Lifeline Abuser Total Call Agrees to Pay $30 Million

Total Call Mobile will pay $30 million and permanently relinquish its Lifeline eligibility to settle a fraud investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. and the U.S. Attorney's office.

The FCC's initial Notice of Liability (NAL) for the conduct, issued last April, sought $51 million.

The company enrolled thousands of ineligible or duplicate consumers in the FCC's Lifeline program (a $9.25 per month subsidy for each eligible sub)--it actually admitted it as part of the settlement.

The $30 million comprises both a repayment to the Universal Service Fund and a penalty to the Treasury.

Total Call admits its wrongful conduct, including using fake eligibility cards and falsified sub info, failing to take corrective action, and much more.

Related: FCC Says IG Sought Delayed Release of Totcal Call NAL

A divided FCC voted earlier this year to reform the Lifeline program, including cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse through a third-party eligibility verifier The FCC was not divided on the need for that, but Republicans would have preferred capping the fund as well, which the Democrats voting to approve the reforms did not.

That $30 million likely will not please senior FCC Republican commissioner and possible interim chair Ajit Pai, who said early on he thought it should be more than the $51 million the FCC proposed and dissented in part from the NAL because of that $51 million figure versus "the sheer magnitude of misconduct at issue."

"[A] forfeiture of at least $84,295,910 would have been appropriate. Yet the Commission settles for something much less," he said in a statement back in April when the NAL was issued.

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.