Who Will Grant Licenses for Lifeline Broadband? FCC Takes a Pause in Pending Appeal to Consider New Administration’s Approach

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Last Friday, the FCC filed a motion with the DC Circuit to put a hold on the pending appeal of a portion of its 2016 Lifeline order finding that the FCC—and not the states—had sole jurisdiction to grant Lifeline broadband provider designations (“LBP”).  The new LBP designation is a one-stop application process that significantly reduced the time, burden and expense of receiving a license to provide Lifeline supported service, compared to the existing system for voice services, which requires the service provider to apply on a state-by-state basis.  The FCC’s process includes an expedited 60-day process for applicants that had already provided non-subsidized broadband service to 1,000 customers for the previous two years.  This is in stark contrast to the application process in many states, which can take many months or even years.

The motion indicates that the FCC would like more time to consider what the new administration’s approach will be.  The motion was filed on the same day that the new FCC Chairman Pai cancelled the nine LBP applications that were granted in December and January, as part of a slew of revocations of actions taken by the prior administration.

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