On October 30, the California Public Utilities Commission ("PUC") released a 174-page Proposed Decision (“PD”) in its California LifeLine proceeding.  The PD proposes to allow wireless carriers to participate in the California LifeLine program for the first time and sets forth requirements that carriers must meet in order to participate.

In order to receive state LifeLine funds, carriers must file with the PUC a "Tier III Advice Letter" that is subject to PUC approval.  The PD allows wireless carriers three options:  (1) federal-only ETC status, under which the carrier would receive only federal Lifeline funds; (2)  federal + state status, under which the carrier would receive both federal and state funds; or (3) state-only status, under which carrier would receive only state LifeLine funds.

Some of the PD's most significant requirements for participants in the state fund include:

  • The California LifeLine discount must be available on all qualifying plans that the carrier offers its non-LifeLine subscribers.
  • California LifeLine wireless providers must provide at least 501 minutes of use per month.
    • For plans between 501 and 999 voice minutes, the fixed reimbursement will be $6.25 per subscriber (in addition to any federal funds).
    • For plans that offer 1,000 or more voice minutes, the fixed reimbursement will be $13.15 per subscriber (in addition to any federal funds).
    • Calls to customer service may not count against the subscriber's allotted voice minutes.
    • Calls to "N11" numbers (e.g., 911, 611 and 311) may not count against the subscriber’s allotted voice minutes.

Comments in response to the PD must be filed by November 19 and reply comments are due by November 25.  The PUC is slated to vote on the PD at its December 5 meeting.