See, e.g., Letter from Mary L. Henze, Assistant Vice President, AT&T, to Marlene Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Jun. 16, 2011) (“A Lifeline database should not
be designed for, and in fact should not be allowed to be used for, any marketing or promotional activities by
carriers.”) (AT&T June 16 ex parte Letter).
576 See Cincinnati Bell Comments at 10 (“[P]rocedures must ensure that providers cannot collect information from
the database for marketing purposes…”); Emerios Database Proposal at 11 (“The FCC should clearly limit data
queries by ETCs to that data for which the ETC has a valid use, such as an actual enrollment request, change of
address request, or de-enrollment request by the consumer. The FCC should prohibit any party from submitting data
queries to determine whether an address is available for any other purpose, including marketing, unless such
requirement conflicts with state rules.”).
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in the database and for no other purpose.577 ETCs violating this rule will be subject to the Commission’s
full enforcement authority.578 Furthermore, prior to providing subscriber information to the database, the
ETC must obtain consent from the subscriber. In doing so, the ETC must describe to the subscriber in
writing using clear and easily understandable language the specific information being provided, that the
information is being provided to the Administrator to ensure the proper administration of the low-income
program, and that failure to provide consent will deny the consumer the Lifeline or Link Up benefit.
221.
State Opt-Out. A number of states have or are about to move forward with their own
systems to check for duplicative Lifeline support.579 States have expressed concern that any national
duplicates database not inhibit the operation of these state efforts.580 We applaud the actions of these
states to move proactively against waste and do not intend to inhibit their progress. At the same time,
states that do not implement their own processes for checking for duplicative support must be covered by
the national solution we implement in this Report and Order.581 We allow states to opt-out of the
duplicates database requirements outlined in this Order if they certify one time to the Commission that
they have a comprehensive system in place to check for duplicative federal Lifeline support that is as at
least as robust as the processes adopted by the Commission and that covers all ETCs operating in the state
and their subscribers. Such certification must itemize with particularity each functionality of the state
system that corresponds to the federal rule we adopt today and must be approved by the Bureau.582 States
wishing to take advantage of this process must submit their one time certification within six months of the
effective date of this Order. If the Bureau does not act to deny the certification within 90 days of being
filed, it will be granted automatically. We do not require ETCs operating in the states which have
exercised their opt-out rights and whose certification has been approved by the Bureau to comply with the
obligations placed on ETCs herein with respect to the duplicates database.583
222.
Duplicates Database and Related Processes Must Be Sufficiently Flexible. Our
administration of the Lifeline program will continue to evolve over time, particularly as the Commission
addresses additional issues raised in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM. As several commenters note, the
database should be designed to be sufficiently flexible to adapt to reasonably foreseeable changes in the
Lifeline rules so that additional functionality can be added at minimal cost.584 For example, we continue
to consider whether we will provide ongoing Lifeline support for broadband services and adopt a Lifeline


577 A consumer is considered a prospective subscriber if the customer initiates the process of enrolling in the Lifeline
program.
578 See, e.g., 47 U.S.C. § 503. Moreover, to the extent that information housed or disclosed by querying the database
is CPNI, ETCs may also be subject to forfeitures for the unlawful disclosure or use of such information. See 47
U.S.C. § 222(c).
579 See, e.g., NARUC June 17 ex parte Letter at 2 (noting that states, including Texas, Oregon, and California have
existing programs that target duplicative lifeline support); Letter from Liz Kayser, Public Utility Commission of
Texas to Marlene Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed
Aug. 15, 2011) (discussing Texas’ duplicates resolution process).
580 See NARUC June 17 ex parte Letter at 2 (“Several [state PUCs urged] that all States with complementary and
independent lifeline programs be allowed to opt out of any federal database if appropriate and/or be given real-time
password access to the federal database.”).
581 See id. at 3 (noting that some states support rapid implementation of a federal database to eliminate duplicate
support.”)
582 We direct the Bureau to release a public notice providing additional guidance to the states regarding the opt-out
process.
583 See Appendix A.
584 See, e.g., Emerios Comments at 2 (discussing need to capture both telephone and broadband information).
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broadband pilot program in this Order.585 As a result, any database should be flexible so that additional
functionalities may be added in the future. For example, it should be capable of accepting and processing
the data necessary to check for duplicative broadband support.
223.
Eligibility Database. In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, we sought comment on the
potential functions of a database designed to eliminate duplicative claims as well as a database to
facilitate initial and ongoing certification of consumer eligibility.586 As explained above, we adopt a
number of requirements for ETCs, state agencies and USAC regarding the initial and ongoing
certification of Lifeline subscribers in order to ensure that only subscribers receive a Lifeline benefit. To
reduce burdens on consumers and ETCs going forward, we direct the Bureau and USAC to take all
necessary actions so that, as soon as possible and no later than the end of 2013, there will be an automated
means to determine Lifeline eligibility for, at a minimum, the three most common programs through
which consumers qualify for Lifeline. Many parties support the adoption of a permanent eligibility
verification solution,587 and find that such a solution may have significant benefits for consumers, state
agencies that today enroll consumers in the Lifeline program, and ETCs. However, we find that we must
gather additional information, including how to facilitate the access of eligibility data from state social
service agencies and existing federal databases and how to manage consumer privacy risks.588 We
therefore seek comment in the attached Further Notice regarding discrete issues related to such a
process.589
224.
Because access to program and income information from federal or state agencies may
require coordination among government agencies, following the release of this FNPRM, we direct the
Wireline Competition Bureau to reach out to other government agencies to explore cooperation regarding
the exchange of eligibility data, and to the extent necessary and feasible, coordinate the establishment of
an interagency working group to include members of the Department of Agriculture, HHS, other
appropriate federal agencies, and state PUCs.590 We expect that shortly after release of the Order, the
Bureau will host a series of workshops with non-governmental entities, including ETCs, technical experts
and database vendors, to accelerate the establishment of a wide-spread, automated means for initial and
ongoing verification of subscriber eligibility. There are a number of benefits to proceeding in stages. As
explained below, setting up the infrastructure for a permanent duplicates process may reduce the cost of
subsequently implementing database solutions to address eligibility.591 Moreover, the Commission’s and


585 See section IX.B (Support for Broadband).
586 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2835-36, paras. 211-213.
587 See, e.g., AT&T Comments at 3; CenturyLink Comments at iii; CTIA Comments at 5; MMTC Comments at 6;
Sprint Comments at 1; Verizon Reply Comments at 1.
588 See, e.g., Cincinnati Bell Comments at 9-10; MO PSC Comments at 18.
589 Based on the information in the record, most consumers qualify for Lifeline through Medicaid, Food Stamps and
SSI. See supra n. 288. We recognize that meeting this goal will require coordinated action among numerous parties
outside of the Commission.
590 Any such working group would be established consistent with the requirements of the Unfunded Mandates
Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. § 1501 et seq.) (UMRA), which creates an exception to the Federal
Advisory Committee Act (see 5 U.S.C. Appendix 2), to allow intergovernmental meetings solely for the purposes of
exchanging views, information, or advice relating to the management or implementation of Federal programs
established pursuant to public law that explicitly or inherently share intergovernmental responsibilities or
administration.
591 See Emerios Database Proposal at 2 (“Phase II [the eligibility database] would be built on the structure and
systems in Phase I [the duplicates database], thus dramatically reducing the cost and effort required to expand
functionality of the [eligibility database].”).
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USAC’s experience with the process adopted in the 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order and the
implementation of the duplicates database may assist in the design and creation of an automated process
for confirming eligibility from governmental agencies.
d.

Cost

225.
The ultimate objective of the database is to reduce waste in the Fund. Therefore, it is
important that the initial and ongoing costs of the database are outweighed by the waste that will be
eliminated by operation of the database. Based on the evidence in the record, even the highest estimates
of the cost of development and ongoing administration of a database appear to bear a much smaller cost
than the substantial ongoing annual savings to the Fund that will result from limiting duplicate benefit
payments.592 For example, Emerios estimates the cost of development of a duplicates database and
related functions at $7.5-10 million.593 While other available cost estimates vary depending on the vendor
and specific functionality of each proposal,594 estimates for a duplicates database do not appear to vary by
orders of magnitude and all appear to be substantially less than the amount of money wasted through
duplicative payments each year. Indeed, based on results from the first 12 states in which we
implemented the duplicate resolution process, we have identified $2.9 million in duplicative payments per
month which represents $35 million in annualized payments for those states alone.595 There is little doubt
that on a national scale, a database could potentially identify millions more in wasted support. A
duplicates database may also produce other operational efficiencies that would improve administration of
the program and may reduce costs for both ETCs as well as USAC, thereby reducing the burden on all
contributors to the Fund. For instance, the consumer data in the duplicates database could potentially be
utilized to save carriers the trouble of assembling and filing FCC Form 497s, reduce the need for USAC
to perform audits so that ETCs are only being reimbursed for Lifeline consumers that they are actually
serving, and make the audits that are undertaken more efficient and less costly.596
Moreover,


592 See CenturyLink Comments at 21 (“Ultimately, a database likely would prove cost effective by generating
savings for the low-income program fund greater than the cost of developing and maintaining the database.”).
593 See Emerios Comments at 15-16 (“Emerios estimates the market budget and planning costs for Phase I [i.e., a
duplicates database] at approximately $7.5-10 million. This estimate excludes the costs to communicate with
program beneficiaries and any ongoing fee to administer the database.”). West breaks down the estimated cost of a
database into various components, including the “initial infrastructure configuration,” the initial database scrub, and
the cost of ongoing “dips” to the database by participating ETCs. See West May 19 Presentation at 19-23. West
estimates that if the initial infrastructure is a “shared platform,” the cost will be approximately $25,000, but if it is a
“dedicated platform,” it will cost approximately $300,000. See id. The initial scrub would cost approximately
$532,500 plus the costs of “one-time letter creation” and “letter mailing,” which West lists as currently unknown
costs. See id. Finally, West estimates that each database “dip” will cost $0.19 for the first 500,000 dips; $0.15 for
dips 500,001-750,000; $0.11 for dips 750,001-1,000,000; $0.09 for dips 1,000,001-2,000,000; and $0.08 for dips
2,000,001 and beyond. See id.
594 See Solix Comments at 7 (noting that based on its experience in centralized Lifeline certification and verification,
the cost of database administration will be determined by many factors, including the specific design requirements;
degree of automation; interface standards between the administrator, state agencies and participating service
providers, consumer application options and processes, eligibility review procedures and the level of communication
and correspondence between applicants); West May 19 Presentation at 19-23; Emerios June 23 ex parte Letter
(describing variables which may effect the cost of a database to check for duplicates or eligibility).
595 See USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter.
596 See Cox Comments at 5 (“Matching carrier records to the database will be much more straightforward than the
current process, and may involve nothing more than validating the carrier’s procedure for using the
database…While audits are necessary in the current program to control waste, fraud and abuse, the manual
comparisons of records to filed claims can be quite labor-intensive and intrusive.”); Sprint Reply Comments at 10, n.
16 (“Today, carriers to [sic] file Form 497 lifeline count reports, which are processed and audited by USAC. A
(continued….)
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implementing a duplicates database now may reduce the future cost of development and/or administration
of an eligibility database and associated processes.597 While we recognize that carriers will incur some
costs in interacting with the database (e.g., submitting queries, uploading data), the database is designed
to minimize these costs.598 For example, we recognize that carriers will incur some costs from interacting
with the database, because we do not mandate that carriers must update the database in real-time, we
believe that the compliance costs will be minimal. Moreover, ETCs will not be charged for “dipping” the
database and the costs of development and ongoing maintenance of the database will be supported by the
Fund.599 For all of these reasons, we conclude that it would be cost effective to implement a database to
check for and eliminate duplicative support.

B.

Toll Limitation Service Support

226.
Background. Toll limitation service (TLS) historically has included both toll blocking,
which prevents the placement of all long distance and international calls for which the subscriber would
be charged, and toll control, which limits to a preset amount the long-distance charges a subscriber can
incur during a billing period.600 In the Universal Service First Report and Order, the Commission
required ETCs to offer TLS at no charge to low-income subscribers.601 At the time, only incumbent local
exchange carriers were receiving support for serving low-income consumers.602 Consumers typically
purchased long distance service separately from local service, and rates for long distance were
considerably higher than they are today.603 The Commission required ETCs to offer TLS based on studies
demonstrating that the primary reason for service termination for low-income subscribers was failure to
pay long distance bills.604
227.
Commission rules provide additional support to ETCs to be compensated for the
“incremental” costs of providing toll limitation service to eligible low-income consumers.605
The
Commission’s TLS rule has not been comprehensively reexamined since it was established in 1997.


(Continued from previous page)
Lifeline customer database would obviate the need for these reports and thus should generate some administrative
cost savings for USAC.”). While we do not in this order begin a transition from the filing of Form 497s to an
“autofilling” process by the database, we believe that the construction of a duplicates database will make such a
transition easier and less costly.
597 See Emerios Reply Comments at 15-16.
598 Moreover, no party has fully quantified these costs in the record.
599 By contrast, a significant portion of the process established pursuant to the Duplicates Order was paid for by the
ETCs participating.
600 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.400(d); see also Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8980, para. 383.
601 Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8980, para. 385.
602 Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8969-8970, para. 365.
603 Section 271 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibited the regional Bell operating companies (RBOCs)
from offering most long-distance services until the Commission found that they had opened their local market to
competition. See 47 U.S.C. § 271. Between 1999 and 2003, the Commission found that each of the RBOCs had
satisfied the statutory criteria and accordingly was eligible to compete in the long-distance market. See TRENDS IN
TELEPHONE SERVICE, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU, INDUSTRY
ANALYSIS AND TECHNOLOGY DIVISION at 9-3 (Sept. 2010). Since then, “the distinctions between the two markets
have become blurred as customers acquired the ability to select among competing carriers” for all markets. See id.
at 9-2.
604 See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8980, 8982-83, paras. 385, 389.
605 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(c).
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228.
In the NPRM, the Commission proposed amending its rules to eliminate Lifeline support
for the costs of providing TLS to Lifeline subscribers.606 The Commission explained that the TLS rule,
which was adopted more than a decade ago, may have outlived its usefulness given reductions in long-
distance calling rates.607
229.
Discussion. We conclude that the original policy rationale for requiring all ETCs to offer
toll limitation service to low-income consumers no longer remains valid in light of significant changes in
the communications marketplace over more than a decade. Many carriers no longer distinguish between
toll and non-toll calls in how they price voice telephony. The notion of higher priced long distance or
“toll” calling is increasingly irrelevant in today’s marketplace. Low-income consumers often have
options for service that provide the ability to make calls for a flat price, regardless of the location of the
called party. With such service plans, the need to block or limit toll calls to protect against unexpected,
higher charges is necessarily moot.608 Indeed, we note that today, only 5 percent of Lifeline subscribers
also subscribe to TLS.609
230.
We acknowledge the concern that eligible telecommunications carriers should be
required to provide low-income consumers the ability to manage the cost of their monthly service plans,
and to avoid higher expenditures that could prove to be devastating to a household of limited means.610
Such concerns are less prevalent, however, for consumers who subscribe to service plans that offer a set
amount of domestic minutes (local or toll calls) each month, which by definition provide a mechanism for
the low-income household to manage monthly expenditures. We therefore clarify that we do not consider
a subscriber who has a Lifeline calling plan that includes a set number of calling minutes available for
either local or domestic long distance calls to have voluntarily elected to receive TLS. Therefore TLS
support will not be provided to ETCs providing such plans effective with April 2012 disbursements. We
maintain the requirement to offer TLS at no charge to the low-income consumer only for service plans for
which the ETC charges a fee for toll calls, either domestic or international, that is in addition to the per
month or per billing cycle price of the consumer’s Lifeline service.611 A plan that does not provide the
ability to make international calls, however, would not be considered a toll limitation service.
231.
Moreover, given the low subscription rate to TLS, we no longer believe that providing
additional support for the provision of TLS remains necessary to protect low-income consumers from
potential service disconnection for non-payment of toll charges. The funds currently provided for the


606 See NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2794, para. 70.
607 See id.
608 By definition, in the absence of toll calls, there is no need to limit toll calling.
609 Of the current 13 million Lifeline subscribers, ETCs seek reimbursement for TLS for only 500,000 subscribers,
almost all of whom are wireline subscribers.
610 Some commenters argue that TLS is of great value to Lifeline subscribers. See COMPTEL Reply Comments at
2, n. 1 (summarizing commenters that support a continued need for TLS for subscribers).
611 Providing the consumer with the ability to purchase additional minutes when a set amount of minutes are
exhausted does not constitute toll limitation service. In the event a Lifeline-only ETC provides to subscribers a set
amount of “all distance” minutes whereby the subscriber can make local or toll calls without incurring additional
charges, that Lifeline-only ETC does not meet the “facilities” requirement of section 214(e)(1)(a) if its only facilities
are call management functionalities that track the consumer’s usage and that limit the ability to make additional calls
when the minutes associated with the Lifeline offering are exhausted. If the ETC transfers a subscriber to a call
center to purchase additional minutes when the set amount of all distance minutes are exhausted, that is not toll
limitation service. Likewise, if the subscriber must purchase additional minutes to make international calls, any
facilities used by the ETC to permit the subscriber to purchase additional international minutes cannot be relied upon
to meet the facilities requirement of section 214.
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incremental costs of TLS could be used in other ways to more effectively meet our universal service
goals. Program participants have increasingly moved to wireless services, which do not claim TLS
support.612
232.
We observe that there is great variance in TLS costs claimed by ETCs seeking
reimbursement, ranging from $0 to $36 per Lifeline subscriber per month.613 Such variance strongly
suggests that ETCs are taking different interpretations of our current requirement for reimbursement for
“incremental costs.” Moreover, we note that a number of ETCs do not seek any reimbursement for TLS
costs, despite providing TLS to their subscribers,614 which calls into question whether there is any
significant incremental cost to providing the service.
233.
In 2010, USAC disbursed $22.5 million in TLS support – an increase from $8.9 million
in 2009.615 USAC reported $7.8 million in TLS disbursements in 2011.616 Given the growth and variance
in TLS support, we are concerned that there may be significant waste or abuse in claims for TLS support.
234.
We conclude that we should eliminate support for TLS as an amount separate from
Lifeline support, but will do so over a period of time to mitigate the potential impact of doing so. We will
phase out TLS support over a period of time by capping the maximum amount of TLS support that may
be claimed by an ETC, subject to our existing requirement that claimed TLS costs “shall equal the eligible
telecommunications carrier’s incremental cost of providing either toll blocking or toll control, whichever
is selected by the particular consumer.”617 We establish a limit on TLS support of $3.00 per month per
TLS subscriber that will be implemented April 1, 2012 through the remainder of 2012. TLS support will
be reduced to $2.00 in 2013, and will be eliminated and unavailable at the beginning of 2014.
235.
The initial limit of $3.00 per month per TLS subscriber is based on the current
disbursement distribution of TLS support for the relatively few ETCs that claim such support. According
to USAC data, competitive ETCs, which serve roughly two-thirds of TLS subscribers, do so at an average
cost to the Fund of $3.67 per subscriber per month.618 In contrast, incumbent LECs provide TLS at a
much lower cost, at an average cost to the Fund of $0.51 per subscriber per month.619 We implement this
rule to address our immediate concerns with the unprecedented growth in TLS support claims at a time
when technological innovation and industry practices suggest there is less need for this service. This
decision is also consistent with the Commission’s focus on improving fiscal responsibility and reducing
waste, fraud, and abuse.


612 See generally USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter. USAC’s filing indicates that only two competitive ETCs
claiming TLS are wireless providers, and they each have only two subscribers. See id.
613 See id.
614 See Letter from Karen Majcher, Vice President, Universal Service Administrative Company to Trent Harkrader,
Chief, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications
Commission, CC Dkt. No. 96-45 (filed Feb. 25, 2011).
615 2011 MONITORING REPORT at Table 2-4.
616 Because a number of TLS recipients have not yet submitted claims for 4th quarter 2011 support, TLS claims for
2011 are likely to be higher. See Letter from Karen Majcher, Vice President, Universal Service Administrative
Company, to Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, CC Dkt.
No. 11-42 (filed Jan. 30, 2012) (USAC Jan. 30 Support Letter). USAC notes that carriers have up to January 31,
2012 to submit claims for fourth quarter 2011 support.
617 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(c).
618 See USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter.
619 See id.
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236.
We considered an immediate elimination of separate support for TLS provisioning, but
take a more gradual approach to avoid a flash cut that could potentially have a negative impact on low-
income consumers. Some commenters, including state regulators, support the elimination of
reimbursement for TLS.620 Other commenters, however, recommend that the Commission cap TLS
support instead of eliminating it altogether.621 One commenter argued for a limit of $1 per month per
subscriber. 622 Given that we still require provision of TLS by ETCs offering Lifeline services that would
result in higher charges for consumers who elect to make a toll call, immediate imposition of a $1 cap or
immediate elimination of TLS support could have an impact on certain ETCs in the near term.623
Incumbent LECs’ wholesale cost of TLS varies – Verizon reports that its TLS costs range from $0.58 to
$3.50 per month,624 while AT&T reports that its TLS costs range from $0 to $5.38 per month.625 Wireline
competitive ETCs purchase resold TLS with periodic agreements sometimes purchased months in
advance. An immediate elimination of TLS support could leave some wireline competitive ETCs with
little time to readjust their business arrangements to be able to provide TLS at a lower cost.626 Therefore,
we conclude that this glide path is necessary to provide sufficient opportunity to ETCs and other
interested parties to modify their practices in anticipation of the elimination of support for TLS.
237.
We are also not persuaded by commenters who suggest a significantly higher cap for
TLS. Reunion suggests a non-recurring charge of $5.50 followed by $3.50 in monthly-recurring charges
per subscriber.627 Two parties filed comments in support of Reunion's proposal.628 The actual support
claimed by the vast majority of ETCs for providing TLS, however, is significantly lower than Reunion's
proposed caps. According to what ETCs submitted this year in TLS support claims, the average
incremental cost per month per subscriber is $2.65.629
Because ETCs have not been required to
substantiate their TLS costs, however, we have no way to determine what the actual costs may be, and the
wide variance in submitted costs suggests that these figures may be higher than actual average costs.


620 See, e.g., MI PSC Comments at 4; MO Commission Comments at 6.
621 See, e.g., Amvensys Comments at 6; AT&T Comments at 31; COMPTEL Reply Comments at 3; Image Access
Reply Comments at 1-2; NALA/PCA Reply Comments at 5; NJ DRC Comments at 14.
622 See AT&T Comments at 31.
623 See NALA/PCA Reply Comments at 2; see also Reunion Reply Comments at 11.
624 See Letter from Alan Buzacott, Executive Director, Verizon, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, (filed Nov. 21, 2011) (Verizon Nov. 21 ex parte Letter).
625 See, e.g., AT&T Jan. 24 ex parte Letter; Letter from John J. Heitmann, Counsel, Reunion, to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. 11-42 et al., (filed Jan. 20, 2012) (Reunion Jan. 20 ex
parte
Letter).
626 In an ex parte filing, Reunion asserted that ILECs fees are up to $8.52 in non-recurring charges and $5.12 in
monthly-recurring charges. Letter from John J. Heitman, Counsel, Reunion, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary,
Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. 11-42 et al.,at 2 (filed April 8, 2011) (Reunion April 8 ex parte
Letter). AT&T’s average TLS rate is $3.50. See Reunion Jan. 20 ex parte Letter as amended by AT&T Jan. 24 ex
parte
Letter. AT&T’s average TLS rate was calculated by averaging the wholesale residential TLS rates of AT&T
across all states except Wisconsin, for which wholesale TLS rates were unavailable.
627 See Reunion April 8 ex parte Letter.
628 See Letter of Jim Dry et al., Image Access et al., to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications
Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1-2 (filed May 10, 2011) (Image Access May 10 ex parte Letter);
NALA/PCA Reply Comments at 5.
629 See USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter.
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238.
Finally, we find that phasing out TLS support does not create an unfunded mandate for
ETCs to supply TLS without reimbursement, despite what two commenters argued.630 In this Order, we
relieve ETCs of the obligation to offer TLS in the first instance if their Lifeline offering does not
distinguish in the pricing of toll and non-toll calls, which may relieve many ETCs of the obligation to
offer TLS.631 For those ETCs that will still be required to offer TLS, we reject arguments that it is
inappropriate or unlawful to require the offering of TLS but to deny separate reimbursement.632
Commenters seem to suggest that they are entitled to continued separate support for TLS as a matter of
right. Precedent makes clear, however, that carriers have no vested property interest in specific levels of
support for the provision of supported services. To recognize a property interest, carriers must “have a
legitimate claim of entitlement to” USF support.633 Such entitlement would not be established by the
Constitution, but by independent sources of law.634 Section 254 does not expressly or implicitly provide
that particular companies are entitled to a specified level of ongoing USF support, but rather that support
mechanisms be specific and predictable.635 The glide path established by this Order clearly satisfies those
statutory requirements. Indeed, there is no statutory provision or Commission rule that provides
companies with a vested right to continued receipt of support at current levels, and we are not aware of
any other, independent source of law that gives particular companies an entitlement to ongoing USF
support. Carriers, therefore, have no property interest in or right to continued USF support to cover the
incremental costs of providing TLS.636


630 See Amvensys Comments at 5-6; see also AT&T Comments at 31.
631 As noted above, in today’s marketplace many ETCs offer calling plans that do not distinguish between toll and
non-toll calls.
632 See, e.g., AT&T Reply Comments at 28; USTelecom Comments at v, 16.
633 Board of Regents, 408 U.S. at 577.
634 See id.; see also Members of the Peanut Quota Holders Assoc. v. U.S., 421 F.3d 1323, 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2005),
cert. denied, 548 U.S. 904 (2006) (finding that congressional action amending peanut quota program to exclude
prior beneficiaries from that program did not effect a taking because “the property interest represented by the peanut
quota is entirely the product of a government program unilaterally extending benefits to the quota holders, and
nothing in the terms of the statute indicated that the benefits could not be altered or extinguished at the government’s
election”).
635 See 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(5).
636 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 293. Moreover, we note that, even if we
were to recognize a property interest in USF support, our action today would not result in a taking in circumstances
such as these, where the “interference arises from some public program adjusting the benefits and burdens of
economic life to promote the common good.” Penn Central Transport. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104, 124
(1978); see also Connolly v. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp., 475 U.S. 211, 225 (1986). The “purpose of universal
service is to benefit the customer, not the carrier.” Rural Cellular Association v. FCC, 588 F.3d 1095, 1103 (D.C.
Cir. 2009) (quoting Alenco Communications, Inc. v. FCC, 201 F.3d 608, 621 (5th Cir. 2000)). The Commission has
discretion to balance competing section 254(b) principles. Qwest Communications Intern., Inc. v. FCC, 298 F.3d
1222, 1234 (10th Cir. 2005) (“The FCC may exercise its discretion to balance the principles against one another
when they conflict, but may not depart from them altogether to achieve some other goal.”). Thus, the Commission
may balance the principles posited in section 254(b)(3) (“Access to advanced telecommunications and information
services should be provided in all regions of the Nation”) and (b)(4) (“Consumers in all regions of the Nation,
including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high cost areas, should have access to
telecommunications and information services” at rates that are reasonably comparable to urban rates) with the
principle in section 254(b)(5) (“There should be specific, predictable and sufficient Federal an State mechanisms to
preserve and advance universal service”). Nothing in the Takings Clause or section 254 precludes the Commission
from such reasoned decision making, even if it means reducing support of some current support recipients. The
(continued….)
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239.
Our rule balances the needs of the relatively few subscribers who subscribe to TLS with
our goal of minimizing the USF contribution burden and providing support that is sufficient but not
excessive. Our rule is specifically tailored to reduce burdens on the Fund; spur innovation in the TLS
provisioning market; and minimize, through the gradual reduction in TLS support, the potential impact on
ETCs caused by the elimination of TLS support. Further, we give ample transition for affected ETCs of
the phase-out of TLS support so as to ease the burden of incorporating the costs of providing TLS with
the costs of other aspects of Lifeline service.

C.

Link Up

1.

Background

240.
Link Up was originally adopted to provide up to $30 to offset half of the customary
charges assessed by incumbent local exchange carriers for commencing telephone service.637 When the
Commission adopted its current Link Up rules in 1997, Link Up support was provided to ETCs, and
passed through to low-income subscribers, to reduce a single service connection charge at a consumer’s
principal place of residence.638
241.
In 2000, in an effort to create incentives for ETCs to construct telecommunications
facilities on Tribal lands, the Commission amended its Link Up rules to provide up to $70 in additional
support for ETCs serving residents of Tribal lands.639 The Commission stated that enhanced Link Up was
to be used to cover part of the costs of extending telecommunications infrastructure to eligible low-
income consumers on Tribal lands.640 In 2003, the Commission clarified that wireless carriers are eligible
for Link Up support for their customary charges for commencing telecommunications service, but that
Link Up does not support any costs of a wireless handset.641
242.
The Commission’s rules currently specify that such support reimburses ETCs for the
revenue they forgo in reducing their customary charge for commencing telecommunications service and
for providing a deferred schedule for interest-free payment of charges assessed for commencing


(Continued from previous page)
requirement that support should be “specific, predictable and sufficient” does not mean that support levels may
never change, nor does it mean that required service offerings may not be combined.
637 See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8977, para. 380 (adopting Joint Board
recommendation to permit carriers to offset half of customary charges, up to $30); see MTS and WATS Market
Structure Recommended Decision and Order
, 2 FCC Rcd at 2332, para. 68 (the Joint Board noted that “we believe
that more can be done to directly address the problem of high non-recurring charges for low income households that
are not presently on the network, thereby not only preserving, but also increasing, universal telephone service.
Toward this end…we are recommending an additional lifeline assistance program to offset the charges assessed for
commencing telephone service.”).
638 See Universal Service First Report and Order, at 8977, para. 380 (determining “support shall only be available
for the primary residential connection”); see also 47 C.F.R. § 54.411 (a) (defining Link Up).
639 See 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd 12208 at 12239-40, para. 60.
640 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 122240-41, paras. 61-62 (discussing line extension charges). At the
time, the Commission stated: “we do not anticipate that expanded Link Up support will encourage inefficient
investment in telecommunications infrastructure because (1) support for line extension or other construction costs is
capped at $100 per qualifying low-income individual on Tribal lands; and (2) the line extension or other
construction costs in many tribal areas will exceed the maximum amount covered under the expanded Link Up
support; and (3) carriers therefore may have to absorb certain costs in excess of the maximum expanded Link Up
support amount in order to induce low-income individuals to initiate service.” Id.at 122241, para. 62.
641 2003 Tribal Lifeline Order, 18 FCC Rcd at 10967-68, para. 18.
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service.642 Link Up provides qualifying consumers with discounts of up to $30 off the initial costs of
installing a single telecommunications connection and up to $100 for qualifying residents of Tribal
lands.643 Commission rules for Tribal Link Up specify that the charges that the carrier customarily
assesses to connect subscribers to the network include facilities-based charges associated with the
extension of lines or construction of facilities needed to initiate service.644
243.
Link Up support has increased over 230 percent in the last three years.645 USAC projects
that it will disburse more than $180 million in Link Up support to ETCs in 2012, compared to $122.9
million in 2011, and up from $37.2 million disbursed in 2008.646 The increase in support is largely the
result of certain Lifeline-only wireless ETCs entering the market in recent years and seeking
reimbursement for Link Up, including enhanced Link Up on Tribal lands.647 In September 2011,
incumbent LECs accounted for 27 percent of Link Up claims, while competitive ETCs accounted for 73
percent.648
244.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission proposed amendments to the Link
Up rules to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.649 In response to a subsequent proposal to eliminate Link
Up support,650 the August Public Notice sought further comment on whether such support should be
eliminated or limited to reimbursement for service initiations that involve physical installation of facilities
by the provider at the consumer’s residence.651
2.

Discussion

245.
We amend our rules to eliminate Link Up support on non-Tribal lands for all ETCs.652


642 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.411, 54.413.
643 47 C.F.R. § 54.411.
644 47 C.F.R. § 54.411(a)(3).
645 See 2011 MONITORING REPORT at Table 2.2 (providing actual Link Up disbursements from 2007 to end of 2010);
see also USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter at 3; USAC Jan. 30 Support Letter.
646 See USAC Federal Universal Service Support Mechanisms Fund Size Projects for First Quarter 2012, dated Nov.
2, 2011, at 19, available at http://www.usac.org/about/governance/fcc-
filings/2012/Q1/1Q2012%20Quarterly%20Demand%20Filing.pdf (detailing how USAC projects total annual 2012
Link Up support to be approximately $183.48 million); see also USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter; 2011
MONITORING REPORT at Table 2.2.
647 ETCs typically are designated and eligible to receive both high-cost and low-income universal service support.
Lifeline-only ETCs, however, are carriers authorized to receive support only for the provision of the Lifeline
supported services to eligible low-income consumers. These carriers are not eligible to receive high-cost universal
service support.
648 See USAC 2011 Support Amounts Letter at 3 (listing support amounts for incumbent LECs and competitive
ETCs from January 2011 through September 2011).
649 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2795-96, paras. 72-76; see also TracFone Wireless, Inc. Petition for
Declaratory Ruling, WC Dkt. No. 96-45 et al., filed December 1, 2010 (TracFone Petition) (proposing reforms to
Link Up to eliminate waste and abuse based on business practices of some Lifeline-only ETCs).
650 See Sprint Comments at 9-10.
651 Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 11103-04, para. 3.b.
652 March is the last month for which ETCs serving customers on non-Tribal lands can claim Link Up support on
their FCC Form 497. For example, if an ETC serving non-Tribal lands currently receives Link Up support and
enrolls a new subscriber on March 15, 2012, that ETC may claim Link Up support for that subscriber. If, however,
that ETC enrolls a new subscriber on April 1, 2012, that ETC may not claim Link Up support for that subscriber.
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Marketplace trends indicate that Lifeline consumers increasingly have service options from ETCs that
neither draw on Link Up support nor charge the consumer a service initiation fee,653 raising concerns that
Link Up support is not the most efficient means to reach our programmatic goals. As part of our
responsibility to balance a number of universal service goals with finite resources, we conclude that
dollars currently spent for Link Up in its current form can be more effectively spent to improve and
modernize the Lifeline program.654 Given the significant telecommunications deployment and access
challenges on Tribal lands, however, at the present time we will maintain enhanced Link Up support for
those ETCs that also receive high-cost support on Tribal lands.655
246.
Link Up on Non-Tribal Lands. Today, unlike in 1997, many low-income consumers have
competitive choices among carriers that do not charge an activation fee and do not draw on Link Up
support. 656 At a time when we seek to modernize the program and constrain the growth of the Fund and
there are many competing demands for program support, we question whether it makes sense to provide
Link Up support to ETCs with high activation fees for voice service when low-income consumers can get
Lifeline service from another provider without paying an activation fee.657 Declining costs and
competitive pressures have led many ETCs to stop assessing connection charges on low-income
consumers.658 The Lifeline-only ETCs that do not assess a connection fee or collect Link Up support are


653 See Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1-3 (filed Nov. 21, 2011) (TracFone Nov. 21 ex parte
Letter) (explaining that both TracFone and Virgin Mobile do not impose activation charges on Lifeline subscribers
and operate in the same markets as other ETCs that obtain Link Up support); see also USAC Low Income
disbursement tool, http://www.usac.org/li/tools/disbursements/default.aspx (showing the increase in subscribership
of i-wireless, an ETC that does not receive Link Up support) (support amounts can be determined by typing “i-
wireless” in “Study Area Name” option) (last visited Feb. 5, 2012).
654 See, e.g., Cricket PN Comments at 4 (arguing that Link Up support is not necessary to enable consumers to
access the public switched telephone network); AT&T PN Comments at 8-10 (supports elimination of Link Up for
all ETCs and explains problems of limiting Link Up to physical installations); T-Mobile Dec. 16 ex parte Letter, at 6
(urging the Commission to eliminate Link Up support, which would free up approximately $136 million per year in
funding that could be allocated toward other uses); Sprint PN Comments at 1 (supporting elimination of Link Up
support and re-purposing of funds to support the broadband pilot).
655 See USF/ICC Transformation Order, FCC 11-161 at para. 482 (recognizing that Tribal lands have significant
telecommunications deployment and access challenges). When the Commission first established the expanded Link
Up program for Tribal lands, it observed that doing so would create incentives for carriers to construct facilities
where none existed. See 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12239-40, para. 60.
656 The two largest wireless Lifeline providers, TracFone and Virgin Mobile (Sprint), along with Cricket and i-
wireless, enroll millions of low-income consumers in Lifeline without reliance on Link Up support. See Letter from
Mitchell Brecher, Counsel, TracFone, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary of the Federal Communications Commission,
WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 4 (filed Oct. 13, 2011), (TracFone Oct. 13 ex parte Letter) (providing examples of
competitive choices of ETCs that do not receive Link Up support). The Link Up Coalition has also acknowledged
that members of the coalition serve the same geographic areas. See Letter from John Heitmann, Counsel, Link Up
Coalition, to Marlene Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, at 2 (filed Dec. 7, 2011) (Link Up
Coalition Dec. 7 ex parte Letter).
657 See supra n.653 (providing examples of ETCs that do not charge activation fees and do not receive Link Up
support).
658 See Cricket PN Comments at 4 (noting that over the years many carriers have reduced and then eliminated their
activation fees); see also Sprint Comments at 9-10 (stating that “the ever increasing level of automation has reduced
the cost of initiating service”).
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operating in the same geographic markets as ETCs obtaining Link Up support.659 In a competitive
environment, carriers will only assess a fee that the market will bear. Indeed, the lack of activation fees
assessed by many competitive ETCs raises the question of whether the existence of rules allowing ETCs
to collect Link Up support creates an incentive for some ETCs to charge such fees, when they otherwise
would not.660
247.
We also have concerns that Link Up, in its current form, is vulnerable to waste and
abuse.661 Providing support for half of a “customary” charge up to a flat $30 amount creates incentives
for carriers to set their customary charge at $60 in order to maximize their draw from the program, with
incentives to focus on obtaining new subscribers, thus triggering application of the activation fee, rather
than focus on maintaining existing subscribers.662 Indeed, a number of Lifeline-only ETCs collecting
Link Up support have $60 activation fees for which they take $30 from the Fund and waive the remaining
balance.663 In such circumstances, the ETC has no incentive to lower its activation fee.
248.
There is significant disagreement in the record as to the purpose of Link Up and what
costs are properly reimbursable through Link Up. The record indicates that Link Up support is being used
to offset an array of costs, including customer billing, basic labor, equipment and facilities, outreach and
marketing, as well as compliance with Lifeline rules, all of which are costs that every carrier assumes in
doing business in today’s market.664 In fact, it appears that a number of Link Up recipients rely upon


659 See TracFone Nov. 21 ex parte Letter at 1-4 (explaining that both TracFone and Sprint do not impose activation
charges on Lifeline customers and operate in the same markets as other wireless ETCs that obtain Link Up support).
Indeed, some facilities-based wireless ETCs that provide Lifeline service using their own network argue that
technological advances and business efficiencies have rendered activation fees unnecessary for wireless providers.
See Sprint Comments at 9-10; see also Cricket PN Comments at 4 (recognizing changes in marketplace such that
Link Up is unnecessary).
660 See TracFone Nov. 21 ex parte Letter at 3-4 (noting that many Lifeline-only ETCs receiving Link Up support
charge the maximum amount allowable under current Link Up rules).
661 See AT&T PN Comments at 8-10 (providing examples of how Link Up support can create wasteful spending);
see also Sprint Comments at 9-10 (arguing that elimination of Link Up, which it claims is a service of questionable
utility, will promote the public interest by helping to keep the Fund at a manageable and sustainable size, and will
discourage ETCs from manipulating program rules to get unneeded subsidies).
662 See Letter from John J. Heitmann, Counsel, Link Up Coalition, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42, Redacted – Public Version, at 2-5 (filed Nov. 14, 2011) (Link
Up Coalition Nov. 14 ex parte Letter) (arguing that activation fees are general industry practice and that several of
its members charge $60 due to their costs of operation, which gives them the maximum amount of allowable funds
under Link Up rules); but see TracFone Nov. 21 ex parte Letter at 3-4 (rebutting Link Up Coalition Nov. 14 ex parte
Letter by noting that the examples provided by the Link Up Coalition are of facilities-based wireless carriers with
activation fees almost half the amount that the Link Up Coalition imposes).
663 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.413(b); see also Link Up Coalition Nov. 14 ex parte Letter at 2-5 (acknowledging they charge
the maximum amount allowable in activation fees when receiving Link Up support); see TracFone Petition at 3-9
(explaining how at least one Lifeline-only ETC either waives the remaining balance of an activation not covered by
Link Up or “defers” payment over a period of 12 months giving the customer the option of reducing any activation
fee by purchasing more airtime minutes).
664 See, e.g., COMPTEL PN Comments at 9-11 (providing examples of the broad array of costs associated with
connection charges); CenturyLink PN Comments at 3-4 (noting that Link Up support covers the cost of making the
access line available to the customer, provisioning services, and processing the customer’s service order and opening
the account); GRTI PN Comments at 15 (noting that it charges its customers a one-time fee of $75 in order to recoup
its basic labor, equipment and facilities costs); Nexus PN Comments at 7-8 (providing examples of how the ETC
uses Link Up to cover the costs of community outreach and marketing).
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Link Up so that they can charge lower monthly charges to low-income consumers.665
249.
As noted above, Link Up was adopted as a discount off “customary” connection charges,
at a time when such connection charges were rate-regulated by state public utility commissions.666 Now,
the majority of Link Up is going to pre-paid wireless resellers who are not rate-regulated.667 If we
specified that only certain costs are properly recoverable through Link Up, compliance with such a rule
would be difficult for USAC and this Commission to monitor, audit, and enforce for companies whose
rates are not regulated today under cost of service principles.668 Record evidence indicates that most
wireless resellers are not charged a separate connection fee by their underlying wholesale providers.669
Because their rates are not regulated, however, wireless carriers can set their “activation” fees at any level
the marketplace will bear.670 The Link Up subsidy, coupled with the ability to waive the fee borne by the
consumer, insulates those charges from the effects of competition when serving Link Up subscribers.671
Indeed, as noted above, we are concerned that Link Up support may act as an incentive for ETCs that
focus primarily or exclusively on the low-income market to charge higher activation fees to Lifeline
consumers than typically are charged by other ETCs to non-Lifeline customers.672


665 The Link Up Coalition, comprised of at least six wireless competitive ETCs, acknowledges that its members rely
on Link Up subsidies to provide low cost (and most often free) wireless service and “free” phones to Lifeline
consumers. See Link Up Coalition PN Comments at 2.
666 See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8969-70, paras. 365, 380 (originally intended for
incumbent LECs’ cost of connecting service in the residence).
667 See 47 U.S.C. § 332(c)(3)(a) (preventing states from regulating commercial mobile radio service providers’
rates).
668 Dollars are fungible, and there is no administratively practical way to determine whether $30 is recovering the
costs of “acceptable” activities but not being used for other things, including defraying the costs of handsets. See
Link Up Coalition PN Comments at 21 (stating that if Link Up was eliminated Coalition members would have to
evaluate whether they could continue to provide “no-charge handsets;”); see also supra para. 241 (explaining how
the Commission has previously held that Link Up does not support costs of wireless handsets).
669 See TracFone Nov. 21 ex parte Letter at 3 (noting that TracFone’s underlying carriers include three of the four
largest CMRS network operators in the nation -- AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile -- none of which
impose activation fees on TracFone as the wholesale customers). We note that the incremental cost to connect a
new subscriber to the network may be built into the wholesale rate structure. The Link Up Coalition claims that
several of its members are subject to network activation charges from the underlying provider, but nothing in the
record indicates that such charges are based on individual customer activations as opposed to a general charge built
into the wholesale rates. See Link Up Coalition Reply Comments at 4.
670 There is information in the record that the average activation charge for facilities-based wireless carriers is $35,
whereas some wireless ETCs do not charge any fees on Lifeline customers and others impose as much as $72 for
activation, but waive such fees for Lifeline customers. See Nexus Nov. 15 ex parte Letter,at 4, Attach. (providing
examples of activation fees from competitors); see also Link Up Coalition Nov. 14 ex parte Letter at 2-4 (providing
examples of activation fees in industry which are approximately $35). In contrast, all or most of the members of the
Link Up Coalition charge an activation fee of $60, the level that maximizes draw from the Fund. See id.; see also
supra
n.662 (providing examples of how most Lifeline-only ETCs that are recipients of Link Up charge at least the
maximum amount permitted under current regulations).
671 See TracFone Petition at 3-9 (providing example of how at least one ETC either waives the remaining balance of
an activation not covered by Link Up or “defers” payment over a period of 12 months giving the customer the
option of reducing any activation fee by purchasing more airtime minutes).
672 Many facilities-based wireless carriers charge fees at or about $35-$36, which is almost half the amount charged
by Lifeline-only ETCs receiving Link Up. See Nexus Nov. 15 Ex Parte (noting that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile
charge activation fees in the range of $35-$36); see also Letter from Matthew A. Brill, Counsel, Cricket, to Marlene
(continued….)
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250.
We acknowledge that some incumbent LECs continue to assess a customary charge on
their subscribers to commence service. The record indicates that such charges vary significantly among
the incumbent carriers, ranging from $13.50 to $66.00.673 Given the many competing demands for
program support and our desire to maintain a technology-neutral approach, we decline to adopt a policy
that would provide Link Up support only to wireline carriers.674 We are not convinced from the record
before us that elimination of Link Up support for incumbent LECs will discourage or prevent consumers
from subscribing to telephone service.675 Indeed, some incumbent LECs support eliminating Link Up
support.676 Others argue that Link Up should be limited to physical installation of facilities.677 If the
Commission limited support to physical installation of facilities, it is unlikely that many providers would
be eligible for Link Up, as initiation of phone service in today’s marketplace typically is an automated
process.678 With declining costs of initiating service and competitive pressures, we are not convinced that
we should maintain Link Up for only wireline providers, even if we were to limit it only to the physical
installation of facilities. Based on the record before us, we decline to maintain Link Up support for
wireline ETCs only.679


(Continued from previous page)
H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Nov. 22, 2011)
(Cricket Nov. 22 Ex Parte) (claiming that Link Up provides little benefit due to competitive pressures and invites
waste and abuse in the program).
673 Most incumbent LEC connection fees are based on the terms contained in state tariffs. See Letter from Jamie M.
Tan, Director, Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission,
WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Nov. 22, 2011) (listing line connection charges in its 22-state region) (AT&T Nov.
22 ex parte Letter); see also Verizon Nov. 21 ex parte Letter (listing activation charges for the 12-state region).
674 Cox suggests that the Commission should consider eliminating Link Up support altogether unless it is available
on a competitively neutral basis. See Letter from Charles Keller, Counsel, Cox, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary,
Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1-2 (filed Oct. 24, 2011) (Cox Oct. 24 ex parte
Letter). CenturyLink argues that Link Up support should be limited to wireline ETCs as opposed to wireless ETCs.
See CenturyLink PN Reply Comments at 4.
675 A number of commenters point out that for low-income consumers that face the challenges of securing
employment, mobile service is preferred over landline service. See, e.g, Letter from Mitchell Brecher, Counsel,
TracFone, to Marlene H. Dortch, WC Dkt. No. 11-42, Attach., “Subsidized Cell Phones Provide Significant
Economic Gains for Poor and Near-Poor Americans” (filed Dec. 5, 2011). USAC data indicate that while
incumbent LECs are receiving less Link Up support each month, likely due to subscribers choosing competitive
alternatives, Lifeline disbursements for Virgin Mobile, TracFone, i-wireless and Cricket, as non-recipients of Link
Up, are steadily increasing . See USAC Low Income disbursement tool,
http://www.usac.org/li/tools/disbursements/default.aspx (last visited Feb. 5, 2012). Disbursements for particular
companies can be accessed on the USAC tool by typing company name in “Study Area Name” option.
676 AT&T PN Comments at 8-10; Verizon Nov. 21 ex parte Letter.
677 IN URC Comments at 4-5 (contending that ETCs must not be allowed to collect Link Up funds except when they
are installing physical equipment on the subscriber’s premises).
678 See Centurylink PN Comments at 3 (noting that for most customers, initiating service does not require
installation at the residence); Nexus PN Comments at 4 (acknowledging that physical installations are rare for both
wireline and wireless providers in today’s market); supra n. 658 (providing examples of how the ever increasing
level of automation has reduced the cost of initiating service).
679 Several LECs support elimination of Link Up support and believe that the funds could be redirected to more
tangible benefits to consumers. See AT&T PN Comments at 8-10 (supporting elimination of Link Up support);
Verizon Nov. 21 ex parte Letter (noting that it is not opposed to elimination of Link Up support to all ETCs
provided carriers obligation to provide discounts are eliminated); Cox ex parte Oct. 24 Letter (advocating for Link
Up support to be reallocated to more productive uses).
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251.
We acknowledge that certain Link Up recipients contend that Link Up enables them to
market Lifeline service in innovative ways to underserved markets that do not presently have phone
service.680 The record merely suggests, however, that community sign-up campaigns can be effective at
signing up consumers, not that Link Up in its current form is the only way to ensure that such consumers
subscribe to phone service.681 We also note that ultimately the program is funded by other consumers and
allowing the use of these funds for corporate marketing has moved the uses of the funds far from the
original purpose of the Lifeline program. We note that through USAC’s in-depth data validation process
targeted at uncovering duplicative claims for Lifeline support, USAC has identified thousands of
consumers subscribing to Lifeline service from both an ETC receiving Link Up and an ETC that does not
receive Link Up.682 For example, in the state of Maryland, there were 10,201 subscribers – accounting for
51 percent of total duplicates found in the state – who were found to be receiving Lifeline service from
both an ETC that receives Link Up and an ETC that does not receive Link Up support.683 This example
suggests that at least for some low-income consumers, Link Up is not increasing phone subscribership.
We seek further comment in the attached FNPRM whether there should be support for one-time service
charges as opposed to monthly charges in a modernized Lifeline program.
252.
Certain carriers suggest that a decrease in support to $20-24 would be an appropriate
amount of Link Up support.684 We decline to adopt this proposal for the same reasons we are eliminating
the $30 amount allowable under our rules for receiving Link Up support. Many low-income consumers
have competitive choices from ETCs that do not charge an activation fee and do not receive Link Up
support. In balancing a number of universal service goals with finite resources, and given the
circumstances described above, we decline to adopt this proposal. Because we find that the Link Up
program is potentially susceptible to abuse,685 is creating unhelpful incentives, and is providing little
public-interest benefit, we conclude that it should be eliminated as soon as possible. We are unpersuaded
by the factual arguments that some supporters of Link Up have made686 and conclude there is no


680 See Link Up Coalition PN Comments at 14, Figs. 1, 2 (contending that community outreach efforts should be
reimbursed by Link Up because, without the subsidy, certain low-income consumers would not otherwise be
served); Letter from Christopher Savage, Counsel, Nexus, to Marlene H. Dortch, WC Dkt. No. 11-42, Attach. at 11,
(filed Jan. 20, 2012) (Nexus Jan. 12 ex parte Letter) (stating that 62 percent of Nexus subscribers have no phone
service at time of enrollment); Nexus’ claim that 62 percent of their subscribers have no phone service at time of
enrollment appears high given that approximately 91.5 percent of low-income households subscribe to telephone
service. See 2011 MONITORING REPORT at Table 3.2. Nexus provides no back up support for its data. Indeed, one
explanation for why its statistic could be so high is because a low-income consumer may disconnect service for
periods of time and resume service with the same or competing carrier during the course of the year. There is no
indication in Nexus’ Jan. 12 ex parte Letter of whether the service provider properly verified whether the 62 percent
of subscribers had previously had phone service in the last few months or benefited from Link Up support in the past
by dropping service and reconnecting multiple times. The Commission’s rules, however, make clear that a
consumer can only receive the benefit from the Link Up support once unless the individual moves from their
principal place of residence. See 47 C.F.R. § 54.411(c) (limiting a consumer to receive benefit of Link Up support
only once unless the individual changes principal place of residence).
681 See USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter at 5-6, 9, nn. 19, 21, 30 (providing details on duplicates with Link Up ).
682 See id. (providing details on duplicates from customers in Maryland, Michigan and Louisiana in which
subscribers were found to subscribe to ETCs receiving Link Up and ETCs that did not receive Link Up support).
683 See id. at 5-6, n. 19. Similarly, in the state of Michigan, there were 25,055 subscribers who were found to be
receiving Lifeline service from both an ETC who receives Link Up and an ETC that does not receive Link Up
support, which accounted for 47 percent of total duplicates found in the state. Id. at 6, n. 21.
684 See Nexus Jan. 20 Ex Parte at 3-4 (suggesting a decrease in Link Up per customer based on changes in market).
685 See supra para. 247.
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persuasive evidence in the record of any public-interest benefit to continuing to provide this support on
non-Tribal lands687 for any amount of time.
253.
We therefore revise our rules, on a technologically-neutral basis, to eliminate Link Up
support for all ETCs on non-Tribal lands. We also conclude there is no federal obligation for ETCs to
offset or discount their activation fees for qualifying low-income consumers. While we considered
various proposals to define more narrowly appropriate and inappropriate uses of Link Up, on balance, we
conclude that the dollars spent on Link Up in its current form can be better spent on other uses, such as
modernizing the program and constraining the overall size of the fund.688 In eliminating Link Up today,
we do not prejudge whether it would be appropriate in the future to adopt a new rule to provide subsidies
for non-recurring charges imposed at service initiation.
254.
Link Up on Tribal Lands. At present, we maintain the enhanced Link Up program on
Tribal lands, but limit its availability to those ETCs receiving high-cost support.689 Consistent with the
intent of the enhanced Link Up program, those ETCs are building telecommunications infrastructure on
Tribal lands, which have significant telecommunications deployment and connectivity challenges.690 This
rule change will be effective beginning with April 2012 support claims.691 Given changes in how high-
cost support will be directed to Tribal lands as a result of the USF/ICC Transformation Order and
FNPRM
, however, we seek further comment in the attached FNPRM on whether the Commission should
maintain the enhanced Link Up program for Tribal lands in the future, or whether such funding should be
re-purposed for other uses, such as efforts to modernize Lifeline on Tribal lands.692

D.

