On June 6, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau released an order granting waivers of certain Lifeline certification rules in seven states.  The FCC’s rules require ETCs to review and retain the certification forms that subscribers fill out when applying for Lifeline service.  In most states, ETCs are responsible for providing these forms to new customers and then collecting them.

However, FCC rules allow states to step into this role by having state agencies distribute and collect certification forms instead, so long as they send copies of the certifications to the appropriate ETCs.  The ETCs, in turn, are required to retain these copies to demonstrate compliance in audits or other investigations.

California, Vermont, Utah, Nebraska, Florida, Oregon, and Idaho have opted to handle the certification process themselves, but have been unable to put systems in place that are capable of sending certification forms to ETCs.  These states, as well as the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) filed petitions for wavier of the rules and asked the FCC to allow state agencies to inform ETCs of subscriber eligibility through various notification methods instead.

In its Order, the Bureau granted these waiver requests, reasoning that each of the states is either working to come into compliance with the rules or that it has already put in place sufficient protections using the state’s notification system alone.   The Bureau therefore gave California until December 31, 2014 to complete changes to its system.  It granted the six other states a permanent waiver of the rules, conditioned on their willingness to assist USAC or federal agencies in investigations of the eligibility of Lifeline subscribers.  These waivers extend retroactively to February 1, 2014.  Although ETCs in these states are not required to retain subscriber certifications, they will be required to retain copies of the eligibility notifications they receive from the state agencies.