On April 14, the Lifeline Reform 2.0 Coalition, a group of Lifeline ETCs, filed an ex parte letter that “revises and re-prioritizes its proposals for further Lifeline reform” following developments since the Coalition filed a petition for rulemaking this past July.
The ex parte letter revisits two of the Coalition’s previous proposals: allowing Lifeline ETCs to retain copies of subscribers’ proof of eligibility (an idea that has wide support among ETCs) and requiring ETCs to only employ direct employees to review and approve all enrollments of new Lifeline subscribers (a proposal that is more contentious). To these proposals, the Coalition adds several new ideas for reform. First, it proposes that the FCC impose minimum standards on state eligibility databases to ensure that these databases are responsive, accurate, and able to provide real-time access to ETCs. Second, it proposes that the FCC establish a “safe harbor” under which an ETC with a very low number of Lifeline duplicates would not be liable to the large fines seen in the FCC’s recent Notices of Apparent Liability. Third, it proposes that the FCC impose on itself a time limit for acting on various Lifeline-related filings that have languished in the past year, including Lifeline compliance plans (none approved since December 2012), federal ETC petitions (none approved since August 2012), and appeals of audits. The Coalition suggests that compliance plans and ETC applications should be deemed approved if the FCC has not acted within 90 days, and likewise that audit appeals should be resolved in favor of the ETC if the FCC has not taken action within 90 days. Fourth, it proposes that the service territory of wireless reseller ETCs be defined based on zip codes rather than wireline carrier exchanges and wire centers, on the ground that there is no meaningful connection between wire centers and wireless service territory, and the current rule requires ETCs to create expensive and ultimately nonsensical service territory maps on which they must base the geographical reach of their Lifeline offerings.