on Impact of FCC’s Lifeline Reform Order Effective Dates
As reported in February 27th and February 28th ITA Special Reports, the FCC has issued an order relating to
Lifeline and LinkUp reform. Among a
number of changes to data collection, data reporting, Lifeline eligibility
processes, the FCC eliminated LinkUp reimbursement and increased the Lifeline
Unfortunately, the FCC failed to consider the impact of its Order on
ETCs, and failed to recognize that its Order impacts billing systems, tariff
filings, and customer relations.
confusion was magnified last week when the Federal Register published the FCC’s
Lifeline Reform Order, and listed the various
effective dates of that Order.
The March 2nd Federal Register
publication (available by clicking here) stated that the new rules are effective April
2, 2012, EXCEPT for the
54.411 to 54.414 (relating to LinkUp
for tribal lands) are effective April 1,
54.409 (changes to the consumer
qualification rules for Lifeline) is effective June 1, 2012.
The amendments to Sec.
54.202(a) (additional requirements for FCC designation of ETCs); 54.401(c)
(service deposit charges); 54.403 (Lifeline support amount); 54.407 (reimbursement
for offering Lifeline); 54.410 (subscriber eligibility determination and
certification); 54.416 (annual ETC certification); 54.417 (recordkeeping
requirements); 54.420 (low income program audits); and 54.222 (annual
reporting for ETCs that receive low in-come support) contain information
collection requirements that are not effective until approved by the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB). When OMB
approval is received, the FCC will publish a Public Notice indicating such.
calls to ITA this week, the most pressing questions facing ITA members
are the actual effective dates for the Lifeline charge increase?
do we need to file tariff revisions with the IUB, and what effective dates do
we put into the tariffs?
should we change our billing practices?
We will address each one of these in order.
1. Effective Dates
that LinkUp is to be eliminated April 1st.
We still don’t know when the Lifeline Credit
change will occur. We have conflicting
information from various sources:
Register. According to the timelines in the Federal
Register, the Office of Management and Budget must approve the Lifeline changes,
and this could take days or weeks.
We had heard that NARUC (the association of state PUCs) has been
pressuring the FCC for clarification of these questions, and that the FCC was
to issue an emergency clarification Order this week. We have been told that the FCC would clarify
that the Lifeline charge would go into effect on April 2nd, but so
far, we haven’t seen that Order.
Petition for Waiver. ITA has
learned that US Telecom intends to file a Petition for Waiver and Clarification
(perhaps today) regarding the timing of the implementation of the new Lifeline
and LinkUp rules. This filing will likely include some rural association
concurrences. It points out that ETCs in
many states need to make state tariff changes and modify their customer
notification processes, along with making other changes to billing systems,
internal procedures, and employee training, to comply with the rules. The
Petition will ask the FCC to waive the April 1st effective date, and
allow ETCs up to October 1st to implement the Lifeline and LinkUp
Bottom line on the Effective
Date: Stay tuned, and we will update you when we
have more information.
2. Local Service
our members are questioning whether they must file updated pages to their Local
Services Tariff by today (or sometime in the very immediate future) in order to
have tariff effective dates of April 1st.
short answer is that ITA members can wait a few days (or even a week or more)
before filing tariff revisions. Here’s
been in daily contact with the IUB staff, which has been very helpful in
looking for ways to be flexible in allowing ETCs to comply with the uncertain
implementation of these rules, within the constraints of their tariffs.
all, the IUB will not require tariff modifications relating to this Lifeline
Order to be filed 30 days, or even 21 days before taking effect. Instead, the IUB is likely to approve these
tariff modifications on an extremely expedited basis, just like what occurred
in December regarding the VoIP tariff modifications to the ITA Access
example, this week, several ETCs and CETCs filed tariff revisions on Lifeline
and LinkUp with April 2nd effective dates, and the IUB told ITA that
it has already sent out approval letters to those filers.
Bottom Line on Tariff Changes: The ITA
Tariff Committee meets on Tuesday to discuss these developments, to create a
model template that companies may use to modify their local service tariffs,
and to provide additional guidance to ITA members. While the time for acting will be expedited,
we have been assured that the IUB is willing to work with us on this. We are
trying to avoid a scenario where the FCC will cause ITA members to file
repeated tariff revisions and we are awaiting the development of key events.
company has its own billing practices and billing dates. As stated above, ITA has been assured by the
IUB that it is aware of the impact of the FCC rules on tariff and billing
procedures. While IUB rules require 30 day advance customer
notification for rate increases, IUB confirms that the elimination of the
LinkUp credit and the increase in the Lifeline credit is not a "rate increase”
so the 30 day customer notice requirement does not apply.
another billing matter, we understand that some ETCs have been using the
Lifeline Credit as an offset to the $6.50
End User Common Line charge, and the customer bill would show a credit of $1.75
to reduce the local services charge (for a total of $8.25). When the new rules do go into effect, these
ETCs may wish to modify their billing systems to reflect the $6.50 SLC charge
and a separate line item shows the full $9.25 Lifeline credit.
Summary We hope that much of this confusion will be
resolved soon. You can expect to have
updates from ITA in the near future as we learn more information.