Subscriber Usage of Lifeline-Supported Service

1.

Background

255.
ETCs receive a specific amount of Lifeline support per month for each qualifying low-
income consumer they serve. Some ETCs reduce the subscriber’s monthly bill by the support amount and


(Continued from previous page)
686 See supra para. 251.
687 Despite this finding, we will continue to provide Link Up support on Tribal lands for ETCs receiving high-cost
support because those ETCs are building telecommunications infrastructure on Tribal lands, which have significant
telecommunications deployment and connectivity challenges.
688 See Sprint PN Comments at 1 (“Sprint supports elimination of Link Up support for the Lifeline voice telephony
program and the redeployment of those funds to support the broadband pilot.”); Cox Oct. 24 ex parte Letter
(advocating for Link Up support to be reallocated to more productive uses).
689 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 479-482 (recognizing the unique
challenges in bringing communications services to Tribal Lands). Today, several Lifeline-only ETCs are receiving a
large amount of enhanced Link Up support on Tribal Lands. See, e.g., USAC Low Income disbursement tool,
http://www.usac.org/li/tools/disbursements/default.aspx (providing an example of how at least one Lifeline-only
ETC has received approximately a million in Link Up support for two months in 2011 on Tribal lands in OK
without building infrastructure) (support amounts can be determined for a company such as True Wireless by typing
the company name in “Study Area Name” option) (last visited Feb. 5, 2012).
690 See 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12239, para. 60 (concluding that expanded Link Up should apply
to costs associated with the construction of facilities needed to initiate service to qualifying individuals on Tribal
lands).
691 March 2012 is the last month that Lifeline-only ETCs operating on Tribal lands (i.e, those ETCs who do not
receive high-cost support) may seek reimbursement for enhanced Link Up support on Tribal lands.
692 See section XIII.E (Tribal Lands Lifeline and Link Up Support).
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require the subscriber to pay the balance. Other ETCs, however, particularly those offering pre-paid
services, do not charge for service on a monthly basis and do not have a regular billing relationship with
the subscriber, or other similar relationship to track activity by the subscriber. Our current rules do not
require ETCs to ensure the qualifying low-income consumer is actually using the Lifeline-supported
service. As a result, some ETCs may seek and receive Lifeline support for a consumer who has
abandoned the service, transferred the service to someone else, or failed to use the service at all.693 This
wastes Lifeline support, because the program is not actually benefiting the consumer for which it is
intended. To address this situation, the Commission and some states have imposed “non-usage”
procedures on some pre-paid wireless ETCs in order to eliminate payments from the Fund for enrolled
Lifeline subscribers who are no longer using the service. 694
256.
In the NPRM, the Commission proposed to prohibit ETCs from seeking reimbursement
from the Fund for any Lifeline subscriber who has failed to use his or her service for 60 consecutive days.
The NPRM sought comment on whether a subscriber’s failure to use the service for a specific period of
time may reasonably demonstrate, or serve as a proxy for, intended service discontinuation. The
Commission also sought comment on whether a 60-day period of inactivity, or something shorter or
longer, would be reasonable and whether a usage requirement should be limited to particular types of
service or should apply to all types of service. 695
2.

Discussion

257.
We find that imposing a reasonable consumer usage requirement is appropriate in certain
circumstances in order to ensure that Lifeline support benefits only eligible low-income subscribers
actually using the supported service.696 We also amend our rules to clarify that Lifeline service is a non-
transferable benefit; an eligible Lifeline subscriber may not transfer his or her phone service to anyone,
not even someone who is also eligible. We further amend our rules to prevent ETCs who do not assess


693 There are many reasons why a consumer may not use his or her Lifeline-supported service. For example, some
subscribers may have lost or abandoned their wireless devices, may lack a readily accessible source of electricity to
charge the device, or may lack consistent access to a signal. In other cases, the consumer may have given or sold the
phone to another person, in violation of the ETC’s terms of service.
694 See, e.g., PlatinumTel Forbearance Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 13788; Petition of TracFone Wireless, Inc. for
Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in the State of Wisconsin
, 9385-TI-100, Wisconsin Public
Service Commission Final Decision, May 21, 2009, available at
http://psc.wi.gov/apps35/erf_view/viewdoc.aspx?docid=118017 (Wisconsin Non-Usage Order); Application of
Nexus Communications, Inc. for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in the State of Georgia for
the Limited Purpose of Offering Wireless Lifeline and Link Up Service to Qualified Households
(Dkt. No. 19664),
available at ftp://www.psc.state.ga.us/dockets/18664/121955.PDF; Application of TracFone Wireless, Inc. for
Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in Georgia for the Limited Purpose of Offering Lifeline
Service to Qualified Households
(Dkt. No. 26282), available at
http://www.psc.state.ga.us/factsv2/Docket.aspx?docketNumber=26282; Georgia Public Service Commission Order
Amending ETC Designations, October 20, 2010, available at ftp://www.psc.state.ga.us/dockets/26282/131742.pdf
(Georgia Non-Usage Order); Application of TracFone Wireless, Inc. for Designation as an Eligible
Telecommunications Carrier in the State of Kansas for the Limited Purpose of Offering Lifeline Service to Qualified
Households
, Dkt. No. 09-TFWZ-945-ETC, available at http://estar.kcc.ks.gov/estar/portal/kcc/page/docket-
docs/PSC/DocketDetails.aspx?DocketId=d40c343e-be19-4913-88ec-c567d1215bb3; Kansas State Corporation
Commission Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Amended Application of TracFone for Designation as ETC
for Limited Purpose of Offering Lifeline Service to Qualified Households, December 14, 2010, available at
http://estar.kcc.ks.gov/estar/portal/kcc/page/docket-docs/PSC/DocketDetails.aspx?DocketId=d40c343e-be19-4913-
88ec-c567d1215bb3 (Kansas Non-Usage Order).
695 See NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2798, para. 82.
696 See Wisconsin Non-Usage Order at 8; see also Georgia Non-Usage Order at 2; Kansas Non-Usage Order at 6.
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and collect from end users a monthly charge (pre-paid ETCs) from obtaining Lifeline support for an
inactive subscriber who has failed to use his or her service in the first instance.697 If a pre-paid wireless
service is not initiated, the consumer will not be considered enrolled, and the pre-paid wireless ETC will
not be eligible for Lifeline support until a new subscriber personally activates the service. Furthermore,
prepaid ETCs will not receive Lifeline support for inactive subscribers who have not used the service for
a consecutive 60-day period. These new requirements for qualifying for Lifeline support respond directly
to recommendations made by the GAO in 2010, and represent an important step in addressing potential
waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.698 Moreover, in order to make sure consumers are fully informed
about the consequences of non-usage, we require pre-paid ETCs to notify their subscribers at service
initiation about the non-transferability of the phone service, its usage requirements, and the de-enrollment
and deactivation that will result following non-usage in any 60-day period of time.699 We also require
pre-paid ETCs to update the database within one business day of de-enrolling a consumer for non-use.
Furthermore, we require pre-paid ETCs to annually report USAC the number of subscribers de-enrolled
for non-usage. The de-enrollment reports must be submitted with the ETC’s annual recertification results,
and must report the number of de-enrolled subscribers on a month-by-month basis.
258.
Adopting usage requirements should reduce waste and inefficiencies in the Lifeline
program by eliminating support for subscribers who are not using the service and reducing any incentives
ETCs may have to continue to report line counts for subscribers that have discontinued their service. The
vast majority of commenters support a 60-day subscriber usage requirement for pre-paid ETCs.700 One
commenter argues for a significantly longer non-usage interval of 120 days to account for seasonal
migrations in rural and Tribal areas and job opportunities that may require that Lifeline service be
interrupted for months at a time.701 While we understand that there may be unique circumstances that
may disrupt some subscribers’ connectivity for periods of time, the 60-day period we adopt is fiscally
responsible and balances the interests of subscribers with the risks associated with potential waste in the
program.702 As noted above, we expect ETCs to educate their subscribers about usage requirements and
the de-enrollment that will result from non-usage.
259.
Existing consumer usage policies have already resulted in substantial savings for the
program. TracFone, Virgin Mobile, and others have already implemented a 60-day “non-usage” policy in
a number of states.703 TracFone, for example, has de-enrolled 700,000 subscribers for non-usage in the
last two years alone.704 The Florida PSC has also instituted a 60-day non-usage requirement that has


697 These restrictions do not apply to prepaid providers that collect some monthly amount from the customer.
698 GAO recognized this general approach as one step toward improving the integrity of the Lifeline program. See
2010 GAO REPORT at 36.
699 See id.; see also NASUCA Reply Comments at 8 (supporting sufficient notice of termination for non-usage).
700 See, e.g.,Cricket Comments at 5; FL PSC Comments at 12-13; COMPTEL Comments at 13-14; MI PSC
Comments at 5; MO PSC Comments at 7-8; NASUCA Reply Comments at 8; NY PSC Comments at 8-9; TracFone
Reply Comments at 2-3; USTelecom Comments at v, 17-18; IN URC Comments at 5; Sprint Reply Comments at 7.
701 See GCI Comments at 32-33.
702 See GAO Report at 35.
703 See TracFone Aug. 24 ex parte Letter (noting that TracFone posts its non-usage policy on its Lifeline website
www.safelink.com, which states: “Regardless of the Service End Date displayed on your handset, if you exceed 2
months without any Usage, you will be de-enrolled from the SAFELINK Program”).
704 See Nexus Comments at 27; see also TracFone Comments at 17-18.
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resulted in $8.5 million in savings over six months from a single provider.705 Some ETCs encourage the
Commission to follow this policy and assert that by doing so savings to the program would approach
$230 million annually.706 We are building on the proven success of practices developed and implemented
at the state level, including in Florida, and believe that adopting a rule that will apply uniformly across the
country should result in additional savings to the Fund.
260.
An ETC offering pre-paid service may not seek or receive universal service support for a
qualifying low-income consumer until that individual subscriber uses the supported service to either
activate the service or complete an outgoing call.707 We amend section 54.407 of our rules to make clear
that all new Lifeline subscribers of pre-paid wireless service must personally activate the service prior to
the ETC seeking reimbursement from the Fund. After service has been initiated in this manner (by
activation and/or actual use of the service by a subscriber), pre-paid ETCs will continue to receive
universal service support reimbursement for each qualifying low-income subscriber who continues to use
the supported service, as described below.
261.
To provide clear guidance to ETCs on what is necessary to comply with this new rule, we
specify the activities that establish continued usage by a consumer. An account will be considered active
if during any 60-day period the authorized subscriber does at least one of the following: makes a monthly
payment; purchases minutes from the ETC to add to an existing pre-paid Lifeline account; completes an
outbound call; answers an incoming call from anyone other than the ETC, its representative, or agent; or
affirmatively responds to a direct contact from the ETC confirming that he or she wants to continue
receiving the Lifeline supported service.708 We find these actions impose an appropriately small burden
on the subscriber to maintain use of the supported service and clearly establish for the ETCs the few
actions they must monitor.709 We decline to specify any other qualifying actions to establish usage at this
time, and will evaluate whether any future modifications are necessary based on experience with the new
rule.
262.
We further clarify that ETCs must continue to comply with existing public safety
obligations, and nothing in this Order modifies those obligations. For example, the Commission’s rules
require commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) providers subject to the Commission’s 911 rules to
transmit all wireless 911 calls, including those from non-service initialized phones, to Public Safety
Answering Points (PSAPs).710 We do not modify this rule, and we make clear that our 60-day usage rule
applicable to pre-paid ETCs does not modify in any way the requirement that ETCs transmit a Lifeline
subscriber’s wireless 911 calls, regardless of subscriber inactivity. Hence, an ETC must transmit 911


705 See FL PSC Comments at 12-13. Other state commissions concur. See IRUC Comments at 5; see also MI PSC
Comments at 5; MO PSC Comments at 7-8; OH PUC Comments at 9.
706 See TracFone Oct. 17 ex parte Letter at page; see also Letter from Danielle Frappier, Counsel, Nexus
Communications, Inc., WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1 (filed Oct. 25, 2011) (citing TracFone Oct. 17 ex parte Letter)
(Nexus Oct. 25 ex parte Letter).
707 The subscriber must activate the service, or the service must be activated in the presence of the subscriber. A
third party, such as an ETC, cannot activate the service for the subscriber unless expressly authorized to do so by the
subscriber. Unless and until the subscriber personally activates the Lifeline service, the pre-paid ETC may not seek
or receive reimbursement from the Fund.
708 See Sprint Comments at 10-11; see also NASUCA Reply Comments at 8 (concurring with Sprint’s list of
activities for determination of active use).
709 We also decline to adopt COMPTEL’s suggestion to include sending or receiving a text message in the
enumerated list as text messaging is not a supported service. See COMPTEL Comments at 13-14; see also 47
C.F.R. § 54.101(a).
710 See 47 C.F.R. § 20.18(b).
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calls even if the ETC is no longer providing Lifeline service to that consumer.711
263.
We extend the consumer usage condition only to pre-paid services, which are those
services for which subscribers do not receive monthly bills and do not have any regular billing
relationship with the ETC, and decline at this time to impose this condition on other types of Lifeline
supported services. A number of commenters raised concern with a usage rule being applied to post-paid
ETCs,712 with several pointing out that post-paid service does not present the same risk of phantom
accounts that can be detected only by inactivity.713 Similarly, others argue that even a minimum payment
on post-paid accounts is a clear indication of the subscriber’s intent to maintain the Lifeline service.714
Another commenter points out that a paying subscriber who is away from their phone does not signal that
the consumer does not want the service.715 We conclude that subscribers of post-paid ETCs do not
present the same risk of inactivity as subscribers of pre-paid services. The possibility that a wireless
phone has been lost, is no longer working, or the subscriber has abandoned or improperly transferred the
account is much greater for pre-paid services.716 We are sensitive to the administrative burden that a 60-
day usage requirement may have on post-paid services, and at this time do not extend the usage
requirements to post-paid services, whether wireline or wireless.717 For pre-paid service with no monthly
charge, by contrast, there may be no other means beside usage patterns to track whether a consumer is
still receiving the benefit of the supported service.718 Thus, the 60-day usage requirement we adopt is
applicable only to subscribers of pre-paid ETCs who, because of the pre-paid contract arrangement, do
not have regular contact with the ETC that would provide a reasonable opportunity to ascertain a
continued desire to continue to receive Lifeline benefits.

E.

Minimum Consumer Charges

1.

Background

264.
In the 2010 Recommended Decision, the Joint Board expressed concern about Lifeline
service offerings provided at no cost to the subscriber.719 In particular, the Joint Board raised concerns
about the connection between prepaid wireless ETCs, which do not provide a monthly bill and, in some
cases, provide handsets and service at no charge to consumers, and the significant growth in the Fund.720


711 See id.; see also NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2798, para 83.
712 See Alaska PUC Reply Comments at 2, 9-10; see also AT&T Reply Comments at 21-22; GCI Comments at 30;
NASUCA Comments at 15; NASUCA Reply Comments at 8; NY PSC Comments at 8-9; TracFone Reply
Comments at 2-3; Verizon Reply Comments at 8; YourTel Reply Comments at 2.
713 See AT&T Reply Comments at 21; see also GCI Comments at 30; NASUCA Comments at 15; NASUCA Reply
Comments at 8.
714 See CenturyLink Comments at 9; see also GCI Comments at 3.
715 See Verizon Reply Comments at 8.
716 See Consumer Cellular Comments at 12 (explaining that subscribers may not be aware of the social cost of
abandoning service).
717 See AT&T Reply Comments at 21-22; see also GCI Comments at 30-31; NASUCA Comments at 15.
718 See GCI Comments at 30 (noting that for free pre-paid Lifeline wireless services in which there is no activation
fee, no monthly fee, no surcharges or taxes, there is no objective means of ascertaining whether the subscriber
should still be viewed as active apart from their usage patterns).
719 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15626-27, para. 79.
720 See id.; see also Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2782, para. 27. See, e.g., Assurance Wireless
Lifeline Program, Program Description, http://www.assurancewireless.com/Public/MorePrograms.aspx (last visited
(continued….)
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The Joint Board recommended that the Commission consider whether all Lifeline subscribers should pay
a minimum monthly rate, including eligible subscribers on Tribal lands.721
265.
In the NPRM, the Commission sought comment on how best to prevent waste of
universal service funds without creating unnecessary obstacles for low-income households to obtaining
vital communications services.722 The Commission noted alternatives, including a rule requiring all ETCs
in all states to collect some minimum monthly amount from participating households, and sought
comment on the administrative burdens for ETCs of a requirement to collect a minimum amount, such as
$1 per month, from participating consumers,723 acknowledging that it may not be cost-effective to send a
bill to collect such a small amount.724
2.

Discussion

266.
At this time, we decline to adopt a rule requiring ETCs to impose a minimum consumer
charge on subscribers for Lifeline services. We are concerned that requiring a minimum consumer charge
could be burdensome for those low-income consumers who lack the ability to make such payments
electronically or in person,725 potentially undermining the program’s goal of serving low-income
consumers in need. We conclude that imposing a minimum charge could impose a significant burden on
some classes of Lifeline consumers.726 For example, making regular payments to an ETC, even when
those payments are minimal, may be difficult for low-income consumers who do not have bank accounts
and might fail credit checks.727 TracFone reports that 60 percent of its Lifeline subscribers do not have
checking accounts, credit cards, or debit cards, and would have no alternative other than to use money
transfer services or purchase money orders to make minimum payments.728 Further, the cost of a money
transfer is likely to exceed the nominal $1-$5 monthly fee that some parties advocate, significantly raising
the effective cost of Lifeline services for low-income consumers.729 For example, one commenter notes
that a Western Union money transfer for $1 would cost consumers $12.99 in fees.730 We have serious
concerns about the unintended costs of imposing a minimum charge.731
267.
We also find that a minimum charge could potentially discourage consumers from


(Continued from previous page)
Feb. 5, 2012); SafeLink Wireless, Lifeline/SafeLink Fact Sheet,
https://www.safelinkwireless.com/Safelink/program_info/benefits (last visited Feb. 5, 2012).
721 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15626-27, para. 79.
722 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2799, para. 86.
723 See id.
724 See id. at para. 89.
725 See Keep USF Fair Reply Comments 2 at 1; see also NAACP Reno Sparks Branch Comments at 1; TracFone
Reply Comments at 6.
726 See Amvensys Comments at 4; see also APRIL Comments at 1; Las Vegas Urban League Comments at 1.
727 See Letter from Cheryl Leanza, Policy Advisor, United Church of Christ, OC Inc., to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed May 18, 2011) (LCCHR May 18.
ex parte Letter).
728 See TracFone Comments at 23-24; see also TracFone Reply Comments at 7, n.7.
729 See Open Access Connections Comments at 5; see also TracFone Reply Comments at 7.
730 See Open Access Connections Comments at 5.
731 See USTelecom Comments at 18 (discussing the cost of billing a minimum consumer charge).
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enrolling in the program and could result in current Lifeline subscribers leaving the program.732
Commenters argue that a minimum charge will drive down participation, and cite to a TracFone survey in
which almost 65 percent of its responding consumers stated that they would de-enroll from the Lifeline
program instead of paying a mandatory charge.733
While we recognize that requiring low-income
consumers to pay some minimum monthly charge would help ensure that the subscriber places some
value on the service,734 the possibility that the subscriber will not or cannot pay that minimal charge does
not necessarily mean that the low-income consumer does not value Lifeline service.735 The Lifeline
program is serving the truly neediest of the population in the most dire economic circumstances and for
whom even a routine charge is an excessive financial burden.736
268.
While some state commissions and providers advocate for a minimum charge,737 and
argue that such a charge will protect against abuse because the nominal charge ensures that subscribers
place some value on the service, 738 there is insufficient data to establish that such a federal requirement
would effectively protect the program from waste, fraud, and abuse without thwarting our goal of making
vital communications services available to low-income consumers. It also is unnecessary to impose a
federal minimum charge requirement in light of the other significant steps we take here to reform the
Lifeline program. We therefore choose not to implement such a requirement at this time.739 A minimal
charge, such as $1 per month, might be insufficient to serve as a deterrent to those seeking to exploit the
program, while a greater amount, such as $5 per month, would potentially pose a significant barrier to
participation for those in severe economic need.740 While a minimum charge might reduce the number of
duplicate claims,741 duplicative claims can better be reduced by additional certification requirements,
improved consumer education about Lifeline program rules, and the implementation of a duplicates
database, in conjunction with the measures the Commission has already taken to reduce duplicative
claims.742 Finally, we are not persuaded at this time that charging low-income consumers a one-time fee
upon service activation, rather than a minimal monthly amount, would be an appropriate measure to


732 See Keep USF Fair Reply Comments 2 at 1; see also NAACP Reno Sparks Branch at 1; TracFone Reply
Comments at 6.
733 See AT&T Reply Comments at 24; see also TracFone Comments at 21.
734 See State of Alaska Reply Comments at 9.
735 See NASUCA Reply Comments at 9; see also NJ DRC Reply Comments at 17.
736 See AT&T Reply Comments at 24; see also TracFone Comments at 23; TracFone Aug. 10 ex parte Letter at
Attach. (“When you’re on a limited income you’ve gotta watch your money. . . . If I didn’t have [SafeLink] I would
be more of a recluse than anything else. I just thank God and SafeLink for the freedom I have”).
737 For instance, the California PUC requires a minimum monthly payment and believes it serves as a deterrent for
consumers to receive more than one Lifeline benefit. See CA PUC Reply Comments at 4; see also Cricket
Comments at 4-5; Cricket Reply Comments at 7; INURC Comments at 6; NE PSC at 8-9.
738 For instance, GCI argues that a minimum charge establishes a billing relationship between the ETC and the
subscriber and thus ensures that the ETC knows there is an actual bona fide customer behind an account. See GCI
Comments at 15.
739 Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in this Order precludes states from requiring state-designated ETCs to
assess and collect a minimum charge from Lifeline subscribers.
740 See, e.g., CA PUC Reply Comments at 4; GCI Comments at 15.
741 See Cincinnati Bell Comments at 5.
742 See supra section VII.A. (National Lifeline Accountability Database)
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address waste, fraud, and abuse.743 A number of commenters oppose a one-time fee as creating an
unreasonable hurdle for low-income consumers for the same reasons applicable to a monthly fee.744 Even
a minimal one-time fee could be a significant barrier for many of the intended recipients of the program.
As noted above, the concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse are sufficiently addressed by other rules
adopted in this Order.745 For example, identification verification and enrollment requirements, along with
the subscriber usage policy adopted in this Order will help ensure that there will be a valid and qualifying
subscriber behind each account and that the ETC is accountable for that subscriber’s continued use of the
supported service.746
269.
Application of Minimum Charge to Tribal Consumers. The Commission’s rules currently
require that the basic local residential rate for Tier 4 subscribers (i.e., eligible low-income households
residing on Tribal lands) may not fall below $1 per month.747 We understand, however, that some carriers
do not collect the $1 from their Tribal subscribers.748 While the Commission’s current rules specify the
minimum rate, they do not require the ETC to bill or collect such amounts.749 As a result, we sought
comment in the NPRM on whether to amend section 54.403(a)(4)(i) of the Commission’s rules to require
a $1 monthly payment from each participating subscriber on Tribal Lands to their ETC, and whether this
proposal would adequately balance our objective of ensuring affordable service for eligible Tribal
consumers while also guarding against waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program.750
270.
At this time, we decline to impose a payment requirement on Tribal Lifeline recipients,
but we will monitor Lifeline subscribership on Tribal lands and revisit this issue in the future if necessary.
In an effort to eliminate any confusion as to what our rules require ETCs to collect from Lifeline
subscribers on Tribal lands, we eliminate section 54.403(a)(4)(i) of the Commission’s rules. We note that
the additional federal Lifeline support of up to $25 per month Tribal support will be available to an ETC
providing service to an eligible resident of Tribal lands regardless of whether that amount brings the rate
for service below $1 per month per qualifying low-income subscriber. However, we maintain the current
requirements of section 54.403(a)(4)(ii) to require an ETC to certify to the Administrator that it will pass
through the full Tribal support amount to qualifying residents of Tribal lands.751 We also clarify that,
under no circumstances can an ETC collect from the Fund more than the rate charged to Tribal
subscribers, up to a maximum of $34.25 for monthly Lifeline support.

F.

Marketing & Outreach

1.

Background

271.
Section 214(e)(1)(B) of the Act requires ETCs to advertise the availability of services


743 For instance, the Michigan PSC suggests that a one-time $10 charge for Lifeline consumers who receive service
without a monthly fee would help deter situations in which a Lifeline-supported service has been activated on a
phone that is unused or improperly transferred to third parties. See MI PSC Comments at 5.
744 See Consumer Groups Comments at 12-13; see also TracFone Reply Comments at 6.
745 See supra section VII (Reforms to eliminate waste, fraud & abuse.)
746 See section VII.D (Subscriber Usage of Lifeline-Supported Service).
747 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(4)(i).
748 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2800, para. 990.
749 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(4).
750 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2799-80, paras. 90-92.
751 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(a)(4)(ii).
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supported by universal service funds “using media of general distribution.”752 Over the years, the
Commission has highlighted the importance of outreach to low-income consumers,753 and in 2004
adopted outreach guidelines for ETCs and states to ensure that those in need of Lifeline service would be
made aware of the program.754 While we continue to believe in the benefits of outreach, which entails
increasing public awareness of the program, we are also concerned about messages ETCs use when
marketing Lifeline supported services that may mislead consumers and increase waste, fraud, and abuse.
We therefore take significant steps to ensure that potential consumers receive accurate and quality
information from ETCs.
272.
In its 2010 Recommended Decision, the Joint Board looked at both outreach and
marketing and urged the Commission to adopt mandatory outreach requirements for all ETCs that receive
low-income support from the Universal Service Fund.755 In support, the Joint Board cited USAC data
showing that, in 2009, only 36 percent of eligible consumers participated in Lifeline.756 Based on this
statistic, the Joint Board expressed concern that current outreach is ineffective or that some ETCs are
neglecting low-income outreach altogether.757 The Joint Board also recommended that the Commission
review carrier best practices on community-based outreach;758 clarify the role of the states in performing
low-income outreach,759 including working with ETCs to formulate methods to reach households that do
not currently have telephone and/or broadband service;760 and monitor ETCs’ outreach efforts.761 With
respect to marketing, the Joint Board encouraged the Commission to provide ETCs with the flexibility to
market their service offerings to eligible consumers in accordance with their respective business models,
and recommended that the Commission seek comment on whether ETCs should be required to submit a
marketing plan to the state or Commission describing outreach efforts.762 In accordance with the Joint
Board’s recommendation, the Commission sought comment on effective outreach methods to low-income
subscribers and inquired whether additional outreach requirements were necessary.763 The Commission
also sought comment on whether to impose marketing guidelines on ETCs to ensure that consumers fully
understand the benefit being offered.764


752 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(B).
753 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12250, para 78.
754 These outreach guidelines are: (1) States and carriers should utilize outreach materials and methods designed to
reach households that do not currently have telephone service; (2) states and carriers should develop outreach
advertising that can be read or accessed by any sizable non-English speaking populations within a carrier’s service
area; and (3) states and carriers should coordinate their outreach efforts with governmental agencies/Tribal
governments that administer any of the relevant government assistance programs. 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order
and FNPRM,
19 FCC Rcd. at 8326-28, paras. 45-48.
755 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15619, para. 60.
756 See id. at 15618-19, para. 59 n.152.
757 See id. at 15618-19, paras. 59-60.
758 See id. at 15621, para. 64.
759 See id. at 15622, para. 67.
760 See id. at 15622, para. 68.
761 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd at 15623, para. 70.
762 See id. at 15620-21, paras. 62-63.
763 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2841, para. 230.
764 Id.
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273.
Some ETCs market their Lifeline-supported service offerings under trade names. For
example, TracFone offers Lifeline-supported service under the name SafeLink Wireless, while Virgin
Mobile’s competing offering is called Assurance Wireless. A number of ETCs also spend significant
amounts of money marketing their Lifeline-supported services to low-income consumers. For example,
TracFone states it spent $41 million in advertising during 2010 to promote SafeLink Wireless.765 Virgin
Mobile, now owned by Sprint, notes that it has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting its Assurance
Wireless prepaid Lifeline offering through television, radio, and newspaper advertising; direct mail
campaigns; and partnerships with organizations and agencies that serve Lifeline-eligible consumers.766
The Commission sought comment in the NPRM on whether to require all ETCs to include standard
language in their marketing materials.767
2.

Discussion

274.
While we continue to support increased public awareness of the program, we are
concerned about the messages ETCs use when marketing Lifeline-supported services to potential
subscribers. Consumers may not understand that these products are Lifeline-supported offerings entailing
a government benefit, that they must be eligible in order to receive the benefit, or that they may receive
no more than one benefit at a time from the program.768 We therefore take significant steps to increase
the quality of information ETCs must provide to potential consumers.
275.
Marketing and Uniform Language To Describe Lifeline. To increase accountability
within the program and to target support where it is needed most, we require that ETCs providing
Lifeline-supported services make specific disclosures in all marketing materials related to the supported
service. We adopt rules requiring ETCs to explain in clear, easily understood language in all such
marketing materials that the offering is a Lifeline-supported service; that only eligible consumers may
enroll in the program; that documentation is necessary for enrollment; and that the program is limited to
one benefit per household, consisting of either wireline or wireless service. We also require ETCs to
explain on certification forms that Lifeline is a government benefit program, and consumers who willfully
make false statements in order to obtain the benefit can be punished by fine or imprisonment or can be
barred from the program.769 For purposes of this rule, the term “marketing materials” includes materials in
all media, including but not limited to print, audio, video, Internet (including email, web, and social
networking media), and outdoor signage, that describe the Lifeline-supported service offering, including
application and certification forms. These disclosures will help ensure that only eligible consumers enroll
in the program and that those consumers are fully informed of the limitations of the program, so as to
prevent duplicative or otherwise ineligible service as well as other forms of waste, fraud, and abuse.770
Additionally, we require every ETC to disclose the company name under which it does business and the
details of its Lifeline service offerings in any Lifeline-related marketing and advertising.771


765 See TracFone Comments at 41.
766 See Sprint Comments at 16.
767 See NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2842-43, para. 237.
768 See 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order.
769 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.8, permitting the Commission to suspend and debar individuals from activities associated
with or related to the low-income program.
770 See, e.g., CenturyLink Comments at iv, 23; CinciBell Comments at 4; Consumer Group Comments at 41; MI
PSC Comments at 10; Missouri Commission Comments at 19; OH PUC Comments at 21; OR PUC Comments at 2;
Sprint Comments at 14-15; YourTel Reply Comments at 2.
771 Consumer Groups Reply Comments 2 at 9; MO PSC Comments at 19; YourTel Reply Comments at 2.
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276.
Some ETCs have already revised their marketing materials to make some of these
disclosures and others have committed to doing so.772
We require all ETCs to implement these
disclosures six months from the effective date of this Order. We direct USAC to undertake ongoing
reviews of ETCs’ marketing materials sufficient to ensure compliance with program rules. We leave the
scope and frequency of those reviews to USAC’s discretion, but direct the Wireline Competition Bureau
to oversee USAC’s efforts to review the ETCs’ materials.
277.
ETCs should have the flexibility to market their Lifeline-supported services in creative
and innovative ways. Therefore, we do not mandate a uniform Lifeline application or provide model
language for ETCs to include in marketing materials.773 The rules summarized above provide sufficient
information that ETCs must convey to potential subscribers about the Lifeline service. Additionally, we
do not believe it is necessary to adopt a rule, as some suggest, that prepaid wireless providers explain how
their Lifeline service differs from other forms of Lifeline service. There is no benefit to imposing this
burden on only one segment of the Lifeline service provider community particularly considering the
disclosures we require above. 774
278.
Outreach Guidelines. Since 2004, the Commission has urged states and carriers to
coordinate their outreach efforts with governmental agencies that administer the relevant government
assistance programs.775 The Commission’s 2004 outreach guidelines make clear that states play an
important role in working with ETCs to advertise the availability of Lifeline-supported services.776
Although the Joint Board recommended that the Commission adopt mandatory outreach requirements for
all ETCs that receive low-income support from the Fund,777 the current outreach guidelines, as established
in the 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order, provide a broadly applicable set of goals without prescribing any
specific outreach methods.778 Many states already perform a variety of outreach activities designed to
inform consumers about the Lifeline program, consistent with our broad guidelines. For example, the
Regulatory Commission of Alaska and the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable
provide information on Lifeline availability to other state agencies involved with assistance to low-
income consumers.779
279.
We encourage states to provide comparative information to low-income consumers
requiring Lifeline service plans available in their states, such as the rates charged, number of minutes
included in the Lifeline plan, and what additional charges, if any, are assessed for toll calls or additional
minutes of use.
280.
Given the wide variety of outreach engaged in by ETCs and states, we do not, at this
time, amend our outreach guidelines. However, the Commission received many insightful comments
regarding how to improve outreach.780 Two commenters suggested the development of best practices for


772 See, e.g., i-Wireless Forbearance Order, 26 FCC Rcd 14508 at 14510.
773 See CenturyLink Comments at 23.
774 See OH PUC Comments at 21.
775 See 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM, 19 FCC Rcd. at 8328, para 48.
776 See id. at 8326-8327, para. 45-46.
777 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision at 15619, para. 60.
778 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM, 19 FCC Rcd. at 8326-28, paras. 45-48.
779 See Alaska Commission Reply Comments at 15; MA DTC Comments at 10.
780 See, e.g., AARP Comments at 8-10; Consumer Groups Comments at 36, 39-41; DC PSC Comments at 7; FL
PSC Comments at 27-28; MA DTC Comments at 10.
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the purposes of outreach, including increased public-private partnerships.781
Another commenter
recommended methods for state public service commissions to work with other state agencies for
purposes of coordinated enrollment; this commenter also suggested a variety of possible outreach
requirements of state public service commissions and ETCs.782 Many of these recommendations dovetail
with outreach guidelines suggested in 2006 by the Lifeline Across America Working Group
(LAAWG).783 Given that the LAAWG has already provided a compendium of outreach guidelines that
remain as relevant today as when they were published five years ago, we do not find further Commission
action with regards to outreach to be necessary at this time, except as noted below with respect to
consumer education.
281.
Consumer Education. After the Commission adopted the 2011 Duplicative Program
Payments Order, the Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Consumer and Government
Affairs Bureau, in concert with USAC, ETCs, states, and consumer groups, engaged in an outreach
campaign designed to educate consumers about the changes to the Lifeline program rules. USAC sent a
letter to subscribers explaining that they are not permitted to receive more than one Lifeline subsidy and
had to select a single provider, which was followed by a postcard and telephone call to those subscribers


781 See Consumer Groups Comments at 35; FL PSC Comments at 26. Consumer Groups also provided a series of
specific outreach recommendations, including: include a reference about discounted telephone programs on the
home page of the website of each ETC (or state agency), with comprehensive information about the program only
one click away either on the carrier’s website or a third party website; provide state-specific and program-specific
material about Lifeline, translated into languages other than English and in formats accessible to those with
disabilities; inform new customers about the discounted telephone program either verbally or through a separate
mailing at the time they sign up for telephone service, or at the latest within 14 days from the customer’s service
initiation; provide additional annual notice to all subscribers of the availability of the program, its basic eligibility
requirements, and a reference to the website or to a phone number to call for more information; and provide
additional notice to customers who are at risk of service termination due to non-payment. See Consumer Groups
Comments at 36. FL PSC recommended the Commission expand its Lifeline Across America Working Group to
include wireline and wireless representatives to determine which methods of outreach work best with each of the
underserved populations making up the body of Lifeline subscribers. See FL PSC Comments at 26-28. FL PSC
also recommended public-private partnerships, one-on-one outreach, train-the-trainer programs, and interagency
cooperation at the state level as useful at expanding outreach. See id.
782 See AARP Comments 8-10. AARP recommended the Commission require state public service commissions to
conduct statewide outreach and education programs designed to raise awareness about the Lifeline and Link Up
program, with a goal of 100 percent enrollment of eligible subscribers. AARP further recommended that any
statewide education program should be developed and implemented with the advice and assistance of local
community-based organizations with firsthand experience with the means to effectively communicate with their
respective members and communities. Additionally, AARP recommended that:
Outreach efforts should be undertaken by or on behalf of an ETC or a consortium of ETCs.
Accordingly, any such ETC, or ETC-sponsored program, should be subject to the approval of the
state commission and should be coordinated with the statewide education and outreach program.
At a minimum as part of an ETC’s outreach efforts, the ETC should be required to solicit
eligibility for Lifeline and Link Up from each residential customer at the time that the customer
requests installation of service, at a contact with the customer prior to a pending termination of
service for nonpayment, and at a contact with a customer who seeks to negotiate a deferred
payment plan. In addition, the ETC should be required to notify all residential customers about
the Lifeline and Link Up program and how to participate in the program at least once per year.
The incremental costs of the statewide consumer education and outreach program should be
eligible for recovery in rates in the same manner as state-funded Lifeline and Link Up benefits.
AARP Comments at 10.
783 See WORKING GROUP REPORT; Consumer Groups Comments at 35; FL PSC Comments at 26-28.
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who did not respond. The Commission also coordinated with consumer groups and states to run Public
Service Announcements (PSAs) in states participating in the duplicate resolution process, to create
posters for distribution to social service offices in such states, and to create consumer tip sheets to be
circulated by the Commission, states, and consumer service groups. USAC received a high response rate
from low-income consumers who were contacted as part of this outreach process.
282.
In light of the success of these recent outreach efforts, we direct the Commission’s
Wireline Competition Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to conduct an outreach
campaign to educate low-income consumers about the Lifeline program rules adopted in this Order.784
The Bureaus shall coordinate, as appropriate, with USAC, consumer groups, and states to ensure that
consumers are sufficiently apprised of the new Lifeline program rules and any actions they may be
required to take in the future to obtain Lifeline service.

G.

Audits and Enforcement

1.

Background

283.
The Commission is committed to ensuring that there is a focused and effective system for
identifying and deterring program abuse. Our existing rules authorize USAC to conduct audits of Lifeline
recipients.785 As directed by the Commission’s Office of Managing Director,786 USAC currently has two
programs in place to safeguard the Universal Service Fund – the Beneficiary/Contributor Compliance
Audit Program (BCAP) 787 and the Payment Quality Assurance (PQA) program.788 USAC has completed


784 See NCLC Jan. 24 ex parte Letter, at Attach.
785 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.707. The 2008 FCC-USAC Memorandum of Understanding requires USAC to conduct
audits, including audits of Fund beneficiaries, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards
(GAGAS), as required by section 54.702(n) of our rules. See Memorandum of Understanding Between the Federal
Communications Commission and the Universal Service Administrative Company at 7 (Sept. 9, 2008) (2008 FCC-
USAC MOU), available at http://www.fcc.gov/omd/usac-mou.pdf; see also Letter from Dana R. Shaffer, Deputy
Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission to Scott Barash, Acting CEO, Universal Service
Administrative Company, October 13, 2010, available at http://www.fcc.gov/omd/usac-letters/2010/101310CPA-
USAC.pdf; 47 C.F.R. § 54.702(n).
786 See Letter from Steven Van Roekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission to Scott Barash,
Acting CEO, Universal Service Administrative Company, February 12, 2010, available at
http://www.fcc.gov/omd/usac-letters/2010/021210-ipia.pdf. (FCC IPIA Letter); see also OMB Circular A-123,
available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/omb/circulars/a123/a123_rev.pdf. In 2010,
the Commission provided additional direction to USAC regarding independent CPA firms and follow-up on audit
findings. See Letter from Steven Van Roekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission to Scott
Barash, Acting CEO, Universal Service Administrative Company, January 25, 2011, available at
http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db0210/DA-11-128A1.pdf; see also Letter from Steven
Van Roekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission to Scott Barash, Acting CEO, Universal
Service Administrative Company (filed Oct. 13, 2010), available at http://www.fcc.gov/omd/usac-
letters/2010/101310CPA-USAC.pdf.
787 The Compliance Audit program, BCAP, was developed with the following objectives: (1) cover all four
programs and contributors; (2) tailor audit type and scope to program risk elements, size of disbursement, audit
timing and other specific factors; (3) keep costs reasonable in relation to overall program disbursements, amount
disbursed to beneficiary being audited, and USF administrative costs; (4) spread audits throughout the year; and (5)
retain capacity and capability for targeted and risk-based audits. See FCC IPIA Letter at 2, 4. To assist program
participants, USAC has information about BCAP available on its website. See USAC, Understanding Audits,
http://www.usac.org/li/about/understanding-audits.aspx (last visited Feb. 5, 2012).
788 The Improper Payments Information Act (IPIA) assessment program (PQA) was developed with the following
objectives: (1) separately cover all four USF programs; (2) measure the accuracy of the Administrator’s payments
to program applicants; (3) evaluate the eligibility of program applicants who have received payments; (4) include
(continued….)
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its first round of PQA assessments and initiated a number of Lifeline and Link Up BCAP compliance
audits in 2011.
284.
In the NPRM, the Commission sought comment on ways to improve the current low-
income audit program in light of growing concerns with waste, fraud, and abuse in the program, including
duplicative claims and ineligible consumers.789 The Commission proposed that all new ETCs be audited
after the first year of providing Lifeline-supported service.790 The Commission also proposed that
negative audit findings above a specified dollar threshold, or affecting at least a specific percentage of an
ETC’s Lifeline consumers, trigger shorter intervals between audits, an expanded audit for the company at
issue, and/or an additional audit the following year in the relevant study area.791 The NPRM also sought
comment on appropriate Commission responses to multiple audit findings of non-compliance, such as
precluding an ETC with significant non-compliance from receiving some or all Lifeline support.792
Lastly, the Commission sought comment on whether to require some or all ETCs in the program to
engage an independent third-party firm to assess the ETCs’ compliance with some or all Commission
low-income requirements.793
2.

