FCC Partially Grants Lifeline Service Standards Relief

The Federal Communications Commission addresses the petition of CTIA and others seeking a waiver of the FCC’s rules updating the Lifeline program’s minimum service standard for mobile broadband usage, which otherwise would take effect on Dec 1, 2019. Petitioners asought to halt the phase-down of the support amount for Lifeline service that does not meet the broadband minimum standard, which will decrease from $9.25/month to $7.25/month on Dec 1, 2019. Given the unexpectedly large growth in mobile broadband usage over the past three years and the resultant unexpectedly large increase to the minimum service standard that results from the formula the FCC adopted in 2016, good cause exists to partially grant CTIA’s petition on this issue. Specifically, the FCC waives the rule to the extent it would establish a minimum service standard greater than 3 GB per month, beginning on Dec 1, 2019. The FCC further finds that Petitioners have not shown that good cause exists to halt the scheduled phase-down of support for Lifeline voice service, and therefore denies that portion of the Petition.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissented from the Order saying, "[I]t has become apparent that those who rely on Lifeline still depend deeply on the program for voice services and the formula used to update data minimums may have unintended consequences. In other words, while the market has evolved, it has not moved in the ways we previously imagined. As a result, several months ago a coalition including the National Consumers Law Center; National Hispanic Media Coalition; OCA—Asian Pacific American Advocates, United Church of Christ, OC, Inc., and CTIA filed a petition asking the FCC to pause the changes in support set to take place at the start of next month. They made a compelling case that further study is warranted before making these adjustments because the impact of the changes could be severe. I think that under the circumstances, this kind of pause is a smart approach. In fact, I think it would be the best course for the FCC and the program right now."

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks also dissented saying that staff are "working on a report that will give us a better understanding of the Lifeline market. Until that report is completed and analyzed, it is my belief that we should refrain from making any additional changes until we have the necessary data to make informed decisions, rather than rushing to impose standards that may have far-reaching ramifications on the program. Additionally, it is important to note that the record reflects overwhelming support for pausing the voice-only phase down. The fact of the matter is that the voice-only phase down will likely have a real impact on the nearly one million people who subscribe to these services. I fear that our poorest Americans now risk losing their link to emergency services, doctors, employers, and family."


FCC Partially Grants Lifeline Service Standards Relief Order Rosenworcel Statement Starks Statement