This is going to be yet another cut and paste as I don’t have much to comment on this other than a TL;DR version of this is the FCC appears to be trying to increase the digital divide for low income people by forcing rate increases for network access to Lifeline customers.
Email from PulpPR follows, click the legal action link for the filed court documents. After the email I’ve included a little snippet about what Lifeline is.
Talking about unintended consequences: T-Mobile is between a rock and a hard place as the FCC forced T-Mobile into a new ‘Lifeline’ service deal for low-income customers. Given all other priorities and the recent T-Mobile-Sprint merger, this will wreak havoc on the company, ETCs and those who rely on Lifeline to stay connected during the pandemic.
The FCCs new mandate arbitrarily removes the free access to the Lifeline program in order to reduce the number of people participating in the program. The Lifeline program currently offers 3gb/mo. for free or up to $9.25 monthly. The new FCC order increases the data per month to 4.5 up to 11.75gb/mo and will force an unavoidable charge of up to $40.00 monthly fee, money low-income families cannot afford. This comes at a time when access to the internet is critical for survival in the age of Covid.
While the Chairman’s staff “claims” that TMO will offer the same rates to all their ETCs such as TruConnect, EnTouch and Assurance in order to offer 4.5 GB as well. These ETCs have received no notice of these proposed changes and one wonders if Chairman Pai cannot tell wishful thinking from fantasies.
This lose / lose situation is not only undermining ETCs and the internet support for low income families in the midst of a pandemic, but TMO will not emerge as a winner. Although TMO is likely not in collusion with Ajit Pai’s scheme, the massive carrier will have to bear the backlash. The NaLA Lifeline association has taken legal action against the FCC.
Quick rundown of the FCC Lifeline program
You can see their website here. This link includes program rules and details.
And a snippet:
How Lifeline Works
Lifeline provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount on service for eligible low-income subscribers. Subscribers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, but they may not receive a discount on both services at the same time. Lifeline also supports broadband Internet service and broadband-voice bundles. FCC rules prohibit more than one Lifeline service per household.
Lifeline is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, commonwealth, territory, and on Tribal lands. The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC is responsible for data collection and maintenance, support calculation, disbursements, and assisting consumers with Lifeline eligibility and enrollment for the program. USAC’s website provides additional information regarding the program, including program requirements.
To participate in the Lifeline program, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain federal assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain Tribal Programs. You can see if you are eligible by reviewing the information available at lifelinesupport.org (click “Do I Qualify?”).