Discussion

285.
The Commission will continue to use the audit process to ensure there is a focused and
effective system for identifying and deterring program abuse.794 The development of a uniform audit


(Continued from previous page)
high-level testing of information obtained from program participants; and (5) tailor scope of procedures to ensure
reasonable cost while meeting IPIA requirements for sample size and precision. Unlike BCAP, the PQA program
does not involve audits. See USAC, Payment Quality Assurance (PQA) Program FAQs, available at
http://www.usac.org/fund-administration/about/program-integrity/pqa-faqs.aspx. Rather, it provides for reviews
specifically designed to assess estimated rates of improper payments, thereby supporting IPIA requirements. The
PQA reviews measure the accuracy of USAC payments to applicants, evaluate the eligibility of program applicants,
and involve high level testing of information obtained from program participants. USAC tailors the scope of
procedures to ensure reasonable costs while still meeting IPIA requirements. To assist program participants, USAC
has information about the PQA program available on its website. See USAC, Payment Quality Assurance (PQA)
Program, http://www.usac.org/fund-administration/about/program-integrity/pqa-program.aspx (last visited Feb. 5,
2012).
789 The 2010 GAO REPORT also expressed concern about the increased risk of waste, fraud, and abuse due to
consumers simultaneously receiving Lifeline discounts for both a wireline and wireless phone. See 2010 GAO
REPORT at 35.
790 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2802, para. 98.
791 See id. at 2802, para. 99.
792 See id. at 2082, paras. 100-01.
793 See id. at 2803, para. 102.
794 USAC’s audit program historically has consisted of audits by USAC’s internal audit division staff as well as
audits by independent auditors under contract with USAC. In addition, in the past, the Commission’s OIG has
conducted audits of USF program beneficiaries. See FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION OFFICE OF
INSPECTOR GENERAL, SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS, OCTOBER 1, 2009 THROUGH MARCH 31, 2010 AT 17-20,
available at http://transition.fcc.gov/oig/SAR_March_2010_050710.pdf. In a February 12, 2010, letter to USAC,
OMD directed USAC to separate its two audit objectives into distinct programs – one focused on Improper
Payments Information Act (“IPIA”) assessment and the second on auditing compliance with all four USF programs.
See Improper Payments Information Act of 2002, Pub.L.No. 107-300, 116 Stat. 2350 (2002). In addition to
providing guidance on the implementation of the IPIA assessment program and compliance audit program, the letter
informed USAC that OMD would assume responsibility for oversight of USAC’s implementation of both programs.
See Letter from Steven Van Roekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission to Scott Barash,
(continued….)
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program, USAC audits of ETCs in their first year of providing Lifeline service, the requirement for
biennial independent audits for larger ETCs, and stepped-up enforcement will strengthen our existing
low-income oversight process to reduce improper payments and mitigate the potential for program
violations.
286.
Uniform Audit Program. USAC must assess compliance with the program’s
requirements, including the new requirements established in this Order for recipients of low-income
support. We therefore direct USAC to review and revise the BCAP and PQA programs to take into
account the changes adopted in this Order. We further direct USAC to submit a report to the Wireline
Competition Bureau (Bureau) and Office of Managing Director (OMD) within 60 days of the effective
date of this Order proposing changes to the BCAP and PQA programs consistent with this Order.
Program audits should be conducted against a uniform set of auditing guidelines. The Bureau and OMD
will work with USAC as necessary to ensure that there is consistency in these compliance standards.795
287.
USAC’s oversight program to assess compliance should be designed to test the
effectiveness of Lifeline ETCs’ internal controls and ensure that management is reporting accurately to
USAC, the Commission, and state regulators, as appropriate. The oversight program should also be
designed to test some of the underlying data that forms the basis for management’s certification of
compliance with various requirements including, but not limited to, verifying eligibility at enrollment and
thereafter, verifying that only one discount per household is provided, verifying that subscribers are not
receiving duplicate discounts, and verifying that subscribers are de-enrolled for non-use of the service.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather illustrative of the requirements that USAC must take
into account in determining what modifications to make to its existing oversight activities. We also direct
USAC to test the accuracy of carrier certifications made pursuant to our new reporting requirements, the
accuracy of the data included in the carriers’ Form 497, and the data input into the database by carriers.
288.
First Year Audit Requirement. We conclude there is a need for heightened oversight of
newly designated ETCs that have not previously provided Lifeline services anywhere in the country to
ensure they establish effective internal controls regarding compliance with Commission requirements.796
DC PSC notes that this is especially important in situations where the state commission may not have
oversight authority over the ETC.797 An initial audit will aid efficient administration of the program by
confirming early on that new ETCs are providing Lifeline service in accord with program requirements.798
ETCs will be made aware of any violations of the low-income requirements and prevent them from
occurring on an ongoing basis.799
289.
We direct USAC to audit new carriers (those carriers activating a new Study Area Code


(Continued from previous page)
Acting CEO, Universal Service Administrative Company (filed Feb. 12, 2010), available at
http://www.fcc.gov/omd/usac-letters/2010/021210-ipia.pdf.
795 Several commenters noted that the current audit process could be improved by increased clarity of the standards
against which the auditors are auditing carrier behavior and increased consistency of these compliance standards.
See Conexions Comments at 7-8; see also YourTel Comments at 8.
796 A number of commenters support such a requirement. See CenturyLink Comments at 12; see also DC PSC
Comments at 3-4; FL PSC Comments at 14-15; MI PSC Comments at 5; MO PSC Comments at 9-10; YourTel
Comments at 8. We note that USAC retains the right to conduct targeted audits of any ETC in response to
suspicious data, whistleblower activity, inquiries from state commissions, and for other reasons as permitted by law.
797 See DC PSC Comments at 3-4.
798 See CenturyLink Comments at 12; see also NASUCA Reply Comments at 11.
799 See FL PSC Comments at 14.
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to provide Lifeline service for the first time) within the first year they begin receiving federal low-income
USF support. This audit requirement shall include ETCs that received their first Study Area Code for the
designated service from USAC in 2011.800 The audit should occur in the first study area in which the
ETC is designated, after it completes its first annual re-certification of its subscriber base. In instances
where an ETC is designated in multiple study areas, USAC may, at its discretion, choose which study
area in which to perform the audit. This audit will be conducted on an ETC within its first year of seeking
Lifeline support within any single state.801
290.
We are not persuaded by the argument that a first-year audit requirement will
unreasonably divert resources at companies that have demonstrated a good compliance pattern in their
first year.802 One commenter proposed that a threshold dollar amount of annual benefits in any state
trigger audits rather than an audit subsequent to a carrier’s first year of receiving benefits.803 USAC has
the discretion, however, to conduct a desk audit, rather than a full-blown audit, of newly established
ETCs, including those whose revenues are minimal. Exercising this discretion will minimize potential
disruption for smaller ETCs.
291.
Independent Audit Requirements. We also adopt a requirement that every ETC providing
Lifeline services and drawing $5 million or more in the aggregate on an annual basis, as determined on a
holding company basis taking into account all operating companies and affiliates, from the low-income
program hire an independent audit firm to assess the ETC’s overall compliance with the program’s
requirements.804 Such audits will be performed once every two years unless otherwise directed by the
Commission, as discussed below.805 The independent audit firms conducting the audits must be licensed
certified public accounting firms. These audits shall be conducted consistent with the GAGAS standards
and follow the audit guidelines described below.806
292.
The Commission directs USAC to prepare proposed audit guidelines outlining the scope
of the engagement and the extent of compliance testing to be performed in the independent audits and
submit them to the Bureau and OMD within 60 days of the release of this Order. The Bureau, in
conjunction with OMD, will review the proposal and finalize a uniform and standard audit plan and
publish it in a Public Notice, which also will establish a deadline for completing the first biennial audit.


800 If an ETC was providing wireline Lifeline service prior to 2011 but received its first study area code for wireless
service in 2011, it is subject to this requirement.
801 Annually, ETCs providing low-income service must submit the FCC Form 497 and Eligibility Verification
Survey. See USAC, Step 6: Submit Lifeline and Link Up Worksheet (Form 497),
http://www.usac.org/li/telecom/step06/form497.aspx (last visited Feb. 2, 2012); USAC, Step 8: Annual Verification
of Consumer Eligibility, http://www.usac.org/li/telecom/step08/verification-of-eligibility.aspx (last visited Feb. 2,
2012).
802 See Consumer Cellular Comments at 16; see also NALA/PCA Comments at 5.
803 See Consumer Cellular Comments at 16.
804 Under our risk-based approach, we selected $5 million as our threshold so as to subject those carriers that
collectively draw the vast majority (over 90 percent) of Lifeline funding to the new requirement, while not imposing
additional compliance costs on carriers who collectively draw less than 10 percent of annual funding, many of
whom are smaller providers.
805 An affiliate shall be determined in accordance with section 3(2) of the Communications Act, as amended.
806 See U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, GOVERNMENT AUDITING STANDARDS (Aug. 2011), available
at
http://www.gao.gov/govaud/iv2011gagas.pdf. In particular, these audit program standards shall reflect the
GAGAS standards for auditor independence, auditor professional judgment, auditor competence, auditor quality
control and assurance, standards for attestation engagements, reporting audit field work standards, and reporting
standards.
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Rather than performing an audit at the individual study area level, we expect these audits to focus on the
company’s overall compliance program and internal controls regarding Commission requirements as
implemented on a nationwide basis. For instance, when an ETC has an automated system to verify initial
and ongoing eligibility, the biennial independent audit should focus on whether the methods and
procedures of such automated systems are appropriately structured to ensure compliance with program
rules. Independent audits shall be an agreed upon procedures attestation.
293.
We expect that the uniform audit plan established by the Bureau and OMD, working in
conjunction with USAC, will provide clarity for both auditors and the companies subject to this
requirement. As discussed above, the Bureau and OMD will work with USAC to identify the key risk
areas and specific audit program requirements that independent auditors must audit for compliance. In
other words, independent audit firms will not need to guess at the areas of greatest concern to the
Commission, but rather will be given structured aspects of ETC program compliance to verify. The
Bureau and OMD will set out standards for ETCs that are engaging auditors to perform an agreed upon
procedures attestations. If an auditor subsequently identifies an area of ambiguity regarding Commission
requirements, one that will likely affect multiple ETCs, the issue should be reported to USAC, and the
audit firm shall submit to the Commission any requests for rule interpretations necessary to complete the
audit. For areas where it appears Commission requirements may be unclear, USAC will notify all outside
auditors so that it will not be held as a negative finding until guidance has been provided by the OMD or
the Bureau.
294.
Within 60 days after completion of the audit work, but prior to finalization of the report,
the third party auditor shall submit a draft of the audit report to the Commission and USAC. In order to
maximize the administrative efficiency and benefit of these audits, we mandate that covered ETCs
provide audit reports to the Commission, USAC, and relevant state and Tribal governments within 30
days of issuance of the final report, and that the Commission and USAC be deemed authorized users of
such reports, as proposed in the NPRM.807 These audit reports will not be considered confidential and
requests to render them so will be denied.
295.
We determine that due to the significant growth of the program; the known instances of
waste, fraud, and abuse; and the critical importance of ensuring this program effectively serves those most
in need, these remedial steps are warranted and necessary at this time.808 We do not agree with
commenters that contend an annual audit requirement is unnecessary absent evidence of abuse.809 The
Commission has long recognized that regular audits of a company’s compliance when the company
receives federal funds or is a federally regulated entity are part of the cost of doing business.810 We
conclude it is appropriate to focus the mandatory audit requirement on the largest recipients, who pose the
biggest risk to the program if they lack effective internal controls to ensure compliance with Commission


807 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2803, para. 102.
808 Id. at 2900, Separate Statement of Chairman Genachowski.
809 See NTCA Comments at 5; see also TSTCI Reply Comments at 4.
810 See, e.g., Separation of Costs of Regulated Telephone Service from Costs of Nonregulated Activities; Amendment
of Part 31, the Uniform System of Accounts for Class A and Class B Telephone Companies to Provide for
Nonregulated Activities and to Provide for Transactions Between Telephone Companies and their Affiliates
, CC
Dkt. No. 86-111, Report and Order, 2 FCC Rcd 1298, 1329-31, paras. 243-59 (1987) (Joint Cost Order), petition for
review denied
, Southwestern Bell Corp. v. FCC, 896 F.2d 1378 (D.C. Cir. 1990); Application of GTE Corporation,
Transferor, and Bell Atlantic Corporation, Transferee, For Consent to Transfer Control of Domestic and
International Sections 214 and 310 Authorizations and Application to Transfer Control of a Submarine Cable
Landing License
, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 14032, 14190-92, paras. 336-38, 341 (2000) (Bell
Atlantic/GTE Merger Order
), vacated in part sub nom., Ass'n of Communications Entrs. v. FCC, 235 F.3d 662 (D.C.
Cir. 2001); Bell Atlantic/GTE Merger Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 14190, para. 336.
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requirements.811 These larger ETCs have greater resources to devote to compliance-related activities and
should be prepared to devote such resources as part of the necessary cost of obtaining significant federal
benefits. Performing a baseline audit of the carriers drawing $5 million from the fund annually, which
collectively draw more than 90 percent of Lifeline support, is warranted to develop an understanding of
the areas of biggest risk once the new rules have been implemented. If there are no material findings in a
carrier’s first independent audit report, the Wireline Competition Bureau may, in its discretion, relieve the
carrier of its obligation to perform an independent audit in the next biennial audit cycle. Nor do we agree
with commenters who contend that any new audit requirement should replace existing USAC oversight
activities.812 The new biennial audit requirement that we adopt today is focused on the corporate-wide
compliance program, rather than carrier activity in a particular study area.
296.
In order to implement this new biennial audit rule, we will need to determine at the
holding company level which carriers meet the $5 million threshold. We therefore adopt a rule requiring
all Lifeline ETCs to report annually the names of the company’s holding company, operating companies
and affiliates, and any branding (a “dba,” or “doing-business-as company” or brand designation).813
Additionally, filers will be required to report relevant universal service identifiers for each such entity by
Study Area Code. This reporting will help the Commission increase accountability in our universal
service programs by simplifying the process of determining the total amount of public support received
by each recipient, regardless of corporate structure. Overall, we conclude that this annual reporting
requirement should not impose an undue burden on ETCs, and the benefits of USAC and the Commission
being able to determine who is subject to this new audit requirement outweigh any burdens. Such
information is necessary in order for the Commission to ensure compliance with the requirements adopted
today that take into account holding company structure. We delegate authority to the Wireline
Competition Bureau to announce the initial deadline for this annual reporting requirement after Federal
Register publication of OMB approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The Bureau also will issue a
Public Notice identifying the carriers that meet the $5 million threshold.
297.
We acknowledge that compliance with the rules we adopt here will involve some
administrative costs for ETCs; however, we conclude that those costs are outweighed by the significant
benefits gained by protecting the Fund from waste, fraud, and abuse.814 We estimate that up to 15 percent
of current Lifeline subscribers may be ineligible for the program, potentially representing hundreds of
millions of dollars in wasted support per year. We expect that a rule requiring regular and mandatory
audits of ETCs will ensure that the companies have put in place adequate procedures to prevent such
waste and prevent unbridled future growth in the Fund.815 The resulting cost savings will in turn benefit


811 Commenters raised various concerns about a mandatory audit requirement, such as the potential cost to
companies, and the potential for burden on small businesses. See, e.g., CenturyLink Comments at 12; Consumer
Cellular Comments at 16; MITS Reply Comments at 5; MI PSC Comments at 5; NTCA Comments at 5; TSTCI
Reply Comments at 4. MITS and NTCA note, for instance, that requiring ETCs to engage independent firms for
routine compliance audits would have the effect of imposing greater economic and fiscal impacts on small
companies than on larger providers with increased numbers of staff and greater resources.
812 See AT&T Jan. 24 ex parte Letter Attach., at 4.
813 Section 153 of the Act defines “affiliate” as “a person that (directly or indirectly) owns or controls, is owned or
controlled by, or is under common ownership or control with, another person.” 47 U.S.C. § 153(2); see also 47
C.F.R. § 76.1200.
814 Immediate adoption of a rule requiring documentation of program-based eligibility will enable the Commission
to realize cost savings in the near term, which can in turn be used to, among other things, fund efforts to modernize
the Lifeline program.
815 See supra para. 102 (noting that up to an estimated 15 percent of Lifeline subscribers could be ineligible).
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through cost savings those consumers and companies who contribute to the Universal Service Fund.
298.
Consequences of Non-Compliance. The Commission’s rules already direct USAC to
“suspend or delay discounts, offsets, and support amounts provided to a carrier if the carrier fails to
provide adequate verification of discounts, offsets, or support amounts… upon reasonable request, or if
directed by the Commission to do so.”816 We now address the specific procedural steps that will be taken
when USAC determines an ETC has failed to comply with our low income rules. Going forward, when
USAC finds that an ETC has failed to provide adequate documentation or has otherwise been operating in
violation of the Commission’s low income rules and requirements, it shall notify the ETC of that failure
and give the ETC 30 days to provide the necessary documentation and come into compliance. The ETC
must provide USAC with proof of that compliance as well as a description of the specific measures the
ETC will take to avoid repetition of the violation. USAC has the discretion to suspend further payments
to the carrier pending USAC’s receipt and evaluation of the carrier’s response to this notification. USAC,
however, shall suspend only payments related to the Study Area Codes where the ETC is operating in
violation of the Commission’s low income rules and requirements.
299.
Carrier compliance with the Commission’s low-income USF rules and requirements is
critical to maintaining the integrity of the fund. Protecting the fund against waste, fraud and abuse helps
further Congress’s objectives in section 254(b) of the Act, including providing low income consumers
with access to affordable telecommunications and information services.817 We intend to pursue recapture
of any funds that ETCs obtain in violation of our rules pursuant to applicable statutes and regulations
including, but not limited to, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) and related
Office of Management and Budget implementation guidelines.818
A carrier that violates the
Commission’s low-income rules also faces stiff penalties, including monetary forfeitures of up to
$150,000 for each violation or each day of a continuing violation, up to a maximum of $1,500,000 per
continuing violation.819 In particularly egregious cases, a carrier also could face revocation of its section
214 authorization to operate as a carrier.820 Finally, ETCs are subject to revocation of their ETC
designation, by either the relevant state commission or this Commission, for failure to comply with
program requirements.

VIII.

PAYMENT OF LOW-INCOME SUPPORT

300.
The Commission’s Office of the Managing Director directed USAC on May 13, 2011 to
propose an administrative process for disbursing low-income support to eligible telecommunications


816 47 C.F.R. § 54.707.
817 See 47 U.S.C. § 254(b); see also FCC Enforcement Advisory: Eligible Telecommunications Carriers Offering
Lifeline Service Are Reminded of Their Obligation to Confirm Consumers' Eligibility and to Avoid Providing
Duplicative Service
, Enforcement Advisory, DA 11-1971 (Enforc. Bur. Dec. 5, 2011) (Lifeline Enforcement
Advisory
).
818 See Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-204, 124 Stat. 2224; see also
Memorandum For the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (March 22, 2010), available at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/a123/a123_appx-c.pdf; Memorandum For the Heads of
Executive Departments and Agencies (April 14, 2011), available at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/memoranda/2011/m11-16.pdf.
819 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(2)(B); 47 C.F.R. § 1.80(b)(2). We note that these penalties are periodically adjusted for
inflation.
820 See 47 U.S.C. § 214; 47 C.F.R. § 63.01(a) (granting domestic section 214 authority generally); Implementation of
Section 402(b)(2)(A) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996
, Report and Order, 14 FCC Rcd 11364, 11373-74,
paras. 15-16 (1999) (stating that a carrier’s blanket section 214 authority can be revoked “when warranted in the
relatively rare instances in which carriers may abuse their market power or their common carrier obligations”).
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carriers based on actual claims, as opposed to projected claims.821 On August 9, 2011, USAC submitted
its plan to transition universal service low-income support from payments based on projections of
subscriber counts to payments based on actual subscriber counts.822 The Bureau sought comment on
USAC’s plan, including the filing deadline for carriers to submit their FCC Form 497, whether carriers
should be allowed to continue to file the FCC Form 497 on a quarterly basis, the deadline for revisions on
the FCC Form 497, and on various questions related to the transition to the new disbursement process. 823
301.
USAC’s plan proposes to establish a monthly due date by which an ETC must submit its
FCC Form 497 in order to receive a payment at the end of the following month.824 In order to transition
to paying on actual support claims, USAC proposes to true-up the amount of support already paid to each
ETC based on projected support against the ETC’s support claim for a specific month when the transition
takes place.825 In the case of a carrier that would owe money back to the Fund as a result of the true-up
process that takes place during the transition month, USAC suggests subtracting the overpayment from
the carrier’s next low-income disbursement, and in the event the negative amount exceeds the carrier’s
next monthly payment, USAC plans to invoice the carrier for the full amount of the negative balance
beginning the second month after the transition month.826 USAC further proposes to adopt a rolling six-
month window, calculated from the current disbursement month, during which ETCs can file an original
or a revised FCC Form 497.827 Carriers would have until the yearly December filing deadline to file
original or upward revisions for the preceding June, but downward revisions would be accepted at any
time.828 USAC’s plan for transition to payment on actual support claimed would still allow carriers to file
on a monthly or quarterly basis, but carriers filing quarterly would receive a three-month lump payment,
not a monthly payment. The majority of commenters support USAC’s plan to transition payment to
actual support, noting the plan would curb waste, fraud and abuse in the low-income program.829
302.
Discussion. With a few modifications noted below, we adopt USAC’s plan to shift the


821 See Letter to Scott Barash, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Universal Service Administrative Company, from
Dana Shaffer, Deputy Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission (dated May 13, 2011), 26 FCC
Rcd 6810 (FCC May 2011 Letter).
822 The Bureau sought comment in a Public Notice on USAC’s plan to replace the current process of USAC
projecting low-income support with a process whereby ETCs are reimbursed based on actual claims. See Lifeline
Disbursement Public Notice
.
823 See id. at 13132–33.
824 See id. at 13132. USAC’s plan proposes that carriers that do not file an FCC Form 497 by the monthly deadline
would not receive a payment in the following month, but would receive a disbursement based on that support claim
in the subsequent month. See id. at 13132.
825 See id. at 13139, Appendix A. The effect of this process would be that carriers currently paid based on
projections would likely receive little or no support for one month as a result of the true-up. USAC’s plan allows an
alternative for carriers to begin the transition to payment on actual claims earlier than the transition month by
notifying USAC to begin transitioning specific study area codes sooner so that the carrier mitigates the risk of
experiencing a month with little or no payment. See id. at 13141, Appendix A
826 See Lifeline Disbursement Public Notice 26 FCC Rcd at 13140, Appendix A.
827 See id. at 13141, Appendix A.
828 See id.
829 CenturyLink Disbursement Comments at 1; COMPTEL Disbursement Comments at 1-2; MI PSC Disbursement
Comments at 3; PR Wireless Disbursement Comments at 2; Smith Bagley Disbursement Comments at 2; South
Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff Disbursement Comments at 3; USTelecom Disbursement Comments at 2;
Verizon and Verizon Wireless Disbursement Reply Comments at 2; MA DTC Disbursement Reply Comments.
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low-income disbursement process from payments based on projected subscriber counts to payments based
on actual subscriber counts. We direct USAC to implement the transition beginning on July 1, 2012 with
completion by October 2012. We also implement administrative measures to accelerate the reporting and
disbursement process and establish a new disbursement system to promote efficiency in the methods and
timeliness of low-income support payments and decrease the burden on carriers who are transitioning
from projected payments to actual payments.830
303.
We first adopt USAC’s proposal to establish a monthly deadline for carriers to file the
FCC Form 497.831 Beginning October 1, 2012, ETCs seeking support for low-income service provided in
the preceding month shall submit to USAC no later than the eighth day of each month an electronic FCC
Form 497 reporting their support claims, as well as certifications of accurate reporting, in order to receive
a low-income disbursement at the end of that same month.832 ETCs that do not file their FCC Form 497
electronically by the eighth day of the month may still file the FCC Form 497, electronically or manually,
within the time period we establish below, however those carriers may not receive their low-income
support disbursement at the end of the same month.833 ETCs are currently required to file an FCC Form
497 by the fifteenth day of each month reporting low-income service provided in the preceding month.
We find that requiring ETCs to electronically file an FCC Form 497 within eight days of the end of the
preceding month, rather than fifteen days, is a necessary modification to the current administration of this
program given one of our goals to expedite support payments to ETCs.834
304.
Beginning October 2012, we direct USAC to complete the transition to payment on
actual support and process each electronically filed FCC Form 497 and disburse support to ETCs that file
electronically by the last business day of the same month in which the FCC Form 497 is due, provided it
is timely filed. As we require ETCs to submit FCC Forms 497 earlier in the month, we also decrease
substantially the amount of time between the filing of an FCC Form 497 and USAC’s disbursement so
that carriers will receive actual support within one month of providing service to eligible low-income


830 See, e.g., COMPTEL Disbursement Comments at 2; MI PSC Disbursement Comments at 3; South Carolina
Office of Regulatory Staff Disbursement Comments at 2; USTelecom Disbursement Comments at 1; MA DTC
Disbursement Reply Comments at 3.
831 Most commenters support USAC’s proposal to establish a filing deadline for the FCC Form 497, and state that a
filing deadline should enable USAC to make disbursements in a timely and predictable manner. See, e.g.,
CenturyLink Disbursement Comments at 1; Verizon and Verizon Wireless Disbursement Comments at 2; Smith
Bagley Disbursement Comments at 6; PR Wireless Disbursement Comments at 6; COMPTEL Disbursement
Comments at 3-4; USTelecom Disbursement Comments at 3; NTTA Disbursement Comments at 2.
832 In months on which the 8th falls on a weekend or holiday, carriers must submit the FCC Form 497 by the next
business day after the 8th day.
833 For example, an ETC that files its September support claims in an FCC Form 497 manually on October 8th may
not receive its low-income support disbursement until November 30th, whereas an ETC that files its September
support claims in an electronically filed FCC Form 497 on October 8th would receive its low-income support
disbursement on October 31st. An ETC that files an electronic FCC Form 497 for September support claims on
October 10th may not receive its low-income support disbursement until November 30th, whereas an ETC that
electronically files its September support claims in an FCC Form 497 on October 8th would receive its low-income
support disbursement on October 31st.
834 Commenters expressed concern at the amount of time it takes for USAC to disburse low-income funds. See. e.g.,
COMPTEL Disbursement Comments at 2-7; Smith Bagley Disbursement Comments at 5-6; PR Wireless
Disbursement Comments at 5-6; Nexus Disbursement Reply Comments at 2. This modification will substantially
reduce the time it takes for USAC to disburse low-income funds to the ETCs that file electronically.
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consumers so long as they timely file an electronic FCC Form 497.835 This new timetable will provide
USAC sufficient time to process the claims. Finally, some ETCs submit claims for reimbursement on a
quarterly, rather than a monthly basis. We find no reason to disallow carriers from filing their FCC Form
497 on a quarterly basis; however carriers choosing to file quarterly will no longer receive monthly
support payments, but rather will receive one quarterly payment for all three months.836
305.
We next modify the amount of time ETCs have to file FCC Forms 497 and any revisions
thereto. Currently, USAC maintains an administrative window of fifteen months for filing original or
revised support claims.837 After the end of each calendar year, carriers have fifteen months to file original
claims or to revise support claims for any request due during the closed calendar year.838 After the fifteen
month window, ETCs may not file revised or original support claims for any portion of the closed
calendar year.839 USAC proposes that new support claims and upward revisions would only be permitted
to be filed within six months of the current disbursement month, while downward revisions may be filed
at any time.840 We adopt USAC’s proposal of a rolling window, but decline to adopt the six-month
window proposed by USAC because it does not allow sufficient time for carriers to process revisions and
may promote inaccuracies in payments. We find instead that a rolling one-year deadline is sufficient time
for ETCs to reconcile their records and submit original or revised FCC Form 497s to USAC.841 ETCs
therefore must file within one year from the due date of the relevant FCC Form 497 an original FCC
Form 497 or any revisions to the FCC Form 497 due on that date. ETCs that file an FCC Form 497 after
the relevant due date, but within the one-year rolling deadline, shall receive reimbursement in the
following month. USAC, however, shall not accept any requests for reimbursement submitted more than
one year from the due date of the relevant FCC Form 497. This twelve-month period to file an original
FCC Form 497 or any revision should be sufficient time for carriers to ensure their request for support
contains accurate and complete subscriber data and all other information supporting their claim.842
306.
Finally, USAC’s plan for the transition to actual claims would reduce an ETC’s actual
support claim during the transition month by the already paid projected amount from prior months.
USAC also proposes not to pay a new projected amount during this transition month.843 In many cases,
this method would provide ETCs with little or no support for the transition month. We acknowledge that


835 Carriers that do not file their FCC Form 497 electronically may experience a delay in payment and receive their
disbursement by the end of the following month.
836 See Lifeline Disbursement Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 13132-33.
837 See id. at 13133.
838 See id.
839 See id.
840 See id.
841 Many commenters oppose USAC’s proposal to have an asymmetrical revision window, and suggest that a six
month window for upward revisions is too short a period for carriers to reconcile their records and submit revisions.
See, e.g., Alexicon Disbursement Comments at 5; CenturyLink Disbursement Comments at 1-2; COMPTEL
Disbursement Comments at 8; PR Wireless Disbursement Comments at 6-8; Smith Bagley Disbursement Comments
at 6-8; USTelecom Disbursement Comments at 2-3; NTTA Disbursement Comments at 3-4; Nexus Disbursement
Reply Comments at 4.
842 We decline to establish a different limitation period for downward adjustments, but note that the Commission or
USAC may conduct an audit of a carriers’ subscriber data and recoup any excess funds disbursed to the carrier at
any time.
843 See Lifeline Disbursement Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 13139, Appendix A.
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this transition could inflict a financial hardship on many carriers for the transition month.844 USAC’s plan
for the transition allows carriers to notify USAC to begin transitioning specific study area codes before
the transition month so that the carriers may reduce the potential financial hardship of having all study
area codes transition in one month.845 We therefore adopt a modified version of USAC’s alternative
approach whereby the transition to payments based on actual claims for ETCs receiving support based on
projections as of the date of this Order will take place over a three-month period.846 During this transition
period, carriers may notify USAC which study area codes to transition from projected to actual claims
during each month. This method allows carriers to offset the financial impact of the transition by
permitting the carrier to designate the study area codes USAC will transition in a given month. For
example, a carrier with twenty study area codes may chose to transition five study area codes in the first
month, while receiving support consistent with the current system based on projections for the remaining
fifteen study area codes in that same month. In subsequent months, the carrier could choose to transition
other study area codes and would receive disbursement based on actual claims for those study area codes,
while receiving payment on projections for the remaining undesignated study area codes. Carriers could
continue to designate the study area codes to transition until the third month when USAC would complete
the transition and disburse payment for all study area codes based on actual claims.
307.
The approach we adopt not only reduces the financial impact on the carriers by extending
the transition period to three months, but it also minimizes the likelihood of the carrier owing money to
the Fund at the end of the transition by completing the transition in the same month as USAC begins its
accelerated payment. Because we set the new FCC Form 497 due date to the eighth day of the month and
direct USAC to pay disbursements based on the actual claims in the electronically filed FCC Form 497 by
the last business day of the same month the FCC Form 497 is due, a carrier will receive payments based
on actual claims submitted in the same month that the FCC Form 497 is due. Therefore, in the first
month of the accelerated payment schedule, which is also the last month in which we complete the
transition to payment on actual claims, a carrier that has filed an FCC Form 497 by the last business day
of the previous month, as well as an electronic FCC Form 497 by the eighth day of the current month,
would receive a low-income disbursement for the previous month’s FCC Form 497 as well as the current
month’s electronic FCC Form 497 at the end of the current month, thus receiving payment for two
months’ of support at the end of that month. For example, if a carrier files an FCC Form 497 in
September, under the current system it would be paid in October. When the transition month occurs in
October, the carrier would file its electronic FCC Form 497 on the eighth day of October, and receive its
September disbursement as well as its October disbursement on the last business day of October. Any
true-up of disbursements would take place in this “double payment” month and will minimize carriers
experiencing a negative disbursement as a result of this transition period.
308.
Carriers may choose to begin their transition to payment on actual claims at any time
after the effective date of these rules. Carriers must notify USAC, however, of which study area codes to
transition during each month no later than June 1, 2012, and the transition to payments based on actual
claims must be completed by October 2012. In the event a carrier fails to notify USAC of which study
area codes to transition each month, we direct USAC to select which study area codes to transition for


844 See, e.g., Alexicon Disbursement Comments at 3-4; COMPTEL Disbursement Comments at 2; Smith Bagley
Disbursement Comments at 2-6; PR Wireless Disbursement Comments at 2-6; Sprint Disbursement Comments at 1-
2; NTTA Disbursement Comments at 2-3; PR Wireless Disbursement Comments at 2-6.
845 See Lifeline Disbursement Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 13141, Appendix A.
846 See NTTA Disbursement Comments at 3 (explaining that a transition to actual costs over multiple months would
ease the transition for USAC as well as for ETCs).
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such carrier.847 USAC will use its best efforts to choose study area codes proportionately to that carrier’s
monthly disbursements so that the risk of the carrier experiencing the entire transition for all its study area
codes in a one-month period is minimized. Carriers that service only one study area code will have until
October 2012 to plan and prepare for their transition to actual claims. This transition method should
minimize the burden on carriers and avoid the hardship of carriers missing a month of payments under the
USAC proposal. Any study area codes that are submitted to USAC for low-income support for the first
time on or after the date of this Order will be paid based on actual claims.848
309.
In the event a carrier owes money to the Fund as a result of the transition process, USAC
proposes to offset any negative balance in the next month and, if the carrier continues to owe the Fund
money in subsequent months, to invoice the carrier for any remaining balance thereafter.849 We adopt
USAC’s plan to net any negative balance a carrier may incur as a result of this process against the
carrier’s next monthly payment and invoice the carrier for the remaining balance thereafter. While many
carriers suggest that USAC net any remaining balance against future monthly payments until the negative
balance is paid off, we find that the transition method we adopt today allowing carriers to stagger the
transition by study area code will minimize the financial burden on the carrier and reduce the likelihood
of any carrier having substantial negative balance.

IX.

MODERNIZING THE PROGRAM

A.

Bundled Services

310.
Background. Today, consumers are increasingly purchasing services in bundles that
include both voice and broadband services.850 Bundled plans allow consumers to customize packages of
services to meet their communications needs,851 and also offer potential cost-savings as compared to
standalone products.852 Eligible low-income consumers also can benefit from the opportunity to obtain
packages that contain both mobile voice and broadband services at a reduced cost.
311.
The Commission’s rules currently provide for Lifeline discounts on basic voice service,


847 Carriers that fail to notify USAC of which study area codes to transition each month by June 1, 2012 may
experience a delay in payment for the first transition month.
848 Any ETCs that USAC currently pays based on actual claims must continue to be paid based on actual claims.
849 Lifeline Disbursement Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 13133.
850 See, e.g., NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 38, n.20 (noting that “no definitive data source tracks whether
consumers purchase broadband as a standalone product or as a bundle, but estimates of the share of subscribers with
some type of bundle range from 65 percent . . . to 90 percent”); OECD, Broadband Bundling: Trends and Policy
Implications, OECD Digital Economy Papers No. 175, at 3, http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-
technology/broadband-bundling_5kghtc8znnbx-en (stating that its “data collection of over 2,000 offers of stand-
alone and bundled services from 90 firms across 30 OECD countries reveals that broadband services in the OECD
are overwhelmingly sold as mixed bundles, allowing users to choose among stand-alone offers or bundled
services”) (OECD Bundling Study).
851 See OECD Bundling Study at 5 (“Typical bundles offer fixed-voice, data, and video services and are commonly
referred to as ’multiple-play’ or ‘triple-play’ packages. A number of operators are expanding their bundles to include
mobile voice as a fourth component of ‘quadruple-play’ offers.”).
852 As the Commission noted in the NPRM, as compared to carriers’ basic plans, bundled packages of services may
offer better value for Lifeline consumers. See Broadband Adoption and Use in America (finding that consumers
who receive broadband bundled with other services pay an average of $8.55 less per month than those customers
who purchase stand-alone broadband service), available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-
296442A1.pdf; see also OECD Bundling Study at 3 (noting that the average bundled discount compared with buying
the services separately is $15 per month or a 26 percent discount).
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but do not address whether such discounts may be applied to bundled offerings that include both basic
voice service and other services, such as broadband. Specifically, section 54.401 of the Commission’s
rules provide that Lifeline supported services consist of a “retail local service offering” with specified
functionalities.853 The rule is silent, however, on whether the consumer may apply his or her Lifeline
discount to reduce the cost of calling plans that include additional service components in addition to
basic, local calling.
312.
Section 54.403(b) of the Commission’s current rules sets out how Lifeline support must
be passed through to the consumer.854 As noted above,855 pursuant to that rule, ETCs that charge federal
subscriber line charges or equivalent federal charges to the subscriber apply Tier 1 federal Lifeline
support to waive the federal SLC for Lifeline subscribers.856 Any additional support received (i.e., from
Tiers 2 through 4) is then applied to reduce the consumer’s intrastate rate.857 ETCs that do not charge
federal SLCs or equivalent federal charges must “apply the Tier [1] federal Lifeline support amount, plus
any additional support amount, to reduce their lowest tariffed (or otherwise generally available)
residential rate” for the services they provide.858 Our rules, however, do not define the parameters of a
lowest-cost plan or specify the types of service plans that are eligible for Lifeline support.
313.
Some states have enacted their own policies regarding use of Lifeline support to reduce
the cost of expanded voice offerings that include optional features or bundled combinations of other
services.859 Among these states, however, there is no uniform approach.860 In an October 2010 report, the
GAO found that ETCs in 14 states do not currently permit consumers to apply the Lifeline discount to a
bundled service offering or package that includes telephone service.861 The National Broadband Plan
recommended that the Commission and states permit Lifeline consumers to apply their Lifeline discounts
on all calling plans with a local voice component, including bundled service packages, as it would help
make bundled offerings, including those that include broadband, more affordable for low-income
households.862
314.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission first sought comment on amending
the Commission’s rules to adopt a uniform federal requirement that Lifeline discounts may be used on


853 47 C.F.R. § 54.401(a).
854 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(b).
855 See supra section V (Support Amounts for Voice Service).
856 47 C.F.R. § 54.403(b).
857 Id.
858 Id.
859 See, e.g., Letter from James Bradford Ramsay, General Counsel, National Association of Regulatory Utility
Commissioners, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. Nos. 11-42 et al.,
(filed Aug. 17, 2011) (noting that 24 states permit ETCs to offer bundled service packages or voice plans with
additional services to Lifeline consumers, 5 require that ETCs offer bundled service packages or voice plans with
additional services to Lifeline consumers, and one state is currently looking into the issue) (NARUC Aug. 17 ex
parte
Letter).
860 See id.
861 2010 GAO REPORT at 13; see also NATIONAL REGULATORY RESEARCH INSTITUTE (NRRI), STATE UNIVERSAL
SERVICE FUNDING MECHANISMS: RESULTS OF NRRI’S 2005-2006 SURVEY 49, Table 30 (2006) (listing the services
supported by various state universal service low-income programs), available at
http://nrri.org/pubs/telecommunications/06-09.pdf.
862 See NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 172 (Recommendation 9.1).
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any Lifeline calling plan offered by an ETC with a voice component, including bundled service packages
combining voice and broadband, or packages containing optional calling features.863 Pursuant to this
proposed rule, states would not be permitted to adopt rules prohibiting ETCs from offering bundled
service packages or packages with optional calling features to Lifeline consumers.864
Second, the
Commission also sought comment on whether to adopt a national rule that would require all ETCs to
offer Lifeline discounts on all of their service plans with a voice component.865 Third, the Commission
sought comment on whether to cap the Lifeline discount for each eligible subscriber receiving a bundled
service package or package with optional calling features at the amount the subscriber would have
received if he or she had selected a basic voice plan.866
315.
Discussion. We amend sections 54.401 and 54.403 of the Commission’s rules to adopt a
rule permitting ETCs in all states to allow qualifying low-income consumers to apply Lifeline discounts
to all residential service plans that provide voice telephony service, including bundled service packages
combining voice and broadband, or packages containing optional calling features.867 We adopt a flexible
federal policy that allows all ETCs (whether designated by a state or this Commission) to choose to make
bundled service packages or packages containing optional calling features available to Lifeline
consumers.868 We clarify that, pursuant to the rule we adopt today, ETCs may permit consumers to apply
their Lifeline discount to family shared calling plans. The plan must be in the name of an eligible low-
income consumer, and a household may receive only one Lifeline-supported service. Moreover, pursuant
to this rule, each subscriber’s Lifeline discount can be no larger than if he or she chose a basic voice
plan.869 Finally, as described below, we adopt an additional rule to protect the interests of Lifeline
subscribers who purchase bundled service packages.
316.
We also eliminate language in section 54.401 of our rules that currently describes
Lifeline as a retail service offering “that is available only to low-income consumers.”870 We eliminate
such language to clarify that ETCs are free to apply the Lifeline discount to any retail service offering, not
just to an offering specifically offered to low-income consumers.


863 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2850, para. 258.
864 Id. (citing 47 U.S.C. § 254(f) (barring states from adopting regulations that are inconsistent with the rules
established by the Commission to preserve and advance universal service)).
865 Id. at 2850, para. 259.
866 Id.
867 Several commenters support this proposal. See, e.g., AT&T Comments at 7; AT&T PN Reply Comments at 12;
Box Top Comments at 3; CT DPUC Comments at 4; GCI Comments at 52; LCCHR Reply Comments at 3; MA
DTC Comments at 11; MI PSC Comments at 11; NASUCA Comments at 29-30; NCTA Comments at 4; NJ DRC
Comments at 24; New America Foundation Comments at 5-6; NAF PN Reply Comments at 4-5; NJ DRC
Comments at 24; NY PSC Comments at 6; TCA Comments at 4.
868 Thus, if an ETC chooses to make expanded calling plans available to Lifeline consumers, states may not adopt
policies that prohibit consumers from applying their Lifeline discounts to the voice calling plan of their choice. See
47 U.S.C. § 254(f). We clarify that, pursuant to the rule we adopt today, ETCs may permit consumers to apply their
Lifeline discount to family shared calling plans. The plan must be in the name of an eligible low-income consumer
and a household may receive only one Lifeline-supported service. Consumers who are eligible to receive Tribal
Link Up support, see supra section VI.D (Tribal Lifeline Eligibility), may also apply those discounts to the cost of
bundled service packages or packages containing optional calling features.
869 For example, if a Lifeline subscriber would have received $9.25 per month in support to purchase a voice-only
service, he or she would continue to receive no more than $9.25 per month, or $111 per year, in Lifeline support to
apply toward the purchase of a bundled service package or a voice package containing optional calling features.
870 47 C.F.R. § 54.401(a); see also supra section IV (Voice Services Eligible for Discounts).
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317.
Adoption of these requirements is consistent with the statutory principle that consumers
have access to quality services at “just, reasonable, and affordable rates.”871 As the Commission noted in
the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, many carriers limit Lifeline offerings to basic voice service, even in
states where ETCs are not precluded by state requirements from allowing consumers to apply their
Lifeline discounts to the purchase of bundled packages or optional voice services.872 A nationwide rule
giving ETCs the flexibility to offer expanded service packages to Lifeline consumers will enhance
consumer choice by making broadband and mobile voice services more accessible and affordable for all
eligible low-income consumers.873 Indeed, competition in the Lifeline services market may provide
additional incentives for ETCs to offer an expanded range of service plans with additional calling features
to eligible low-income consumers, including bundled service packages.
318.
Our findings today are compatible with the determinations made by the Commission in
the April 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which expressly
declined to adopt a rule prohibiting Lifeline consumers from purchasing optional calling features, such as
caller ID or call waiting.874 In that case, the Commission stated that such a restriction might discourage
qualified low-income consumers from enrolling in the Lifeline program.875 Such a rationale is analogous
here, and we encourage ETCs to make expanded service packages available to eligible low-income
consumers.
319.
We do not have sufficient information in the record before us to evaluate the impact of a
rule mandating that ETCs allow Lifeline discounts to be applied to any package containing a voice
component, and we seek further comment in the attached FNPRM on requiring ETCs to allow consumers
to apply their discount to any service offering.
320.
Finally, we adopt an additional rule to better protect the interests of Lifeline subscribers
who choose to purchase bundled service packages or packages containing optional calling features.
Specifically, we agree with commenters that ETCs should explicitly notify Lifeline subscribers that
partial payments will first be applied to pay down the allocated price of the Lifeline voice services, and
require ETCs to provide clear language to this effect on the bills of those Lifeline subscribers who are
receiving bundled service packages from the ETC.876 We adopt this rule to protect against Lifeline
subscribers losing access to voice service if they can no longer afford to pay for the non-Lifeline
components of a bundled package, thereby also reducing potential burdens that ETCs may face if they
have to re-enroll disconnected subscribers.


871 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(1).
872 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2850, para. 259; see USAC, Low Income, Telephone Assistance
Program for Low Income Households, LifelineSupport.org, www.lifelinesupport.org (last visited Jan. 30, 2012)
(searchable database listing Lifeline services available by each ETC in a state).
873 See, e.g., AT&T Reply Comments 2 at 12 n.43; MA DTC Comments at 11; New America Foundation Reply
Comments 2 at 3-5; NY PSC Comments at 6; Regulatory Commission of Alaska Reply Comments at 10; NATOA
Comments at 2-3.
874 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM, 19 FCC Rcd. at 8330, para. 53.
875 Id.
876 See Consumer Groups Comments at 44. This rule will ensure that Lifeline subscribers do not lose access to voice
service if they can no longer afford to pay for the non-Lifeline components of a bundled package. Otherwise
applicable disconnection rules (state and/or federal) will apply. The rule we adopt today will not unreasonably
burden ETCs, including small carriers, some of whom may already have processes in place to apply partial
payments to maintain the voice portion of a Lifeline calling plan. Moreover, this rule will help to prevent Lifeline
subscribers from being disconnected from voice service for non-payment, thereby reducing potential burdens that
may result to ETCs from having to re-enroll disconnected subscribers.
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B.

Support for Broadband

1.

