FCC Extends Lifeline Waivers

A doctor or researcher with a COVID-19 vaccine
(Image credit: sinology/Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission has signaled there are still concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing impact on broadband access.

On its own initiative, which means not in response to any request, the FCC's Wireline Competition bureau has extended the waivers of various Lifeline rules through Dec. 31, 2021. It is only the latest in a series of extensions as the pandemic continues despite vaccination and masking efforts.

Lifeline is the low-income subsidy program for advanced telecommunications, broadband and voice.

Over the course of the pandemic, the FCC issued eight different orders relating to various procedural hoops that it saw as hurdles during the medical crisis.

“[W]e find good cause to extend, on our own motion, our prior waivers of the Lifeline program rules governing documentation requirements for subscribers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands, reverification, recertification, general de-enrollment, and income documentation,” the FCC said.

“Extending the waivers … will allow additional time for the benefits of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts to continue and will allow additional time for individuals who have lost jobs and faced other challenges as a result of the pandemic to recover,” it added.

The bureau also signaled that it could issue another extension if circumstances warrant.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.