FCC Soft Launches Telecom Subsidy Eligibility Verifier in More States

In a further move in the FCC's effort to better target telecom and broadband funds and prevent waste, fraud and abuse, the Wireline Competition Bureau is "soft" launching its national Lifeline eligibility verifier in another 11 states on June 25: Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The first soft-launch states were Colorado, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) in those states who are eligible for the Lifeline subsidies will not be able to begin any subscriber re-certifications after June 25 and should wrap up any current certifications under the existing rules by Aug. 30. Certification consists of verifying that the subs it is serving with subsidies ($9.25 per month) qualify for the program, which is targeted at low-income residents and tied to qualifying for various other government subsidy programs—Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc.).

ETCs will be able to test the new verifier before the FCC mandates its use so their employees can be ready on day one.

During the "soft" launch, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will start re-certifying subs using the national verifier. Anyone who can't be certified will be excluded from the program.

One of the things Pai did early on in his tenure was to revoke the most recent round of Lifeline until the FCC addressed the verification issue. Pai's stated goal is to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, something he has long targeted in the program, though critics have suggested it was a draconian hit on lower income residents being denied service.

John Eggerton

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.