Background

321.
The National Broadband Plan recognized that although increasing numbers of Americans
have broadband at home, some segments of the population – particularly low-income households, racial
and ethnic minorities, seniors, rural residents, residents of Tribal lands and people with disabilities –
disproportionately do not.877 The National Broadband Plan recommended using Lifeline to help close the
broadband adoption gap and specifically recommended that the Commission implement a low-income
pilot program to produce actionable information about how best to design efficient and effective long-
term broadband support mechanisms for low-income consumers.878 The Lifeline and Link Up NPRM
likewise recognized the importance to low-income consumers and society as a whole of reducing the gap
in broadband adoption, and that the program may be able to play an important role in helping to close the
broadband adoption gap.879 The Commission sought comment on whether to amend the definition of
Lifeline to cover broadband services, and proposed to set aside a discrete amount of funds reclaimed from
eliminating inefficiencies in the program to create a low-income broadband pilot program to gather data
about how Lifeline can be used to support broadband adoption.880
322.
Based on the record, we are taking the first step in working towards achieving one of the
three express goals of the program --- recognizing the importance of the availability of broadband
services for low-income Americans by creating a low-income broadband pilot program.881 Recognizing
the complexities of modernizing the low-income support mechanisms for broadband, and the need to
ensure that universal service funds are used efficiently, we are launching a pilot program to test the design
of any future universal service programs involving support for broadband adoption.
2.

Creation of a Pilot Program

323.
There is broad agreement that a pilot program could allow the Commission to gather data
on whether and how the Lifeline program can be structured to promote the adoption and retention of


877 NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 167 (providing data about how some communities are significantly less likely to
have broadband at home); see also id. at 152, Box 8-4 (noting that available data suggests that less than 10 percent
of residents on Tribal lands have broadband available).
878 Id. at 172-173. In 2010, the Commission hosted a roundtable discussion to solicit input on how to design a pilot
program to test the effectiveness of supporting broadband services directed to low-income households. See Wireline
Competition Bureau Announces June 23, 2010 Roundtable Discussion to Explore Broadband Pilot Programs for
Low-Income Consumers,
WC Dkt. No. 03-109, Public Notice, 25 FCC Rcd 7272 (2010) (2010 Roundtable Public
Notice
). Webcast of the event is available at http://www.fcc.gov/events/roundtable-discussion-explore-broadband-
pilot-programs. At the roundtable discussion participants explored goals for supporting broadband through the low-
income program; barriers to adoption, including the cost of service; the availability of data and information on
broadband service and adoption by low-income individuals; and pilot program mechanics and operation. Id.
Webcast
of the event is available at http://www.fcc.gov/events/roundtable-discussion-explore-broadband-pilot-
programs.
879 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2852-53, para 267. Many commenters echoed the Commission’s
concern about the gap in broadband adoption. See, e.g., The City of New York Comments at 1; AT&T Comments
at 19-20; Gila River Telecommunications, Inc. PN Comments at 1-9.
880 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2855-56, paras. 275-276 and 26 FCC Rcd at 2856-62, paras. 279-
302.
881 See supra section III.B (setting forth goals for the Lifeline program, which includes availability of broadband
service to low-income consumers).
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broadband services by low-income households.882 We therefore adopt a Low-Income Broadband Pilot
Program (Pilot Program) that will focus on testing the necessary amount of subsidies for broadband and
the length of support. Given our implementation of the Pilot Program, we decline to amend the definition
of Lifeline at this time to include broadband for the existing low-income program. Rather, we conclude it
is preferable to develop data that will allow the Commission and participating ETCs to evaluate how best
to structure the program in the future, with the added benefit of helping to close the adoption gap for
consumers that participate in the pilot.883 We direct the Bureau to initiate the Pilot Program by the release
of a Public Notice specifying the Pilot Program application procedures, including dates, deadlines, and
other details of the application process, no later than 15 days after receiving approval under the
Paperwork Reduction Act.
324.
As discussed more fully above, the Fund has realized substantial savings from the June
2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order,884 and we anticipate that the other efforts to reduce waste in
the low-income program will lead to additional significant savings. Consistent with our overarching
objective of fiscal responsibility in using universal service funds, we are able to start a pilot program
using low-income program funds without increasing the current size of the low-income program. We
delegate authority to the Bureau to implement the Pilot Program consistent with the framework
established in this Order, and direct USAC to disburse no more than $25 million to fund the Pilot
Program, as directed by the Bureau.885
325.
As discussed in more detail below, we direct the Bureau to solicit applications from
ETCs to participate in the Pilot Program and to select a relatively small number of projects to test the
impact on broadband adoption with variations in the monthly discount for broadband services, including
variations on the discount amount, the duration of the discount (phased down over time or constant) over
a 12-month period.886 As discussed more fully below, we will implement an 18-month Pilot Program,
which includes 3 months for ETCs to implement necessary back-office functions, up to 12 months of
subsidized broadband service either through bundles of voice and broadband or standalone broadband,
and 3 months to finalize data collection and analysis.
326.
The Bureau shall select a diversity of projects, with different amounts and duration of
subsidies, different types of geographic areas (e.g., rural, urban) and different types of broadband
networks (e.g., fixed and mobile) and technologies.887 To the extent possible, the pilot program will seek
to collect data on a number of variables, such as the impact of income, age, ethnicity, gender, and family


882 We note that some commenters urged us to expand the Lifeline program immediately to cover broadband
services. See, e.g., Consumer Groups PN Comments at 6; NASUCA PN Comments at 3-4; MAG-Net Comments at
21-22. Further, the record indicates that the Commission would be better served by gathering data on how best to
modify the Lifeline program to support broadband. See Joint Center for Political And Economic Studies Ex Parte
(Nov. 18, 2011) (providing recommendations of how best to structure a pilot program).
883 See infra para. 334 (explaining why funding is limited to ETCs pursuant to section 254(e)).
884 See generally 2011 Duplicative Program Payments Order; see also USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter at 1 (noting
that USAC has discovered approximately 269,000 duplicates in 12 states).
885 The $25 million for the pilot is exclusive of administrative expenses.
886 We find that the Pilot Program, and the data collection involved, is exempt from the requirements to create an
Institutional Review Board (IRB). See 45 C.F.R. 46.101(b); see also Letter from Sarah Morris, New America
Foundation, to Marlene H. Dortch, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., (filed Jan. 23,
2012) (citing 45 C.F.R. § 46) (raising the question of whether the data collection component within the Pilot
Program would require creation of an IRB).
887 See, e.g., AT&T PN Comments at 15 (recommending that the pilot test a variety of variety of approaches to
determine which approach most efficiently increases broadband adoption by low-income consumers).
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size and make up on adoption rates. The Bureau will give preference in choosing projects that offer
speeds at least at 4 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. The Bureau will also give preference to
ETCs that partner with third parties (e.g., grantees of other programs such as the Broadband Technology
Opportunities Program (BTOP), the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), existing library programs) that
have already developed holistic approaches to overcoming broadband adoption barriers, including digital
literacy, equipment costs, and relevance. The Bureau will consider whether the projects proposed will
promote entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the provision and ownership of telecommunications
services and information services, consistent with section 257 of the Communications Act, including
those that may be socially and economically disadvantaged businesses. We recognize, however, that it is
difficult to partner with third party entities in more rural areas, and will not exclude from consideration
applications that include remote online training.888 We also encourage ETCs to utilize control groups
when developing proposals in order to better assess the impact on adoption of the project. Project
funding, which will be disbursed directly to ETCs participating in the program, will be passed on to
subscribers in the form of subsidies to defray the cost of service. ETCs selected to participate in the Pilot
Program will be required to participate in the collection, analysis, and sharing of anonymized quantitative
and qualitative data with standardized data elements, formatting, and submission requirements. At the
end of the Pilot Program, the Commission will publicly recognize the ETCs and their partners that best
succeeded in meeting the Pilot Program goals.
327.
The Commission will draw on the experiences of other broadband adoption programs
such as BTOP/BIP and “Connect to Compete” without duplicating their efforts and results, and plans to
implement best practices (e.g., type of data collected and tools used, evaluation metrics/criteria, use of
control groups) that were learned through implementation of such programs.889 While the Commission
plans to take best practices learned through other broadband adoption programs to help in creating
metrics/criteria for selecting and evaluating pilots and data collection, the Pilot Program is unique in that
it is a subsidy-focused program intended to study the length and amount of subsidy that is necessary for
low-income consumers to adopt broadband.890 Additionally, as discussed in more detail below, the Pilot
Program is unique in that it will require participation by broadband providers that are also ETCs, which
means low-income consumers that qualify for Lifeline will also qualify for the subsidized broadband
service through this Pilot.891


888 See Letter from Jennie B. Chandra, Senior Counsel, Windstream, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. et al. at 9-10 (filed Dec. 21, 2011) (Windstream Dec. 21 ex parte
Letter) (urging the Commission to take into account the particular challenges presented by rural areas including the
difficulty of partnering with third party entities with existing adoption programs).
889 Letter from Sarah Morris, New America Foundation, to Marlene Dortch, Federal Communications Commission,
WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 2 (filed Dec. 12, 2011) (New America Foundation Dec. 12 ex parte Letter) (providing
examples of data tools that BTOP grantees developed that could be implemented for the purposes of the Pilot
Program study such as the definition of what is meant by adoption). Based on their work on BTOP evaluations, the
New America Foundation recommends that the Commission use evaluation tools and metrics that measure
broadband adoption in broad terms, including customers’ access to community resources. See id. Commenters have
also recommended that the Commission utilize existing data from other adoption programs to help in selecting pilot
communities, program evaluation and control groups. See id. (recommending that the Commission utilize data from
other adoption programs); see also Letter from Nicol Turner-Lee, The Joint Center for Political And Economic
Studies to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commision, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 at 1-3 (filed
Nov. 18, 2011).
890 New America Foundation Dec. 12 ex parte Letter (recognizing how the Pilot Program differs from BTOP/BIP,
but Commission can implement practices learned through other grant programs).
891 Other broadband adoption programs are distinguishable from the Pilot Program. For example, the BTOP
program focuses on digital literacy training centers with some grantees entering partnerships with broadband
(continued….)
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3.

Legal Authority

328.
In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission concluded that we
have authority under section 254 and section 706 of the Act to provide support for modern networks
capable of providing both voice and broadband and to condition receipt of support for the provision of
voice telephony on the offering of broadband services over those networks.892 Consistent with that
decision, we conclude that sections 254 and 706 authorize us to fund bundled voice and broadband
services as well as standalone broadband services as part of a discrete, time-limited Pilot Program
structured to determine how best to bring advanced services to low-income consumers. These
conclusions are consistent with the overwhelming bulk of the comments we received on this issue.893
329.
In enacting section 254, as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress
expressly recognized the importance of ensuring that low-income consumers “have access to
telecommunications and information services, including . . . advanced telecommunications and
information services.” Section 254 sets forth additional principles upon which we must “base policies for
the preservation and advancement of universal service.”894 Among these principles are that “[q]uality
services should be available at just, reasonable, and affordable rates,” and that “[a]ccess to advanced
telecommunications and information services should be provided in all regions of the Nation.” Recently,
in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, consistent with the recommendations of the Joint
Board, we adopted an additional principle that “[u]niversal service support shall be directed where
possible to networks that provide advanced services as well as voice services.”895
330.
As we explained in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, section 254
provides express statutory authority to support telecommunications services that we have designated as
eligible for universal service support.896 To the extent carriers offer traditional voice telephony services
over traditional circuit-switched networks, our authority to provide support for such services is well-
established. Section 254 also allows us to impose conditions on the support provided to entities
designated as ETCs. Indeed, we have a “mandatory duty” to adopt universal service policies that advance
the principles outlined in section 254(b), and we have the authority to “create some inducement” to ensure


(Continued from previous page)
providers to offer discounted broadband service after completing digital literacy training programs. See Broadband
Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Quarterly Program Status Report Submitted to the Committee on
Appropriations United States Senate and House of Representatives, the Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation United States Senate and the Committee on Energy and Commerce United States House of
Representatives, December 2011, available at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/btop-quarterly-
congressional-report-dec-2011.pdf. In the “Connect to Compete” initiative, cable broadband providers will provide
discounted broadband service at minimum speed tier of 1 Mbps to eligible families when at least one student is
enrolled in the Free School Lunch Program, the family has not subscribed to broadband service for the past 90 days
and does not have an overdue bill or unreturned equipment owed to the participating cable company. See FCC &
“Connect to Compete” Tackle Barriers to Broadband Adoption, available at http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-and-
connect-compete-broadband-fact-sheet (providing details of the discounted broadband service and which consumers
are eligible).
892 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 60-73.
893 See, e.g., MMTC PN Comments at 1-2 (recognizing Commission authority to create broadband pilot project);
GRTI PN Comments at 4-5 (citing sections 254(b)(2) and (b)(3) of the Communications Act and sections 151 and
154(i) as legal authority for the Commission to fund broadband pilot program); Cox PN Comments at 5-6 (arguing
that the Commission has broad legal authority to fund broadband pilot program under sections 254(c) and 706).
894 47 U.S.C. § 254(b).
895 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 65.
896 47 U.S.C. § 254(c); See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 62.
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that those principles are achieved.897 Congress made clear in section 254 that the deployment of, and
access to, information services – including “advanced” information services – are important components
of a robust and successful federal universal service program.898 Also, the statute is clear that universal
service support should include addressing low-income needs.899 Using a discrete, time-limited broadband
pilot program to determine whether the low-income program can successfully be used to increase
broadband adoption among low-income consumers is therefore consistent with the purposes of section
254. Accordingly, we find authority under section 254, as supported by section 4(i),900 to provide limited
USF support through a Low-Income Broadband Pilot Program and to require ETCs receiving support
through the Pilot Program to offer either a bundle of voice and broadband services or standalone
broadband service.
331.
We also have authority under section 706 of the 1996 Act to provide USF support to
ETCs through a low-income broadband Pilot Program to subsidize low-income consumers’ purchase of
broadband services. In section 706, Congress recognized the importance of ubiquitous broadband
deployment to Americans’ civic, cultural, and economic lives and, thus, established a federal policy of
“encourag[ing] the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications
capability to all Americans.”901 Of particular importance, Congress adopted a definition of “advanced
telecommunications capability” that is not confined to a particular technology or regulatory classification.
Rather, “‘advanced telecommunications capability’ is defined, without regard to any transmission media
or technology, as high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to
originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video communications using any
technology.”902 Section 706(a) directs the Commission to “encourage the deployment on a reasonable
and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans.”903 Section 706(b) requires
the Commission to “determine whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all
Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion” and, if the Commission concludes that it is not, to “take
immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure
investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market.”904 The Commission has


897 Qwest Corp. v. FCC, 258 F.3d 1191, 1200, 1204 (10th Cir. 2001).
898 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(2), (b)(3).
899 See 47 U.S.C. §§ 254(b)(1), (b)(3) (implementing Congress’s universal service directives in sections 254(b)(1)
and 254(b)(3) that quality services should be available at affordable rates and to consumers throughout the nation).
900 47 U.S.C. § 4(i) (providing Commission authority to “perform any and all acts . . . as not inconsistent with [the
Communications Act] as may be necessary in the execution of its functions”).
901 47 U.S.C. § 1302(a); Section 706(a) is more than just a statement of policy, as Commissioner McDowell
contends. It directs the Commission to “utiliz[e], in a manner consistent with the public interest, convenience, and
necessity, … regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.” Id. As discussed in para. 332,
infra, providing federal support for low-income consumers’ purchase of broadband services does remove barriers to
infrastructure investment.
902 47 U.S.C. § 1302(d)(1); see also National Broadband Plan for our Future, GN Dkt. 09-51, Notice of Inquiry, 24
FCC Rcd 4342, 4309, App., para. 13 (2009) (“advanced telecommunications capability” includes broadband Internet
access); Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecomms. Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable
and Timely Fashion
, CC Dkt. No. 98-146, Report, 14 FCC Rcd 2398, 2400, para. 1 (section 706 addresses “the
deployment of broadband capability”), 2406, para. 20 (same). The Commission has observed that the phrase
“advanced telecommunications capability” in section 706 is similar to the term “advanced telecommunications and
information services” in section 254. See Rural Health Care Support Mechanism, WC Dkt. No. 02-60, Order, 21
FCC Rcd 11111, 11113, n.9 (2006).
903 47 U.S.C. § 1302(a).
904 47 U.S.C. § 1302(b) (emphasis added).
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found that broadband deployment to all Americans has not been reasonable and timely905 and observed in
its most recent broadband progress report that “too many Americans remain unable to fully participate in
our economy and society because they lack broadband.”906 This finding triggers our duty under section
706(b) to “remov[e] barriers to infrastructure investment” and “promot[e] competition in the
telecommunications market” in order to accelerate broadband deployment throughout the Nation.
332.
Providing support to carriers to subsidize low-income consumers’ purchase of broadband
services helps achieve section 706’s objectives. The Commission has recognized that a key barrier to
infrastructure investment is “lack of affordability of broadband Internet access services.”907 Providing
federal support for low-income consumers’ purchase of broadband services will expand the base of
consumers able to purchase broadband services. The additional revenue generated by these new
consumers in areas where broadband is already available will provide additional resources for deployment
projects where broadband networks are not yet available. Effective support for broadband services to
low-income consumers thus “removes barriers to infrastructure investment” as section 706(b) directs us to
do, and the pilot program we establish here is an important first step to designing such support.908
4.

Structure of the Pilot Program

333.
The Pilot Program is to be a joint effort of the Commission, ETCs, broadband providers,
and other interested parties, including non-profit institutions, independent researchers with experience in
program design and evaluation, consumer device manufacturers, and state, local and Tribal government
agencies. Over the last several years, there has been a groundswell of initiatives focused on broadband
adoption.909 Our aim is not to retread the ground already covered by public and private broadband
adoption projects but to benefit from the work already done on broadband adoption in order to determine


905 Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a
Reasoanble and Timely Fashion
, GN Dkt. No. 09-147 et al., Report, 25 FCC Rcd 9556, 9558, paras. 2-3 (2010)
(Sixth Broadband Progress Report); Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications
Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion,
Seventh Broadband Progress Report and Order on
Reconsideration, GN Dkt. 10-59, 26 FCC Rcd 8008, 8009, para. 1 (2011) (Seventh Broadband Progress Report)
906 Seventh Broadband Progress Report, 26 FCC Rcd at 8011, para. 4.
907 Id., at 8040, para. 65.
908 47 U.S.C. § 1302(b).
909 Federal, state, and local entities, along with their non-governmental partners, have provided significant funding to
support hundreds of innovative broadband adoption programs. Most recently, we have announced several
broadband adoption initiatives. For example, Connect to Compete is aimed at boosting basic computer skills and
promoting the adoption of high-speed Internet. See http://connect2compete.org (last visited Feb. 5, 2012); see also
Press Release, Federal Communications Commission, FCC “Connect to Compete” Tackle Barriers to Broadband
Adoption (Nov. 9, 2011), available at http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-and-connect-compete-broadband-fact-sheet
(detailing private/non-profit partnership providing qualifying families with $9.95 monthly broadband service and
reduced price equipment). The Connect to Compete program is intended to complement the Broadband
Telecommunications Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) which together
have committed more than $7 billion to fund numerous exciting broadband initiatives, many of which have already
increased adoption in the communities in which they are working and provided other tangible results for the
program participants. Also recently, Comcast and CenturyLink have announced low-cost broadband adoption
programs. The Comcast Internet Essentials program is aimed at families that have one or more children who qualify
for free school lunches, and is advertised as providing $9.95/month broadband services, at speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps
down and 384 Kbps up, and the opportunity to purchase a $150 netbook computer. The CenturyLink program is
aimed at consumers who would qualify for Lifeline service, and is advertised as providing $9.95/month broadband
services for the first 12 months at speeds of up to 1.5Mbps down and the opportunity to purchase a $150 netbook
computer.
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how we can best use Lifeline funds to increase broadband adoption and retention by low-income
consumers. Consistent with this aim and our legal authority, we direct the Bureau to incorporate the
following general guidelines in implementing the Pilot Program.
a.

Service Provider Qualifications

334.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission sought comment on whether funding
for the Pilot Program should be limited to ETCs, or whether non-ETCs could be eligible for funding.910
Section 254(e) of the Communications Act provides that only ETCs designated pursuant to section 214(e)
are eligible for universal service support.911 Given that the Fund will be used for the Pilot Program, only
ETCs will be eligible to receive Pilot Program funds. Carriers that seek to participate in the Pilot
Program must be ETCs in the areas for which they propose to offer service at the time they submit their
proposed projects to the Commission for review. If a carrier is contemplating becoming an ETC to
participate in the Lifeline program, including participation in the Pilot Program, it should act promptly to
begin the process. The Commission will make every effort to process such ETC applications in a timely
fashion, and we urge the states to do likewise. We anticipate the Bureau will give ETCs at least 45 days
after release of the Public Notice to submit applications for the Pilot Project.
335.
To afford Tribes an increased opportunity to participate in the Pilot Program, in
recognition of their interest in self-government and self-provisioning on their own lands, we will permit a
Tribally-owned or controlled entity to submit a Pilot Program proposal for the geographic area defined by
the boundaries of the Tribal land associated with the Tribe that owns or controls the entity as long as the
Tribally-owned or controlled entity has an application for ETC designation pending at the time it submits
its proposal.912 We note that allowing such entities to submit applications for the Pilot Program in no way
prejudges the ultimate decision on a Tribally-owned or controlled entity’s ETC designation or whether it
will be chosen as a project for the Pilot Program. Support would be disbursed only after the carrier
receives its ETC designation.913
b.

Data Gathering and Sharing

336.
Numerous commenters noted the importance of using the Pilot Program to collect and
share robust data.914 Therefore, to be eligible for funding, ETCs seeking to participate in pilot projects
must commit to robust data gathering as well as analysis and sharing of the data. Applicants will be
expected to explain what types of data they intend to gather and how they intend to gather that data.


910 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd. 2860, para. 293.
911 47 U.S.C. § 254(e). Some commenters argued that only ETCs can and should receive USF funds. See, e.g. GCI
PN Comments at 2; Staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Comments at 30-31 (citing 214(e)(1)(A) as
limiting funding to ETCs); Sprint PN Comments at 5 (supporting participation only to designated ETCs to ensure
adequate oversight and eliminate issues associated with inexperience in serving Lifeline subscribers). Other
commenters felt that the Commission should not limit funding for the Pilot Program to ETCs. See, e.g., Box Top
Comments at 4; EDNet Reply Comments at 2; LCCHR Comments at 4; NCTA Comments at 4-5; USTelecom
Comments at 23; MSB Reply Comments at 5; AT&T Comments at 8-9 (claiming Commission has authority to
distribute funds to non-ETCs under 254(j)).
912 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 491(affording Tribes a similar
opportunity in the Mobility Fund auction).
913 A Tribally-owned or controlled entity that does not obtain and provide the required ETC designation will not be
entitled to any support payments and may ultimately be in default in accordance with the rules. See 47 C.F.R. §
54.1005(b)(3)(v); 47 C.F.R. § 1.21004.
914 See, e.g., EDNet Comments at 10-12 (emphasizing importance of requiring carriers to collect data); Benton/NAF
PN Comments at 9-11 (proposing an open process that ultimately makes available anonymized raw data).
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There will be standardized data elements, formatting and submission requirements for all of the
participating ETCs outlined in the Public Notice that will detail the application procedures. Service
providers need not commit to conducting all data gathering and analysis functions “in house,” however.
As discussed in section IX.B.4.f below, we authorize USAC to use administrative expenses from the Fund
to perform data gathering and analysis functions. Funded projects must seek participating subscribers’
consent to share information about their experiences with the Commission, public utility commissions in
states that host pilot projects, Tribal governments hosting pilot projects and other stakeholders, and must
provide such subscriber information in anonymized form. The Commission plans to make this data
public for the benefit of all interested parties, including third parties that may use such information for
their own studies and observations.
c.

Duration of Pilot Program

337.
In order to garner useful data without delay, we direct the Bureau to fund the pilot
projects for up to 18 months from the time the Bureau announces the selection of the pilot projects, and
expect the projects to be substantially completed at the end of that time, with interim reporting as
discussed in IX.B.4.f.915
We expect each project to offer 12 months of reduced-price voice and
broadband services or standalone broadband to the consumers served in the pilot, unless the pilot is
specifically designed to test a shorter duration, and that design element is clear in the proposal made to
the Commission. We recognize, however, that some projects may require additional time to implement,
as well as several months to finalize the collection and analysis of the data the projects generate. We
therefore authorize the Bureau to grant up to six additional months for projects to startup and wind down
provided that no project may offer more than 12 months of reduced-price services.
338.
At the Commission’s broadband pilot roundtable, several parties suggested that it might
be appropriate to provide subsidies only for a limited period of time to address the initial adoption hurdle
of realizing the benefits of broadband.916 Proposals to provide reduced voice and broadband services for
less than 12 months should include a commitment to track and report data on adoption and retention for a
minimum of 12 months so that the Commission can evaluate whether consumers drop service when the
subsidy is eliminated or reduced.
d.

Services to Be Supported

339.
In order to encourage consumer participation in this Pilot Project, all projects must
support services meeting the criteria set forth in this section.
340.
Bundled and Standalone Services. As discussed in section IX.B.3, we conclude that
sections 254 and 706 authorize us to fund bundled voice and broadband services as well as standalone
broadband services as part of a discrete, time-limited Pilot Program structured to determine how best to
bring the low-income program into the digital age.917 We therefore direct the Bureau to select Pilot
Program applicants that agree to offer voice services bundled with broadband or standalone broadband
service. We expect that pilot participants will seek a monthly Lifeline subsidy equal to whatever subsidy
the ETC would be entitled to for a voice-only subscriber, plus whatever additional amount that the ETC


915 Although the Pilot Program will officially end after 18 months, we encourage ETCs to set up their projects so
that they can follow the low-income subscribers beyond the end of the funding for the project, and we direct the
Wireline Competition Bureau when deciding which projects to fund to give preference to well designed projects that
commit to collecting and sharing longer term data about the subscribers that participated in the projects.
916 See June 2010 Roundtable Public Notice.
917 See, e.g., Consumer Groups PN Comments at 5; Budget/Great Call/UCC PN comments at 1-2; CA PUC PN
Comments at 6-7; Cox PN Comments at 8-12; GCI PN Comments at 2; MMTC PN Comments at 3; NASUCA/NJ
PN Comments at 6; SBI PN Comments at 10.
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proposes to offer consumers as part of the pilot program. In its application, the ETC will propose how
much support it should receive for each broadband service subscriber.
341.
Broadband Speed. Consumers should have access to broadband that is capable of
enabling the kinds of key applications that drive our efforts to achieve universal broadband, including
education (e.g., distance/online learning),918 healthcare (e.g., remote health monitoring),919 and person-to-
person communications (e.g., VoIP or online video chat with loved ones serving overseas).920 In the
USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, we established 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream
as a broadband speed benchmark at fixed locations for CAF recipients.921 We further established speeds
for recipients of Mobility Fund Phase I support deploying current generation, also known as third
generation or 3G, or next generation, also known as fourth generation or 4G, mobile networks.922 In
particular, the minimum standard for 3G networks requires supported mobile service providers to offer
mobile transmissions to and from the network meeting or exceeding the following minimum standards:
outdoor minimum of 200 kbps downstream and 50 kbps upstream to handheld mobile devices. For 4G
networks, we required the following minimum standards: outdoor minimum of 768 kbps downstream and
200 kbps upstream to handheld mobile devices. These minimum data rates should be achievable in both
fixed and mobile conditions, at vehicle speeds consistent with typical speeds on the roads covered and
must be achieved throughout the cell area, including at the cell edge. We adopt these benchmarks for
purposes of the Pilot Program as well, meeting the CAF benchmarks for fixed service, 3G benchmarks on
3G networks, and 4G benchmarks on 4G networks.923 However, we recognize there are many areas of the
country where low-income consumers do not yet have access to networks that can provide such speeds,
either for fixed or mobile services.924 We also recognize that there is typically a trade-off between the
performance of broadband service and its cost to consumers, and note that some commenters support
enabling low-income consumers to use a Lifeline subsidy for slower broadband speeds.925 An offering
that includes a broadband service below the speed benchmarks to the extent that it is less expensive,
potentially could draw more Lifeline-eligible consumers.926 In light of the challenges of offering higher
speeds in some areas and on some networks, and the benefits of more fully understanding consumer
choices in the Pilot Program, we provide the Bureau discretion to select some projects that offer


918 See NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 223-44.
919 See, e.g., Omnibus Broadband Initiative, Health Care Broadband in America, Early Analysis and a Path
Forward,
at 5 (Aug. 2010); Center for Technology and Aging, Technologies for Remote Patient Monitoring for
Older Adults,
Position Paper, at 13 (Apr. 2010), available at http://www.techandaging.org/RPMPositionPaper.pdf
(discussing data transmission methods used for various continuous cardiac remote patient monitoring technologies).
920 See NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 223-244.
921 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNRPM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 92-5; see NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN
at 135-36 (recommending the Commission to establish minimum broadband speed goal of 4 Mbps for downloads
and 1 Mbps for uploads).
922 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNRPM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 359-364.
923 As noted in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNRPM, examples of 3G networks are EV-DO, EV-DO
Rev A, UMTS/HSPA, while examples of 4G networks are HSPA+ or LTE. Id.at para. 334.
924 See id. at paras. 93-95; Sixth Broadband Progress Report, 25 FCC Rcd 8011-12, para. 5; Seventh Broadband
Progress
Report, 26 FCC Rcd 8008, 8019, para. 15; see also Budget PN Comments at 2-3 (explaining that speeds of
4 Mbps/1Mbps are unrealistic in some Tribal lands, areas of mountainous terrain, and Puerto Rico); GCI PN
Comments at 4-5 (noting that 4 Mbps/1Mbps speeds are not affordable in many areas, including Alaska).
925 See, e.g., GCI PN Comments at 5.
926 Participants in “Connect to Compete” will offer consumers a minimum of download speeds up to 1 Mbps, while
some may receive faster speeds.
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broadband at speeds below the benchmark, but only upon careful consideration of the justification for
providing lower speeds. Such a justification should at a minimum show that the project would contribute
data that would be comparably useful in our efforts to understand how Lifeline can best help overcome
barriers to broadband adoption.
342.
Latency and Capacity. The USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM required ETCs
to offer sufficiently low latency to enable use of real-time applications, such as VoIP, and concluded that
any usage limitations imposed by an ETC on its USF-supported broadband offerings must be reasonably
comparable to usage limits for comparable broadband offerings in urban areas.927 We expect Pilot Project
participants to offer services with similar characteristics to low-income consumers. In particular, we
require participants to offer usage limits that are reasonably comparable to usage limits for comparable
broadband offerings in urban areas. We direct the Bureau to require applicants that propose to limit data
usage on their offerings to specify the size of usage limits, and explain how subscribers will be notified
when they reach their limits and the consequences to a subscriber of exceeding such usage limits.
e.

Consumer Qualifications

343.
Consumer Eligibility To Participate in Pilot Projects. The Lifeline and Link Up NPRM
and Public Notice both sought comments on whether to allow broadband pilot projects to deviate from the
federal default rules with regard to consumer eligibility for the Lifeline/Link Up programs.928 We
recognize that the need to increase broadband adoption does not start and stop with consumers who are
eligible for the Lifeline program. However, by definition, Lifeline must focus its resources on qualifying
low-income consumers. Moreover, consistent and uniform eligibility rules applicable to both the Pilot
Program and the program will control administrative costs associated with the pilots and help the
Commission to more easily compare results from different pilot projects.929 Therefore, we require that all
pilot projects use the federal criteria for low-income consumer eligibility as modified in this Order.
344.
New Adopters. One important variable to test during the Pilot Program is the extent to
which discounts on the cost of broadband services may induce broadband adoption among those who do
not currently subscribe to broadband. For that reason, we direct the Bureau to ensure that all of the
projects selected provide services that focus on qualifying households that do not currently subscribe to
broadband services.930 We do this to focus on the goal of increasing broadband adoption by low-income
consumers. We conclude that using the Pilot Program to subsidize broadband services purchased by
consumers who have already adopted such services will not provide us with sufficient and useful data
about whether such subsidies increase adoption.


927 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 96-100 (fixed); 363-64 (mobile).
928 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM , 26 FCC Rcd at 2832-33, para. 202; Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice , 26 FCC
Rcd 11099-11100, para. 1. A significant number of commenters urged the Commission to set the income-eligibility
threshold for consumers participating in the Pilot Program at 150 percent of FPG. See, e.g., Benton/PK/UCC
Comments at 10; Consumer Groups PN Comments at 4, 6; CA PUC PN Comments at 4; GRTI PN Comments at 9-
10; MMTC PN Comments at 2; NASUCA/NJ PN Comments at 5-6; SBI PN Comments at 10; Joint Center, PN
Reply Comments at 4. Still other commenters argued that the Commission should apply the existing voice
eligibility criteria of 135 percent of FPG to broadband. See, e.g., Cox PN Comments at 9.
929 Letter from Steven F. Morris, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, GN Dkt. No. 09-51 et al.,
(filed Dec. 4, 2009).
930 We recognize that some participants might currently subscribe to a 3G wireless service but do not subscribe to
fixed residential broadband, which would not preclude them from participating in the Pilot Program; see supra
section VI.B (codifying a one-per-household requirement).
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f.

Use of Pilot Program Funds

345.
Consistent with the Lifeline program, we expect that the primary use of Pilot Project
funds will be to provide discounts to qualifying consumers for recurring and non-recurring fees.
Additionally, we authorize a portion of funds to be used to execute necessary program administrative
functions.
346.
Recurring/Nonrecurring Fees for Broadband. To test various subsidy levels, we will not
require that ETCs impose minimum or maximum monthly fees for each project. However, to ensure there
is a commitment by consumers to utilize the service, we direct the Bureau to give preference to those
projects that impose at least a minimal charge, either one-time or on an ongoing basis, for the low-income
consumer to participate in the project.931 We acknowledge that many ETCs charge a non-recurring
activation fee for broadband services and will consider proposals that include reimbursement for such
fees.932 As with the current program, the full amount of the subsidies must be passed on to the
participating subscribers.
347.
Administrative Costs. To allow for uniform collection of data from consumer and carrier
surveys and other related program administrative costs, the Fund may be used by USAC to administer
such functions as are necessary, including costs associated with conducting surveys of pilot participants
and analyzing data.
348.
Equipment. As the Commission recognized in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the
expense of consumer equipment necessary to access the Internet (including computers or other devices)
has been shown to be a major barrier to broadband adoption, particularly for low-income households.933
At the same time, as the Commission acknowledged in the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, historically the
Fund has been used for services not equipment.934 The Commission therefore sought comment on how
the Pilot Program could test the impact of a variety of equipment discount programs in encouraging
broadband adoption.935
349.
There is evidence in the record that lack of access to affordable equipment, including
computers, smart phones, air cards, and modems is a significant barrier to broadband adoption among
low-income consumers,936 and we therefore conclude that projects should incorporate this consideration
into their plans. We encourage Pilot Program applicants – directly or in partnership with other entities –
to provide no-cost or low-cost devices to participants in their pilot project, and direct the Bureau to


931 The subsidy amount within each project will apply to the lowest publicly available promotional rate that the ETC
offers for broadband, with the same speeds, to consumers in the same geographic market at the time the ETCs
submit their applications for the Pilot Project.
932 See, e.g., Windstream Internet service, available at http://www.windstream.com/Free (last visited on Jan. 3,
2011); Centurylink Internet service, available at
http://embarq.centurylink.com/embarq/assets/disclaimers/resDisclaimers.html (last visited on Jan. 3, 2011). Any
reimbursements for non-recurring fees in the Pilot Program are separate and apart from the Link Up program that
the Commission is eliminating as described in section VII.C.
933 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd. at 2853, para. 268.
934 Id. at 2857, para. 282.
935 Id. at 2857-58, paras. 282-283.
936 Commenters agreed that lack of access to affordable equipment is a major barrier to broadband adoption among
low-income consumers, and offered data supporting that proposition. See, e.g., Cox Comments at 4 (providing data
demonstrating that one of the most significant barriers to broadband adoption is the lack of necessary equipment).
Cox’s internal research shows that approximately 70 percent of the low-income consumers in Cox’s market do not
have computers. See id.
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consider the extent to which pilot projects provide access to equipment when deciding which projects to
fund.937 However, in keeping with the Commission’s historic approach to using the Fund, we will not
subsidize equipment purchases as part of the pilot program.938
g.

Other Factors To Be Considered

350.
Diversity of Data. The Lifeline and Link Up NPRM sought comment on how best to
design the Pilot Program in order to gather as much useful data as possible.939 We recognize that there is
a tension between the need to limit the number of variables examined in order to ensure that the data
gathered is comparable and useful and the desire to examine as many facets of the issue as possible.
Given the potential variety of proposed projects and the goal of finding the best way to use program funds
to encourage low-income consumers to adopt and use broadband services, we direct the Bureau to select
projects that will maximize the useful information available regarding the impact of variations in the
subsidy level, the amount of time the subsidy is made available, and whether different approaches are
warranted based on consumer demographics or geography.940 Proposals are not, however, limited to
examining these factors, and may seek funding for one or more models of providing broadband service to
low-income consumers, including variations on technology used and program design (e.g., utilizing
different techniques to combine discounts on service with efforts to address other barriers to broadband
adoption such as digital literacy).941 In addition, in light of the extremely low broadband penetration rate
on Tribal lands, we direct the Bureau, in coordination with the Office of Native Affairs and Policy, to
select at least one pilot project directed at providing support on Tribal lands.942 If the Bureau determines
that a single or small number of proposals provide the best opportunity to gather data consistent with the
guidelines set forth in this Order, the Bureau should select only that set of proposals for funding.


937 The Public Notice asked about whether we should seek to test the impact of consumers using leased versus
purchased equipment. Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 11099-11100, at para. 1.c. A number of
consumer groups expressed concerns the Commission would encourage consumers to lease computers. See
Consumer Groups PN Comments at 7-8. The groups pointed out that computer leasing has often proved to be
financially detrimental to consumers and could lead to abusive equipment lending schemes. Id.
938 Compare GRTI PN Reply Comments at 2 (arguing that sections 254(b)(2) and (b)(3) of the Communications Act
give the Commission authority to take necessary action to increase “access to services” and subsidizing equipment
costs will increase access to broadband services); with Cox PN Comments at 6-7 (urging the Commission to use its
ancillary authority to support computer equipment and training).
939 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, at 2856-65, paras. 279-312.
940 One Economy recommended three possible pilot designs: one involving a 4G public-private partnership focused
on a selected metropolitan area; one involving a reverse auction pilot; and one providing shared wireless service in
multi-dwelling units identified by HUD as being affordable housing. See One Economy Comments at 22-25. We
welcome projects aimed at studying adoption among varied groups of low-income consumers.
941 One commenter suggested that Pilot Program funds be directed at low-income consumers in Puerto Rico. See
Letter of Colleen Newman, Strategic Policy Advisor, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, to Marlene H.
Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, (filed Nov. 17, 2011). Still another commenter suggested
that Pilot Program funds be directed at low-income consumers who are blind or visually impaired. See Cintex PN
Reply Comments at 1-2. There was general agreement that any broadband pilot program should be geographically
diverse, and technology-neutral, and should be flexible enough to allow different pilots to test different elements of a
pilot program. See Benton Comments at 6; see also AT&T Comments at 22-23. As one commenter noted, “[p]ilot
programs, by definition, are expected to be experimental and exploratory. As the Commission seeks to determine
what the best path forward is, it must assess the widest range of models, strategies, and networks, and other
components.” NAF Comments at 9.
942 Some commenters suggested that some Pilot Program funds be directed at low-income consumers residing on
Tribal lands. See, e.g., SBI Comments at 6-7; GRTI PN Comments at 7; Standing Rock PN Comments at 10-11.
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351.
Digital Literacy. The National Broadband Plan and subsequent research have identified
the lack of digital literacy among low-income Americans as a major barrier to broadband adoption.943
Being able to use a computer or other Internet-enabled device to retrieve and interpret information or to
communicate and collaborate with other users, and even such fundamental steps as navigating a website
and creating a username and password, may pose significant difficulties for many consumers. Therefore
the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM proposed that pilot projects be prepared to experiment with different
approaches to overcoming digital literacy barriers to broadband adoption.944
In the FNPRM
accompanying this Order, we propose to provide support for digital literacy training and seek comment on
dedicating a certain amount of annual funding for training at libraries and schools that do not currently
offer this service in order to help these institutions develop ways to reduce the digital literacy skills gap
and to assist Americans who have not yet adopted broadband technology gain the necessary digital
skills.945
352.
Partnerships. The Commission sought comment on whether to require funded ETCs to
partner with entities approved by the NTIA’s State Broadband Data & Development (SBDD) Program.946
We direct the Bureau to give preference in the selection process to ETCs that partner with non-ETCs in
designing and implementing proposals that include components involving digital literacy and
equipment.947 In particular, we believe ETCs should consider partnering with successful BTOP/BIP
grantees, those involved in “Connect to Compete,” existing library programs or other entities currently
providing broadband adoption and education services to low-income consumers in order to develop pilot
projects that integrate federal universal service support into existing or planned adoption efforts. 948
353.
We recognize the importance of digital literacy in encouraging broadband adoption and
in providing the tools consumers need to fully explore and exploit the benefit of having broadband


943 See EXPLORING THE DIGITAL NATION (noting that level of education is a strong predictor of broadband use
among adults); SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH COUNCIL, BROADBAND ADOPTION IN LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES,
available at http://webarchive.ssrc.org/pdfs/Broadband_Adoption_v1.1.pdf (Mar. 2010).
944 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2858, para. 284.
945 See infra section XIII.B (Advancing Broadband Availability for Low-Income Americans through Digital Literacy
Training).
946 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM , 26 FCC Rcd at 2860-61, para 284. The SBDD program, led by state entities or
non-profit organizations working at their direction, facilitates the integration of broadband and information
technology into state and local economies. The program awarded a total of $293 million to 56 grantees or their
designees and the grantees use this funding to support the use of broadband technology. Among other objectives,
these state-created projects use the grants to research and investigate barriers to broadband adoption and created
state and local task forces to expand broadband access and adoption. See id.at para. 295.
947 We received a wealth of comments discussing the importance of partnerships-- public-private partnerships,
private-non-profit partnerships; and federal-state partnerships – in finding ways to speed broadband adoption among
low-income consumers and we received comments from entities, including state and local governments, nonprofit
groups, academics, and others, that are not ETCs describing their own work or work of third parties that could add
substantial value to ETC-led pilot projects. See, e.g.,Benton/NAF PN Comments at 5-6; Cox PN Comments at 9-10;
Connected Living PN Comments at 1-2; LISTA PN Comments at 1-2.
948 The Commission will plan to publicly recognize those multi-stakeholder partnerships, and their members, that
successfully integrate federal universal service support with digital literacy programs to increase broadband
adoption.
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services.949 Indeed, as discussed above, the “Connect to Compete” program recently announced includes
a substantial digital literacy component.950 Therefore, we strongly encourage applicants for Pilot Program
funding to explore cost-effective ways to incorporate existing digital literacy programs into their pilot
programs and to include in their proposals a plan for overcoming digital literacy barriers.951
5.

Pilot Project Data Gathering and Evaluation

354.
During the Pilot Program and at its conclusion, the Bureau will hold workshops
discussing the interim and final results of the various projects as well as the Pilot Program as a whole, and
provide an opportunity for participants to share information with the Commission, other policy makers,
and stakeholders about how best to use limited universal service funds to increase low-income
consumers’ adoption of broadband services. Funded projects must commit to participate in those
workshops and to respond to informal inquiries from the Bureau about the data gathered and the
information generated by the Pilot Program.

X.

