Federal Communications Commission
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20554
This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEWS MEDIA CONTACT
September 30, 2013
Justin Cole, 202-418-8191
FCC PROPOSES MORE THAN $14.4 MILLION IN FORFEITURES TO COMBAT
DUPLICATIVE LIFELINE SERVICE, PROTECT LIFELINE PROGRAM
Today, following investigations by its Enforcement Bureau, the FCC proposed more
than $14.4 million in forfeitures against five wireless Lifeline service providers who apparently violated
the Commission's Lifeline rules. The violations involve thousands of consumers who had more than one
Lifeline subscription from the same provider, resulting in duplicative support requests and payments.
Today's actions constitute the most recent step in the Commission's significant efforts to root out waste,
fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program and preserve the overall integrity of the Universal Service Fund
(USF). Specifically, the Notices of Apparent Liability (NALs) were issued against: Icon Telecom, Inc.
($4,806,381); TracFone Wireless, Inc. ($4,573,376); Assist Wireless, LLC ($2,203,977); Easy Telephone
Services d/b/a/ Easy Wireless ($1,586,545); and UTPhone, Inc. ($1,234,456).
In each case, the carrier knew or should have known, based on its own internal data, that the consumers
were ineligible under Lifeline program rules. The penalties proposed in today's NALs are in addition to
recovery of universal service funds paid to the carriers for duplicative Lifeline service.
To protect the integrity of the Lifeline program, the Commission's rules prohibit, among other things,
Lifeline service providers from requesting and/or receiving support for consumers who already receive
Lifeline service. The Commission also requires Lifeline service providers to carefully monitor their
compliance with the Lifeline rules and recently cautioned that non-compliance would result in
For the apparent violations uncovered in these cases, where the providers should have discovered the
duplicates on their own, the NALs adopt an aggressive forfeiture framework, including: (1) a separate
forfeiture of $20,000 for each unlawful payment request seeking USF support for ineligible Lifeline
subscribers; (2) a $5,000 forfeiture per ineligible subscriber; and (3) an upward adjustment of three times
the total duplicate USF support payments requested and/or received.
Since it was launched in 1985, Lifeline has helped ensure that low-income consumers can afford basic
telephone service by providing monthly service discounts. Over the years, the program has dramatically
increased the percentage of low-income households with phone service, providing a communications
lifeline, including the ability to quickly reach emergency services, for some of our most vulnerable
citizens. The FCC began tackling Lifeline reform in 2010, culminating in a complete overhaul in January
2012. The Enforcement Bureau also continues to aggressively pursue various ongoing Lifeline
investigations. At the same time, the FCC's Office of the Inspector General is working on investigations
in close coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice.
To date, the FCC's tough new rules have eliminated more than 1.1 million duplicate subscriptions, saved
nearly $214 million in 2012, and are on track to save over $2 billion over three years. The reforms will
preserve Lifeline for those who truly need it and prepare it to ensure that low-income Americans have
access to robust, affordable broadband.
The Wireline Competition Bureau today also released a Public Notice seeking comment on the proposed
Lifeline Biennial Audit Plan, which will develop uniform procedures for independent biennial audits of
carriers receiving $5 million annually or more from the low-income universal service support program.
The Lifeline Biennial Audit Plan can be found at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA
News about the Federal Communications Commission can also be found
on the Commission's web site www.fcc.gov