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House Dems Seek GAO Review of Lifeline Verifier

Some House Energy & Commerce members have asked the Government Accountability Office to "review" the FCC's efforts to deploy the Lifeline National Verifier, which is meant to be a more efficient way to monitor who gets the Lifeline Universal Service Fund subsidies and make sure they are eligible for the money.

They told GAO in a letter that they are concerned that the FCC is not doing all it can to deploy the verifier in a timely fashion, pointing to the fact that implementation has been delayed, combined with FCC chairman Ajit Pai's efforts to reform the program to cut out waste, fraud and abuse, an effort he said spurred his decision to cut off funds to several new applicants until the FCC gets a better handle on how the money is given out.

They want the GAO to prioritize the verifier review and that it answers a number of questions, including whether the FCC has a strategic plan for implementing the verifier program "on time," what steps it has taken to implement that.

Back in November, when the FCC adopted the Lifeline reform revamp, the item also sought comment on improving the eligibility verification and recertification process given that one of the things Pai did early on was to revoke the most recent round of certifications to those new applicants until the FCC addressed the verification issue. Pai has long targeted waste fraud and abuse, though critics of the item have suggested it was a draconian hit on lower income residents denied service.

Back in June, the Government Accountability Office released a report that identified big problems with the Lifeline program. For example, GAO was unable to confirm whether 36% of the 3.5 million individuals it reviewed (or some 1.2 million) individuals actually participated in any of the qualifying programs, like Medicaid, that they stated on their applications for the subsidy.

Signing on to the letter to GAO were Reps. Bobby Rush, Frank Pallone, Anna Eshoo, Mike Doyle, G.K Butterfield, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney and Evette Clarke.

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.