MANAGING THE SIZE OF THE LOW-INCOME FUND

355.
Today’s Order takes a number of substantial and unprecedented steps to eliminate waste,
fraud, and abuse from Lifeline, including establishing a database to eliminate duplicative support,
requiring electronic or documentary evidence of program-based eligibility, and eliminating support for
services such as toll limitation and Link Up that are no longer the best uses of funds given current product
offerings available in the marketplace. These reforms build on significant action the Commission has
already taken to curb waste in the program. In June, the Commission directed USAC to undertake a
series of in-depth data validations to identify duplicative support. Through the IDV process, now
completed in 12 states, USAC examined 3.6 million customer records and directed ETCs to de-enroll
over 292,000 customers receiving duplicative support, saving the Fund approximately $35 million
annually.952 As explained above, the IDV process will continue and expand to additional states until the
duplicates database is online, resulting in additional savings.953 In addition, the Commission is actively
investigating allegations that some providers have signed up subscribers who may not be eligible for
Lifeline.954
356.
The Joint Board recommended that the Commission develop a full record on the recent
growth in low-income program support.955 In the NPRM, the Commission sought comment generally on


949 A number of commenters also stressed that digital literacy is a significant barrier to broadband adoption and
stressed the need to include digital literacy in pilot projects. See, e.g. Connected Living PN Comments at 2; Cox PN
Comments at 6-7; Joint Center PN Reply Comments at 7; USTelecom Comments at 25. There was disagreement
among the commenters, however, about whether the Commission can and should use USF funds to pay for digital
literacy training. See GRTI PN Comments at 4-5; see also Cox PN Comments at 4-7.
950 See generally http://connect2compete.org/; see also FCC & “Connect to Compete” Tackle Broadband Adoption
Challenge Through Expanded Digital Literacy Training, Fact Sheet (Oct. 12, 2011) (Connect to Compete Digital
Literacy Fact Sheet), available at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db1012/DOC-
310346A1.pdf.
951 See, e.g., One Economy Comments at 9 (recognizing the benefits of partnerships between private and nonprofit
sectors); see Connected Living PN Comments (providing examples of how digital literacy programs increase
adoption for seniors); MMTC PN Comments at 4 (recognizing digital literacy as barrier to broadband adoption).
952 See USAC 2011 IDV Process Letter.
953 See supra para. 211.
954 See Lifeline Enforcement Advisory, DA 11-1971.
955 See 2010 Joint Board Recommended Decision, 25 FCC Rcd 15598, at 15630, para. 91.
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how to balance the principles of deterring waste, fraud, and abuse with the need to enable households in
economic distress to access essential communications services.956 Specifically, the Commission sought
comment on whether and how it should constrain the growth of the Fund.957
357.
As the reforms adopted in this Order take effect, they will substantially constrain program
growth. Program disbursements have reached a $2.1 billion annual rate.958 We project that, absent the
reforms adopted in this Order, the program would disburse $3.3 billion in 2014, a 57 percent increase
over three years.959 With today’s reforms, we project program growth will start declining in 2012 and


956 As the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held in Alenco, “[t]he agency’s broad discretion to
provide sufficient universal service funding includes the decision to impose cost controls to avoid excessive
expenditures that will detract from universal service.” Alenco Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 201 F.3d 608, 620–21 (5th
Cir. 2000) (Alenco). The Alenco court also found that “excessive funding may itself violate the sufficiency
requirements.” Id. at 620. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has stated that “excessive
subsidization arguably may affect the affordability of telecommunications services, thus violating the principle in
[section] 254(b)(1).” Qwest Comm’ns Int’l Inc. v. FCC, 398 F.3d 1222, 1234 (10th Cir. 2005).
957 NPRM at 2817-18, paras. 143-45.
958 $2.1 billion is equal to approximately four times the average quarterly run rate of disbursements for the fourth
quarter of calendar year 2011 as calculated by USAC ($502 million) and staff’s projections for disbursements for the
first quarter of calendar year 2012 ($547 million). See USAC Jan. 30 Support Letter; n. 959.
959 This estimate is arrived at by starting with a baseline estimate of program disbursements for 2012 in the absence
of this Order’s reforms. Based on growth trends in disbursements in 2011, during which the quarter over quarter
growth in disbursements declined from 13 percent (Q1-Q2) to 11 percent (Q2-Q3) to 9 percent (Q3-Q4), staff
conservatively assumed that disbursements would grow nine percent from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the first
quarter of 2012, and seven percent quarterly for the rest of 2012. See USAC Q1 2012 Filing, Appendices at LI04
(Quarterly Low-Income Disbursement Amounts by Company (3Q 2011), available at
http://www.usac.org/about/governance/fcc-filings/2012/Q1/LI04-
Quarterly%20Low%20Income%20Support%20Disbursement%20Amounts%20by%20Company-%203Q2011.xlsx;
USAC Q4 2011 Filing, Appendices at LI04 (Quarterly Low-Income Disbursement Amounts by Company (2Q 2011)
available at http://www.usac.org/about/governance/fcc-filings/2011/Q4/LI04%20-
%20Quarterly%20Low%20Income%20Support%20Disbursement%20Amounts%20by%20Company%20-
%202Q2011.xlsx; USAC Jan. 30 Support Letter (providing actual 2011 Q4 disbursements). Based on these
assumptions, staff estimated disbursements would reach $547 million in Q1 2012 (a nine percent increase from the
$502 million in actual support disbursed in Q4 2011) and $2.4 billion by the end of 2012. $2.4 billion represents
approximately 18.5 million subscriptions, of which approximately 5.3 million would represent either duplicate
subscriptions or ineligible subscribers. See supra para 102 and accompanying footnotes (explaining calculation of
ineligible consumers); Jan. 10 IDV Letter (describing the extent to which individuals and households are receiving
duplicative support). Based on the Current Population Survey for the number of consumers receiving one of the
benefits that qualify consumers for Lifeline, staff estimated that there are approximately 32.6 million eligible
subscribers, suggesting that, not counting ineligibles and duplicates, approximately 13.2 million subscriptions in
2012 would constitute a take rate for Lifeline of approximately 41 percent. See UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU,
CURRENT POPULATION SURVEY, CPS March Supplement, available at
http://www.bls.census.gov/cps_ftp.html#cpsmarch.
For 2013 and 2014, staff used additional data to project from the 2012 baseline an estimated fund size in
the absence of reform of approximately $2.8 billion in 2013, and $3.3 billion in 2014. To derive these estimates,
staff assumed that competition, marketing, and expansion of operators offering prepaid wireless Lifeline service
would cause the subscriber take rate (not counting duplicates and ineligibles) to increase from 41 percent in 2012 to
46 percent and 51 percent in 2013 and 2014, respectively. In addition, staff made the conservative assumption that
from 2013-2014, absent reforms, the share of ineligible subscribers would remain at 15 percent (as was the case in
2012) and the duplicate rate would increase to 19 percent in 2013 and 22 percent in 2014, due to several factors,
including the continued use of self-certification for program-based eligibility and the lack of a database for
(continued….)
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turn negative in 2013, reducing Lifeline disbursements so that by 2014 the program will be at or below its
current size of approximately $2.1 billion annually.960 The reforms we adopt in this Order will save up to
an estimated $2 billion over the next three years.961
358.
As part of today’s comprehensive reform to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse, we adopt a
savings target of $200 million for 2012–that is, we expect to realize $200 million in savings in 2012
versus the program’s status quo path in the absence of reform. We direct the Bureau to closely monitor
the impact of the reforms adopted today in meeting that savings target, and to provide each Commissioner
a report no later than the first anniversary of the adoption of this Order evaluating the impact of today’s
reforms; determining whether the reforms have succeeded in meeting the savings target; and, if they have
not, analyzing the causes, providing options for realizing those savings, and making specific
recommendations for corrective action to realize those savings. Such recommendations may include
accelerating the development of the database capabilities for duplicates and eligibility, as well as a
possible reduction of the monthly support amount ETCs receive. The Bureau shall also provide to each
Commissioner an interim report no later than six months from the adoption of this Order analyzing the
reforms’ progress in meeting the savings target. Both reports shall be made available for public input on
the Commission’s website.
359.
In addition to the fundamental overhaul of the program we begin today, the Commission
is addressing in the FNPRM the key question of the appropriate monthly support amount for the program,
among other issues. We find that at this time, it is appropriate for us to review how the reforms impact
the size of the Fund and whether our assumptions and projections are accurate, whether growth of the
Fund is impacted by changes in macroeconomic conditions and the number of consumers who seek to


(Continued from previous page)
preventing duplicates. Furthermore, staff estimated that the eligible population for Lifeline would stay roughly
constant at 32.6 million from 2012 to 2014, reflecting the combined effect of an improving economy and a growing
U.S. population. Staff’s estimates of the eligible population are based on (1) the Congressional Budget Office’s
projection that the unemployment rate will decline from 9.1 percent in 2011 to 8.3 percent in 2014, from which staff
estimated that the poverty rate would decline 3 percent from 2011 to 2014; and (2) Census estimates of past
household growth nationwide from which staff projected continued household growth of 1.1 percent annually. See
CBO
, THE BUDGET AND ECONOMIC OUTLOOK, AN UPDATE at 73 (Aug. 2011), available at
http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/123xx/doc12316/08-24-BudgetEconUpdate.pdf); CENSUS, CURRENT POPULATION
REPORTS, PROJECTIONS OF THE NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLDS AND FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES: FROM 1995 TO 2010
at 7 (1996) available at http://www.census.gov/prod/1/pop/p25-1129.pdf
960 Staff estimated the impact of the reforms as follows: (1) in 2012, reforms are projected to eliminate 10 percent of
total duplicate and ineligible consumers, and by the end of 2013, nearly all duplicate and ineligible consumers will
be removed (we expect that the savings will accelerate as the reforms are implemented over the next three years); (2)
the combined effect of requiring electronic or documentary evidence of initial eligibility along with annual
recertification for all subscribers is expected to result in the subscriber take rate (not counting duplicates or
ineligibles) increasing from 41 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2014; (3) Link Up support is
eliminated for all subscribers except Tier-4 subscribers initiating service with an ETC that also receives high-cost
funding; and (4) $25 million is budgeted for the broadband pilot program from Q1 2012 to Q3 2013. Combining the
impacts of all these reforms, staff estimated the size of the Lifeline fund as approximately $2.1 billion in 2014.
961 Considering the impacts of the reforms (including the one-time shift in 2012 to reimbursements based on actual
subscriber counts), staff estimated the size of the Lifeline fund as $2.2 billion, $2.2 billion, and $2.0 billion in 2012,
2013, and 2014, respectively. Thus, because of the reforms in the program, up to $2 billion less will be spent on the
Lifeline program by 2014 than would have been the case in the absence of reforms. See also, Tracfone Nov. 10 ex
parte
Letter, Attach. at 3 (arguing that verification of ID, the minimization of Link Up, annual 100 percent
verification and non-usage requirements would result in an annual savings of $760 million); Nexus Oct. 25 ex parte
letter at 2 (supporting Tracfone’s savings estimates).
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initiate Lifeline service, and the impact of competitive Lifeline offerings on the program. With the
information we will gather in the next year as a result of the reforms and in response to the Further
Notice, and from the Bureau’s reports described in the previous paragraph, we fully expect to have the
information needed to determine an appropriate budget for the program and its appropriate duration. We
will be in a position to take into account the program’s goals—ensuring availability of communications
service to low-income Americans, and minimizing the contribution burden on consumers and
businesses—and the Commission’s review of the effects of the reforms adopted in this Order; the effects
of any further reforms and modernization of the program, including adoption of proposals in the FNPRM;
and changes in the economy. In doing so, the Commission may consider linking the size of the monthly
support amount to a communications price index as one way to constrain the size of Lifeline, as discussed
in the FNRPM.
360.
During this interim period between the adoption of today’s Order and the Commission’s
decision regarding an appropriate budget, we strongly discourage ETCs from enrolling ineligible
subscribers or taking other actions (or failing to take actions) that enable or exacerbate waste, fraud, and
abuse in the program. We note that today’s Order largely eliminates Link Up based in part on our
conclusion that Link Up has become too susceptible to abuse and provides perverse incentives to ETCs.
We will be particularly vigilant over the coming year to ensure such problems do not persist or arise
elsewhere in the program.

XI.

ELIGIBLE TELECOMMUNICATIONS CARRIER REQUIREMENTS

A.

Facilities-Based Requirements for Lifeline-Only ETCs

1.

Background.

361.
To be eligible for federal universal service support, the Act provides that an ETC must
offer the services supported by federal universal service support mechanisms throughout a service area
“either using its own facilities or a combination of its own facilities and resale of another carrier’s
services.”962 In the Universal Service First Report and Order, the Commission interpreted this to mean
that a carrier “must use its own facilities to provide at least one of the supported services,” but did not
specify or define the amount of its own facilities a carrier must use.963 The Commission clarified,
however, that “a carrier that serves customers by reselling wholesale service may not receive universal
service support for those customers that it serves through resale alone.”964 It interpreted the term
“facilities” to mean “any physical component of the telecommunications network that are used in the
transmission or routing of the services that are designated for support.”965 As such, pursuant to the Act as
interpreted by the Commission, a carrier’s facilities that are not being used to route or transmit USF
supported services do not qualify as “facilities” to meet the ETC requirements in section 214(e)(1)(A).966
362.
In 2005, the Commission agreed to conditionally forbear from the own-facilities
requirement for the limited purpose of allowing TracFone to participate in the federal Lifeline program
and receive Lifeline-only support.967 By receiving forbearance, TracFone was able to apply for and


962 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A).
963 See USF First Report and Order at 8871, para. 169.
964 USF First Report and Order at 8873, para. 174.
965 47 C.F.R. § 54.201(e).
966 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A).
967 See TracFone Forbearance Order.
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become an ETC for Lifeline-only support. The Commission subsequently granted conditional
forbearance from the facilities requirement for Lifeline support to several other carriers, but refused to
extend this forbearance for Link-Up support, finding that such carriers had not demonstrated that doing so
was in the public interest.968
In the most recent forbearance orders, the Commission conditioned
forbearance on carriers meeting several 911 and E911 obligations as a precaution to ensure that a lack of
facilities would not impair emergency services.969 Other conditions have focused on preventing waste,
fraud, and abuse of universal service funding.970
363.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission sought comment on whether it
should forbear from applying the Act’s facilities-based requirement to all carriers that seek limited ETC
designation to participate in the Lifeline program.971
In determining whether to grant a blanket
forbearance, the Commission also asked whether it should adopt rules codifying any conditions it would
impose on grant of forbearance, rather than imposing them on a case-by-case basis.972 Section 10 of the
Act requires that the Commission forbear from applying any regulation of any provision of the Act to
telecommunications services or telecommunications carriers, or classes thereof, in any or some of its or
their geographic markets, if the Commission determines that the three conditions set forth in section 10(a)
are satisfied.973
364.
In avoiding the forbearance process, some carriers seeking designation as ETCs by state
commissions for the limited purpose of participating in the federal low-income program have relied on
their provision of operator services and/or directory assistance to meet the ETC “facilities”


968 See Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order; i-wireless Forbearance Order; Global Forbearance Order, WC Dkt.
No. 09-197, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Order, 25 FCC Rcd 10510 (2010) (“Global Forbearance Order”); Conexions ETC
Order
; PlatinumTel. Forbearance Order. The Commission has pending before it several petitions seeking
forbearance from the facilities requirement. See, e.g., American Broadband and Telecommunications Petition for
Forbearance, WC Dkt. No. 09-197 (filed Feb. 25, 2011); Petition for Forbearance of Millennium 2000, Inc., WC
Dkt. No. 09-197 (filed Apr. 12, 2011); Petition for Forbearance of North American Local, LLC, WC Dkt. No. 09-
197 (filed Apr. 27, 2011); Total Call Mobile, Inc. Petition for Forbearance, WC Dkt. No. 09-197 (filed May 25,
2011); Petition of Airvoice Wireless, LLC, WC Dkt. No. 09-197 (filed Sept. 13, 2011).
969 See TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15101–02, paras. 15–16; Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order,
24 FCC Rcd at 3390–91, paras. 21–23; PlatinumTel,Forbearance Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 13793-94, paras. 12-14.
970 See, e.g., TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15102–03, paras. 17–18; Virgin Mobile Forbearance
Order
, 24 FCC Rcd at 3393, para. 29; i-wireless Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 8790, para. 16; PlatinumTel
Forbearance Order
, 26 FCC Rcd at 13794-96, paras. 17-18. In granting forbearance from the facilities requirement
for Lifeline-only ETCs, the Commission has not approved Link Up support for any ETC. TracFone Forbearance
Order
; Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order; i-wireless Forbearance Order; Global Forbearance Order; Conexions
Forbearance Order
; PlatinumTel et. al. Forbearance Order.
971 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, at 2863, para. 306.
972 Id.
973 Specifically section 10(a) provides that the Commission shall forbear from applying such provision or regulation
if the Commission determines that:
(1) enforcement of such regulation or provision is not necessary to ensure that the charges, practices,
classifications, or regulations by, for, or in connection with that telecommunications carrier or
telecommunications service are just and reasonable and are not unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory;
(2) enforcement of such regulation or provision is not necessary for the protection of consumers;
(3) forbearance from applying such provision or regulation is consistent with the public interest.
47 U.S.C. § 160(a).
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requirement.974 These carriers have received ETC status as facilities-based carriers because they are using
their own “facilities” to provide at least one of the supported services.975
365.
As noted above, in the USF/ICC Transformation Order FNPRM, the Commission
eliminated its former list of nine supported services and amended section 54.101 of the Commission’s
rules to specify that “voice telephony service” is supported by federal universal service support
mechanisms.976 In amending section 54.101, the Commission eliminated the following functionalities as
supported services: dual tone multi-frequency signaling or its functional equivalent; single-party service
or its functional equivalent; access to operator services; access to interexchange service; and access to
directory assistance.977
366.
On December 23, 2011, the Commission affirmed that only carriers that provide voice
telephony as defined under section 54.101(a) as amended using their own facilities will be deemed to
meet the requirements of section 214(e)(1).978 Thus, a Lifeline-only ETC does not meet the “own-
facilities” requirement of section 214(e)(1) if its only facilities are those used to provide functions that are
no longer supported “voice telephony service” under amended rule 54.101, such as access to operator
service or directory assistance. The Commission stated that to be in compliance with the rules, Lifeline-
only carriers that seek ETC designation after the December 29, 2011 effective date of the USF/ICC
Transformation Order and FNPRM,
as well as such carriers that had previously obtained ETC
designation prior to December 29, 2011 on the basis of facilities associated solely with, for example,
access to operator service or directory assistance, must either use their own facilities, in whole or in part,
to provide the supported “voice telephony service,” or obtain forbearance from the “own-facilities”
requirement from the Commission.979 To avoid disruption to consumers of previously designated ETCs,
however, the Commission set July 1, 2012 as the effective date of amended rule 54.101 for Lifeline-only
ETCs in the service areas for which they were designated prior to December 29, 2011, to provide
sufficient time to take further action related to the “own-facilities” requirement for Lifeline providers in
this proceeding.980
367.
Moreover, in light of the modifications to TLS adopted in this Order, TLS is no longer
required to be provided except in certain specified circumstances, and no longer will be deemed a


974 See, e.g., Comments of Ohio Public Utilities Commission Staff, WC Dkt. No. 09-197, WC Dkt. No. 03-109, at 9-
10 (explaining how entrance of wireless carriers into the Lifeline market raises questions as to what constitutes
“wireless facilities” in the ETC designation process); Reply Comments of Michigan Public Service Commission, CC
Dkt. 96-45, WC Dkt. No. 09-197 at 2-3 (raising concerns on whether American Broadband and Telecommunications
Company claims that it is a facilities-based ETC meets the requirements under the Act); Comments of South
Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, WC Dkt. No. 09-197, at 2-4 (arguing that Budget PrePay, Inc. should be denied
Link Up support because it is not providing facilities-based wireless service).
975 See id; see also Letter of Kerri J. DeYoung, Counsel, MA DTC, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., (filed Nov. 10, 2011) (MA DTC Nov. 10 ex parte Letter
(reporting that in MA and elsewhere, many wireless carriers are filing ETC petitions claiming satisfaction of the
facilities requirement solely by facilities used for operator services and directory assistance).
976 USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 3, 78; see also revised section 54.101(a).
977 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 3, 78, nn.114-115 (noting that the
Commission no longer mandates that ETCs provide those services that were eliminated from the definition of USF-
supported services under section 54.101, but encourages carriers to continue to offer them to customers).
978 See USF/ICC Transformation Order on Reconsideration, FCC-11-89 at para. 4.
979 See id.
980 See id.
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supported service. We provide support for TLS only on a transitional basis for those carriers that are
required to offer TLS – namely, ETCs that charge a fee for toll calls, whether domestic or international,
that is in addition to the per month or per billing cycle price of the consumer’s Lifeline service.
Furthermore, we clarify that call management functionality that tracks usage for a Lifeline offering that
provides a specified number of minutes for a set price does not constitute TLS. As a consequence of such
actions, a carrier that formerly relied on toll-limitation facilities as its “own” facilities can no longer rely
on those facilities to satisfy the facilities-based requirement in section 214, and such carriers must also
obtain forbearance from this Commission.981
2.

Discussion.

368.
We forbear, on our own motion, from applying the Act’s facilities requirement of section
214(e)(1)(A) to all telecommunications carriers that seek limited ETC designation to participate in the
Lifeline program, subject to certain conditions noted below.982 For the reasons explained below, we find
that all three prongs of section 10(a) are satisfied and that, as a result, the Commission will forbear from
the “own-facilities” requirement contained in section 214(e)(1)(A) for carriers that are, or seek to become,
Lifeline-only ETCs, subject to the following conditions: (1) the carrier must comply with certain 911
requirements, as explained below; and (2) the carrier must file, and the Bureau must approve, a
compliance plan providing specific information regarding the carrier’s service offerings and outlining the
measures the carrier will take to implement the obligations contained in this Order as well as further
safeguards against waste, fraud and abuse the Bureau may deem necessary.983 The review and approval
of all compliance plans is a critical element of our action today. These conditions will give the states and
the Commission the ability to evaluate the Lifeline providers’ offerings to low-income consumers and
adherence with program rules before such companies may receive any Lifeline funds. At the same time,
this grant of forbearance will re-allocate administrative resources that would otherwise be devoted to
evaluating forbearance petitions subject to a statutory timeframe, resources that can otherwise be utilized
to improve and oversee the Lifeline program.
369.
Since 2005, the Commission has granted forbearance eleven times to carriers seeking to


981 See supra section VII.B, para. 230 (explaining how facilities that enable a subscriber to access a call center to
purchase additional minutes or to pay for an international call do not constitute toll limitation facilities).
982 See Section 214(e)(1)(A); see also Letter from John J. Heitmann, Link Up for America Coalition, to Marlene H.
Dortch, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., .at 1-2 (filed Dec. 15, 2011) (Link Up
Coalition Dec. 15, 2011 ex parte Letter) (describing customer impact to existing Lifeline-only ETCs if Commission
does not issue blanket forbearance). Upon the effective date of this Order, we grant forbearance from the facilities
requirement of section 214(e)(1)(A) of the Act and section 54.201(d)(1), (i) of the Commission’s rules, subject to
the conditions contained in this Order, to all carriers seeking to provide Lifeline-only service on a non-facilities
basis, including those carriers with petitions for forbearance from the facilities requirement of the Act pending with
the Commission, including American Broadband & Telecommunications, Millennium 2000, Inc., North American
Local, LLC, Total Call Mobile, Inc., and Airvoice Wireless, LLC. See Petition for Forbearance of American
Broadband & Telecommunications, WC Dkt. No. 09-197 (filed Feb. 25, 2012); Petition for Forbearance by
Millennium 2000, Inc., CC Dkt. No. 96-45, WC Dkt. 09-197 (filed Apr. 12, 2011); Petition for Forbearance by
North American Local, LLC., WC Dkt. 09-197 (filed Apr. 28, 2011); Petition for Forbearance by Total Call Mobile,
Inc., WC Dkt. 09-197 (filed May 25, 2011); and Petition for Forbearance of Airvoice Wireless, LLC, WC Dkt. 09-
197 (filed Sep. 13, 2011); 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A); 47 C.F.R § 54.201(d)(1), (i).
983 All ETCs availing themselves of forbearance from the facilities requirement as granted in this Order, including
carriers with forbearance petitions and compliance plans pending with the Commission must comply with this
requirement. Carriers with compliance plans currently pending Commission approval must revise, and if necessary
amend, its compliance plan to include a detailed description of its compliance with this Order.
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participate in the Lifeline program without using their own facilities to provide service.984 In each case,
the Commission has concluded that the use of a carrier’s own facilities when participating in the Lifeline
program is not necessary to ensure just and reasonable rates or to protect consumers and is in the public
interest as long as such carriers meet certain conditions, approved by the Bureau in each carrier’s
compliance plan.985
370.
Just and Reasonable. Under section 10(a)(1) of the Act, we must consider whether
enforcement of the facilities requirement of section 214(e) for carriers that are, or seek to become,
Lifeline-only ETCs is necessary to ensure that the charges, practices, classifications, or regulations are
just and reasonable and not unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory.986
371.
We conclude that the section 214(e) facilities requirement is not necessary to ensure that
Lifeline-only ETCs have charges, practices, classifications, and regulations for Lifeline service that are
just and reasonable and not unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory. Resellers necessarily will face
existing competition in the marketplace from the Lifeline offerings of the incumbent wireline carriers in
the same designated areas, as well as other carriers, such as facilities-based wireless providers.
Competition should help to keep their rates and other terms and conditions of service just and reasonable
and not unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory.987 The additional competition that they provide would
do more to ensure just and reasonable rates and terms than a requirement to use their own facilities. For
these reasons, we find that the first prong of section 10(a) is met.
372.
Consumer Protection. Section 10(a)(2) requires the Commission to consider whether
enforcement of the ”own-facilities” requirement of section 214(e) for the Lifeline-only ETCs is necessary
for protection of consumers. We find that imposing the “own-facilities” requirement on Lifeline-only
ETCs is not necessary for the protection of consumers so long as the carriers comply with the obligations
described below.
373.
We reaffirm the Commission’s previous finding that ensuring consumers’ access to 911
and E911 services is an essential element of consumer protection.988 Given the importance of public
safety, we condition this grant of forbearance on each carrier’s compliance with certain obligations as an
ETC. Specifically, our forbearance from the facilities requirement of section 214(e) is conditioned on
each carrier: (a) providing its Lifeline subscribers with 911 and E911 access, regardless of activation
status and availability of minutes; (b) providing its Lifeline subscribers with E911-compliant handsets and
replacing, at no additional charge to the subscriber, noncompliant handsets of Lifeline-eligible subscribers
who obtain Lifeline-supported services; and (c) complying with conditions (a) and (b) starting on the
effective date of this Order.989


984 See, e.g., TracFone Forbearance Order; Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order; i-wireless Forbearance Order;
Global Forbearance Order; Conexions Petition for Forbearance, PlatinumTel Forbearance Order.

985 See, e.g.,Conexions Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 13868, paras. 8-20.
986 47 U.S.C. §160(a)(1); 47 U.S.C. §214(e).
987 See TracFone Oct. 13 ex parte Letter at 4 (noting that both TracFone and Sprint, as ETCs, operate in the same
markets as other wireless ETCs).
988 See, e.g., Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order, 24 FCC Rcd at 3390-91, paras. 22-23; TracFone Forbearance
Order,
20 FCC Rcd at 15102-03, paras. 16-17.
989 Under section 20.18(m) of our rules, wireless resellers have an independent obligation, beginning December 31,
2006, to provide access to basic and E911 service, to the extent that the underlying facilities-based licensee has
deployed the facilities necessary to deliver E911 information to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point
(PSAP). See 47 C.F.R. § 20.18(m). Section 20.18(m) further provides that resellers have an independent obligation
(continued….)
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374.
The Commission has an obligation to promote “safety of life and property” and to
“encourage and facilitate the prompt deployment throughout the United States of a seamless, ubiquitous,
and reliable end-to-end infrastructure” for public safety.990 The provision of 911 and E911 services is
critical to our nation’s ability to respond to a host of crises, and the Commission has a longstanding and
continuing commitment to a nationwide communications system that promotes the safety and welfare of
all Americans, including Lifeline consumers.991 We find that these conditions are necessary to ensure that
Lifeline subscribers of these Lifeline-only ETCs will continue to have meaningful access to emergency
services.992
375.
Based on the record and the fact that wireless resellers are obligated to comply with
section 20.18(m) of the Commission’s rules, we are not requiring that each Lifeline-only ETC obtain a
certification from each PSAP where it currently provides Lifeline service.993 States, however, have a
right to impose a state-specific obligation on each existing Lifeline-only ETC to obtain either a
certification from each PSAP where the company plans to offer service, or a self-certification, confirming
that the carrier provides its subscribers with 911 and E911 access.994
376.
We find that, subject to the conditions contained herein, the facilities requirement is not
necessary for consumer protection with respect to Lifeline-only ETCs. We therefore conclude that the
second prong of section 10(a) is satisfied.
377.
Public Interest. Section 10(a)(3) requires that we consider whether enforcement of the
facilities-based requirement of section 214(e) for Lifeline-only ETCs is in the public interest. Requiring
Lifeline-only ETCs to use their own facilities to offer Lifeline service does not further the statutory goal
of the low-income program.995
378.
Our public-interest inquiry must include consideration of whether forbearance would
promote competitive market conditions, including the extent to which such forbearance would enhance


(Continued from previous page)
to ensure that all handsets or other devices offered to their customers for voice communications are location-capable.
Id. Under our rules, this obligation applies only to new handsets sold after December 31, 2006. Id.
990 Applications of Nextel Communications, Inc. and Sprint Corporation For Consent to Transfer Control of
Licenses and Authorization,
WT Dkt. No. 05-63, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 20 FCC Rcd 13967, 14020,
para. 144 (2005).
991 Id.
992 See, e.g., TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15101-02, paras. 15-16; Virgin Mobile Forbearance
Order,
24 FCC Rcd at 3390-91, para. 21-23; i-wireless Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 8788, para. 12; Global
Forbearance Order,
25 FCC Rcd at 10515, para. 12.
993 See 47 C.F.R. § 20.18(m); see also Letter from Jonathan Lee, Consumer Cellular, to Marlene H. Dortch, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., Attach. (filed, Dec. 21, 2011) (explaining how the
underlying facilities-based provider has complete control over deployment of 911/E911 and how AT&T, its
underlying network provider, provides Consumer Cellular with a certification stating that AT&T routes all 911 calls
on its network to PSAPs in accordance with applicable FCC rules).
994 Section 214(e)(2) of the Act authorizes state commissions to designate ETCs for federal universal service
purposes. 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(2).
995 See, e.g., i-wireless Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 8789, para. 15. We also note that the Commission’s
traditional concern with a carrier doubling its recovery by reselling facilities that are already supported by the high-
cost fund does not apply in the low-income context. Id.
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competition among providers of telecommunications services. 996 We conclude that forbearance from the
facilities requirement will enhance competition among retail providers that service low-income
subscribers. Lifeline-only ETCs offer eligible consumers an additional choice of providers for
telecommunications services. The prepaid feature that many Lifeline-only ETCs offer is an attractive
alternative for subscribers who need the mobility, security, and convenience of a wireless phone, but who
are concerned about usage charges or long-term contracts.997
379.
The Commission has made clear its ongoing commitment to fight waste, fraud and abuse
in the Lifeline program. The Commission has historically conditioned forbearance from the facilities
requirement on the filing and approval by the Bureau of a compliance plan describing the ETC’s
adherence to certain protections designed to protect consumers and the Fund, and we see no reason to
disrupt that precedent.998 Accordingly, in addition to the requirements currently imposed on all ETCs that
participate in the Lifeline program, including those we adopt in this Order, we condition this grant of
forbearance from the “own-facilities” requirement by requiring each carrier to submit to the Bureau for
approval a compliance plan that (a) outlines the measures the carrier will take to implement the
obligations contained in this Order, including but not limited to the procedures the ETC follows in
enrolling a subscriber in Lifeline and submitting for reimbursement for that subscriber from the Fund,
materials related to initial and ongoing certifications and sample marketing materials, as well as further
safeguards against waste, fraud and abuse the Bureau may deem necessary; and (b) provides a detailed
description of how the carrier offers service, the geographic areas in which it offers service, and a
description of the carrier’s various Lifeline service plan offerings, including subscriber rates, number of
minutes included and types of plans available.
380.
We note that after each carrier submits its compliance plan, the Bureau will review it for
conformance with this Order. To avoid disruption to the millions of low-income subscribers served by
existing Lifeline-only ETCs that met the facilities requirement based solely on operator services/directory
assistance facilities and were designated prior to December 29, 2011,999 those ETCs may continue to
receive reimbursement pending approval of their compliance plans in the states in which they currently
serve Lifeline subscribers, provided they submit their compliance plans to the Bureau by July 1, 2012.1000
Such existing Lifeline-only ETCs may not receive reimbursement, however, for additional states where


996 See 47 U.S.C. § 160(b) (requiring the Commission to consider whether forbearance will promote competitive
market conditions).
997 See Link Up Coalition Dec. 15 ex parte Letter at 5.
998 See, e.g., TracFone Forbearance Order; Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order; i-wireless Forbearance Order;
Global Forbearance Order; Conexions Petition for Forbearance, PlatinumTel Forbearance Order.

999 See Link Up Coalition Dec. 15 ex parte Letter (claiming that the rule change would threaten service disruption
for an estimated 2 million-plus Lifeline service customers served by members of the Link Up Coalition).
1000 If an existing Lifeline-only ETC fails to submit its compliance plan by July 1, 2012, however, that ETC will not
be able to continue to receive Lifeline support after July 1, 2012. If the Bureau finds that an existing Lifeline-only
ETC’s compliance plan does not conform to the requirements of the Order, it shall provide that ETC with notice that
it must file a revised compliance plan within 45 days that conforms to the requirements of the Order. If the ETC
fails to file a revised compliance plan pursuant to the Bureau’s direction, the Bureau may direct USAC to suspend
Lifeline disbursements to that ETC until such time as its compliance plan is revised to the satisfaction of the Bureau.
In the event there is a change in ownership control of an existing Lifeline-only ETC that received forbearance of the
facilities-based requirement, designated prior to December 29, 2011, and that Lifeline-only ETC is acquired by a
telecommunications carrier that does not meet the definition of a facilities-based carrier under section 214(e)(1)(A),
the controlling carrier may not rely on the existing Lifeline-only ETC’s compliance plan and must submit a
compliance plan for Bureau approval as detailed in paragraph 379 before receiving reimbursement from the
program.
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they have not yet been designated as of December 29, 2011, until their compliance plans are approved.
No designations shall be granted for any pending or new Lifeline-only ETC applications filed with the
states or the Commission after December 29, 2011, for carriers that do not meet the “own-facilities”
requirement contained in section 214(e)(1)(A), and such carriers shall not receive reimbursement from the
program, until the Bureau approves their compliance plans. We find that these requirements are
necessary to ensure ongoing compliance with our rules.
381.
With the reforms adopted today, along with the conditions outlined herein to address
potential waste, fraud and abuse, including the Bureau’s review and approval of all compliance plans, we
find that the public interest is served by forbearing from the facilities requirement in section 214(e) for all
carriers that are, or seek to become, Lifeline-only ETCs, and that the third prong of section 10(a) is
therefore satisfied.

B.

Impact of New Rules on Prior Forbearance Conditions

382.
The Commission has exercised its statutory authority to forbear from enforcing the
facilities requirement of the Act on several non-facilities based wireless resellers so that those wireless
resellers may be eligible to be designated as an ETC for participation in the Lifeline program.1001 In each
forbearance order, the Commission provisioned forbearance on several key conditions aimed at consumer
safety protection and at protecting the Lifeline fund from waste, fraud and abuse.1002 Each of the orders
also requires that the carrier subject to forbearance submit a compliance plan describing how that carrier
would comply with the conditions of forbearance.1003
383.
In this Order, the Commission adopts several new rules, many of which relate to the
requirements set forth in prior forbearance orders and compliance plans.1004 To the extent that any of the
conditions in the carrier-specific forbearance orders and compliance plans are inconsistent with the rules
adopted herein, the newly adopted rules established in this proceeding shall prevail. However, the
conditions and rules adopted in this Order set forth the minimum obligations with which a carrier must
comply for forbearance from the facilities requirement, and any carrier whose grant of forbearance was
conditioned on more stringent compliance plans must comply with those additional obligations as well as
the conditions adopted herein. In addition, any ETC that has received forbearance from the facilities
requirement prior to this Order must continue to comply with the 911/E911 public safety obligations.1005


1001 See TracFone Forbearance Order; Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order); i-wireless Forbearance Order; Global
Forbearance Order
; Conexions Forbearance Order; PlatinumTel Forbearance Order. No wireless reseller has
received forbearance for the purpose of receiving Link Up support.
1002 See, e.g., TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15101–03, paras. 15–18; Virgin Mobile Forbearance
Order
, 24 FCC Rcd at 3390-93, paras. 21-29; i-wireless Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 8790, para. 16; Global
Forbearance Order
, 25 FCC Rcd 10517-18, paras. 16-18; Conexions Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 13871,
paras. 17-18; PlatinumTel et. al Forbearance Order, 26 FCC Rcd 13795-96, paras. 17-18.
1003 See TracFone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15105, para. 25; Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order, 24 FCC
Rcd at 3397, para. 44; i-wireless Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 8790, para. 16; i-wireless Forbearance Order,
25 FCC Rcd at 8790, para. 17; Global Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd 10517, paras. 16; Conexions Forbearance
Order
, 25 FCC Rcd at 13871, para. 17; PlatinumTel et. al Forbearance Order, 26 FCC Rcd 13796, para. 17.
1004 See, e.g. supra para. 74 (adopting a one-per-household requirement similar to the head of household certification
condition in the TracFone Forbearance Order and the PlatinumTel. Forbearance Order); TracFone Forbearance
Order
, 20 FCC Rcd at 15098, para. 6; PlatinumTel. Forbearance Order, 26 FCC Rcd 13795, para. 17.
1005 See supra paras. 373-75. Given that section 20.18(m) already requires wireless resellers to provide access to
basic and enhanced 911 service to the extent that the underlying licensee of the facilities the reseller uses to provide
access to the public switched network complies with 20.18(d)-(g), we are no longer requiring that Lifeline-only
ETCs subject to existing forbearance orders to obtain a certification from each PSAP where it currently provides
(continued….)
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C.

Additional Rule Amendments

384.
In the Lifeline & Link Up NPRM, we sought comment on whether the current process for
designating eligible telecommunications carriers should be revised for Lifeline providers and, if so,
how.1006 In this Order, we have made a number of important changes to our rules in order to eliminate
waste and inefficiency, and to increase accountability in the program. Here, we make some conforming
changes to our rules and several other changes that reflect the growing role of Lifeline-only ETCs in
today’s marketplace. We seek further comment in the attached FNPRM on additional proposal to
streamline the process of becoming a Lifeline-only service provider.
385.
First, we modify the definition of “eligible telecommunications carrier” in section 54.5 of
our rules to include not just ETCs designated by the states pursuant to section 54.201, but to include all
ETCs designated pursuant to our rules. This modification is necessary because section 214 of the Act,
and our rules provide for designation of ETCs by the states and by the Commission.1007 Furthermore this
modification conforms the rule to the Commission’s consistent use of the term since it was given specific
authority to designate ETCs by Congress in 1997.1008 We therefore find good cause to amend this rule
without notice and comment.1009
386.
Second, we amend section 54.202 to clarify that a common carrier seeking designation as
a Lifeline-only ETC is not required to submit a five-year network improvement plan as part of its
application for designation as an ETC. In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the
Commission included a new requirement in section 54.202, requiring a common carrier seeking to be
designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier by the Commission to submit a five-year plan
describing proposed network improvements and upgrades. Given that Lifeline-only ETCs are not
receiving funds to improve or extend their networks, we see little purpose in requiring such plans as part
of the ETC designation process.
387.
Third, we amend sections 54.201 and 54.202 of our rules, which govern ETC
designations by states and this Commission, respectively, to require a carrier seeking designation as a
Lifeline-only ETC to demonstrate that it is financially and technically capable of providing the supported
Lifeline service in compliance with all of the low-income program rules. 1010 In 2005, the Commission


(Continued from previous page)
Lifeline service. See 47 C.F.R. § 20.18(m). As noted in paragraph 375 above, states, however, have a right to
impose a state-specific obligation on these existing Lifeline-only ETCs. See supra para. 375.
1006 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM at 2865. para. 312.
1007 See 47 U.S.C. 214(e)(2), (3) and (6); and 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.201-203. In 1997, Congress amended section 214 of
the Act to give the Commission specific authority to designate ETCs, and the Commission issued a public notice
setting forth the procedures it would use to designate ETCs, but did not amend its rules at that time. See Procedures
for FCC Designation of Eligible Telecommunications Carriers Pursuant to Section 214(e)(6) of the
Communications Act
, Public Notice, 12 FCC Rcd 22947 (1997).
1008 See, e.g., ETC Designation Order, 20 FCC Rcd, at 6378-79, para. 17 (“State commissions and the Commission
are charged with reviewing ETC designation applications for compliance with section 214(e)(1) of the Act”); Virgin
Mobile Forbearance Order
, 24 FCC Rcd at 3383-84. para. 5 (discussing the authority of the state commissions and
the Commission to designate ETCs); USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNRPM, FCC 11-161 at para. 390 (“By
statute the states, along with the Commission, are empowered to designate common carriers as ETCs.”).
1009 See 5 U.S.C. § 553(b)(3)(B).
1010 See Indiana Commission Comments at 15 (“[C]ompanies that have made a business case to serve a certain
market in a state prior to receiving Lifeline subsidies may be less inclined to risk being cited for non-compliance
with the program.”).
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declined to adopt such an explicit requirement for federally-designated ETCs, concluding that the
Commission’s existing rules, including the showings a common carrier had to make to be designated as
an ETC pursuant to section 54.202, would provide sufficient assurance of the carrier’s financial and
technical ability to provide the supported service.1011
388.
Given recent growth in the number of companies obtaining ETC designation, 1012 we now
conclude that it is appropriate to update our rules for federally-designated ETCs and extend the
requirement to all ETCs to ensure that Lifeline-only ETCs have the financial and technical ability to offer
Lifeline-supported services. Therefore, in order to ensure Lifeline-only ETCs, whether designated by the
Commission or the states, are financially and technically capable of providing Lifeline services, we now
include an explicit requirement in section 54.202 that a common carrier seeking to be designated as a
Lifeline-only ETC demonstrate its technical and financial capacity to provide the supported service.1013
Among the relevant considerations for such a showing would be whether the applicant previously offered
services to non-Lifeline consumers, how long it has been in business, whether the applicant intends to rely
exclusively on USF disbursements to operate, whether the applicant receives or will receive revenue from
other sources, and whether it has been subject to enforcement action or ETC revocation proceedings in
any state.
389.
Fourth, we delete section 54.209 of our rules regarding certification and reporting
obligations for federally-designated ETCs, while moving those reporting requirements relevant to ETCs
providing Lifeline services to subpart E, which governs universal service support provided to low-income
consumers. 1014 In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission indicated that
recipients of high-cost support would henceforth report pursuant to new section 54.313, and section
54.209 would continue to apply only to Lifeline-only ETCs.1015 In order to centralize and streamline
certification and reporting requirements pertaining to federally-designated Lifeline-only ETCs in subpart
E of the rules, we move the relevant portions of section 54.209, as they related to such ETCs, to new
section 54.422. In particular, in order to receive support under subpart E, an ETC must provide the
following information, previously required by section 54.209: information regarding service outages, the
number of complaints received per 1,000 connections, certification of compliance with applicable service
quality standards and consumer protection rules, and certification that the carrier is able to function in
emergency situations. In doing so, we streamline annual reporting by eliminating reporting requirements
that no longer make sense in today’s marketplace for federally-designated Lifeline providers.
390.
We also establish targeted reporting requirements in this new rule section that will apply
to all ETCs receiving Lifeline. First, as discussed above,1016 an ETC receiving low-income support must


1011 See ETC Designation Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 6387-88, paras. 37-39.
1012 USAC assigns a study area code (SAC) for each state in which a company receives designation as an ETC, and
USAC reported disbursement information for 135 more SACs in the fourth quarter of 2011 than it did in the fourth
quarter of 2010. See Universal Service Administrative Company, 2Q 2011 Filing, Appendices at LI04
http://usac.org/about/governance/fcc-filings/2011/quarter-2.aspx (reporting fourth quarter 2010 disbursements for
2085 SACs); Universal Service Administrative Company, 2Q 2012 Filing, Appendices at LI04
(usac.org/about/governance/fcc-filings/2012/quarter-2.aspx (reporting 4th quarter 2011 disbursements for 2220
SACs).
1013 See Letter from Luisa Lancetti, T-Mobile, to Marlene H. Dortch, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., Attach. at 10 (filed
Jan. 24, 2012) (arguing that the Commision should require ETCS to demonstrate that they are technically and
financially capable).
1014 See USTelecom Comments at 23 (participation in Lifeline should not be tied to high-cost requirements).
1015 USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at 580, n.955.
1016 See supra para. 296.
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annually report the names and identifiers used by the ETC, its holding company, operating companies and
affiliates, which will assist us in the Lifeline audit program. Second, we require every ETC receiving
low-income support to provide to the Commission and USAC general information regarding the terms
and conditions of the Lifeline plans for voice telephony service offered specifically for low income
consumers through the program they offered during the previous year, including the number of minutes
provided, and whether there are additional charges to the consumer for service, including minutes of use
and/or toll calls, which will enable us to monitor service levels provided to low-income consumers. 1017
391.
Because section 54.209 is now obsolete in light of the rule changes adopted in this Order
and in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, we find good cause to delete it without notice
and comment.1018

XII.

APCC PETITION FOR RULEMAKING AND INTERIM RELIEF

392.
Background. On December 6, 2010, the American Public Communications Council
(APCC) petitioned the Commission (Petition) to initiate a rulemaking to make payphone service eligible
for Lifeline support at $10 per month per line for all publicly available phones.1019 APCC also petitioned
for interim relief (Petition for Interim Relief), seeking to allow ETCs to receive Lifeline support for
service provided over payphone lines.1020 APCC asserts that Lifeline funds for payphone service will
prevent the disappearance of payphones.1021 It urges the Commission to “act on an interim basis to
provide immediate relief before the decline in payphones becomes irreversible as payphone deployment
ceases to be a viable business.”1022
The Wireline Competition Bureau sought comment on the
petitions.1023
393.
According to APCC, in 1998, there were over 2 million payphones in service, but there
are now fewer than 475,000 payphones, a collapse APCC attributes to the growth in wireless telephone
service as well as in Lifeline-supported wireless service.1024 APCC seeks universal service support for the
475,000 payphones in service.1025


1017 In the event ETCs choose to offer, as an additional option to low income consumers, the Lifeline discount to
other retail service offerings, including bundles, that are available to the general public as described in section IX.A
above, ETCs are not required to submit the terms and conditions of such retail service offerings to the Commission
or USAC.
1018 See 5 U.S.C. § 553(b)(3)(B).
1019 Petition for Rulemaking to Provide Lifeline Support to Payphone Line Service, WC Dkt No. 03-109 et al. (filed
Dec. 6, 2010) (Petition). APCC is a national trade association that represents independent payphone providers.
1020 Emergency Petition for Interim Relief to Prevent the Disappearance of Payphones, CC Dkt. No. 96-45; WC
Dkt. No. 03-109 (filed December 6, 2010) (Petition for Interim Relief).
1021 Petition at 32; Petition for Interim Relief at 9.
1022 Petition for Interim Relief at 1.
1023 Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Comment on American Public Communications Council Petitions
Regarding Universal Service and Payphone Issues
, Public Notice, WC Dkt. No. 03-109 et al., 25 FCC Rcd 17345
(2010). Five commenters, Rosebud Telephone, the Florida Public Telecommunications Association, Minority
Media & Telecom Council, and, in a joint submission, Consumer Action and the National Consumers League
support APCC’s petitions. Verizon and Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corporation, TracFone, United States
Telecom Association, and NASUCA oppose the petitions.
1024 Petition at 3.
1025 Id. at 19-20.
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394.
APCC argues that the Commission should amend its rules to give Lifeline support to
payphone service providers. APCC argues that section 276 of the Act was established to promote
widespread deployment of payphone services to the benefit of the general public, and the Act requires the
Commission to determine whether “public interest payphones” located “where there would otherwise not
be a payphone, should be maintained, and if so, to ensure that such public interest payphones are
supported fairly and equitably.”1026 APCC asserts that such support would cost the Fund roughly $57
million annually.1027
395.
Discussion. After consideration of the petitions and filed comments, we deny both the
Petition for Rulemaking and the Petition for Interim Relief. We question whether the requested relief is
consistent with section 254, and we are not persuaded that the agency should devote resources to
commence a proceeding to explore these issues at a time when our focus is on reforming the program to
protect it against waste, fraud and abuse and modernizing it to include broadband.
396.
As the Commission has long made clear, Lifeline is intended to benefit eligible low-
income consumers, not service providers.1028 There is no indication in the Petitions that Lifeline support
would be passed through to consumers. Indeed, APCC seeks to redefine “qualifying low-income
consumers” to include payphone service providers, without a commitment to pass through the Lifeline
discount to the consumers that would use those payphones.1029 As proposed, this would merely provide a
windfall to payphone service providers. On its face, APCC’s request is inconsistent with our
longstanding commitment to ensure that low-income consumers have access to phone service in their
homes. Moreover, we are not persuaded by APCC that section 276 somehow compels us to use
contributions collected pursuant to section 254 to advance the goals of section 276.
397.
Pursuant to section 254 of the Act, the Commission must define services eligible for
universal service based in part on a determination that the services “have, through the operation of market
choices by customers, been subscribed to by a substantial majority of residential customers . . . .”1030 As
APCC readily admits, payphone service cannot, by definition, meet this criteria.1031 Indeed, in 2002, the
Joint Board considered and rejected the idea of providing universal service support to payphone service
providers in part for the same reason.1032 In 2003, the Commission agreed with the Joint Board and


1026 Id. at 17; 47 U.S.C. § 276(b)(1), (2). We note that APCC requests support for all publicly available payphones,
rather than petitioning for support only for public interest payphones. Congress stated clearly in its Conference
Report accompanying the Act that “public interest payphones” refers to “payphones at locations where payphone
service would not otherwise be available as a result of the operation of the market. Thus, the term does not apply to
a payphone located near other payphones, or to a payphone that, even though unprofitable by itself, is provided for a
location provider with whom the payphone provider has a contract.” S. Rept. 104-230, 104th Cong., 2d Sess. at 157
(1996).
1027 Petition for Interim Relief at 5.
1028 See Universal Service First Report and Order 12 FCC Rcd at 8952, para. 326. “First, we adopt the Joint
Board’s recommendation that Lifeline service should be made available to low-income consumers nationwide, even
in states that currently do not participate in Lifeline. To that end, we adopt the Joint Board’s recommendations that
Lifeline service should be provided to low-income consumers in every state, irrespective of whether the state
provides matching funds, and that all eligible telecommunications carriers should be required to provide Lifeline
service.” See also Sprint APCC Comments at 2-3.
1029 Petition at Attach. § 54.400(a)
1030 47 U.S.C. § 254(c)(1)(B).
1031 Petition at 5.
1032 Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, CC Dkt. No. 96-45, Recommended Descision, 17 FCC Rcd
14095, 14114, para. 47 (Jt. Bd. 2002).
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explicitly excluded payphone service from universal service support.1033 The Commission reasoned that
“payphone lines are not subscribed to by a substantial majority of residential consumers.”1034 We decline,
at this time, choose to overturn this previous Commission determination.
398.
For the reasons set forth above, we deny APCC’s petitions for interim relief and for a
rulemaking to make payphone service providers eligible for Lifeline support.

