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FCC Seeks Comment on Lifeline Decision Challenge

The FCC is giving interested parties until March 23 to comment on a challenge to the FCC decision, under chairman Ajit Pai, to withdraw the designation of nine telecoms as eligible for Lifeline broadband subsidies, which are the subsidies for basic connectivity for low-income residents.

In a public notice released March 2, the FCC set the comment dates--March 16 for comments, March 23 for replies--on requests by dozens of groups including the ACLU, Common Cause, the Communications Workers of America and the Benton Foundation, that the FCC reconsider its reconsideration of the eligibilities.

Specifically they asked that the FCC to "reject any further efforts to undermine Lifeline, swiftly implement  the March 2016 Lifeline modernization  order, and overturn the Wireline Competition Bureau’s Order on  Reconsideration that rescinded Lifeline Broadband Provider designations for nine carriers prepared to offer Lifeline broadband services."

On Friday (Feb. 3), Pai's acting bureau chief revoked the 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."

Pai had complained that the FCC under his predecessor, Tom Wheeler, had failed to sufficiently root out such abuse.

Benton Foundation policy director Amina Fazlullah called the FCC move a "welcome step in the right direction."