Update: The OMB approval of the FCC’s new Lifeline rules was published in the Federal Register today, which means that Feb. 17, 2016 is the effective date for the new rules published therein. Please see below for further details.
Last summer, the FCC adopted new rules for the Lifeline program in its Second Order and NPRM (see our prior analysis of the order), including: the retention of eligibility documentation (such as scans of food stamp cards); an industry-wide, uniform “snapshot” date for determining which subscribers may be claimed for a given month; and a ban on resale of Lifeline services by non-ETCs. These new rules, however, required approval by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) before becoming effective. The FCC recently released a Public Notice confirming that the rules had been approved by the OMB and will take effect “on or after” Feb. 4, 2016 when the OMB approval will be sent to the Federal Register for publication.
For most of the new rules, the date of publication will clearly be the effective date, including the requirement to retain eligibility documentation, also commonly referred to as “proof” documents. The Second Order and NPRM, however, had indicated that ETCs would be given an additional 180 days to comply with the new snapshot rule and ban on resale. The question is on which date does the 180-day timeline begin? Although the FCC’s Public Notice does not clarify this issue, USAC’s website indicates that the snapshot rule will become effective 180-days after “[publication of] OMB approval in the Federal Register [expected on or after February 4].” If USAC is correct, then the rule will become effective on Aug. 2, 2016, or after if the publication is after February 4. Presumably, the same would hold true for the new rule banning Lifeline resale.
We have asked FCC staff to clarify the effective date of the snapshot and resale rules, and will provide an update when we receive feedback.