XIII.

FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING

A.

Establishing an Eligibility Database

399.
Background. In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, we sought comment on the
administrative, practical, and legal issues involved in establishing a database to check consumer eligibility
for Lifeline.1035
We asked a number of questions regarding whether it would be beneficial and
administratively feasible to establish a database at the national level or facilitate the creation of databases
at the state level to allow ETCs and other interested parties to check whether a consumer is eligible for
Lifeline. There was widespread agreement that such databases would help ensure that only those
customers who qualify for Lifeline benefits would receive such benefits, while also reducing carriers’
costs.1036
400.
The record shows that some states have already implemented automated processes and
systems to ensure Lifeline eligibility.1037
Some states utilize eligibility databases as part of the
coordinated enrollment process to further increase participation in the program.1038 Some states also
utilize databases to verify ongoing eligibility.1039 States also vary in how available automated processes
are to different types of ETCs. In Washington state, for instance, the extent to which a carrier is required
and authorized to access eligibility databases depends upon whether that ETC is wireline, pre-paid
wireless, or post-paid wireless.1040 In Maryland, the PSC makes a list of consumers who are receiving
benefits under certain state social service programs that qualify consumers for Lifeline available to any
ETC signing a confidentiality agreement.1041
401.
The record indicates that eligibility data is typically housed at state social service
agencies and separately administered from the Lifeline program, posing an obstacle to broader
implementation of electronic eligibility checks.1042 The Commission, ETCs, and in some cases even state
commissions are unable to easily access such eligibility data and determine quickly whether a potential


1033 2003 Tribal Lifeline Order, 18 FCC Rcd at 15090.
1034 Id.
1035 See Lifeline and Link Up NPRM at 2834, para 207.
1036 See, e.g., Nexus Nov. 18 ex parte Letter.
1037 See, e.g., Tracfone Nov. 11 ex parte Letter, Attach. at 8 (noting that it can access eligiblity data in Washington
state and Wisconsin to determine eligiblity).
1038 See supra para. 177.
1039 See, e.g., OR PUC Comments at 6.
1040 See Washington State Aug. 30 ex parte Letter at 8.
1041 See filing from Ralph Markus, Maryland, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 (filed June 30, 2011) (describing data lists)
1042 See, e.g., Solix Comments at 2.
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Lifeline subscriber is eligible for the program.1043
Some states do not have an easily accessible
centralized electronic depository for even the individual programs which qualify consumers for Lifeline,
let alone a coordinated system across all such programs, and even those that have established such
systems may face limitations, due to cost or privacy concerns, in providing ETCs or their own state PUC
access.1044 As a result, only a handful of states have implemented eligibility databases, and fewer still
have implemented databases that account for all programs for which consumers can qualify for Lifeline.
402.
There is currently no robust federally administered national database that can be utilized
to check for Lifeline eligibility because nearly all of the program data is maintained exclusively at the
state level. However, efforts are currently underway within and across federal agencies to facilitate
eligibility determinations and eliminate waste in various government programs, some of which qualify
consumers for Lifeline. For example, a June 2010 Presidential memorandum created a “do not pay”
system through which federal benefits payments could be cross-checked by agencies to prevent ineligible
recipients from receiving payments.1045 The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), through its
Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation, has provided grants for states for pilot programs to
computerize and share benefits data for social services programs across states.1046 For example, a group
of southeastern states received a grant to aggregate their Medicaid (a program that qualifies consumers for
Lifeline) eligibility information into a single database.1047 Another pilot program provides funding for an
interstate food stamps database, which may be expanded to include TANF and Medicaid information.1048
In addition, other federal agencies and third parties have worked cooperatively to solve this problem in
other federal programs or initiatives. An intergovernmental board administers the Public Assistance
Reporting Information System (PARIS) database, an intergovernmental database which permits states to
check for duplicative claims for several government programs across states (including Medicaid) through
a social security number match.1049 One Economy has explored with HUD whether it is feasible to make
available the database containing information for Section 8 housing assistance recipients, another


1043 See, e.g., Michigan PSC Comments at 9 (“In Michigan, it is unlikely that the social service agencies will allow
the ETCs or the MPSC to have direct access to the confidential information in their databases.”).
1044 See Cincinnati Bell Comments at 9-10; see also Missouri PSC Comments at 4 (“The Missouri Department of
Social Services is only able to verify eligibility in the following four programs: Missouri Healthnet, food stamps,
LIHEAP, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.”).
1045 Whitehouse.gov, President’s Memorandum on Enhancing Payment Accuracy through a “Do Not Pay List,” 75
Fed. Reg. 35,953 (June 18, 2010), available at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/financial_improper/06232010_donotpaylist.pdf.
1046 Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation, About the
Partnership Fund, available at http://partner4solutions.gov/about (last visited Jan. 18, 2012).
1047 OMB, Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Partnership Fund Pilot Award Summary, available at
http://partner4solutions.gov/sites/www.partner4solutions.gov/files/CMS_Pilot_Award_Summary.pdf (last visited
Jan. 18, 2012) (“The pilot will test how open source technology reduces fraud and administrative costs to States and
the Federal government by enabling multiple states to check Medicaid provider eligibility.”).
1048 OMB, Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation, USDA Partnership Fund Pilot Award Summary,
http://partner4solutions.gov/sites/www.partner4solutions.gov/files/USDA_Pilot_Award_Summary.pdf. (last visited
Jan. 18, 2012).
1049 Admin. for Children and Families, U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs., Public Assistance Reporting
Information System (PARIS), About PARIS, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/paris/about/index.html (last visited
Jan. 18, 2012).
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program that qualifies consumers for Lifeline.1050
403.
Discussion. As explained above, we conclude that establishing a fully automated means
for verifying consumers’ initial and ongoing Lifeline eligibility from governmental data sources would
both improve the accuracy of eligibility determinations and ensure that only eligible consumers receive
Lifeline benefits, and reduce burdens on consumers as well as ETCs. We conclude that it is important to
accelerate the adoption of a widespread, automated means of verifying program eligibility. We therefore
direct the Bureau and USAC to take all necessary actions so that, as soon as possible and no later than the
end of 2013, there will be an automated means to determine Lifeline eligibility for, at a minimum, the
three most common programs through which consumers qualify for Lifeline.1051. To ensure that the
Commission has sufficient information to implement such a solution, we seek focused comment on the
issues below.
404.
Because much of the relevant federal eligibility data is housed at the state level, we seek
comment on how the Commission can encourage the accelerated deployment of widespread state
databases that can be used or accessed to streamline Lifeline eligibility determinations. These databases
could be queried directly by ETCs to determine customer eligibility, and potentially used to provide
information to a national eligibility database. We also seek comment on whether federal benefit
databases under development across states and at the national level can be leveraged to assist in checking
for Lifeline eligibility. We seek comment on whether a state-specific or national eligibility database
approach is more reliable, efficient, or imposes greater costs on the states and ETCs.
405.
We seek to further develop the record on ways to mitigate the potential cost on states if
the Commission were to mandate the creation of Lifeline eligibility databases at the state level or the
transmission of state eligibility data to a national database. Several states argue, for example, that they
are unable to implement a Lifeline eligibility database because they lack sufficient funding and
expertise.1052 Should the Fund be used to assist states in implementing their own eligibility databases
and/or facilitate the transfer of state eligibility data to a federal database? Does the Commission have the
legal authority to provide Fund support to states for this purpose? How much funding would be necessary
to materially assist states in implementing a database? To assist in our determination of the size of such
funding, we seek comment on the implementation and ongoing costs of those Lifeline databases that are
currently in operation at the state level.
406.
We seek comment on whether we should condition receipt of federal Lifeline funds on
state implementation of an eligibility database. Some commenters argue that the Commission does not
have the authority to impose requirements on states to implement state eligibility databases for
Lifeline.1053 However, we note that states must, as a condition of receiving federal funds for certain other


1050 One Economy Comments at 4 (noting that One Economy, as leader of the Digital Adoption Coalition applied
for a BTOP grant in which Federal Public Housing assistance program beneficiaries would receive broadband, “only
because senior officials at HUD thought our program was so necessary for their residents that they agreed to
modernize their database structure and allow ‘blind’ access to the Digital Adoption Coalition to provide these
services. As we did not receive this grant, this vital modernization and access provision at HUD never occurred”).
1051 Based on the information in the record, most consumers qualify for Lifeline through Medicaid, Food Stamps
and SSI. See supra para. 104. We recognize that meeting this goal will require coordinated action among
numerous parties outside of the Commission.
1052 See, e.g., Alabama PSC Comments at 2 (“The APSC currently has at its disposal the data necessary for
populating a fully functional Lifeline eligibility database, but lacks the funding required to achieve that goal.
Therefore, the APSC seeks the financial assistance needed to fully develop, test, implement, and maintain the
software required for management of that database.”).
1053 See, e.g., Missouri PSC Comments at 2.
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federal programs, such as Medicaid, participate in national eligibility databases by transmitting
beneficiary data to a national database.1054 Should the Commission condition federal Lifeline support to a
state’s consumers on the state’s ability to facilitate access to eligibility data? Are there other measures we
could adopt to encourage states and other participating entities to implement a database or provide the
necessary information to support a federal database? What would the impact on Lifeline consumers be if
the state, for whatever reason, were unable to implement such a database?
407.
We seek focused comment on the federal or state privacy requirements implicated in the
establishment of a national or state eligibility database. Some states appear to assert that federal and state
privacy rules preclude the transmission of eligibility information or other personal data from state social
services agencies to third parties.1055 However, other states do not appear to have similar state laws, or
they interpret federal laws to allow the transmission of such information.1056 We ask commenters to
specify the federal and state privacy laws that they believe may preclude the transmission of eligibility
information to a state or national eligibility database. Would affirmative customer consent at the time of
application allow for the transmission of information notwithstanding such laws? If so, can and should
we mandate that ETCs seek to obtain such consent at the time the consumer applies for Lifeline?
408.
An alternative approach would be for the Commission to establish a national eligibility
database instead of or in addition to state databases. If the Commission establishes a national database,
should it be populated by individual customer eligibility data stored in state eligibility databases? Should
state or federal entities pay for the electronic interface between the state and federal databases? If the
national database did not house eligibility data, should it only have the capability of querying the
individual state databases to determine consumer eligibility?
409.
We seek comment on whether there are reasons to mandate a national eligibility database
if that database relies on data provided by states. One commenter argues that it would be costly and
administratively difficult to implement a national eligibility database and that nothing would be gained
over state database access because the data is housed at the state level.1057 If a national database merely
served as a conduit or gateway through which ETCs could query state databases, what are the advantages


1054 State Health Access Data Assistance Ctr., New Opportunities for Medicaid data-matching using PARIS
database
, available at http://www.shadac.org/blog/new-opportunities-medicaid-data-matching-using-paris-database
(Jul. 20, 2010) (“Participation in the Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) is required by states
to receive Medicaid funding for automated data systems (including the Medicaid Management Information
System). The requirement to participate, effective October 1, 2009 as part of the Qualifying Individual (QI)
Program Supplemental Funding Act of 2008, allows the sharing of enrollee and applicant information for state
public assistance agencies (SPAAs) and federal agencies.”).
1055 See, e.g., Cincinnati Bell Aug. 30, 2011 ex parte Letter at 2.
1056 Compare id. (discussing how privacy concerns precluded the transmission of eligibility data to the Ohio PUC)
with Washington State Aug. 31 ex parte Letter at 4 (“DSHS is providing prepaid wireless ETCs with access to their
online Beneficiary Verification System (BVS). The BVS is an interactive online interface. When an authorized user
keys in a Lifeline applicant's 9-digit DSHS client ID or the combination of the applicant's full name and Social
Security number, the website will confirm if the customer is receiving one of the nine qualifying public assistance
programs administered by the DSHS.”).
1057 See CGM Comments at 2 (“It is much more difficult and time consuming to require states to provide timely state
centric eligibility data to a centralized national repository than it is to gain access to this data at the state level. The
vast majority of eligibility is determined at the state level. The eligibility criteria are not generally called into
question, only timely access to that data. Nationalizing this data and access to it doesn't do anything to make the
task easier or make its accuracy any better. It makes on-going maintenance more difficult and prone to error.
Transferring eligibility data from state care to a national database will also expose privacy and security issues.”).
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of such a national database over and above separate state databases? Do these advantages outweigh the
costs of additional sources of error that may be introduced when a state database interacts with a national
database?
410.
We also seek comment on whether, as a practical matter, a national Lifeline eligibility
database could be established without the need to access or obtain eligibility data housed at the state level.
As explained above, there are several national databases at various stages of development which contain
beneficiary information for certain federal programs and enable authorized parties to check federal
program eligibility. Some of these databases are for programs that qualify consumers for Lifeline.1058 We
seek comment on how these national databases for other programs can be leveraged to assist in the
creation of a national Lifeline database. How could the Commission best partner with other relevant
agencies to share information housed in other agencies’ databases? Can third parties, such as ETCs,
query other existing national benefit databases, or can only another federal or state agency do so? We
also seek comment on how issues relating to the accuracy of information in federal government databases
already in service are handled and corrected.1059 Moreover, we seek comment on whether national
databases are sufficiently robust to be utilized to check for eligibility in the Lifeline program. For
example, is the PARIS database updated frequently enough to be utilized to check for Lifeline eligibility?
411.
To the extent that the program data available at the federal level is utilized to establish a
Lifeline database, we propose that the Commission should first focus on the three programs which, based
on the record, qualify the most consumers for Lifeline (i.e., Medicaid, food stamps, SSI).1060 We expect
that such a focus will impact the largest number of Lifeline beneficiaries, and may also be able to
leverage the work already done by HHS in its PARIS program and recent OMB grants for Medicaid
administration.
412.
In the Order, we adopt a national database to check for duplicative support. We seek
comment on the synergies that could result from combining the duplicates database and a national
eligibility database. Should a national eligibility database be built “on top of” the duplicates database,
and, if so, what is the most efficient way of doing so? What are the cost savings and other benefits that
would result from the integration of both duplicate and eligibility databases and what, if any, are the
drawbacks of such an approach?
413.
In the Order, we require ETCs to transmit the name, address, telephone number, date of
birth, last four digits of the social security number and the means through which the consumer qualified
for Lifeline to the duplicates database. We find that such data will allow the database to check for
duplicative support. However, it may be necessary for ETCs to collect and transmit additional
information (e.g., the full SSN) to a national eligibility database to determine eligibility. For example,
some state Lifeline databases require that any valid query to determine eligibility include the transmission
of a beneficiary’s full social security number and/or date of birth.1061 At the same time, several parties
have raised concerns regarding ETCs’ collection of the full social security number.1062 We seek


1058 See supra section VI.F (Automatic and Coordinated Enrollment).
1059 Letter from Cheryl Leanza, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, WC Dkt. No.
11-42 at 5 (filed Nov. 21, 2011) (dicusssing how errors in the social security database are corrected).
1060 See supra para. 104; see also Holt et al., Making Telephone Service Affordable for Low Income Households at
40 (Jan. 28, 2007) available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=959692 (noting that, in Florida,
programs that increased the number of households the most . . . were Medicaid, Food Stamps and SSI).
1061 See Washington State Aug. 31 ex parte Letter at 4.
1062 See GCI Ex Parte Presentation, WC Dkt. Nos. 11-42 et al., Attach. 1 at 2 (filed June 13, 2011) (“The
Commission cannot use the whole Social Security number without express statutory authorization”).
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comment to refresh the record about the privacy issues surrounding the creation of any eligibility database
and the transmission of the full social security number. Do state or federal laws require the submission of
particular information (e.g., the full SSN) in order for a third party such as an ETC to be able to determine
if a consumer is receiving a federal or state benefit which qualifies a consumer for Lifeline? Does the
answer depend upon the program? Can the Commission decline to provide benefits to a consumer based
on the consumer’s refusal to provide a full social security number?1063
414.
Some commenters argue that the Commission should pursue other, non-electronic
methods to check for eligibility in lieu of or in the interim while an electronic means of verifying
eligibility is created. For example, both Verizon and AT&T suggest that a national third-party
administrator, not the ETCs, should examine income and program documentation submitted by end-users
and make a determination of eligibility.1064 We recognize that establishing a centralized third-party review
of documentation may involve a delay in time between the application and proof of verification being
submitted by the consumer and being approved. At the same time, however, it would relieve carriers
from the burden of having to make initial determinations of eligibility as required by our rules and would
result in increased standardization of eligibility determinations.1065 We seek comment on the costs and
benefits of mandating a non-electronic means of checking program eligibility by a third-party
administrator, including the cost of implementing such a solution on a nationwide basis, and whether such
a non-mechanized approach can be integrated with the duplicates database at a later date. 1066 What would
be the benefits and costs if USAC were to assume this function given its role to implement the National
Lifeline Accountability Database to eliminate duplicative support?
415.
Finally, we seek comment on additional features and functions which can and should be
added to the National Accountability database. We seek comment on whether the current features and
functions of the database can be refined, including the manner in which ETCs interact with the database.


1063 See Privacy Act § 7(a)(1), 5 U.S.C. § 552A (“It shall be unlawful for any Federal, State or local government
agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal
to disclose his Social Security account number.”); Ingerman v. Delaware River Port Authority, 630 F. Supp. 2d 426,
442 (D. N.J. 2009) (invalidating requirement of Social Security number for an EZ Pass seniors discount, which was
collected in part to prevent fraud).
1064 See Verizon Reply Comments at 4-5; Letter of Mary L Henze, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 at 2 (filed Jan. 24, 2012) (arguing that ETCs should not be
involved in making eligibility determinations). California engages a third party contractor to examine the program
documentation of those Lifeline customers who are audited during the renewal process. See California Comments,
WC Dkt. No. 03-109 et al., at 11 (filed Jul. 13, 2010) (“[T]he CPUC’s Certifying Agent vendor annually reviews a
sample of customers who are verifying their status for renewal of Lifeline eligibility. If a customer is randomly
selected for this ‘audit’ during the renewal process, the customer must provide documentation of participation in one
of the above programs, and the web-based system cannot be used.”).
1065 As we explain above, we direct USAC to establish a process so that, after 2012, ETCs may elect to have USAC
administer the re-certification process on their behalf. We seek additional comment here on whether a third party
administrator, such as USAC or another party, should perform initial certifications of Lifeline eligibility.
1066 Letter of Alan Buzzacott, Counsel, Verizon, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, FCC, WC Dkt. No. 11-24 at 2
(filed Nov. 7, 2011) (“Even if the database administrator does not initially have direct, real-time access to state
systems that contain eligibility information, the database administrator’s responsibilities should not be limited solely
to checking for duplicates. At a minimum, the administrator should assume responsibility for the annual verification
process. The California Lifeline program is an example of how a centralized administrator can assume
responsibility for annual verifications even without access to state systems that contain eligibility information.”).
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B.

Advancing Broadband Availability for Low-Income Americans through Digital
Literacy Training

416.
In the attached Order, the Commission established a goal of ensuring the availability of
broadband service for low-income Americans and adopted broadband penetration rates among low-
income Americans as an outcome measure for this goal. The most recently available statistics suggest
that approximately 32 percent of the American population has not adopted high-speed Internet at
home,1067 and the percentage of non-adopters among low-income Americans may be as much as double
the national rate.1068 As discussed in today’s Order, for broadband to be “available” to a consumer, a
broadband network must be deployed to the consumer, the service must be of sufficient robustness to
meet the needs of consumers, and the broadband service offered over the network must be affordable.1069
The USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM recently adopted by the Commission reformed and
modernized USF’s high-cost program to address the first two of these barriers, while the attached Order
adopts a Broadband Pilot Program to assess how best to modernize the Lifeline program to address
affordability of broadband service.1070 However, barriers to broadband adoption also include lack of
digital literacy, and a perception that the Internet is not relevant or useful.1071 The Commission has taken
a number of steps to help tackle the digital literacy challenge, including through the recent “Apps for
Communities” contest, which focused on increasing the relevance of Internet access.1072 In this section,
we seek comment on the use of universal service funding to address the barrier that lack of digital literacy
creates to increased broadband adoption among low-income Americans.
1.

Background

417.
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) defined digital literacy as the skills needed to “us[e]
[information and communications technology] to find, evaluate, create and communicate information,”
while recognizing that digital literacy is an evolving concept.1073 Digital literacy is increasingly essential
to obtaining an education, searching for a job, learning job-related skills, accessing government
information, participating in civic processes, and managing household and financial responsibilities.1074


1067 See NTIA, U.S. DEP’T OF COMMERCE, DIGITAL NATION: EXPANDING INTERNET USAGE, NTIA RESEARCH
PREVIEW at 2 (Feb. 2011), available at
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/ntia_internet_use_report_february_2011.pdf.
1068 AARON SMITH, PEW INTERNET & AMERICAN LIFE PROJECT, HOME BROADBAND 2010, at 8 (Aug. 11, 2010),
available at http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/Home%20broadband%202010.pdf (2010
Broadband Adoption Report
).
1069 See supra para. 34.
1070 See generally, USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM.
1071 2010 Broadband Adoption Report at 2-3, 11.
1072 See Apps for Communities, available at http://appsforcommunities.challenge.gov (last visited Jan. 19, 2012).
Winning entries included tools to help people find jobs and connect the homeless with services.
1073 See, e.g., NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 174-77.
1074 See Remarks on Broadband Adoption, Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Julius Genachowski,
Washington, D.C. at 3 (Oct. 12, 2011) (Chairman Broadband Remarks), available at
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db1012/DOC-310350A1.pdf (Chairman’s Broaband
Remarks
); American Library Association, Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2010-2011: Public
Library Technology Study
, at 24, http://www.ala.org/ala/research/initiatives/plftas/2010_2011/plftas11-
techlandscape.pdf (Library Tech Study); Carlos A. Manjarrez & Kyle Schoembs, Who’s In the Queue? A
Demographic Analysis of Public Access Computer Users and Uses in U.S. Public Libraries
, Institute of Museum
and Library Services, at 5 (June 2011), http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/Brief2011_04.pdf (IMLS
Research Brief
); George S. Ford, PhD, Phoenix Center Perspectives 11-04: Internet Use and Labor Market
(continued….)
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Additionally, increasing digital literacy and use of the Internet can help bridge the skills gap, reduce job
search discouragement,1075 and aid the country’s economic recovery.1076
418.
Americans who lack the skills to use the Internet fall behind in a number of important
areas. Consumers who do not know how to participate in e-commerce lose the financial benefit of online
sales and discounts,1077 lose out on the cost savings and benefits of e-banking,1078 and lose access to
government services – also imposing additional costs on the government to maintain duplicative service-
delivery models.1079 Broadband Internet is also a tremendous resource for health care information,
including specific information about treatment options, safety and drug recall information, doctors and
other health professionals, and health insurance.1080 Americans who lack the skills to use broadband
simply do not have the same access to services and information as other consumers.
419.
The NBP recommended a number of steps to help all Americans obtain access to
broadband and acquire the skills to use it, including launching a National Digital Literacy Corps to train
young people and adults to teach digital literacy skills to non-adopters of computer and Internet


(Continued from previous page)
Participation: Additional Insights from New and Old Data, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public
Policy Studies, at 7 (Aug. 18, 2011), available at http://www.phoenix-center.org/perspectives/Perspective11-
04Final.pdf (Phoenix Center Perspective 11-04); Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the 21st Century, White Paper,
Common Sense Media, at 2 (Mar. 2011), available at
http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/DigitalLiteracyandCitizenshipWhitePaper-Mar2011.pdf
(Common Sense 2011 White Paper) (discussing the definition of digital literacy and digital citizenship).
1075 See, e.g., Phoenix Center Perspective 11-04 at 3; George S. Ford, PhD, Phoenix Center Perspective 10-01s:
Internet Use and Job Search: More Evidence
, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy
Studies (Jan. 26, 2011), http://www.phoenix-center.org/perspectives/Perspective10-01Final.pdf (Phoenix Center
Perspective 10-01
); T. Randolph Beard, et al., Phoenix Center Policy Paper Number 39: Internet Use and Job
Search
, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, at 21 (Jan. 2010),
http://www.phoenix-center.org/pcpp/PCPP39Final.pdf (Phoenix Policy Paper No. 39).
1076 See, e.g., U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Announces Digital Literacy Initiative, Press Release, NTIA
(May 13, 2011), available at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/print/press-release/2011/us-commerce-secretary-gary-locke-
announces-digital-literacy-initiative; Fact Sheet: Digital Literacy, U.S. Department of Commerce,
http://www.commerce.gov/news/fact-sheets/2011/05/13/fact-sheet-digital-literacy (May 13, 2011); Robert D.
Atkinson, et al., The Internet Economy 25 Years After .com, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation at
42 (Mar. 15, 2010), available at http://www.itif.org/files/2010-25-years.pdf; Hamilton Consultants, Inc., Economic
Value of the Advertising-Supported Internet Ecosystem
, Hamilton Consultants, at 12 (June 2009), available at
http://www.iab.net/media/file/Economic-Value-Report.pdf; Phoenix Center Perspective 11-04, at 6; ECDL
Foundation highlights role of digital literacy in economic recovery, awards top programs at Global Forum
, Press
Release, AMEinfo.com (Dec. 13, 2009), available at http://www.ameinfo.com/218610.html; Digital Inclusion
Report New Report Shows the Economic Benefit of Getting Everyone Online
, PR Newswire,
http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=268499 (Oct. 13, 2009) (PR Newswire Report on Digital
Inclusion)
(stating that digital literacy could potentially provide billions of dollars to the economy).
1077 See PR Newswire Report on Digital Inclusion (stating that lack of Internet access can greatly impact personal
finances and the national economy).
1078 Pew Research Center, Pew Internet & American Life Project, at 1-3 available at
http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2006/PIP_Online_Banking_2006.pdf.
1079 See PR Newswire Report on Digital Inclusion (suggesting UK government could save hundreds of millions of
pounds per year in efficiencies if better use was made of online government services).
1080 See, e.g. ,Susannah Fox, The Social Life of Health Information, 2011, Pew Internet and American Life Project,
at 3 (May 12, 2011), available at
http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2011/PIP_Social_Life_of_Health_Info.pdf.
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technology.1081 The NBP also recommended private and public sector programs with similar digital
literacy goals, and suggested an online digital literacy website.1082 In recent months, several private sector
organizations have announced significant commitments to tackle barriers to digital literacy.1083 For
example, the “Connect to Compete” initiative seeks to address barriers to broadband adoption, including a
focus on digital literacy and the employment skills gap.1084 Additionally, the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce,
has been providing funding to develop digital literacy programs through its Broadband Technology
Opportunities Program grants.1085 BTOP grant funds are currently being used in libraries across the
country.1086 BTOP funds are also being used by various community programs and technology
corporations to improve digital literacy and citizenship.1087
420.
Although these initiatives are making significant progress in boosting the digital literacy
skills of Americans where such programs are available, much more needs to be done to make digital
literacy ubiquitous, particularly among low-income populations. BTOP’s Sustainable Broadband
Adoption and Public Computing Center programs are providing needed funding, but its projects are
available only in certain communities and during certain times. Additionally, BTOP funding will end by
2013.1088 The number of public libraries offering formal digital literacy programs is still relatively low,
with only 38 percent of public libraries offering formal digital literacy courses, and only 25 percent of
those in rural America offering courses.1089 More than 60 percent of public libraries still do not provide
any formal digital literacy services to their patrons, and due to budgetary restrictions, some libraries have


1081 See NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 174-78.
1082 See id. The website was developed by NTIA and is available at www.digitalliteracy.gov.
1083 See Chairman Julius Genachowski, FCC, Remarks at Comcast Internet Essentials Event, Washington, D.C.
(Sept. 20, 2011), available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-309693A1.pdf (recognizing
Comcast’s Internet Essentials program that seeks to provide low-cost high-speed Internet combined with digital
literacy training).
1084 See Chairman’s Broadband Remarks at 4-6; see also FCC & “Connect to Compete” Tackle Broadband
Adoption Challenge Through Expanded Digital Literacy Training, Fact Sheet (Oct. 12, 2011) (Connect to Compete
Digital Literacy Fact Sheet
), available at
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db1012/DOC-310346A1.pdf; Supporting Statements
From Connect to Compete Partners, (Oct. 12, 2011) (Connect to Compete Supporting Statements), available at
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db1012/DOC-310348A1.pdf.
1085 See NTIA, BroadbandUSA, Grants Awarded: Sustainable Broadband Adoption,
http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/sustainableadoption (last visited Jan. 19, 2012). See also DigitalLiteracy.gov, In the
Community Stories, http://www.digitalliteracy.gov/communities (last visited Jan. 19, 2012).
1086 See, e.g., Enhancing Computer Centers in Montana Public Libraries, http://msl.mt.gov/btop/; New Jersey State
Library, available at http://njworks.org/; State Library of Louisiana, http://www.state.lib.la.us/; Technology
Expertise, Access and Learning for all Texans, https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/teal/; DC Public Library, Public
Computing Centers, http://dclibrary.org/broadbandusa/public-computing-centers.
1087 See, e.g., CFY, http://cfy.org/ (last visited Jan. 19, 2012) (providing services in NYC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, LA,
and San Francisco Bay Area); ONECOMMUNITY, http://www.onecommunity.org/ (last visited Jan. 19, 2012);
Common Sense Media, Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum for Grades 6-8, Common Sense Media,
http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/curriculum/6-8 (last visited Jan. 19, 2012).
1088 BTOP Quarterly Status Report, NTIA, Department of Commerce, at 9 (Dec. 2011), available at
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/btop-quarterly-congressional-report-dec-2011.pdf.
1089 See Library Tech Study at 32-33. Formal training generally refers to group/classroom type training. Informal
training generally refers to anything outside of formal classes, including one-on-one training, downloadable
references and guides and ad hoc point-of-use library staff assistance. See id.
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reported eliminating digital literacy skills training programs.1090
2.

Discussion

421.
We seek comment on using universal service support for targeted, time-limited funding
to ensure that low-income Americans who have not adopted broadband have the digital literacy skills they
need to access and use broadband. In particular, we seek comment on the details of providing digital
literacy funding, including whether such funding should be used for digital literacy training programs,
what types of entities should receive such funding, how much funding to provide and for how long, and
how funding should be administered.
422.
Legal Authority. As an initial matter, we seek comment on our statutory authority to use
universal service funds to support digital literacy. As we recently noted in the USF/ICC Transformation
Order and FNPRM
, the principle that all Americans should have access to communications services has
been at the core of the Commission’s mandate since its creation. Congress created the Commission in
1934 for the purpose of making “available . . . to all the people of the United States . . . a rapid, efficient,
Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service . . . .”1091 In the Telecommunications
Act of 1996, Congress built upon that longstanding principle by enacting section 254, which sets forth six
principles upon which we must “base policies for the preservation and advancement of universal service .
. . .”1092 Among these principles are that “[a]ccess to advanced telecommunications and information
services should be provided in all regions of the Nation,” and that “[c]onsumers in all regions of the
nation, including low-income consumers . . . should have access to telecommunications and information
services, including . . . advanced telecommunications and information services, that are reasonably
comparable to those services provided in urban areas and that are available at rates that are reasonably
comparable to rates charged for similar services in urban areas.”1093 Congress also directed the
Commission to take the steps necessary to ensure the delivery of affordable telecommunications service
to all Americans, including eligible schools and libraries.1094 Section 254(h)(2) directs the Commission
“to enhance, to the extent technically feasible and economically reasonable, access to advanced
telecommunications and information services” for libraries and school classrooms.1095 Furthermore, the
Commission has the authority under section 254(c)(3) to designate “additional” services eligible for
universal service support under the schools and libraries program.1096 Under this authority, the
Commission may provide support to non-telecommunications carriers providing non-telecommunications
services, such as Internet access and internal connections.1097 Historically, the Commission has supported
transmission used to access advanced information services. Training on how to use information services
also enhances access to those services in classrooms and libraries and furthers the purposes of section
254(h).1098


1090 Id. at 35.
1091 47 U.S.C. § 151.
1092 47 U.S.C. § 254(b).
1093 47 U.S.C. § 254(b) (1) – (3).
1094 47 U.S.C. § 254 (a)– (c). See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8780, para. 1.
1095 47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(2).
1096 47 U.S.C. § 254(c)(3).
1097 See Texas Office of Public Utility Counsel v. FCC¸ 183 F.3d 393, 440-45 (5th Cir. 1999).
1098 See, e.g., S. Conf. Rep. No. 230, 104th Cong., 2d Sess. 132 (1996) (“The provisions of subsection (h) will help
open new worlds of knowledge, learning and education to all Americans . . . . They are intended, for example, to
provide the ability to browse library collections, review the collections of museums, or find new information on the
(continued….)
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423.
Against this statutory backdrop, we seek comment on our legal authority to use universal
service funds to support digital literacy in general and digital literacy training in particular. Should the
directive to provide “access” be understood to include the ability for consumers to use the services once
they have access to them? Just as the Commission has long relied upon sections 254(c)(3) and 254(h)(2)
to provide support for internal connections to enable access to the Internet in classrooms, could we also
authorize funding for training to enable library patrons to effectively utilize the Internet access provided
at libraries, or to enable parents and other members of the community to learn the skills to use E-rate
funded connections at School Spots1099 across the country?
424.
We seek comment on whether promoting digital literacy would serve the objective of
providing support that is sufficient but not excessive, so as to not impose an excessive burden on
consumers and businesses who ultimately pay to support USF. By providing more consumers with the
requisite skills to use broadband, we could expect to see more demand for broadband, which would
improve the business case for broadband providers to deploy and expand networks and offer services to
all consumers. Increased broadband penetration rates could reduce the need for Connect America Fund
subsidies to enable broadband networks in high cost areas to provide service at reasonably comparable
rates. As the Commission explained in its most recent Broadband Progress Report, obstacles to
broadband adoption, such as poor digital literacy, are barriers to infrastructure investment because they
reduce the revenue available to providers who invest in broadband.1100 The Commission recognized that
one of the most significant barriers to investment in broadband infrastructure is the lack of a “business
case for operating a broadband network” in high-cost areas “[i]n the absence of programs that provide
additional support.”1101 In addition, to the extent digital literacy contributes to consumers’ ability to
search for, secure, and keep jobs, targeted investment in digital literacy could, over time, help reduce
demand on Lifeline by reducing unemployment. Consistent with court holdings that the “purpose of
universal service is to benefit the customer, not the carrier,”1102 would providing digital literacy training
be a way to lessen demand for both low-income and high-cost funding, and thereby reduce contribution
obligations on consumers and businesses?
425.
In the wake of the 1996 Act, the Commission implemented the directives in section 254
by adopting rules to administer universal service through four functionally separate programs – high cost,
low-income, E-rate, and rural health care. Our current rules direct USAC, the USF program
administrator, to project program demand separately for those four programs, and to keep separate
accounts for the amounts of money collected and disbursed for each program.1103 Nothing in the statutory
framework, however, dictates that the Commission must keep these four programs functionally separate
from one another, or precludes the Commission from creating a new program that is administered
separately from existing programs, so long as that program is consistent with our statutory authority. We


(Continued from previous page)
treatment of an illness, to Americans everywhere via schools and libraries.”); but see, e.g., Schools and Libraries
Universal Service Support Mechanism et al.
, CC Dkt. No. 02-6 et al., Sixth Report and Order, 25 FCC Rcd 18762,
18841 (2010) (2010 E-Rate Sixth Report and Order) (listing such training as “Ineligible for E-rate Funding as
Internet Access Services”).
1099 See 2010 E-Rate Sixth Report and Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 18901 (Statement of Chairman Julius Genachowski);
Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism, CC Dkt. No. 02-6, Order and Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking, 25 FCC Rcd 1740, para. 13 (2010) (E-rate Community Use Order and NPRM).
1100 Seventh Broadband Progress Report, 26 FCC Rcd at 8040, paras. 64-65.
1101 Id. at 8040-41, para. 66.
1102 Rural Cellular Association 588 F.3d at 1103 (quoting Alenco Communications, Inc. 201 F.3d at 621).
1103 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.702(h).
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therefore seek comment on whether a digital literacy program should be administered through the existing
E-rate program, the low-income program, or as a separate program outside of the current structure of any
of the existing programs. What are the practical and administrative implications of each of these
alternatives?
426.
Digital Literacy Training. We seek comment on whether universal service funding for
digital literacy should be focused on training programs. By reducing the digital literacy skills gap,
training programs could help consumers, and particularly low-income Americans, who have not yet
adopted broadband to gain the digital skills necessary to adopt broadband. Connect Ohio, a BTOP
grantee that offers digital literacy training classes in libraries and community centers across Ohio, found
that approximately 87 percent of consumers who took formal digital literacy classes said they intended to
subscribe to broadband at home within a year as a result of the training, demonstrating the effectiveness
of digital literacy training as a tool for increasing broadband adoption.1104 We seek comment and data on
the effectiveness of formal digital literacy training classes, and the benefits such training provides as
compared to informal digital literacy guidance that may be provided by librarians and others to consumers
who have not adopted broadband.
427.
Although some digital literacy training programs are already being offered, many
Americans who haven’t adopted broadband still may not have access to digital literacy training, because it
may not be offered where they live or because the service may be offered through a program or institution
that is only available to certain populations. For example, a local area senior center may provide
computer or Internet classes, but the mission of these institutions and the people they serve is limited to
the elderly. Of the approximately 16,800 public libraries in the United States,1105 only about 38 percent
currently provide formal digital literacy training.1106 Providing additional funding for digital literacy
training that is free and open to all consumers, for example through programs offered at libraries and
schools, could help close that gap by ensuring that all Americans, particularly low-income Americans,
can access the benefits of digital literacy training. Furthermore, funding digital literacy training programs
could provide not only an immediate infusion of resources, but also produce a more sustainable impact by
fostering the development of curricula and training skills that would serve as building blocks for future
digital literacy training programs run without USF support. Accordingly, we seek comment on whether
funding digital literacy training is an effective way to help close the digital literacy gap and thereby
increase demand for and the availability of broadband to low-income consumers and others. We also
seek comment on how to ensure that the non-adopters we are targeting are aware of and can access the
digital literacy training programs that are established as a result of our providing funding. Are there ways
to utilize the expertise of other government agencies, groups or organizations to assist us in better
targeting digital literacy training?1107
428.
Funded Entities. We seek comment on what types of entities should be eligible to
receive digital literacy training funds, consistent with our statutory authority, efficient program design,


1104 Amanda Murphy, 2011 Review: ECO Progress, Last Mile Successes, New Initiatives & Partnerships, Connect
Ohio, (Dec. 28, 2011), available at http://connectohio.org/blog/post/2011-review-eco-progress-last-mile-successes-
new-initiatives-partnerships.
1105 See Funding & Technology Access Study, Public Libraries and Access, Information Policy & Access Center at 1
(2010-2011 data presented) (iPAC Information), available at www.ala.org/plinternetfunding. See also How
Libraries Stack Up: 2010, OCLC at 1 (2010) (OCLC Research), available at www.oclc.org/reports/stackup
1106 See Library Tech Study at 33, Figure C-17.
1107 See, e.g., Letter from Marijke Visser, American Library Association, to Marlene H. Dortch, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al. (filed Jan. 24, 2012) (American Library Association Jan 24
ex parte Letter).
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and the targeting of the funding towards low-income consumers. Many have advocated that libraries are
effective institutions for digital literacy training,1108 while schools, particularly those offering School
Spots pursuant to the E-rate Community Use Order and NPRM, could be effective as well. Does our
authority allow funding received from savings in the Lifeline program to be directed to libraries and
schools through our current E-rate program? Could this minimize administrative overhead and provide a
ready means to prioritize or limit receipt of funds to libraries and schools in low-income areas?1109
Alternatively, as part of the low-income program, could USF funding be provided to ETCs that apply for
additional support for the purpose of providing digital literacy training in locations like libraries that are
targeted to low-income communities?1110 We also seek comment on whether to provide funding to ETCs
that participate in the high-cost program, conditioned on their offering digital literacy training to
consumers in their service territory.1111 For example, such training could be provided by ETC employees
in public locations such as libraries or schools. Are there anchor institutions better suited to serve low-
income non-adopters than schools and libraries, or perhaps in addition to schools and libraries? If so,
what are they, and how could we target them? For example, would Tribal government administrative
buildings or other community centers be more accessible and better suited to serve low-income non-
adopters on Tribal lands?
429.
Libraries are open to the general public during operating hours, while digital literacy
training offered by schools to non-students would presumably be offered only outside of school hours. In
addition, libraries may be open during the evenings and on weekends, which could increase the
opportunities for digital literacy classes to be held at times when people could attend them. Furthermore,
for millions of Americans, libraries have become established institutions where people feel comfortable
accessing the Internet,1112 and libraries are a known place in the community where people may already go


1108 Informing Communities Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, The Aspen Institute and The Knight
Foundation at 47 (2009), available at
http://www.knightfoundation.org/media/uploads/publication_pdfs/Knight_Commission_Report_-
_Informing_Communities.pdf; INFORMATION NEEDS OF COMMUNITIES REPORT: PART 3 - RECOMMENDATIONS,
Federal Communications Commission, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis at 358 (July 2011),
available at http://transition.fcc.gov/osp/inc-report/INoC-35-Recomendations.pdf.
1109 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.505(c) (E-rate Discount Matrix). An E-rate applicant filing for discounts on eligible services
must calculate the percentage discount that it is eligible to receive measured by the percentage of students eligible
for the National School Lunch Program and dependant upon whether it is located in an urban or rural location. FCC
Form 471 Instructions at 8-19 (identifying how an E-rate applicant should calculate its discount).
1110 See, e.g., Communications Workers of America Comments, WC Dkt No. 10-90 et al., at 16-17 (filed Apr. 18
2011).
1111 In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM proceeding, several rural telecommunications companies
commented that they maintain relatively low broadband adoption rates. Some advocated for greater availability of
information to increase adoption. See, e.g., Hargray Telephone Company Reply Comments at ii, 2; Hawaiian
Telecom 9-10; IT&E Reply Comments at 3-5; San Juan Cable at 3, 6; ALA at 4; California Emerging Technology
Fund at 1; CA PUC at 11, 14-15; Connected Nation at 17; DC PSC at 3; Free Press at 6; Global Crossing at 18;
Information Technology Industry Council at 5; Internet2 at 3; Kansas Corporation Commission at 20-21; Maine
Public Advocate Office at 5; National Assoc of State Utility Advocates at 48, 51; NY PSC at 4-5; Schools, Health
and Libraries Broadband Coalition at 4; State of Hawaii at Reply Comments at 3-4.
1112 See NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN at 176-77; OCLC Research at 1; iPAC Information; IMLS Research Brief;
Library Tech Study at 30, 32-39; The U.S. IMPACT Study, Opportunity for All: How Library Policies and Practices
Impact Public Internet Access, Institute of Museum and Library Studies (June 2011) (IMPACT Study), available at
http://tascha.washington.edu/usimpact.; Phoenix Center Perspective 11-04 at 3 (showing the impact that libraries
have made in reducing the probability of labor market discouragement).
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to seek help in becoming digitally literate.1113 For example, data shows that approximately 32 percent of
the American public 14 years or older have accessed the Internet using a library computer or wireless
network at least once in the last 12 months.1114 Additionally, this access is highest among low-income
and working poor, people of mixed race, 14-18 year olds, men, and non-English speakers.1115 Schools
can also provide meaningful opportunities for digital literacy courses and potentially reach non-adopters,
although they may be more limited in their reach and purpose – focusing primarily on students and their
immediate families and on digital citizenship, a concept that teaches how to appropriately and safely use
technology and the Internet in a technology-rich society.1116
430.
We propose to limit funds to entities that do not already offer formal digital literacy
training services so that USF does not displace existing funding sources for such training, whether
derived from public or private sector sources. Further, to encourage outreach to the community, we
propose that any digital literacy training supported in schools be limited to those schools that offer
community access after regular school hours.1117 We propose to establish these eligibility criteria to
encourage the development of new digital literacy training programs for the purpose of helping those
people without digital literacy skills gain access to digital literacy training. We believe these criteria will
further the goal of promoting universal service, instead of simply funding programs that already exist.
We seek comment on these criteria, and whether they will promote the goal of expanding access to and
demand for broadband among populations that disproportionately lack digital literacy skills, particularly
low-income consumers. We also seek comment on whether we should limit funding only to
“communities” that are not already served by digital literacy programs, such as BTOP-funded programs
designed to teach digital literacy skills. For purposes of administering such a requirement, how should
we define a “community” such that we could determine what community would not be eligible for digital
literacy training funding? Should the Commission establish additional eligibility criteria, and, if so, what
should those criteria include?
431.
We also seek comment on the criteria for selection of recipients in the event that demand
exceeds available funding. Research shows that certain demographic populations, such as the elderly,


1113 See IMPACT Study; OCLC Research; IMLS Research Brief at 2-4; iPAC Information at 3.
1114 See Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries, The U.S.
IMPACT Study, IMLS at 32 (Mar. 2010) (2010 IMLS Study), available at
http://www.gatesfoundation.org/learning/Documents/OpportunityForAll.pdf; Library Tech Study at 34.
1115 2010 IMLS Study..
1116 See, e.g., Secretary Arne Duncan, Common Sense 2011 White Paper; Using Technology to Transform Schools,
Remarks to the 2010 Association of American Publishers Annual Meeting, Department of Education
(Mar. 3, 2010)
(stating, “In the 21st century, students must be fully engaged. This requires the use of technology tools and
resources, involvement with interesting and relevant projects, and learning environments—including online
environments—that are supportive and safe”), available at
http://www2.ed.gov/news/speeches/2010/03/03032010.html; New York City Department of Education Connected
Learning, available at http://schools.nyc.gov/community/innovation/ConnectedLearning/default.htm (offering
digital literacy training in New York City for disadvantaged middle school students and their families); Ten
Elements of High Quality Digital Learning, Digital Learning Now! (Dec. 1, 2010), available at
http://digitallearningnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Digital-Learning-Now-Report-FINAL.pdf. But see
Mexican Institute For Greater Houston – Computer Literacy, available at http://www.org/programs/computer-
training (Spanish-language program consists of 100 hours of classroom training taught in 2 weekly 2-3 hour
sessions, which take place largely in K-12 public schools; curriculum consists of training on how to navigate the
Internet; create E-mail accounts; and use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel).
1117 See E-rate Community Use Order and NPRM.
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disabled, low-income, and non-English speaking populations, need more help with digital literacy.1118
Accordingly, for example, funding could be prioritized to areas, such as census tracts, that have more
low-income consumers. Should we direct funding to low-income areas? If so, at what level and based on
what criteria? Should we direct funding to entities serving elderly, disabled, bilingual, Tribal or non-
English speaking populations? How would we verify that these entities serve the targeted population?
The census data show that rural areas generally have higher non-adoption rates than urban areas. Should
we establish a rural priority for the funding if the demand exceeds the amount we ultimately adopt for this
program?
432.
On the other hand, if demand does not exceed available funding, should we consider
funding existing programs or entities that have already received funding for digital literacy training?
Should we consider funding programs focused on particular digital literacy skills, e.g., job searching, e-
government services, or financial services? We propose that the Wireline Competition Bureau provide
USAC with detailed criteria and guidelines for determining which applicants receive funding if the
demand exceeds the amount available. We seek comment on delegating this authority to the Bureau.
433.
Funding Levels and Duration. We seek comment on how to fund digital literacy training
without increasing the overall size of the Universal Service Fund. Could we use funding reclaimed
through savings in one USF program to advance digital literacy, potentially administered through another
program? Could, for instance, digital literacy training be administered in conjunction with the current E-
rate program, but be funded through savings realized by measures we adopt today to eliminate waste,
fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program, or by savings realized in high-cost support?1119
434.
Would up to $50 million in annual funding over a four year period appropriately balance
the goal of advancing digital literacy for Americans that lack such skills, such as low-income consumers,
with minimizing the USF contribution burden on consumers and businesses? Would this level and
duration of funding appropriately balance advancing digital literacy for Americans that lack such skills,
such as low-income consumers, with minimizing the USF contribution burden on consumers and
businesses? To aid commenters in addressing the impact of this amount of funding, we offer an example
of how a digital literacy training program could be structured if libraries and schools were the primary
recipients of funding and the program were administered through E-rate; we also estimate the likely
number of libraries and schools such a program could reach.
435.
Through E-rate, eligible schools and libraries may receive discounts from for eligible
services, including telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal connections.1120 As noted
above, section 254 gives the Commission authority to designate additional services eligible for support
through E-rate.1121 The Commission also has determined that it has the authority to designate services


