The Lifeline Fund: Money Well Spent?

Oversight Hearing -- The Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline Program

Communications and Technology Subcommittee
House Commerce Committee
April 25, 2013

House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) announced the panel will hold a hearing on April 25, 2013, to examine the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline program, which has tripled in size from $800 million in 2009 to $2.2 billion per year in 2012. In advance of the hearing, House Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Walden, Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA) sent a series of letters to obtain more information on the government’s efforts to reform the program and determine what more can be done.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the members wrote, “While reforms the FCC adopted starting in 2011 may be slowing growth, they do not appear to be containing the absolute size of the fund. We remain concerned that the trajectory is still unsustainable. Since the American people ultimately pay for the program through a surcharge on their phone bills, and because many of those footing the bill face their own challenges in this economy, we want to make sure ratepayer funds are being spent wisely. And since waste and abuse will divert funds from helping those who truly need it, we want to make sure the funds are being appropriately targeted.”

The members also requested the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) provide assistance gathering best practices from states taking steps to combat waste, fraud and abuse. This will allow the subcommittee to explore whether these practices might be a good model for the FCC or other states to follow.

Consumer Groups
Consumers Union
Asian American Justice Center
National Disability Rights Network
Center for Media Justice
Senior Service America
League of United Latin American Citizens et al
Center for Rural Strategies

Save Wireless Lifeline petition