The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau released a public notice late yesterday providing guidance about the 2013 annual re-certification process. Under the new FCC rules, all Lifeline subscribers must fill out a form on an annual basis and certify that they continue to qualify for Lifeline. Prior to adoption of the new rule, most ETCs were only required to re-certify a statistically valid sample of their subscriber base. The FCC's 2012 Lifeline Reform Order laid out a specific process for the 2012 re-certification process. It did not, however, provide specific guidance for 2013 or subsequent years.
The question raised by the industry for 2013 and beyond was whether an ETC must re-certify its subscriber base once per year or whether for each individual subscriber, the deadline was 12 months after enrollment. The Bureau's notice clarifies that the requirement is to re-certify subscribers once per calendar year, and that the ETC has until the end of the year to complete the process.
The notice also clarifies that the FCC will continue to use the "snapshot" approach, meaning that the ETC must re-certify its list of subscribers as of a particular date in order to give a definitive list for each annual process. The notice appears to require the ETC to examine subscribers active as of January 1, 2013 for which a subsidy was claimed in February 2013. (Subscribers enrolled in January 2013 would not be re-certified until 2014.) Unfortunately, the language in the notice is inconsistent in how it describes the relevant time period. Any follow up clarification from FCC staff will be posted as an update.
Update:FCC staff have orally clarified that the base of subscribers to be re-certified are those active as of January 1, for which a subsidy is claimed on the FCC Form 497 filing for data month February 2013. This filing would normally be filed on March 8, 2013. Subscribers enrolled in January or February 2013 would not be re-certified until 2014.