1118 See Reply Comments of The United States Internet Industry Association and Netliteracy, GN Dkt. No. 09-51 at
8-11, Illustration #1 (June 8, 2009); see also John B. Horrigan, Closing the Broadband Divide, Pew Internet &
American Life Project at 2-3 (Aug. 2007), available at http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Closing-the-
Broadband-Divide.aspx; 2010 Broadband Adoption Report at 7.
1119 USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 138, n.221 (noting that Connect America
Fund support declined by carriers “could be held as part of accumulated reserve funds that would help minimize
budget fluctuations in the event the Commission grants some petitions for waiver,” or, in addition or instead, “[t]o
the extent that savings were available from CAF programs, the Commission could reallocate that funding for
broadband adoption programs, consistent with our statutory authority, while still remaining within our budget
target”).
1120 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.502, 54.503, 54.506, 54.517.
1121 See 47 U.S.C. § 254(c)(1), (c)(3), (h)(2)(A). Congress charged the Commission with establishing competitively
neutral rules to enhance access to advanced telecommunications and information services for all public and
nonprofit elementary and secondary school classrooms and libraries; and also provided the Commission with the
(continued….)
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eligible for E-rate support as part of its authority to enhance access to advanced telecommunications and
information services for all public and non-profit elementary and secondary school classrooms and
libraries, to the extent technically feasible and economically reasonable.1122 If we were to administer
support for digital literacy training through E-rate, we seek comment on designating certain additional
services as eligible for funding for entities that separately apply and are authorized to receive such
funding. We also seek comment on whether we can designate these services as eligible under a different
USF program.
436.
A recent study of libraries shows that there are a number of challenges to establishing and
maintaining a robust digital literacy program, including limited funds to hire staff, provide training, and
acquire the tools and resources to provide digital literacy training to patrons.1123 Accordingly, we seek
comment as to whether any of the following specific services to advance digital literacy should be added
to the Eligible Services List (ESL) as supported services eligible for E-rate program funding support if
digital literacy support were administered through the E-rate program:
·
Labor costs for trainers: dedicated personnel to provide digital literacy training for a
minimum number of hours per week;
·
Staff training for the trainers: providing effective in-person digital literacy training courses,
including supporting costs for in-person training, conferences, and online training;
·
Curriculum development: staff time developing curriculum, purchase of training content for
in-person digital literacy classroom courses, one-on-one training, and online tutorials;
·
Software and materials to facilitate in-person digital literacy training;
·
Marketing: staff time spent on marketing the training classes, including time spent
developing marketing materials as well as printing and advertising costs;
·
Volunteer recruitment: staff time spent on recruiting and training volunteer digital literacy
trainers; and
·
Administrative costs: staff time spent administering the program, including scheduling the
classes and reserving rooms.
In the alternative, if the digital literacy program were administered through the low-income or the high-
cost program, would the costs of these specific services or activities be appropriate to support and how
would the support be disbursed through those existing programs?
437.
We seek comment on whether these are the digital literacy resources that USF funding
should support. Are there other necessary resources that digital literacy training funding should support?
If so, what are they and why are they vital to providing digital literacy training?
438.
We also seek comment on whether and how funding should be allocated across libraries
and schools. Is it reasonable to assume that libraries are better situated to provide digital literacy training
to low-income consumers, and therefore that an allocation of digital literacy funding such as 80 percent to


(Continued from previous page)
authority to designate “special” or “additional” services eligible for universal service support for schools and
libraries. 47 U.S.C. § 254 (c)(3), (h)(2).
1122 Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 9008-9015, paras. 436-449; see also 47 U.S.C. §
254(h)(2)(A). We note that in the Universal Service First Report and Order, the Commission concluded that
training costs would not be deemed eligible for E-rate support for several reasons, including that the cost of
supporting training would be prohibitive, the E-rate program should provide funds to as many applicants as possible,
and participation in the program requires a showing that the applicant is ready and able to use the E-rate supported
services. See id. at 9038, 9077, paras. 497, 572.
1123 See Library Tech Study at 24-25, 32-39; see also IMPACT Study.
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libraries and 20 percent to schools would be appropriate? Does this allocation between two groups of
eligible entities allow for sufficient funding to encourage the development of sustainable digital literacy
training programs? If not, what would be a better allocation?
439.
We estimate that approximately $15,000 a year would be sufficient to cover the cost of
approximately eight to 10 hours of digital literacy training per week at one funded location (e.g., one
library or school).1124 If we structured the support to provide up to $10,500 per library or school per year,
requiring that the participant matches this funding by providing an additional $4,500 per year, each entity
would have a total of $15,000 per year to use for digital literacy training. A program structured in this
way could provide funding to nearly 4,800 entities annually within a $50 million annual budget.1125 We
note that providing funding for digital literacy training to 4,000 libraries could increase the percentage of
public libraries that provide formal digital literacy training from 38 percent to about 60 percent.
440.
We seek comment on this structure and its impact. Would a $15,000 annual program
budget per entity be sufficient to support a digital literacy training program? Would that level of support
allow eligible entities to provide meaningful training programs in the community? How many low-
income non-adopters could be reached with such a digital literacy training budget? Would ensuring
digital literacy training is available in 60 percent of libraries as well as nearly a thousand schools be
sufficient to ensure that all or nearly all low-income Americans who have not adopted broadband have
access to a digital literacy training program? Should a priority be established for schools and libraries on
Tribal lands, which historically have lagged behind in terms of both infrastructure deployment and
subscribership?1126 Is the $10,500 USF/$4,500 entity contribution (i.e., a 30 percent match, equivalent to
the 70 percent discount rate in the E-rate program) a reasonable balance between USF funding and entity
contribution, or would there be a greater impact if we required a smaller match and funded a smaller
number of entities? Is a $4,500 entity contribution an attainable amount for most libraries and schools?
If not, what would be a reasonable amount? Should the contribution amount be different for libraries and
schools? If so, on what basis and what should the amount be? Should we establish different discount
rates or match requirements for libraries and schools? If so, on what basis and what should they be? We
note that providing a set amount per entity, regardless of poverty level or urban versus rural location, is
different from the way libraries currently receive USF funding.1127 However, libraries have consistently
maintained that the current structure is not ideal for the way libraries serve their communities.1128 Given
the objective of increasing the number of and access to digital literacy training programs, a funding
framework different from the current USF funding structure could be beneficial. We seek comment on
providing a set discount level for funding all eligible entities.
441.
We seek comment on whether four years is an appropriate length of time to provide
funding for digital literacy training. Should it be longer or shorter? Is four years sufficient time to
improve significantly the digital literacy skills of low-income Americans and thereby increase broadband


1124 This estimate is based on a review of the average hourly trainer salary, benefits and administrative costs of
various ongoing digital literacy training programs administered by NTIA.
1125 If the funding were allocated 80% to libraries and 20% to schools, this would provide funding to 3,809 libraries
($40M/$10,500) and 952 schools ($10M/$10,500) annually.
1126 See Native Nations NOI, 26 FCC Rcd 2672, at 2673-74, para. 1 (estimating broadband deployment on Tribal
lands at less than 10 percent). See also id. at 2674, para. 2 (“where Native Nations and their community members
do have access to broadband, studies indicate that their rates of use are on par with, if not higher than, national
averages”) (citing Traci L. Morris Ph.D, Native Public Media and Sascha D. Meinrath, New America Foundation,
NEW MEDIA, TECHNOLOGY AND INDIAN USE IN INDIAN COUNTRY (Nov. 19, 2009).
1127 See E-rate Discount Matrix.
1128 See, e.g., ALA Comments, CC Dkt. No. 10-14 et al. (filed Jul. 9, 2010).
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adoption? Would funding for a shorter period of time discourage recipients from hiring permanent staff,
fully implementing a digital literacy curriculum, and providing training? Will there be a continued need
for digital literacy funding in the future?
442.
Administrative Structure. We propose that any digital literacy training funding that might
be established be administered through USAC. We anticipate the number of entities applying for funding
to offer digital literacy training could be high, and USAC has the experience and the resources to process
applications and distribute funding. We seek comment on this proposal. Is an alternative approach to
administration preferable, and, if so, why and what should that approach be?
443.
We seek comment on whether there should be an annual application process, comparable
to the E-rate process, or whether an eligible entity should be authorized to receive funding for the full four
years upon initially satisfying any applicable requirements. Are there other methods of disbursing
support that are more appropriate or more efficient considering the amount of support for each recipient
and the number of anticipated recipients? Could we utilize another government agency or organization to
review applications or distribute the funds to recipients?1129
444.
If the funding were to be administered as part of E-rate, should we establish a separate
filing window for digital literacy training applications? If a majority of funding is provided to libraries,
would there be less need to tie the funding cycle to the calendar of a typical school year? Given the idea
to provide a set amount of funding per applicant, linked to a specified number of hours of training per
week, there may be less of a need for a competitive bidding process for eligible recipients to procure the
necessary training resources and services. Does it generally make sense to apply the E-rate rules to this
program? If not, why not? If so, are there existing E-rate program rules that should not apply?
445.
If digital literacy funding were to be administered as part of another USF program, what
modifications to existing rules for that program rules should be made? Are there other USF program
rules or requirements we should consider waiving or should not apply?
446.
We also seek comment on the content and the format of the application forms. Should
we amend any of our current forms or create new forms only for the purpose of providing digital literacy
training support? What data should be submitted along with the digital literacy funding application?
How would applicants be required to demonstrate they are contributing the requisite amount of funding?
We propose to delegate the development of any new forms to the Bureau, and we seek comment on this
proposal.
447.
What reporting requirements and certifications should be imposed on recipients of
funding, and how would we ensure that the minimum number of hours of training per week are provided?
Should we require recipients to report to the Commission and/or to the public the number of individuals
that receive training, the number of individuals receiving training that go on to adopt broadband at home,
and/or any other metrics? If so, how frequently should such data be reported? Is there other information
that would enable us to monitor the impact of using universal service funds for this purpose? How often
should funding be disbursed – annually, quarterly, monthly, or some other interval?

C.

Limits on Resale of Lifeline-Supported Services

1.

Background

448.
Some telecommunications carriers are offering Lifeline-supported services directly to


1129 See, e.g., American Library Association Jan. 24 ex parte Letter at 1 (suggesting the FCC seek comment on the
suitability of disbursing Lifeline reform savings to the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) so that
IMLS “may award grants to promote digital literacy training through public, school and tribal libraries.”)
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consumers through resale arrangements with incumbent LECs.1130 Pursuant to section 251(c)(4) of the
Communications Act of 1934 (as amended), incumbent LECs have the duty to offer for resale at
wholesale rates any telecommunications service that the carrier provides at retail to subscribers who are
not telecommunications carriers.1131 In 1996, the Commission concluded that all retail services are
subject to this resale obligation.1132 In 1997, in its initial implementation of section 254, the Commission
rejected arguments that all carriers, not just ETCs, should be able to participate in Lifeline, noting that
section 254 allows universal service support to be provided only to ETCs. It concluded, however, that a
large class of companies that would not be eligible to receive universal service support directly would
nonetheless be able to offer Lifeline-supported service because “resellers could obtain Lifeline service at
wholesale rates that include the Lifeline discount and pass these discounts through to qualifying low-
income consumers.”1133 In its 2004 Lifeline Report and Order, the Commission required non-ETCs that
provide Lifeline-supported service to eligible consumers through resale arrangements with the incumbent
LECs to comply with all Lifeline/Link Up requirements, including certification and verification of
subscribers.1134
2.

Discussion

449.
In the Order adopted today, our goal is to make sure that all providers of Lifeline service
operate under a common set of rules designed to protect consumers and the Fund. We are very concerned
that in today’s marketplace, the current resale arrangements pose risk to the Fund in two respects.1135
First, in situations where both the wholesaler and the reseller are ETCs, there is a risk that both the
wholesaler and the reseller could seek reimbursement from the Fund for the same subscriber.1136 Because
ETCs submit line counts to USAC for reimbursement without identifying customer information, there is
no way for USAC to determine whether both the wholesale provider and the ETC-reseller are seeking
reimbursement from the Fund for the same subscriber.
450.
Second, in situations where only the wholesaler is an ETC, allowing non-ETC resellers to
provide Lifeline-supported services to consumers poses a risk to the Fund because non-ETCs are subject
to less oversight to ensure compliance with the Commission’s Lifeline rules. While our rules require
resellers to maintain records sufficient to demonstrate compliance with Commission rules,1137 it is
difficult, as a practical matter, to oversee compliance with our Lifeline rules in situations where the entity
with the retail relationship with the consumer is not interfacing directly with either USAC or regulators


1130 See 47 U.S.C. § 251(c)(4).
1131 See id.
1132 The Commission concluded there was no reason to limit the resale duty to basic telephone services, and that all
retail services are subject to wholesale rate obligations under section 251(c)(4). See Implementation of the Local
Competition Provisions in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, First Report and Order
, CC Dkt. No. 96-98 et al.,
11 FCC Rcd 15499, 15934 (1996) (Local Competition Order).
1133 See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8972, para. 370; see also id. at paras. 161, 178;
Tracfone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 15100-01, para. 12.
1134 See 2004 Lifeline and Link Up Order and FNPRM, 19 FCC Rcd 8302, 8325.
1135 The discussion in this section is confined to section 251 resale arrangements with incumbent local exchange
carriers for landline service; the questions posed here are confined to such arrangements and are not intended to seek
comment on issues relating to wireless resellers who are ETCs seeking reimbursement directly from the Fund.
1136 Pursuant to section 254(e) of the Act, only ETCs designated by a state commission or this Commission pursuant
to section 214(e) can receive federal universal service support. See 47 U.S.C. § 254(e).
1137 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.417.
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(state or federal). Non-ETC resellers may lack incentives to comply with a number of the protective
measures we adopt in this Order today, including the measures related to the institution of the duplicates
database.1138 In the most extreme case, carriers that have been denied designation as an ETC or otherwise
“red-lighted” as ineligible to receive Fund support could effectively circumvent those decisions by
entering into resale arrangements with the incumbent LECs under section 251 of the Act.1139
a.

Limiting Lifeline Support to the ETCs Directly Serving the Lifeline
Customers

451.
Consistent with our obligation to protect the program and reduce waste and abuse in the
Fund, we therefore propose to allow ETCs to receive Lifeline support from the Fund only when they
provide Lifeline service directly to subscribers. ETCs offering services at wholesale to resellers would no
longer be eligible to receive reimbursement from the Fund for such services when they are resold as
Lifeline services directly to end-users by resellers. This means that the incumbent LEC wholesale
provider would not be eligible to seek reimbursement from the Fund for any low-income subscriber for
whom it does not directly provide service. We seek comment on this proposal. How could such a
requirement be implemented? For example, could the Commission adopt a new Lifeline rule specifying
this requirement? Could we define the supported Lifeline service to be “voice telephony service provided
directly to end users,” thus excluding wholesale services that are used to serve Lifeline customers? If we
do not limit Lifeline support only to ETCs when they provide Lifeline service directly to eligible
subscribers, what other measures could we take to address the potential risks to the Fund?
b.

Re-examining the Scope of the Incumbent LEC Resale Obligation

452.
Even if incumbent LECs no longer receive support from the Fund when providing a
wholesale service used to serve Lifeline customers, we acknowledge that, as long as the incumbent LEC
continues to offer Lifeline-supported voice telephony service to retail customers, the section 251(c)(4)
resale obligation could be interpreted to require that incumbent LECs offer their Lifeline-discounted retail
voice telephony services for resale “at wholesale rates.”1140 This result could be avoided, however, if we
interpret the statute not to require incumbent LECs to resell their voice telephony services at a wholesale
discount based on their ordinary retail rate further discounted by the amount of the Lifeline subsidy when
resold to carriers seeking to serve Lifeline customers. Although certain Commission precedent could be
read to adopt a contrary interpretation,1141 we believe that this interpretation of section 251(c)(4) is
reasonable here, especially in light of intervening changes in the marketplace. In interpreting section
251(c)(4) in the Local Competition Order, the Commission found that “[t]he 1996 Act does not define


1138 For example, we impose a number of new obligations on ETCs including, among other requirements, the
transmission of all subscribers’ information into the National Lifeline Accountability Database and initial and
annual certification requirements. See supra sections VII.A and VI.C.
1139 The “Red Light Rule” is codified at 47 C.F.R. § 1.1910, and provides that anyone filing an application or
seeking a benefit from the Commission or one of its components (including USAC and the Pooling Administrator)
that is delinquent in debt owed to the Commission, will be barred from receiving a license or other benefit until the
delinquency has been resolved. Any entity that files an application or seeks a benefit from the Commission or one
of its components, and is delinquent in debt to the Commission, will be notified of the delinquency and given 30
days to resolve it. Failure to resolve it will result in dismissal of the application or other request for a benefit.
1140 See 47 U.S.C. § 251(c)(4).
1141 See, e.g., Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8866, 8875, 8972, paras. 161, 178, 370
(discussing reliance on resale to provide Lifeline services); see also Tracfone Forbearance Order, 20 FCC Rcd at
15100-01, para. 12 (same); Local Competition Order, 11 FCC Rcd 15499, 15975, para. 962 (1996) (“We also
conclude that section 251(c)(4)(B) allows states to make similar prohibitions on the resale of Lifeline or any other
means-tested service offering to end users not eligible to subscribe to such service offerings.”).
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‘retail rate;’ nor is there any indication that Congress considered the issue” and “[i]n view of this
ambiguity” concluded “that ‘retail rate’ should be interpreted in light of the pro-competitive policies
underlying the 1996 Act.”1142 In resolving the ambiguity in “retail rates” in this context, we believe that
section 251(c)(4) might also appropriately be interpreted in light of certain universal service policies. In
particular, we believe that section 251(c)(4) could be interpreted in light of the goals of section 254,
including avoiding waste, fraud, and abuse of universal service, and section 214(e), which anticipates that
universal service support will be flowing to ETCs that meet certain criteria, including that they will not be
providing service solely using resale.1143 Balancing the pro-competitive goals of the Act with these
universal service-specific considerations, we believe that we could conclude that the “retail rate” in this
context is the rate for the incumbent LEC’s voice telephony service before applying the Lifeline discount.
In the case of such resold services, only an ETC-reseller that has the direct relationship with the end-user
could apply for and obtain subsidies from the Fund.1144 Consequently, this approach would retain section
251(c)(4) resale as a competitive option in the case of ETCs serving Lifeline customers, which can get
wholesale-priced service for resale plus direct Lifeline support from the Fund, while protecting against
waste, fraud, and abuse under section 254 and remaining consistent with the framework of section 214(e).
We seek comment on that interpretation of section 251(c)(4), as well as other approaches that would
achieve the statutory and regulatory goals of universal service. For example, could the Commission
achieve a similar result through the interpretation of the phrase “other costs that will be avoided by the
[LEC]” in the resale pricing standard in section 252(d)(3)?1145
453.
As an alternative to that statutory interpretation, we seek comment on whether we could
relieve incumbent LECs of any section 251(c)(4) obligations they may have to resell Lifeline-discounted
services by forbearing, on our own motion, from applying those obligations to the resale of Lifeline-
discounted services.1146 We seek comment on our analysis for each of the criteria for forbearance set
forth in section 10(a). We also seek further comment on the competitive effect if the Commission were to
forbear from the resale requirement of section 251(c)(4) as it applies to Lifeline-discounted services sold
to non-ETC providers.
454.
Just and Reasonable. Under section 10(a)(1) of the Act, we must consider whether


1142 Local Competition Order, 11 FCC Rcd 15499 at 15970, para. 949.
1143 See generally 47 U.S.C. §§ 214(e), 254.
1144 Non-ETC resellers are precluded from obtaining subsidies directly from the Fund for their provision of service
to Lifeline eligible subscribers. See 47 U.S.C. §214(e).
1145 See 47 U.S.C. § 252(d)(3).
1146 Section 10 of the Act requires the Commission to forbear from any statutory provision or regulation if it
determines that: (1) enforcement of the regulation is not necessary to ensure that the telecommunications carrier’s
charges, practices, classifications, or regulations are just, reasonable, and not unjustly or unreasonably
discriminatory; (2) enforcement of the regulation is not necessary to protect consumers; and (3) forbearance from
applying such provision or regulation is consistent with the public interest. See 47 U.S.C. § 160. In making a
forbearance determination regarding the public interest, the Commission must also consider “whether forbearance
from enforcing the provision or regulation will promote competitive market conditions, including the extent to
which forbearance will promote competition among providers of telecommunications services.” Id. We note that
section 10(d) provides that the Commission may not forbear from applying the requirements of section 251(c) unless
it determines that those requirements are “fully implemented.” See id. § 160(d). In the Qwest Omaha Forbearance
Order
, the Commission determined that, for purposes of section 10(d), the requirements of section 251(c) are fully
implemented nationwide and may be forborne from. See Petition of Qwest Corporation for Forbearance Pursuant
to 47 U.S.C. § 160(c) in the Omaha Metropolitan Statistical Area
, WC Dkt. No. 04-223, Memorandum and Order,
20 FCC Rcd 19415, 19439-42, paras. 51-56 (2005). The D.C. Circuit affirmed the Commission’s interpretation, see
Qwest Corp. v. FCC
, 482 F.3d 471, 477-79 (2007).
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enforcement of a section 251(c)(4) duty to offer Lifeline-discounted services at wholesale rates is
necessary to ensure that the charges, practices, classifications, or regulations are just and reasonable and
not unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory.1147 Requiring incumbent LECs to offer for resale Lifeline-
discounted services at wholesale rates may not be necessary to ensure that the charges, practices,
classifications, and regulations for Lifeline service are just and reasonable, because low-income
consumers would still be able to receive Lifeline-supported services from other providers. Would
eliminating this resale requirement be unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory against non-ETCs—which
could not compete to offer Lifeline services because they would not be eligible to obtain such support
directly from the Fund—given the intent in the Act that only ETCs be eligible to offer Lifeline-supported
services?1148
455.
Consumer Protection. Section 10(a)(2) requires the Commission to consider whether
requiring incumbent LECs to offer Lifeline-supported services at wholesale under section 251(c)(4) is
necessary to protect consumers. Imposing this aspect of a resale requirement may not be necessary for
the protection of consumers as they will continue to have access to Lifeline-supported services from
numerous providers, including competitive ETCs that resell voice telephony services and receive Lifeline
support directly from the Fund.
456.
Public Interest. Section 10(a)(3) requires that we consider whether enforcement of a
section 251(c)(4) resale requirement for Lifeline-discounted services is in the public interest. The
Commission has made clear its ongoing commitment to fight waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline
program. Restricting Lifeline support to resellers that also are ETCs, thereby limiting reimbursements to
only those entities that have a direct reporting requirement to the Commission and USAC, should
function to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of the program, which is in the public interest. Section 10(b)
requires that the analysis under section 10(a)(3) include consideration of whether forbearance would
promote competitive market conditions. Although we do not believe that forbearance will necessarily
increase competition in the market for Lifeline services, given the number of Lifeline providers currently
in the market and ongoing efforts to market and make available Lifeline services, commenters should
address whether the proposed forbearance will in any way harm the already-competitive Lifeline services
market. We seek comment on this analysis.
457.
We seek comment on whether there are any policy concerns with the Commission
precluding the flow-through of Lifeline support to resellers, whether through statutory interpretation or
limited forbearance, and instead providing such support only directly to the ETC serving the Lifeline
customer. If so, what other ways exist to achieve the intended objective of preventing waste, fraud, and
abuse of the Fund and ensuring Commission rules regarding the provision of Lifeline services are being
followed by all Lifeline service providers? For example, if the Commission does not interpret the statute
or forbear as described above, what, if any, additional recordkeeping, reporting, or other measures should
be imposed to ensure that the Lifeline rules and requirements are being followed by the resellers?
c.

Implementation Issues

458.
We seek comment on how best to implement these changes if we were to adopt them.
Would limiting Lifeline funding to ETCs directly serving the Lifeline customers, coupled with either of
the alternatives to protecting against an unfunded incumbent LEC resale obligation, harm any existing


1147 See 47 U.S.C. §160(a)(1); 47 U.S.C. §251(c)(4); see also CTIA v. FCC, 330 F.3d 502, 512 (D.C. Cir. 2003)
(finding reasonable the Commission’s view that the term “necessary” means that there is a strong connection
between the requirement and its regulatory goal).
1148 See 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A). Although non-ETC resellers currently do not receive reimbursement directly
from the Fund, they do receive a benefit from the Fund in the form of a discounted wholesale price that effectively
passes the Lifeline subsidy through to the reseller.
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Lifeline subscribers? We seek input on how we could ensure continuity of service to current subscribers
of Lifeline resold service. Resellers are free to take steps, consistent with statutory requirements, to
become ETCs and, therefore, continue to resell Lifeline services. Should we defer the implementation
date of any rules for a limited time to provide sufficient time for existing non-ETC resellers to obtain ETC
designation, and if so, what time period would be appropriate? If non-ETC resellers do not choose to
apply for, or do not obtain, ETC designation, how should their subscribers be handled? Alternatively,
should existing resold lines be grandfathered? If so, how can the Commission ensure that the non-ETC
resellers offering such services to Lifeline subscribers are complying with the Commission’s rules?
459.
We also seek comment on the extent to which incumbent LEC Lifeline services today are
tariffed offerings that include a discount for the Lifeline subsidy as part of the wholesale price in the
tariff. Under the proposed alternatives, would incumbent LECs need to amend such tariffs to separate the
amount of the Lifeline subsidy from the wholesale price of the underlying service that is being resold, and
could they do so consistent with federal and state regulations? We also seek comment on how a rule that
restricts reimbursement from the Fund to ETCs providing Lifeline directly to end-users would impact
existing contractual arrangements, including interconnection agreements, that may exist between
incumbent LECs and resellers. Should we provide some period of transition before such a rule would
become effective to allow parties to renegotiate or terminate such agreements? Are there any other
actions the Commission should take with respect to such agreements under either of the approaches
discussed here?
460.
We seek comment on procedures that could be implemented to provide assurance that
ETCs are not seeking reimbursement for their wholesale service offerings. For instance, should
wholesale carriers be required to certify that they are not seeking reimbursement for resold services when
they submit line counts to USAC? Should incumbent LECs and other wholesalers be required to
maintain records of their resold lines for purposes of annual self-certification to USAC and any audit
requirements?
461.
The Order requires ETCs to populate a database with Lifeline subscriber information to
ensure that duplicate services are not awarded to qualifying individuals.1149 In the case of resold services,
the carrier that is providing Lifeline service directly to the low-income consumer is in the best position to
obtain the necessary information. We propose requiring that the Lifeline service provider with the direct
relationship to the end-user be responsible for entering all pertinent information into the database as
described in today’s Order. In the alternative, we propose that the Lifeline resellers be required to
provide the information, including subscribers’ names and service addresses, to the Lifeline wholesaler,
which then would be responsible for entering that information into the database. Regardless of which
party is required to populate the database, we also seek comment on methods to ensure that resellers are
adhering to the requirement to not enroll existing subscribers. We also seek comment on which entity,
the incumbent LEC wholesaler or the ETC-reseller, will be responsible for obtaining annual subscriber
certifications and who will de-enroll ineligible subscribers pursuant to the rules we adopt in this Order.

D.

Lifeline Support Amount for Voice Service

462.
In the Order, we adopted on an interim basis a uniform reimbursement amount of $9.25
in monthly Lifeline support for voice service.1150 In this FNPRM, we seek to further develop the record
on what a modernized Lifeline support amount should be, including the appropriate structure of support
(e.g., whether it should be uniform or vary in some way) and how the level or levels of support should be
determined. We are seeking to determine the optimal level of Lifeline discount that will help us


1149 Supra Order at paras. 182-208.
1150 Id. at para. 53.
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accomplish our goals.1151
463.
First, we seek comment on whether to continue with a flat rate of reimbursement. We
note that a uniform Lifeline support level is administratively simple and unlikely to significantly distort
the aims of the Lifeline program in any specific cases. While prices do vary somewhat from place to
place, reflecting market conditions such as underlying costs and the nature and extent of competition, we
are aware that many regional and national carriers set relatively uniform prices across a wide geographic
area.1152 Are there other approaches, such as one based on the price of the lowest-priced available
offering in a particular geographic area, that the Commission should consider instead of a flat rate of
reimbursement? Should the Commission provide support for any non-recurring up-front charges
associated with the provision of the service?
464.
We also seek comment on how we should determine the size of the support amount for
voice service. In the attached Order, we adopt a pilot program to test the impact of different support
amounts on broadband penetration rates. In the voice context, however, we could potentially develop an
estimate of the impact of different support amounts on voice service penetration based on data from the
existing program.
465.
For example, we could estimate low-income consumers’ demand response to price, and
hence estimate the subsidy levels that would achieve our goals. To do this we would need demand data –
both price and quantity information – from the Lifeline program, including data from the enhanced
Lifeline program on Tribal lands. Because Lifeline is a subsidy, “price” means both the actual price paid
by consumers for Lifeline service and the effective price received by ETCs. These two prices differ by
the support amount, currently set at $9.25, or up to $34.25 on Tribal lands. In this case, “quantity” means
the number of lines of a given quality obtained for a given price. Because the quality of service may
differ from one observation to the next, information on service characteristics (i.e., wireline or wireless,
number of minutes, value-added services, etc.) would also be needed. Ideally, this price and quantity
information would be obtained at the level of the Lifeline household. The more specific information
available to us, the better we could estimate demand for Lifeline-supported service, which would in turn
help us determine the optimal amount for the Lifeline discount. While a cross-section of households (or
study areas or states) may be sufficient for demand estimation, the more aggregated the data set is, the
more statistical fluctuation may be introduced into the estimate. Ideally, we would test data over a period
of time.
466.
We seek comment on the best method to determine the optimal support amount. Should
we require ETCs providing Lifeline service to submit the data described above to USAC as part of the
reimbursement process? Should this data be submitted directly to the Commission? Or is there a less
burdensome way to obtain the necessary information?
467.
In the alternative, could we rely on commenters’ estimates of the impact – on both voice
penetration and the Fund – of support amounts above or below the $9.25 or up to $34.25 on Tribal lands,
adopted on an interim basis in the attached Order? For us to do so, commenters would need to provide
specific credible evidence in support of their positions. If they believe that a lower rate would be
sufficient to meet our program goals, they would need to provide estimates of the expected savings
obtained from a lower rate, and also of the expected impact on penetration by low-income consumers,
including low-income consumers on Tribal lands. Conversely, if commenters believe a higher rate would
have a material impact on achievement of our goals for the program, they should describe with specificity
how such a higher rate would affect penetration rates for the targeted low-income population as well as


1151 Id. at paras. 24-43.
1152 We note that one commenter suggests that a flat rate be based upon the “costs incurred by the least cost provider
for a given area.” Ohio PUC Comments at 26.
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the associated costs it would impose on the Fund.
468.
We seek comment on whether support amount for voice should be uniform across all
providers or whether there should be different amounts for fixed v. mobile voice? Should the support
amount take into account varying business models for delivering the supported voice telephony service,
or the relative value that consumers may place on different types of service offerings? Should support be
provided on a monthly basis to those ETCs that do not charge for service on a monthly basis?
469.
We seek comment on whether the support levels could in the future be linked to a
communications price index? If so, how often should it be updated?
470.
Finally, we seek additional comment on issues related to the one-per-household rule
adopted in the Order. We ask whether the flat rate discount amount should be provided in a way that
would provide support for multiple services within a household. For example, should a household be able
to split the Lifeline discount across two or more lines? Should a household be able to use the discount for
both a wireless and a wireline service?
471.
Some commenters propose that the Commission make additional support available within
a household. For example, T-Mobile argues that the Commission should permit households receiving one
Lifeline-supported service to obtain a second supported service at 50 percent of the Lifeline support level
(e.g., 50 percent of $9.25, or $4.60).1153 We seek comment on this proposal. First, how would such a rule
be enforced? Would the extra support be available only to the ETC already serving the household, or
could the discount be split between two ETCs? How could such a rule be applied to the purchase of a
wireline connection and a wireless phone for a household, as opposed to a wireless family shared calling
plan? If such a rule were adopted, how should the Commission determine an appropriate per-household
support amount, or should the total support amount be one and a half times the standard support amount
as T-Mobile proposed?
472.
In the Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice, we sought comment on the costs associated
with providing one Lifeline-supported service per eligible resident of Tribal lands.1154 We seek to refresh
the record on this issue. Commenters are encouraged to provide written analysis to support their
recommendations.
473.
Should a household be able to allocate the set discount amount between both voice
service and broadband service? Finally, should the support amount for voice service be reduced over
time to the extent voice becomes an application that is available at no or minimal charge over a broadband
connection?1155 If so, how should the support amount be adjusted for areas in which broadband is not
available?

E.

Tribal Lands Lifeline and Link Up Support

474.
Tribal Lands Lifeline Support. In the 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, the Commission
adopted several measures to enhance Lifeline support for low-income residents living on Tribal lands.1156


1153 See T-Mobile Dec. 16 ex parte Letter, at 4 (stating that a reduced Lifeline subsidy should be available for
second (and subsequent, if applicable) household members, in recognition that wireless carriers generally offer
family plans with lower rates for additional connections); SBI Jan. 23 ex parte, at 2 (stating that the Commission
could provide an additional ten dollars of Lifeline support to enable households to afford wireless family plans
which share minutes).
1154 See Lifeline and Link Up Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 11103, para. 2(c).
1155 Supra section III (Performance Goals and Measures).
1156 See 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12231-32, paras. 20-85. See also supra discussion at section
VI.D (Tribal Lifeline Eligibility).
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One such measure was the adoption of enhanced low-income support, now known as Tribal Lands
support, for eligible residents of Tribal lands.1157 Tribal Lands Lifeline support provides up to an
additional $25 per month in support to eligible low-income consumers living on Tribal lands.1158 In the
Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission sought comment on whether the Tribal Lands support
amount remains a reasonable additional reimbursement rate for consumers receiving enhanced Tribal
support.1159
475.
In the Order above, we codified a rule limiting Lifeline support to a single subscription
per household.1160 We concluded that a one-per-household rule is a reasonable way to ensure that voice
and broadband service are available to low-income consumers, while minimizing the contribution burden
on consumers and businesses.1161 Thus, eligible residents of Tribal lands may currently receive one Tribal
Lands-supported service per household. However, as noted in the Order, some commenters responding to
the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM suggest that the Commission adopt a less restrictive “one-per-person
rule” applicable only to eligible residents of Tribal lands.1162
476.
We seek comment on whether to adopt a rule permitting eligible residents of Tribal lands
to apply their allotted Tribal Lands discount amount to more than one supported service per household.
Under such a rule, ETCs would have the flexibility to permit their consumers to apply their discount to
multiple services, up to the maximum allowable discount amount. For example, should a household
receiving a $34 Lifeline discount per month be permitted to “split” the discount between a wireline and a
mobile phone service (e.g., the household could receive a $17 discount off of the cost of each service) or
between two mobile services? Should eligible households on Tribal lands also be permitted to apply Link
Up to reduce the connection or activation costs for multiple services? Are there other areas of the country
that are similarly situated to Tribal lands such that subscribers in those areas should be permitted to apply
their allotted Lifeline discount amount to more than one supported service per household?1163
477.
We also seek comment on how such a rule could be administered. Should eligible
households on Tribal lands be permitted to obtain supported services from more than one ETC, or should
low-income support be limited to one ETC per household? What changes, if any, would need to be made
to sections 54.403 and 54.407 of the Lifeline rules, as amended today, if multiple ETCs are permitted to
seek support for the same household on Tribal lands? What steps could the Commission take to prevent
improper payments in that scenario? Additionally, how could the Commission and the Administrator
ensure compliance with the Commission’s reimbursement rules?1164
478.
In the Order above, we remove section 54.403(a)(4)(i) of the Commission’s current rules,


1157 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 12230-31, 12238-39, paras. 42, 59.
1158 Tribal Lands Link Up support provides up to an additional $70 in support to eligible low-income consumers
living on Tribal lands.
1159 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2847, para. 250.
1160 Order at para. 74. We further defined “household” in a manner consistent with the definition used in the Low-
Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as “any individual or group of individuals who are living together at the
same address as one economic unit.” Id. We also defined an “economic unit” for the purposes of this rule as “all
adult individuals contributing to and/or sharing in the income and expenses of a household.” Id.
1161 Id. at para. 82; see supra Order at section III.C.
1162 Order at para. 81 (citing SBI Comments at 9-10; SBI Nov. 23 ex parte; GCI Dec. 6 ex parte).
1163 See, e.g., PR Wireless Jan. 24 ex parte Letter at 5.
1164 See Order at Appendix A, 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.407, 54.413 (adopted rules).
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which required that the basic local residential rate for Tribal Lands subscribers not fall below $1 per
month.1165 Thus, Tribal lands Lifeline support will be available to an ETC providing service to an eligible
household on Tribal lands regardless of whether that amount brings the rate for voice telephony service
below $1 per month per qualifying low-income household.1166 We seek comment on what precautions we
could implement to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in this situation.
479.
Enhanced Link Up Support on Tribal Lands. In the Order, we eliminate Link Up support,
except for those ETCs receiving high-cost support on Tribal lands. In this FNPRM, we seek comment on
whether the Link Up program for residents of Tribal lands as currently implemented is the most effective
way to use these funds, or whether we should alter or eliminate Link Up support for Tribal lands.
480.
As the Commission has previously observed, Tribal lands have significant
communications deployment and access challenges.1167
In the past, the Commission has targeted
additional universal service support for residents of Tribal lands in a variety of ways, including by
providing enhanced Lifeline and expanded Link Up support and by exempting competitive ETCs serving
Tribal lands from the interim cap on competitive ETC support the Commission adopted in 2008. Under
the exemption from the interim cap, high-cost support to competitive ETCs for Tribal lands more than
doubled between 2008 and 2011, to an estimated $150 million, while support for other parts of the nation
was frozen. While significant strides have been made with this funding, including bringing new services
to many Tribal lands, more remains to be done. The Commission remains committed to continuing to
expand access to advanced telecommunications services on Tribal lands.
481.
In the recent USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission adopted
comprehensive reforms to the high-cost support program. Those reforms will make more efficient use of
limited federal universal service resources and ensure that carriers accepting funding are accountable for
meeting clearly defined universal service obligations, including buildout obligations. The Commission’s
reforms will expand access to both wireline and wireless services in high-cost, difficult-to-serve areas
across the nation—both Tribal and non-Tribal. In addition, the Commission took several steps
specifically targeted to facilitate deployment and improve access on Tribal lands. First, the Commission’s
Mobility Fund I, which allocates $300 million in one-time support to fund deployment of 3G or better
mobile services where no 3G service currently exists, provides for a 25 percent bidding credit for Tribally
owned or controlled carriers that seek to provide service on their own Tribal lands.1168 In addition, the
Commission established the Tribal Mobility Fund I, which allocates $50 million in one-time support for
advanced mobile services on Tribal lands where no such services currently exist. The Commission also
created Mobility Fund II, which will provide $500 million in ongoing support for wireless service. While
the details of that support mechanism are the subject of a further notice of proposed rulemaking, the
Commission has stated that it anticipates that up to $100 million annually will be reserved exclusively for
Tribal lands. In addition, the Commission budgeted at least $100 million per year for the new Remote
Areas Fund to support affordable access to broadband and voice service, including through the use of
alternative technologies, in areas in the nation that are most costly to serve.
482.
These comprehensive reforms to the high-cost program will efficiently target support for
voice and broadband service both in the nation generally and on Tribal lands specifically. In light of
those reforms, and the reforms we make to the program in this Order, we seek comment on whether the


1165 See Order at para. 270.
1166 See id.
1167 See generally Native Nations NOI, 26 FCC Rcd 2672; see, e.g.,USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM,
FCC 11-161 at paras. 479-88 (discussing the Tribal Mobility Fund Phase I).
1168 USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 490.
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Link Up program for Tribal lands should be modified or eliminated. In this context, we note that when
the Commission first established the enhanced Link Up program for Tribal lands, it observed that doing
so would create incentives for carriers to construct facilities where none existed.1169
Today, enhanced
Link Up could support multiple providers extending facilities in the same geographic area (to the extent
that there is a business case for multiple providers to serve Tribal lands), which is inconsistent with our
overall framework of not providing support to multiple providers. We seek comment on whether
enhanced Link Up support for Tribal lands remains necessary given the recent reforms in high-cost
support. We also seek comment on the benefits of enhanced Link Up support and the impact of
elimination of that benefit for low-income consumers living on Tribal lands. We further seek comment
on ways any savings might be used to more efficiently serve the purposes of the program, the specific
needs of low-income consumers on Tribal lands, or both.

F.

Adding Women, Infants, and Children Program to the Eligibility Criteria

483.
Lifeline currently permits consumers to qualify for a Lifeline supported service if the
consumer participates in one of several federal or Tribal assistance programs.1170 Several commenters
suggest that we add the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and
Children (WIC) administered by the Department of Agriculture to the list of qualifying federal assistance
programs for Lifeline.1171 We seek comment on whether adding WIC to the eligibility criteria will
advance our goal of ensuring universal availability of phone service to low-income consumers.1172
484.
The WIC program was “established to counteract the negative effects of poverty on
prenatal and pediatric health and provides a combination of direct nutritional supplementation, nutrition
education and counseling, and increased access to health care and social service providers for pregnant,
breastfeeding, and postpartum women; infants; and children up to the age of five years.”1173 As such, it
functions as a complement to the National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program, a qualifying
program for Lifeline that provides nutritional assistance to low-income, at-risk, children enrolled in
school.1174 To qualify for WIC, applicants must meet four requirements:1175 categorical,1176 residential,1177


1169 2000 Tribal Lifeline Order.
1170 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.409. Currently, participation in any of several federal assistance programs qualifies
participants for Lifeline. These programs are Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps);
Supplemental Security Income; Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8); Low-Income Home Energy
Assistance Program; National School Lunch Program's free lunch program; and Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF). In addition to these programs, participation in Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance,
Tribally administered TANF, or Head Start (only those meeting its income standard), qualifies participants living on
Tribal lands for Lifeline.
1171 See Letter of Debra Whitford, Supplemental Food Programs Division, to Marlene H. Dortch, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 (filed Aug. 17, 2011) (Aug. 17 WIC ex parte Letter); YourTel
Comments at 11; Media Action Grassroots Network and Consumers Union Reply Comments at 12; Letter from
Geraldine Henchy, Director, Food and Research Action Center, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 (filed Sept. 2, 2011) (Food and Research Action Center Sept. 2
ex parte Letter); LCCHR Comments at 9.
1172 One commenter states that WIC participants are “particularly likely to benefit from discounted telephone
services…; families with young children require extensive connection to the community, whether it be pediatricians,
child care providers or schools.” Media Action Grassroots Network and Consumers Union Reply Comments at 12.
1173 See Aug. 17 WIC ex parte Letter, at Attach.
1174 See 7 C.F.R. § 210.1; 7 C.F.R. § 245.3.
1175 See Food and Nutrition Service, WIC Eligibility Requirements, available at
http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/howtoapply/eligibilityrequirements.htm (last visited Feb. 5, 2012).
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income,1178 and nutrition risk.1179 WIC is offered in all states, and over 35 percent of WIC participants do
not participate in another federal assistance program.1180 One commenter estimates that more than two-
thirds of WIC participants are at or below the federal poverty line, though we note that such WIC
participants are already eligible for Lifeline through the income eligibility standard.1181
485.
We seek comment on whether adding WIC to the list of programs that automatically
confers Lifeline eligibility would advance our universal service goals. Is expansion of program eligibility
to households participating in WIC necessary given the multiple assistance programs and income-
eligibility standard that already confer Lifeline eligibility? Would there be any administrative
complexities given that WIC benefits are also available to infants and children? Would the Lifeline
benefit, as with the National School Lunch Free Lunch Program eligibility criterion, attach to the
household? How many households that are not eligible today would qualify if we were to allow
participation based on WIC? Could WIC clinics potentially be a partner of ETCs in outreach to low-
income consumers?1182 Would WIC clinics be willing to do this? If so, how would such a partnership
work? What would be the monetary impact of potential inclusion of WIC as an eligibility criterion?
Finally, given the temporary nature of WIC participation, should there be additional verification
requirements?1183

G.

Establishing Eligibility for Homeless Veterans

486.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a number of programs designed to assist
homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness.1184 The Veterans Benefits Administration-
Veterans Health Administration Special Outreach and Benefits Assistance program consists of “outreach,


(Continued from previous page)
1176 To meet the categorical criterion for WIC, an individual must be: a woman who is pregnant (during pregnancy
and up to 6 weeks after the birth of an infant or the end of the pregnancy), postpartum (up to six months after the
birth of the infant or the end of the pregnancy), or breastfeeding (up to the infant’s first birthday); an infant; or a
child (up until the child’s fifth birthday). See id.
1177 Applicants must live in the state in which they apply for WIC benefits in order to meet the residential eligibility
criterion. See id.
1178 WIC applicants must also meet an income standard as established by the state agency administering WIC. This
income standard must be between 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and 185 percent of the Federal
Poverty Guidelines and varies by state. Applicants automatically meet the income criterion through participation in
certain programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. At the state agency’s
option, applicants who are eligible to participate in certain other State-administered programs may be granted
automatic income eligibility. See id.
1179 To meet the nutritional risk criterion, applicants must be seen by a health professional such as a physician,
nurse, or nutritionist who must determine whether the individual is at nutrition risk. “Nutrition risk” means that an
individual has medical-based or dietary-based conditions. See id.
1180 See id; Media Action Grassroots Network and Consumers Union Reply Comments at 12; Aug. 17 WIC ex parte
Letter.
1181 Food and Research Action Center Sept. 2 ex parte letter.
1182 WIC requires participant interaction with caregivers on a regular basis. See id.
1183 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.409(d)(3). Our rules already require Lifeline participants to notify their carrier if they cease
to participate in the qualifying program conferring Lifeline eligibility.
1184 Department of Veterans Affairs, Homeless Programs & Initiatives, available at
http://www.va.gov/homeless/programs.asp.
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benefits counseling, referral, and additional assistance to eligible veterans.”1185
The program has
homeless veterans coordinators spread out nationally who work with homeless veterans.1186
The
Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program identifies homeless veterans to the VA for eligibility
determinations and then connects the veterans to assistance programs.1187
487.
The Veterans Homeless Initiative Office, a division of VA, suggested that we include
homeless veterans programs as qualifying eligibility criteria.1188 Our rules for demonstrating income
eligibility require the subscriber to provide documentation such as an income tax return or current income
statement from an employer to establish income is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty
Guidelines. The rule does not address, however, situations in which the consumer has no income at all,
and therefore lacks any such documentation. We seek comment on measures that would enable veterans
who lack any income, but are not otherwise enrolled in a qualifying program, to demonstrate eligibility
for Lifeline. For instance, should a low-income consumer that lacks any income be permitted to sign a
certification under penalty of perjury that he or she has no income, with some form of additional
certification from an authorized VA official, such as an outreach worker or program coordinator, that the
person in question is a homeless veteran or at risk of becoming homeless? Given the unique difficulties
in verifying transient and homeless Lifeline consumers' eligibility, are there any additional measures that
should be implemented in situations where an eligible veteran has no documentation of income eligibility
to minimize waste, fraud, and abuse while ensuring Lifeline access?

