The Wireline Bureau of the FCC released clarification rules last week in Docket DA 16-1118 that describe how companies can participate in the broadband Lifeline program. This is the program where the Universal Service Fund will compensate ISPs $9.25 per month for broadband customers that qualify for the Lifeline program.
The program requires landline speeds of 10/1 Mbps with a data cap of no less than 150 GB per month. Mobile speeds can be slower and there is also a much lower data cap starting at 500 MB and increasing to 2 GB by the end of 2018. The FCC has established a registry listing eligible participants called the National Eligibility Verifier. Only households in that registry can receive the Lifeline subsidy and only one subsidy is allowed per household.
The new clarification in the docket describes the process for ISPs to participate in the Lifeline Fund. The FCC will require ISPs to register as a Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP). The FCC is developing an application process for ISPs that want to gain this designation.
The original order said that the FCC had up to six months to act on LBP applications, but there is now the ability to request a streamlined process where the FCC will approve requests within 60 days. Basically an ISP must complete the application, and if they don’t hear back from the FCC then they automatically have the designation on the 60th day after submission of the request. If the FCC asks questions or asks for changes to the submitted information then the request will be approved 60 days after the request filing has been amended and corrected.
In order to qualify for the streamlined and expedited review process an applicant must 1) serve at least 1,000 non-Lifeline voice customers and/or 1,000 Lifeline-eligible broadband Internet access service (BIAS) customers. This would be measured as a snapshot as of the time of making the application; and, 2) has offered broadband service to the public for at least two years, without interruption. So the expedited process is for established ISPs and not new ones.
Any ISP that doesn’t meet the streamlined review process will still have their application reviewed within six months.
Carriers that are already certified as Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) or as Lifeline-only ETCs do not need to seek the LBP status unless they are seeking to ask for Lifeline subsidies in new geographic areas where they were not previously certified.
In a petition to seek LBP status a carrier must:
- Certify that they will meet all of the service requirements of the Lifeline program.
- They must demonstrate the ability to remain functional during emergency situations and that they have taken precautions such as having back-up power to remain functional.
- Demonstrate that they will satisfy all applicable consumer protection service quality standards.
- Demonstrate that they are financially and technically capable of meeting all of the FCC rules needed to provide Lifeline. The FCC will look to see that the company can be viable without receiving the subsidies.
- Provide the terms and conditions that the ISP will offer to Lifeline subscribers.
The FCC is clearly trying to help as many ISPs as possible to participate in the Lifeline program. If your company is interested in taking part in this program feel free to contact CCG Consulting and we can help you through the application process.