FCC's Pai Rescinds Lifeline Eligibilities

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New Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai revoked Lifeline service provision eligibility and accompanying streamlined treatment, citing a National Tribal Telecommunications Association petition to reverse the eligibility on some of the companies, and because it would "promote program integrity by providing the Bureau with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program."

Chairman Pai complained that the FCC under his predecessor, Tom Wheeler, had failed to sufficiently root out such abuse. Citing what it said were "shortcomings in the Bureau’s prior orders" and "procedural failings" including allegedly not informing tribal governments that they were seeking eligibility from the FCC, Acting Bureau Chief Kris Montieth said the bureau "cannot conclude at this time that LBP designations are in the public interest for any of the entities."

The message seemed to be that Pai administration would review such applications more thoroughly for potential abuses, but others saw it as a way to target a program Chairman Pai has criticized.

“Since 2010, the FCC has been consistently working to improve and modernize the Lifeline program. Vulnerable communities, such as our nation's veterans -- who make up 13 percent of Lifeline users -- and low-income students -- who need broadband to succeed at school -- were poised to benefit from the low-cost broadband services the Lifeline program can bring," said Amina Fazlullah, director of policy at the Benton Foundation. "These unexpected revocations will not only limit choices for Lifeline consumers, but also have a chilling effect on participation of other potential broadband providers of Lifeline service."

FCC's Pai Rescinds Lifeline Eligibilities FCC chair stuns consumer advocates with move that could hurt poor people (ars technica)