Lifeline Port Freeze Eliminated on March 19; 2018 Poverty Guidelines Available; New Standard Forms

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[co-author: Tanea Foglia]

2018 Poverty Guidelines

The 2018 Federal Poverty Guidelines (“FPG”) were published in the Federal Register on January 18. Customers may qualify for Lifeline if their gross total household income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. ETCs should update their certification forms and other consumer information materials to reflect the updated FPG income thresholds.

Port Freeze Eliminated

Effective March 19, the Lifeline port freeze rules will be eliminated. The rules, which originally took effect in December 2016, precluded customers from transferring to another provider:

  • their Lifeline voice subsidy for 60 days or
  • their Lifeline broadband subsidy for 12 months.

Less than a year later, the FCC determined that the port freeze rules “limit[ed] Lifeline consumers’ ability to seek more competitive offerings and obtain those services that best meet their needs” nor did it promote competition. As part of the rule elimination, NLAD will be updated to remove the port freeze constraints and customers in port freeze status as of that date will have the restriction lifted.

Universal Lifeline Forms

Beginning in July 2018, ETCs will be required to use OMB-approved Lifeline initial application and recertification forms, and household worksheets. ETCs that enroll customers electronically or via IVR must use the language as it appears on the OMB-approved forms. In instances where a state requires ETCs to use its state-approved forms, ETCs can use that form in lieu of the federal forms.  If an ETC is in a state that has additional enrollment requirements not captured in the federal form, the ETC may supplement the federal form with the additional required information. The new forms will be available in both English and Spanish.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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