H.

Mandatory Application of Lifeline Discount to Bundled Service Offerings

488.
In the above Order, we amend sections 54.401 and 54.403 of the Commission’s rules to
adopt a federal policy providing all ETCs (whether designated by a state or this Commission) the
flexibility to permit Lifeline subscribers to apply their Lifeline discount to bundled service packages or
packages containing optional calling features available to Lifeline consumers.1189 Giving ETCs the
flexibility to offer expanded service packages to Lifeline consumers will enhance consumer choice by
making broadband and mobile voice services more accessible and affordable for low-income
consumers.1190
489.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission also sought comment on amending
the Commission’s rules to adopt a uniform federal requirement that Lifeline discounts may be used on
any Lifeline calling plan offered by an ETC with a voice component, including bundled service packaging
combining voice and broadband, or packages containing optional calling features.1191 Some argued that
by requiring ETCs to permit eligible low-income consumers to apply their Lifeline discount to the
purchase of expanded service offerings, particularly packages that include broadband, the Commission


1185 Id.
1186 Id.
1187 Department of Veterans Affairs, HCHV Frequently Asked Questions, available at
http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/HCHV_Frequently_Asked_Questions.asp.
1188 Letter from C.Q. Tillery, VA Homeless Veterans Initiative Office, to Marlene Dortch, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 (filed
Jan. 30, 2012).
1189 Order at para. 316. Pursuant to this rule, each subscriber’s Lifeline discount can be no larger than if he or she
chose a basic voice plan. Id. at para. 315.
1190 Id. at para. 317.
1191 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2850, para. 258.
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will help make broadband available to consumers who may otherwise be underserved.1192 Others argued
that the Commission should not interfere with the products offered by ETCs and should allow the market
to resolve this issue.1193 Certain ETCs argued that requiring such ETCs to offer these added features as
part of their Lifeline service offerings could upset their respective business models.1194
490.
Several states, including Oregon, Texas, and Kansas, have enacted rules requiring ETCs
to offer Lifeline discounts on all voice service offerings, including expanded service plans.1195 We now
seek comment on whether to further revise our rules to require ETCs to permit subscribers to apply their
Lifeline discount on any bundle that includes a voice component.1196
Would a uniform federal
requirement mandating that ETCs permit Lifeline subscribers to apply their discount on any service
offering that includes voice further the statutory principle that consumers have access to quality services
at “just, reasonable, and affordable rates” because it would make bundled offerings more affordable to
low-income consumers?1197
491.
We seek further comment on and information about current ETC practices. In states that
do not mandate use of a discount on any offering, to what extent do ETCs currently offer Lifeline
discounts on plans that include bundles of services or optional calling features? If so, what services are
Lifeline consumers permitted to purchase? We also seek comment on the extent to which specific states
mandate that ETCs allow the application of Lifeline discounts to expanded service plans. Where
available, commenters are encouraged to submit supporting documentation of ETC or state practices
along with any written submissions.
492.
We also seek comment on the potential benefits and costs of such a requirement. For
example, would such a requirement stimulate broadband adoption by low-income individuals? Is there
any evidence that voice telephone penetration rates have been positively impacted by state requirements
mandating the extension of program discounts to the purchase of bundled packages and optional services?
Would there be any growth in Lifeline subscription rates stemming from the extension of Lifeline support


1192 See, e.g., NATOA Comments at 2-3; NJ DRC Comments at 24; NASUCA Comments at 29-30. In the Order,
we adopted a program performance goal of ensuring the availability of broadband service for low-income
Americans. See Order at paras. 33-36. A uniform federal policy requiring that ETCs permit Lifeline consumers to
apply their discount to the service plan of their choice could help us to more effectively achieve this goal.
1193 See, e.g., Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel, TracFone, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., at 1-2 (filed Nov. 14, 2011) (TracFone Nov. 14 ex parte
Letter).
1194 Id.
1195 Or. Admin. R. 860-033-0010 (2009); Tex. Admin. Code tit. 16, § 26.412(e)(6)-(7); see also Petition of Sprint
Spectrum L.P. for a Declaratory Ruling that the Kansas Corporation Commission’s October 2, 2006 Order in Dkt.
06-GIMT-446-GIT, Violates Federal Law
, WC Dkt. No. 03-109 et al., (filed June 8, 2007) (challenging an order of
the Corporation Commission of the State of Kansas, which modified the state’s Lifeline rules to require that ETCs
allow Lifeline customers to choose a calling plan and apply the Lifeline discount to the plan selected by the
customer).
1196 ETCs would apply federal Lifeline support to reduce the cost of any voice calling plan or package selected by an
eligible consumer. See Appendix A, 47 C.F.R. § 54.401(b) (adopted rule).
1197 See 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(1).
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to expanded service packages?1198 What are the potential administrative costs to carriers in complying
with the proposed rule? Finally, are there any potential unidentified costs to consumers associated with
the proposed rule?
493.
We also ask whether there should be any limitations on this potential requirement, if we
were to adopt such a rule. Should ETCs be obligated to offer a Lifeline discount on all of their service
plans, including premium plans and packages that contain services other than voice and broadband (e.g.,
packages that include video)? To what extent could Lifeline consumers risk the termination of their local
voice service based on an inability to pay for the remaining portion of their chosen calling plan?1199 In the
states that currently mandate that discounts be used on all offerings, has this been an issue, and how have
the states addressed this potential concern? Do Lifeline providers have the capability to block Lifeline
consumers’ ability to purchase and be billed for additional service offerings, such as pay-per-view
offerings in a bundled package that includes video, or to specify certain usage amounts that may be
incurred per billing cycle? Do the carriers that operate in the states that mandate the use of discounts on
any service package provide consumers with any way to limit their usage of premium features that would
result in additional charges?

I.

“Own Facilities” Requirements
494.
Background. To be eligible for universal service support, a common carrier must offer
the services supported by federal universal service support mechanisms throughout a service area “either
using its own facilities or a combination of its own facilities and resale of another carrier’s services.”1200
The Commission has interpreted the term “facilities” to mean “any physical component of the
telecommunications network that are used in the transmission or routing of the services that are
designated for support.”1201 As such, a carrier’s facilities that are not being used to route or transmit voice
telephony services do not qualify as “facilities” to meet the ETC requirements in section 214(e)(1)(A). In
the USF First Report and Order, the Commission held that a carrier “must use its own facilities to
provide at least one of the supported services” but did not qualify the term “own facilities” with respect to
the amount of facilities a carrier must use.1202
495.
In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission eliminated its
former list of nine supported services and amended section 54.101 of the Commission’s rules to specify
that “voice telephony service” is supported by federal universal service support mechanisms.1203 On
December 23, 2011, the Commission affirmed that only carriers that provide voice telephony as defined
under section 54.101(a), as amended, using their own facilities will be deemed to meet the requirements
of section 214(e)(1).1204 Thus, a Lifeline-only ETC does not meet the “own-facilities” requirement of
section 214(e)(1) if its only facilities are those used to provide functions that are no longer supported
“voice telephony service” under amended rule 54.101, such as access to operator service or directory
assistance. The Commission stated that to be in compliance with the rules, Lifeline-only carriers must


1198 See, e.g., Verizon Comments at 16 (“Assuming the extension of Lifeline support to bundled services will
increase participation in the Lifeline program, this approach will further grow the fund and has the potential to
effectively negate other efforts to constrain the size of the fund.”); Verizon Jan. 17 ex parte Letter at 2.
1199 See, e.g., NJ DRC PN Comments at 17.
1200 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A).
1201 47 C.F.R. § 54.201(e).
1202 See USF First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8871, para. 169.
1203 USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at paras. 3, 78; see also revised section 54.101(a).
1204 See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 4.
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either use their own facilities, in whole or in part, to provide the supported “voice telephony service,” or
obtain forbearance from the “own-facilities” requirement from the Commission.1205
496.
In today’s Order, the Commission issued a blanket forbearance from the facilities-based
requirement contained in section 214(e)(1)(A) to all telecommunications carriers that seek limited ETC
designation to participate in the Lifeline program, subject to certain conditions contained in sections XI.A
& B of the Order. 1206 In light of these actions, we now seek further, focused comment on whether there
remains a need for the Commission to resolve any further issues concerning the facilities requirement of
section 214(e)(1)(A).1207
497.
Discussion. In light of the reforms adopted in today’s Order to limit waste, fraud, and
abuse and our continued requirement for non-facilities-based Lifeline-only ETCs to obtain approval of a
compliance plan before receiving Lifeline reimbursements, is there a need to establish additional uniform
standards for the designation of Lifeline-only ETCs?1208 In order to ensure compliance with the Lifeline
rules and prevent waste and abuse in the program, should we consider any additional requirements if a
carrier does not own network assets or meets the requirements of section 214(e)(1)(A)?
498.
We seek comment on whether we should amend our rules to clarify the term
“combination of its own facilities” with respect to the facilities a carrier must own and use to provide USF
supported services.1209 Historically, ETCs have had broad flexibility in how they combine the use of their
own facilities with the resale of another carrier’s services so long as at least one supported service is
offered using that carrier’s “own facilities.”1210 Several ETCs, some of which call themselves “facilities-
based resellers,” have previously maintained they are facilities-based based on facilities that provision
operator and/or directory assistance services, which are provided in conjunction with their retail
offering.1211 Parties in the record have suggested that ETC applicants seeking Link Up support have an


1205 See id.
1206 Order section XI.A & B.
1207 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(1)(A) (imposing a requirement that ETCs must “either us[e] its own facilities or a
combination of its own facilities and resale of another carrier’s services”). Several state commissions as well as
carriers seeking ETC designation have expressed concern regarding what may be considered “facilities” under
section 214(e)(1)(A) for purposes of ETC designation. In addition, the Commission has pending before it a Petition
for Declaratory Ruling filed by TracFone in which this question of the facilities requirement is at issue. See
generally
South Carolina PUC Comments (recommending denial of Budget Prepay, Inc.’s request for Link Up
support in its Petition for limited designation as a facilities based ETC on the grounds it only provides ancillary
services using its own facilities and resells all other supported services); see also MI PSC Comments at 2-3
(requesting that Commission provide guidance to states on “level of facilities an applicant must own” to be
considered facilities-based). In addition, the Commission has pending before it a Petition for Declaratory ruling
filed by TracFone in which this question of the facilities requirement is at issue. See TracFone Petition.
1208 The Commission recognizes that most of the existing Lifeline-only ETCs operating in today’s market do not
own network facilities or could not meet the requirements of section 214(e)(1)(A) based on the Commission’s recent
action to amend Section 54.101. See USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNRPM, FCC 11-161 at para. 4; Link Up
Coalition Dec. 15 ex parte Letter at 2-3 (recognizing that its members would not meet the amended definition of
54.101 based on Commission staff interpretation); see TracFone Oct. 13 ex parte Letter (acknowledging that as one
of the largest recipients in the Lifeline program, it is not a facilities-based wireless carrier). See also generally
TracFone Forbearance Order.

1209 See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd 8776, at 8861-62, para. 152 (1997).
1210 See id. at 8871, para. 169.
1211 See Letter from John Heitmann, et al., Link Up For America Coalition, to Marlene H. Dortch, Federal
Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al,, (filed Oct. 25, 2011) (calling themselves “facilities-based
(continued….)
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incentive to become facilities-based carriers to avoid the Commission’s forbearance process. 1212
499.
If a carrier does claim that it is a facilities-based provider and meets the requirements of
section 214(e)(1)(A), should there be a minimum combination of facilities that the carrier should own and
use in order to qualify as a facilities-based ETC under the rules? Is there a continuing financial incentive
for carriers to be classified as a facilities-based ETC? Should the rules specify in more detail what
facilities must be used to provide voice telephony service, in order for a carrier to be deemed facilities-
based? Several parties filed comments on TracFone’s Petition for Declaratory Ruling on the issue of
what constitutes facilities.1213 We seek to refresh the record in light of the reforms set forth in the Order,
so that we may appropriately consider whether there is a need to clarify any minimum requirements of
what is classified as “facilities” under section 214(e)(1)(A).
500.
We seek comment on whether the location and continued use of facilities is relevant to
the ETC designation process for Lifeline-only ETCs under section 214(e)(1)(A). The Commission has
previously provided guidance on the location of an ETC’s facilities for purposes of satisfying section
214(e)(1)(A).1214 Our current rules provide that a common carrier’s facilities need not be located within
the relevant service area as long as the carrier uses them within the designated service area.1215 Our rules
do not address, however, how the designated carrier must utilize those facilities. If a carrier relies on
certain “facilities” to get designated as a Lifeline-only ETC by a state or the Commission, but
subsequently discontinues use of those facilities, is the ETC designation invalid given that the facilities
are no longer being used to transmit or route the services designated for support? In such cases, should
the designation be re-opened to determine whether the ETC is using its own facilities to provide the
service?
501.
We also seek input on whether, in light of marketplace and other changes, we should
revise or clarify our requirements regarding ownership of the facilities in question.1216 In the USF First
Report and Order
, the Commission made clear that the facilities used must be the ETC’s “own,” meaning
that the ETC must have the exclusive right to use the facilities to provide the supported services.1217 The
Commission concluded that if a carrier has obtained exclusive use of facilities, such as an unbundled
loop, it would be treated as a carrier’s “own facilities.”1218 The Commission has also held that if an ETC
leases facilities from another carrier and uses such facilities to provision the USF supported services, the


(Continued from previous page)
resellers”); Ex Parte Conexions LLC d/b/a Conexion Wireless, WC Dkt. No. 09-197 (Jan. 20, 2011) (explaining
how company believes it is a facilities-based ETC).
1212 See Ohio PUC Comments at 5 (explaining how some wireless companies are claiming to own “wireless
facilities” in order to receive Link Up funding); see also Michigan PUC Comments at 2-4 (noting that American
Broadband and Telecommunications Company claimed it was a facilities-based ETC in Michigan because it owned
and used a switch in Ohio even though the company has previously held that it is not a facilities-based provider in
Ohio through the American Broadband and Telecommunications Company Petition for Forbearance).
1213 See AT&T Comments; Budget Pre-Pay and Great Call Comments; CETC Commenters Comments; NASUCA
Comments; Nexus Comments; Nexus Reply Comments; Ohio PUC Comments; TracFone Reply Comments.
1214 See 47 C.F.R. § 54.201(g).
1215 See id.
1216 See Virgin Mobile Forbearance Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 3388, paras. 15-16 (explaining that due to Sprint’s
acquisition of Virgin Mobile, the company is “facilities-based” because it now enjoys “beneficial use of Sprint’s
wireless facilities” without arm’s length transactions or purchase of service from Sprint).
1217 See Universal Service First Report and Order,12 FCC Rcd at 8866, para. 160.
1218 47 C.F.R. § 54.201(f); Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8865, para. 158.
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ETC has exclusive rights to those facilities and therefore “owns” the facilities as required under section
214(e)(1)(A).1219 We seek comment on whether we should further clarify the meaning of how a carrier
should “own” the facilities used to provision the supported services. If the ETC leases facilities jointly
with one or more carriers that it uses to provision the supported services, does that ETC have exclusive
right to use the facilities? To provide further guidance for the designation process, is it necessary for the
Commission to clarify what is meant by requiring that a facilities-based ETC have exclusive right to use
facilities in the provisioning of the supported services?

J.

Eligible Telecommunications Carrier Requirements

502.
In the recent USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission sought
comment on various issues relating to ETCs’ existing service obligations to ensure that obligations and
high-cost funding are appropriately matched, while avoiding consumer disruption in access to
communications services. The Commission acknowledged that relinquishment of ETC status is governed
by section 214(e)(4) of the Act, which directs states (or the Commission, for federally designated ETCs)
to “permit an eligible telecommunications carrier to relinquish its designation as such a carrier in any area
served by more than one eligible telecommunications carrier.”1220
The Commission proposed that
existing ETC relinquishment and service area redefinition procedures, backstopped by the availability of
forbearance from federal requirements, would provide an appropriate case-by-case framework in which to
address these issues in the near term.1221 It also sought comment on how to ensure that low-income
consumers across America continue to have access to Lifeline service, both in urbanized areas and in
rural areas. In particular, it asked whether as a matter of federal policy, it would “thwart achievement of
the objectives established by Congress to relieve an existing ETC of the obligation to provide Lifeline if
there was no other ETC in that particular area willing to offer Lifeline services.”1222
503.
In this proceeding, AT&T suggests that the Commission should allow incumbent wireline
Lifeline providers to choose whether to participate in the Lifeline program, arguing that wireline
telephone companies are no longer the dominant provider of voice services.1223 We seek further targeted
comment on this suggestion in this docket, and how it might be implemented given the statutory
framework for revocation of ETC designations set forth in section 214. How would this Commission, or
the states, ensure that low-income consumers in all regions of the country have “access to
telecommunications and information services”?1224
How would one take into account that there may be
portions of a given state where the incumbent Lifeline provider is the only provider of service? What
factual determinations would need to be made regarding the presence of other eligible
telecommunications carriers?
504.
In the Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, the Commission also sought comment on AT&T’s
proposal that all providers of voice and broadband services register to become Lifeline providers, outside
of the current ETC designation process.1225
In response, a number of parties supported the idea of
simplifying the process for carriers to participate in the Lifeline program,1226 while others opposed


1219 See Universal Service First Report and Order, 12 FCC Rcd at 8865, para. 158, n. 407.
1220 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(4).
1221 USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, FCC 11-161 at para. 1097.
1222 Id. at para. 1102.
1223 See AT&T Jan. 24 ex parte Letter at 1.
1224 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(3).
1225 Lifeline and Link Up NPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 2864-65, paras. 310-312.
1226 See, e.g., Viasat Comments at 7-8; Consumer Cellular Comments at 23; Iridium Comments at 5.
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eliminating the ETC designation process.1227
MetroPCS suggests that the Commission implement a
voucher-based Lifeline program in which Lifeline discounts would be provided directly to eligible low-
income consumers.1228 Are there modifications to this proposal that would be necessary to comply with
statutory requirements? We seek to further develop the record on these proposals and concrete steps that
we could take to simplify carrier participation in the program, while protecting against waste, fraud and
abuse.

K.

Record Retention Requirements

505.
Without proper documentation, it is difficult to conduct effective audits of Lifeline
service providers. Our rules currently require ETCs to maintain records to document their compliance
with state and federal low-income program rules for the three full preceding calendar years.1229 ETCs
must also maintain documentation of consumer eligibility for as long as the consumer receives Lifeline
service from that ETC.1230 In the USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, the Commission revised
the record retention requirements for recipients of high-cost support to extend the retention period from
five years to ten years. In so doing, the Commission determined that the high cost retention requirement
of five years was inadequate for the purposes of litigation under the False Claims Act,1231 which can
involve conduct that relates back substantially more than five years.
506.
We conclude that the same is true with respect to the record retention requirements for
eligible telecommunications carriers receiving low-income universal service support. The current three-
year record retention requirements, although adequate to facilitate audits of ETCs, are not adequate for
purposes of litigation under the False Claims Act. Thus, we propose to amend section 54.417 of the
Commission’s rules to extend the retention period for Lifeline documentation, including subscriber-
specific eligibility documentation, to at least ten years. ETCs will continue to maintain documentation of
consumer eligibility for at least ten years and for as long as the consumer receives Lifeline service from
that ETC, even if that period extends beyond ten years. We seek comment on this proposal.

XIV.

DELEGATION TO REVISE RULES

507.
Given the complexities associated with modifying existing rules as well as other reforms
adopted in this Order, we delegate authority to the Wireline Competition Bureau to make any further rule
revisions as necessary to ensure the reforms adopted in this Order are reflected in the rules. This includes
correcting any conflicts between the new and or revised rules and existing rules as well as addressing any
omissions or oversights. If any such rule changes are warranted, the Wireline Competition Bureau shall
be responsible for such change. We note that any entity that disagrees with a rule change made on
delegated authority will have the opportunity to file an Application for Review by the full
Commission.1232


1227 See, e.g., DC PSC Comments at 8; NE PSC Comments at 14.
1228 See Letter from Carl Northrop, Telecommunications Law Professionals, on behalf of MetroPCS, to Marlene H.
Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, WC Dkt. No. 11-42 et al., (filed Jan. 25, 2012).
1229 47 C.F.R. § 54.417(a).
1230 Id.
1231 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-33. Under the False Claims Act, carriers receiving funds under fraudulent pretenses may be
held liable for a civil penalty of between $5,000 and $10,000, plus treble damages. 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1).
1232 See 47 U.S.C. § 155(c)(1).
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XV.

PROCEDURAL MATTERS

A.

Filing Requirements

508.
Pursuant to sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.415,
1.419, interested parties may file comments and reply comments on or before the dates indicated on the
first page of this document. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing
System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).
§
Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the
ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.
§
Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each
filing. If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding,
filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking number.
Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-
class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission’s
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
§
All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s Secretary
must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th St., SW, Room TW-A325,
Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries
must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be
disposed of before entering the building.
§
Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority
Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
§
U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th
Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.
People with Disabilities: To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (braille,
large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer &
Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).

B.

Paperwork Reduction Act Analysis

509.
This Report and Order contains new information collection requirements subject to the
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), Public Law 104-13. It will be submitted to the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) for review under Section 3507(d) of the PRA. OMB, the general public,
and other Federal agencies are invited to comment on the new or modified information collection
requirements contained in this proceeding. In addition, we note that pursuant to the Small Business
Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4), we previously sought
specific comment on how the Commission might further reduce the information collection burden for
small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees. We describe the impacts that might affect small
businesses, which include most businesses with fewer than 25 employees, in the FRFA in Appendix J,
infra.
510.
The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) contains proposed new
information collection requirements. The Commission, as part of its continuing effort to reduce
paperwork burdens, invites the general public and OMB to comment on the information collection
requirements contained in this document, as required by PRA. In addition, pursuant to the Small
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Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002,1233 we seek specific comment on how we might “further reduce
the information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees.”1234

C.

Congressional Review Act

511.
The Commission will send a copy of this Report and Order and Further Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking to Congress and the Government Accountability Office pursuant to the
Congressional Review Act, see 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).

D.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

512.
The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)1235 requires that an agency prepare a regulatory
flexibility analysis for notice and comment rulemakings, unless the agency certifies that “the rule will not,
if promulgated, have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.”1236
Accordingly, we have prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis concerning the possible impact of
the rule changes contained in the Report and Order on small entities. The Final Regulatory Flexibility
Analysis is set forth in Appendix J.

E.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

513.
As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA),1237 the Commission has
prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the possible significant economic impact on
a substantial number of small entities of the proposals addressed in the Further Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking
. The IRFA is set forth in Appendix K. Written public comments are requested on the IRFA.
These comments must be filed in accordance with the same filing deadlines for comments on the
FNPRM, and they should have a separate and distinct heading designating them as responses to the IRFA.
The Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, will send
a copy of this Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including the IRFA, to the
Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, in accordance with the Regulatory
Flexibility Act.1238

XVI.

ORDERING CLAUSES

514.
ACCORDINGLY, IT IS ORDERED, that pursuant to the authority contained in sections
1, 2, 4(i), 10, 201-206, 214, 218-220, 251, 252, 254, 256, 303(r), 332, and 403 of the Communications
Act of 1934, as amended, and section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151,
152, 154(i), 160, 201-206, 214, 218-220, 251, 252, 254, 256, 303(r), 332, 403, 1302, and sections 1.1 and
1.427 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.1, 1.427, this Report and Order is ADOPTED.
515.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that. Part 54 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. Part 54,
is AMENDED as set forth in Appendix A, and such rule amendments shall be effective thirty (30) days
after publication of the text or summary thereof in the Federal Register, except for those rules and
requirements that involve Paperwork Reduction Act burdens, which shall become effective immediately
upon announcement in the Federal Register of OMB approval and of effective dates of such rules, and


1233 Pub. L. No. 107-198.
1234 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(4).
1235 See 5 U.S.C. § 601–612. The RFA has been amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness
Act of 1996 (SBREFA), Pub. L. No. 104-121, Title II, 110 Stat. 857 (1996).
1236 5 U.S.C. § 605(b).
1237 See 5 U.S.C. § 603.
1238 See 5 U.S.C. § 603(a).
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except for the amendments contained herein to 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.411, 54.412, 54.413 and 54.414 which
shall become effective April 1, 2012; and 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.409 and 54.410 which shall become effective
June 1, 2012.
516.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 1, 2,
4(i), 10, 201-206, 214, 218-220, 251, 252, 254, 256, 303(r), 332, and 403 of the Communications Act of
1934, as amended, and section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151, 152,
154(i), 160, 201-206, 214, 218-220, 251, 252, 254, 256, 303(r), 332, 403, 1302, and sections 1.1 and
1.421 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.1, 1.421, this Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is
ADOPTED.
517.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to applicable procedures set forth in sections
1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission’s Rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file
comments on the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 30 days from publication in the Federal
Register, and reply comments on or before 60 days from publication in the Federal Register.
518.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 4(i),
4(j), 10, 214, and 254 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 160,
214, 254, the petition for forbearance filed by AMERICAN BROADBAND &
TELECOMMUNICATIONS is GRANTED to the extent discussed herein and conditioned on fulfillment
of the obligations set forth in this order.
519.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 4(i),
4(j), 10, 214, and 254 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 160,
214, 254, the petition for forbearance filed by MILLENNIUM 2000, INC. is GRANTED to the extent
discussed herein and conditioned on fulfillment of the obligations set forth in this order.
520.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 4(i),
4(j), 10, 214, and 254 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 160,
214, 254, the petition for forbearance filed by NORTH AMERICAN LOCAL, LLC is GRANTED to the
extent discussed herein and conditioned on fulfillment of the obligations set forth in this order.
521.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 4(i),
4(j), 10, 214, and 254 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 160,
214, 254, the petition for forbearance filed by TOTAL CALL MOBILE, INC. is GRANTED to the extent
discussed herein and conditioned on fulfillment of the obligations set forth in this order.
522.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 4(i),
4(j), 10, 214, and 254 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 160,
214, 254, the petition for forbearance filed by AIRVOICE WIRELESS, LLC IS GRANTED to the extent
discussed herein and conditioned on fulfillment of the obligations set forth in this order.
523.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 4(i),
4(j), 10, 214, and 254 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 160,
214, 254, we forbear from applying section 214(e)(1)(A) of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. §
214(e)(1)(A), and section 54.201(d)(1) and (i) of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. § 54.201(d)(1), (i), to
American Broadband & Telecommunications, Millennium 2000, Inc., North American Local, LLC, Total
Call Mobile, Inc. and Airvoice Wireless, LLC to the extent discussed herein and conditioned on
fulfillment of the obligations set forth in this order.
524.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Petition of Qwest, Inc. regarding self-certification
of subscribers on Tribal lands, filed April 25, 2008, is GRANTED.
525.
IT
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Petition of AMERICAN PUBLIC
COMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL seeking a rulemaking regarding payphone service eligibility for
Lifeline support, filed December 6, 2010, is DENIED.
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526.
IT
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Petition of AMERICAN PUBLIC
COMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL for interim relief seeking to allow ETCs to receive Lifeline support for
services provided to payphones, filed December 6, 2010, is DENIED.
527.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Commission SHALL SEND a copy of this Report
and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Congress and to the Government
Accountability Office pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, see 5 U.S.C. § 801(a)(1)(A).
528.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Commission’s Consumer and Governmental
Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, SHALL SEND a copy of this Report and Order and
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis and the
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business
Administration.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary
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APPENDIX A

Final Rules

For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission amends 47

CFR part 54 as follows:

PART 54 – UNIVERSAL SERVICE

1. The authority citation for part 54 continues to read as follows:
47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i), 201, 205, 214, 219, 220, 254, 303(r), 403, and 1302 unless otherwise noted.

Subpart A – General Information

2. Amend § 54.5 by revising the definition of “eligible telecommunications carrier” to read as
follows:
§ 54.5 Terms and definitions.
*****
Eligible telecommunications carrier. “Eligible telecommunications carrier” means a carrier designated as
such under subpart C of this part.
*****

Subpart B – Services Designated for Support

3. Amend § 54.101 by revising paragraph (a) to read as follows:
§ 54.101 Supported services for rural, insular and high cost areas.
(a) Services designated for support. Voice Telephony services shall be supported by federal universal
service support mechanisms. Eligible voice telephony services must provide voice grade access to the
public switched network or its functional equivalent; minutes of use for local service provided at no
additional charge to end users; access to the emergency services provided by local government or other
public safety organizations, such as 911 and enhanced 911, to the extent the local government in an
eligible carrier’s service area has implemented 911 or enhanced 911 systems; and toll limitation services
to qualifying low-income consumers as provided in subpart E of this part.
*****
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Subpart C – Carriers Eligible for Universal Service Support

4. Amend § 54.201 by revising paragraphs (a)(1) and (h) to read as follows:
§ 54.201 Definition of eligible telecommunications carriers generally.
(a) ***
(1) Only eligible telecommunications carriers designated under this subpart shall receive
universal service support distributed pursuant to part 36 of this chapter, and subparts D and E of
this part.
*****
(h) A state commission shall not designate a common carrier as an eligible telecommunications carrier for
purposes of receiving support only under subpart E of this part unless the carrier seeking such designation
has demonstrated that it is financially and technically capable of providing the supported Lifeline service
in compliance with subpart E of this part.
*****
5. Revise § 54.202 to read as follows:
§ 54.202 Additional requirements for Commission designation of eligible telecommunications
carriers.

(a) In order to be designated an eligible telecommunications carrier under section 214(e)(6), any common
carrier in its application must:
(1)
(i) Certify that it will comply with the service requirements applicable to the support that
it receives.
(ii) Submit a five-year plan that describes with specificity proposed improvements or
upgrades to the applicant's network throughout its proposed service area. Each applicant
shall estimate the area and population that will be served as a result of the improvements.
Except, a common carrier seeking designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier
in order to provide supported services only under subpart E of this part does not need to
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submit such a five-year plan.
(2) Demonstrate its ability to remain functional in emergency situations, including a
demonstration that it has a reasonable amount of back-up power to ensure functionality without
an external power source, is able to reroute traffic around damaged facilities, and is capable of
managing traffic spikes resulting from emergency situations.
(3) Demonstrate that it will satisfy applicable consumer protection and service quality standards.
A commitment by wireless applicants to comply with the Cellular Telecommunications and
Internet Association's Consumer Code for Wireless Service will satisfy this requirement. Other
commitments will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
(4) For common carriers seeking designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier for
purposes of receiving support only under subpart E of this part, demonstrate that it is financially
and technically capable of providing the Lifeline service in compliance with subpart E of this
part.
(5) For common carriers seeking designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier for
purposes of receiving support only under subpart E of this part, submit information describing the
terms and conditions of any voice telephony service plans offered to Lifeline subscribers,
including details on the number of minutes provided as part of the plan, additional charges, if any,
for toll calls, and rates for each such plan. To the extent the eligible telecommunications carrier
offers plans to Lifeline subscribers that are generally available to the public, it may provide
summary information regarding such plans, such as a link to a public website outlining the terms
and conditions of such plans.
(b) Public Interest Standard. Prior to designating an eligible telecommunications carrier pursuant to
section 214(e)(6), the Commission determines that such designation is in the public interest.
(c) A common carrier seeking designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier under section
214(e)(6) for any part of Tribal lands shall provide a copy of its petition to the affected tribal government
and tribal regulatory authority, as applicable, at the time it files its petition with the Federal
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Communications Commission. In addition, the Commission shall send any public notice seeking
comment on any petition for designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier on Tribal lands, at the
time it is released, to the affected tribal government and tribal regulatory authority, as applicable, by the
most expeditious means available.
§ 54.209 [Removed]
6. Section 54.209 is removed.

Subpart E – Universal Service Support for Low-Income Consumers

7. Revise § 54.400 to read as follows:
54.400 Terms and definitions.
As used in this subpart, the following terms shall be defined as follows:
(a) Qualifying low-income consumer. A “qualifying low-income consumer” is a consumer who meets
the qualifications for Lifeline, as specified in § 54.409.
(b) Toll blocking service. “Toll blocking service” is a service provided by an eligible
telecommunications carrier that lets subscribers elect not to allow the completion of outgoing toll calls
from their telecommunications channel.
(c) Toll control service. “Toll control service” is a service provided by an eligible telecommunications
carrier that allows subscribers to specify a certain amount of toll usage that may be incurred on their
telecommunications channel per month or per billing cycle.
(d) Toll limitation service. “Toll limitation service” denotes either toll blocking service or toll control
service for eligible telecommunications carriers that are incapable of providing both services. For eligible
telecommunications carriers that are capable of providing both services, “toll limitation service” denotes
both toll blocking service and toll control service.
(e) Eligible resident of Tribal lands. An “eligible resident of Tribal lands” is a “qualifying low-income
consumer,” as defined in paragraph (a) of this section, living on Tribal lands. For purposes of this
subpart, “Tribal lands” include any federally recognized Indian tribe's reservation, pueblo, or colony,
including former reservations in Oklahoma; Alaska Native regions established pursuant to the Alaska
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Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688); Indian allotments; Hawaiian Home Lands – areas held in
trust for Native Hawaiians by the state of Hawaii, pursuant to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act,
1920 July 9, 1921, 42 Stat. 108, et. seq., as amended; and any land designated as such by the Commission
for purposes of this subpart pursuant to the designation process in § 54.412.
(f) Income. “Income” is all income actually received by all members of a household. This includes
salary before deductions for taxes, public assistance benefits, social security payments, pensions,
unemployment compensation, veteran's benefits, inheritances, alimony, child support payments, worker's
compensation benefits, gifts, lottery winnings, and the like. The only exceptions are student financial aid,
military housing and cost-of-living allowances, irregular income from occasional small jobs such as baby-
sitting or lawn mowing, and the like.
(g) Duplicative support. “Duplicative support” exists when a Lifeline subscriber is receiving two or
more Lifeline services concurrently or two or more subscribers in a household are receiving Lifeline
services or Tribal Link Up support concurrently.
(h) Household. A “household” is any individual or group of individuals who are living together at the
same address as one economic unit. A household may include related and unrelated persons. An
“economic unit” consists of all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses
of a household. An adult is any person eighteen years or older. If an adult has no or minimal income, and
lives with someone who provides financial support to him/her, both people shall be considered part of the
same household. Children under the age of eighteen living with their parents or guardians are considered
to be part of the same household as their parents or guardians.
(i) National Lifeline Accountability Database or Database. The “National Lifeline Accountability
Database” or “Database” is an electronic system, with associated functions, processes, policies and
procedures, to facilitate the detection and elimination of duplicative support, as directed by the
Commission.
(j) Qualifying assistance program. A “qualifying assistance program” means any of the federal, state, or
Tribal assistance programs participation in which, pursuant to § 54.409(a) or (b), qualifies a consumer for
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Lifeline service, including Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Supplemental Security
Income; Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8); Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program;
National School Lunch Program’s free lunch program; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Bureau
of Indian Affairs general assistance; Tribally administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(Tribal TANF); Head Start (only those households meeting its income qualifying standard); or the Food
Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and with respect to the residents of any particular
state, any other program so designated by that state pursuant to § 54.409(a).
8. Revise § 54.401 to read as follows:
§ 54.401 Lifeline defined.
(a) As used in this subpart, Lifeline means a non-transferable retail service offering:
(1) For which qualifying low-income consumers pay reduced charges as a result of application of
the Lifeline support amount described in § 54.403; and
(2) That provides qualifying low-income consumers with voice telephony service as specified in
§ 54.101(a). Toll limitation service does not need to be offered for any Lifeline service that does
not distinguish between toll and non-toll calls in the pricing of the service. If an eligible
telecommunications carrier charges Lifeline subscribers a fee for toll calls that is in addition to
the per month or per billing cycle price of the subscribers’ Lifeline service, the carrier must offer
toll limitation service at no charge to its subscribers as part of its Lifeline service offering.
(b) Eligible telecommunications carriers may allow qualifying low-income consumers to apply Lifeline
discounts to any residential service plan that includes voice telephony service, including bundled
packages of voice and data services; and plans that include optional calling features such as, but not
limited to, caller identification, call waiting, voicemail, and three-way calling. Eligible
telecommunications carriers may also permit qualifying low-income consumers to apply their Lifeline
discount to family shared calling plans.
(c) Eligible telecommunications carriers may not collect a service deposit in order to initiate Lifeline
service for plans that:
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(1) Do not charge subscribers additional fees for toll calls; or
(2) That charge additional fees for toll calls, but the subscriber voluntarily elects toll limitation
service.
(d) When an eligible telecommunications carrier is designated by a state commission, the state
commission shall file or require the eligible telecommunications carrier to file information with the
Administrator demonstrating that the carrier's Lifeline plan meets the criteria set forth in this subpart and
describing the terms and conditions of any voice telephony service plans offered to Lifeline subscribers,
including details on the number of minutes provided as part of the plan, additional charges, if any, for toll
calls, and rates for each such plan. To the extent the eligible telecommunications carrier offers plans to
Lifeline subscribers that are generally available to the public, it may provide summary information
regarding such plans, such as a link to a public website outlining the terms and conditions of such plans.
Lifeline assistance shall be made available to qualifying low-income consumers as soon as the
Administrator certifies that the carrier's Lifeline plan satisfies the criteria set out in this subpart.
(e) Consistent with § 52.33(a)(1)(i)(C), eligible telecommunications carriers may not charge Lifeline
customers a monthly number-portability charge.
9.
Amend § 54.403 to read as follows:
§ 54.403 Lifeline support amount.
(a) The federal Lifeline support amount for all eligible telecommunications carriers shall equal:
(1) Basic support amount. Federal Lifeline support in the amount of $9.25 per month will be
made available to an eligible telecommunications carrier providing Lifeline service to a
qualifying low-income consumer, if that carrier certifies to the Administrator that it will pass
through the full amount of support to the qualifying low-income consumer and that it has
received any non-federal regulatory approvals necessary to implement the rate reduction.
(2) Tribal lands support amount. Additional federal Lifeline support of up to $25 per month will
be made available to an eligible telecommunications carrier providing Lifeline service to an
eligible resident of Tribal lands, as defined in § 54.400 (e), to the extent that the eligible
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telecommunications carrier certifies to the Administrator that it will pass through the full Tribal
lands support amount to the qualifying eligible resident of Tribal lands and that it has received
any non-federal regulatory approvals necessary to implement the required rate reduction.
(b) Application of Lifeline Discount Amount.
(1) Eligible telecommunications carriers that charge federal End User Common Line charges or
equivalent federal charges must apply federal Lifeline support to waive the federal End User
Common Line charges for Lifeline subscribers. Such carriers must apply any additional federal
support amount to a qualifying low-income consumer’s intrastate rate, if the carrier has received
the non-federal regulatory approvals necessary to implement the required rate reduction. Other
eligible telecommunications carriers must apply the federal Lifeline support amount, plus any
additional support amount, to reduce the cost of any generally available residential service plan or
package offered by such carriers that provides voice telephony service as described in § 54.101,
and charge Lifeline subscribers the resulting amount.
(2) Where a subscriber makes only a partial payment to an eligible telecommunications carrier
for a bundled service package, the eligible telecommunications carrier must apply the partial
payment first to the allocated price of the voice telephony service component of the package and
then to the cost of any additional services included in the bundled package.
(c) Toll limitation service. An eligible telecommunications carrier providing toll limitation service
voluntarily elected by Lifeline subscribers whose Lifeline plans would otherwise include a fee for placing
a toll call that would be in addition to the per month or per billing cycle price of the subscriber’s Lifeline
service, shall, for April 2012 Lifeline disbursements through December 2013 Lifeline disbursements,
receive support in an amount equal to the lesser of:
(1) The eligible telecommunications carrier’s incremental cost of providing either toll blocking
services or toll control services to each Lifeline subscriber who has selected such service; or
(2) The following amounts for each Lifeline subscriber who has selected toll blocking services or
toll control services:
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(i)
$3.00 per month per subscriber during 2012; and
(ii)
$2.00 per month per subscriber during 2013.
10. Add § 54.404 to Subpart E to read as follows
§ 54.404 The National Lifeline Accountability Database.
(a) State certification. An eligible telecommunications carrier operating in a state that provides an
approved valid certification to the Commission in accordance with this section is not required to comply
with the requirements set forth in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section with respect to the eligible
telecommunications carriers’ subscribers in that state. A valid certification must include a statement that
the state has a comprehensive system in place to prevent duplicative federal Lifeline support that is at
least as robust as the system adopted by the Commission and that incorporates information from all
eligible telecommunications carriers receiving low-income support in the state and their subscribers. A
valid certification must also describe in detail how the state system functions and for each requirement
adopted by the Commission to prevent duplicative support, how the state system performs the equivalent
functions. The certification must be submitted to the Commission no later than six months from the
effective date of this section of the Commission’s rules to be valid. Such certification will be considered
approved unless the Wireline Competition Bureau rejects the certification within 90 days of filing.
(b) The National Lifeline Accountability Database. In order to receive Lifeline support, eligible
telecommunications carriers operating in states that have not provided the Commission with approved
valid certification pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section must comply with the following requirements:
(1) All eligible telecommunications carriers must query the National Lifeline Accountability
Database to determine whether a prospective subscriber who has executed a certification pursuant
to § 54.410(d) is currently receiving a Lifeline service from another eligible telecommunications
carrier; and whether anyone else living at the prospective subscriber’s residential address is
currently receiving a Lifeline service.
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(2) If the Database indicates that a prospective subscriber, who is not seeking to port his
or her telephone number, is currently receiving a Lifeline service, the eligible
telecommunications carrier must not provide and shall not seek or receive Lifeline
reimbursement for that subscriber.
(3) If the Database indicates that another individual at the prospective subscriber’s residential
address is currently receiving a Lifeline service, the eligible telecommunications carrier must not
seek and will not receive Lifeline reimbursement for providing service to that prospective
subscriber, unless the prospective subscriber has certified, pursuant to § 54.410(d) that to the best
of his or her knowledge, no one in his or her household is already receiving a Lifeline service.
(4) An eligible telecommunications carrier is not required to comply with paragraphs (b)(1)-(3) of
this section if it receives notice from a state Lifeline administrator or other state agency that the
administrator or other agency has queried the Database about a prospective subscriber and that
providing the prospective subscriber with a Lifeline benefit would not result in duplicative
support.
(5) Eligible telecommunications carriers may query the Database only for the purposes provided
in paragraphs (b)(1)-(b)(3) of this section, and to determine whether information with respect to
its subscribers already in the Database is correct and complete.
(6) Eligible telecommunications carriers must transmit to the Database in a format prescribed
by the Administrator each new and existing Lifeline subscriber’s full name; full residential
address; date of birth and the last four digits of the subscriber’s social security number or
Tribal Identification number, if the subscriber is a member of a Tribal nation and does not
have a social security number; the telephone number associated with the Lifeline service;
the date on which the Lifeline service was initiated; the date on which the Lifeline service
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was terminated, if it has been terminated; the amount of support being sought for that
subscriber; and the means through which the subscriber qualified for Lifeline.
(7) In the event that two or more eligible telecommunications carriers transmit the
information required by this paragraph to the Database for the same subscriber, only the
eligible telecommunications carrier whose information was received and processed by the
Database first, as determined by the Administrator, will be entitled to reimbursement
from the Fund for that subscriber.
(8) All eligible telecommunications carriers must update an existing Lifeline subscriber’s
information in the Database within ten business days of receiving any change to that
information, except as described in paragraph (b)(10) of this section.
(9) All eligible telecommunications carriers must obtain, from each new and existing
subscriber, consent to transmit the subscriber’s information. Prior to obtaining consent,
the eligible telecommunications carrier must describe to the subscriber, using clear, easily
understood language, the specific information being transmitted, that the information is
being transmitted to the Administrator to ensure the proper administration of the Lifeline
program, and that failure to provide consent will result in subscriber being denied the
Lifeline service.
(10) When an eligible telecommunications carrier de-enrolls a subscriber, it must transmit to
the Database the date of Lifeline service de-enrollment within one business day of de-
enrollment.
(c) Tribal Link Up and the National Lifeline Accountability Database. In order to receive universal
service support reimbursement for Tribal Link Up, eligible telecommunications carriers operating in
states that have not provided the Commission with a valid certification pursuant to paragraph (a) of this
section, must comply with the following requirements:
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(1) Such eligible telecommunications carriers must query the Database to determine whether a
prospective Link Up recipient who has executed a certification pursuant to § 54.410(d) has
previously received a Link Up benefit at the residential address provided by the prospective
subscriber.
(2) If the Database indicates that a prospective subscriber has received a Link Up benefit at the
residential address provided by the subscriber, the eligible telecommunications provider must not
seek Link Up reimbursement for that subscriber.
(3) An eligible telecommunications carrier is not required to comply with paragraphs (c)(1)
through (c)(2) of this section, if it receives notice from a state Lifeline administrator or other state
agency that the administrator or other agency has queried the Database about a prospective
subscriber and that providing the prospective subscriber with a Link Up benefit would not result
in duplicative support or support to a subscriber who had already received Link Up support at that
residential address.
(4) All eligible telecommunications carriers must transmit to the Database in a format prescribed
by the Administrator each new and existing Link Up recipient’s full name; residential address;
date of birth; and the last four digits of the subscriber’s social security number, or Tribal
identification number if the subscriber is a member of a Tribal nation and does not have a social
security number; the telephone number associated with the Link Up support; and the date of
service activation. Where two or more eligible telecommunications carriers transmit the
information required by this paragraph to the Database for the same subscriber, only the eligible
telecommunications carrier whose information was received and processed by the Database first,
as determined by the Administrator, will be entitled to reimbursement from the Fund for that
subscriber.
(5) All eligible telecommunications carriers must obtain, from each new and existing subscriber,
consent to transmit the information required in paragraph (c) of this section. Prior to obtaining
consent, the eligible telecommunications carrier must describe to the subscriber, using clear,
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easily understood language, the specific information being transmitted, that the information is
being transmitted to the Administrator to ensure the proper administration of the Link Up
program, and that failure to provide consent will result in the subscriber being denied the Link Up
benefit.
11. Revise § 54.405 to read as follows:
§ 54.405 Carrier obligation to offer Lifeline.
All eligible telecommunications carriers must:
(a) Make available Lifeline service, as defined in § 54.401, to qualifying low-income consumers.
(b) Publicize the availability of Lifeline service in a manner reasonably designed to reach those
likely to qualify for the service.
(c) Indicate on all materials describing the service, using easily understood language, that it is a Lifeline
service, that Lifeline is a government assistance program, the service is non-transferable, only eligible
consumers may enroll in the program, and the program is limited to one discount per household. For the
purposes of this section, the term “materials describing the service” includes all print, audio, video, and
web materials used to describe or enroll in the Lifeline service offering, including application and
certification forms.
(d) Disclose the name of the eligible telecommunications carrier on all materials describing the service.
(e) De-enrollment.
(1)