- Savings Report (January 31, 2013)
- Lifeline Reforms Save Over $210 Million; 14 Broadband Pilots Launched (December 19, 2012)
- FCC Reforms, Modernizes Lifeline (January 31, 2012 - Press Release)
- Lifeline Reform Report & Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
- Lifeline Duplicative Payments Order (June 21, 2011)
- Chairman Genachowski Lifeline Letter (December 12, 2011)
- Lifeline (LL) Fraud Tip Line: 1-855-4LL-TIPS (or 1-855-455-8477) or Lifeline@fcc.gov. Please provide as much detail as possible, including your name and contact information and the company you are using to receive Lifeline-supported phone service.
Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services. In 2005, Lifeline discounts were made available to qualifying low-income consumers on pre-paid wireless service plans in addition to traditional landline service. Lifeline is part of the Universal Service Fund.
The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands. Consumers with proper proof of eligibility may be qualified to enroll. To participate in the program, consumers must have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in a qualifying state, federal or Tribal assistance program.
To participate in the program, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in one of the following assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP);
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Federal Public House Assistance (Section 8);
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
- National School Lunch Program's Free Lunch Program;
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance;
- Tribally-Administrered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF);
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR);
- Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met); or
- State assistance programs (if applicable).
Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than one Lifeline discount per household. An eligible consumer may receive a discount on either a wireline or wireless service, but not both. A consumer whose household currently is receiving more than one Lifeline service must select a single Lifeline provider and contact the other provider to de-enroll from their program. Consumers violating this rule may also be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties.
The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC is responsible for data collection and maintenance, support calculation, and disbursement for the low-income program. USAC’s website provides information regarding administrative aspects of the low-income program, as well as program requirements.
On January 31, 2012, the Commission adopted comprehensive reform and modernization of the Lifeline program. As a universal service program that fulfills Congress’s mandate to ensure the availability of communications to all Americans, Lifeline for the past 25 years has helped tens of millions of low-income Americans afford basic phone service. Access to telephone service is essential for finding a job, connecting with family, or getting help in an emergency, and the percentage of low-income households with phone service has increased from 80% in 1985, when Lifeline began, to nearly 92% last year.
Highlights of FCC’s Lifeline reforms :
Changes to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse, saving up to $2 billion over 3 years
- Setting a savings target of $200 million for 2012, and putting the Commission in a position to adopt an appropriate budget for the program in early 2013 after review of a six-month report and one-year report on the effects of the Order.
- Creation of a National Lifeline Accountability Database to prevent multiple carriers from receiving support for the same subscriber. The database will build on FCC efforts in 2011 that eliminated nearly 270,000 duplicate subscriptions in 12 states following review of over 3.6 million subscriber records, saving $33 million.
- Creation of eligibility databases from governmental data sources, enabling fully automated verification of consumers’ initial and ongoing Lifeline eligibility. This would reduce the potential for fraud while cutting red tape for consumers and providers. A database based on the three most common federal benefit programs through which consumers qualify for Lifeline will be created no later than the end of 2013.
- Establishing a one-per-household rule applicable to all providers in the program, defining household as an “economic unit” so that separate low-income families living at the same address can get connected.
- Establishing clear goals and metrics to measure program performance and effectiveness.
- Phasing out support for services such as Toll Limitation – subsidies to carriers for blocking or restricting long-distance service—and ending Link Up – subsidies to carriers for initial connection charges. Link Up will continue in Tribal lands.
- Reducing burdens on carriers by establishing a uniform, interim flat rate of reimbursement, allowing carriers to obtain a subscriber’s signature electronically, and streamlining enrollment through uniform, nationwide eligibility criteria.
- Adopting an express goal for the program of ensuring availability of broadband for all low-income Americans.
- Establish a Broadband Adoption Pilot Program using up to $25 million in savings from other reforms to test and determine how Lifeline can best be used to increase broadband adoption among Lifeline-eligible consumers. Starting this year, the program will solicit applications from broadband providers and will select a number of projects to fund. Lifeline will help reduce the monthly cost of broadband service, but applicants will be expected to help address other challenges to broadband adoption, including the cost of devices and digital literacy.
- Proposes increasing digital literacy training at libraries and schools. A Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on using savings from other Universal Service Fund reforms to increase digital literacy training at libraries and schools, a key step in increasing broadband adoption.
- Build on FCC efforts to close the broadband adoption gap and address digital literacy, including the Connect-to-Compete initiative, which enlists government, non-profit, and private sector leaders to address broadband adoption barriers through digital literacy training and low-cost broadband availability.
- Allow Lifeline support for bundled services plans combining voice and broadband or packages including optional calling features.
- Utah PSC Waiver Order: 2/8/2013
Granting limited, temporary waiver from sections 54.410(f) and 54.416(b) of the Commission’s rules, and the deadlines established in paragraphs 130-32 of the Lifeline Reform Order, to the Utah PSC and wireline Eligible Telecommunications Carriers in the State of Utah.
- Lifeline Year-End Savings Report Public Notice: 1/31/2013
The Bureau reports that the Commission exceeded its $200 million savings target goal, generating over $213 million in savings to the Universal Service Fund in 2012 compared to projected distributions to Eligible Telecommunications Carriers in the absence of reform.
- PRTC Temporary Waiver Order: 1/25/2013
WCB grants a limited waiver from sections 54.405(e)(4) and 54.410(f) of the Commission’s rules and the 2012 recertification requirement set forth in the Lifeline Reform Order to Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC) for subscribers who did not complete the recertification process by December 31, 2012.