As was expected after the FCC’s sweeping Lifeline rule changes, several parties filed Petitions for Reconsideration of the controversial Lifeline Modernization Order. Petitioners, consisting of trade associations, ETCs, and a state public utilities commission, individually filed eight petitions for reconsideration on June 23rd, the last possible day to file.
Each petition varies in the issues it asks the FCC to reconsider. However, several petitioners ask the FCC to reconsider the new “rolling recertification” requirement, which will require Lifeline providers to recertify their Lifeline customers’ continued eligibility on an annual basis as measured from each individual subscriber’s service initiation date. Under the current process, an ETC’s subscribers are all recertified during one recertification window. Petitioners seeking reconsideration argue that the new process is extremely burdensome, administratively inefficient, and implementation should be delayed until the National Verifier is operational.
Additionally, many petitions seek reconsideration of the new mandatory minimum service standards for both fixed and mobile Lifeline support service, which multiple petitioners argue will result in consumer co-payments beyond the means of many Lifeline households. Because affordability is a touchstone principle of the Lifeline program, petitioners argue that the FCC must reconsider this issue and implement a regime that adopts affordability as an explicit factor in its analysis. Another area we expected would be ripe for reconsideration was the decision to phase out support for voice-only fixed and mobile Lifeline supported service, and several of the petitions seek reconsideration of this rule change as well.
Oppositions to the individual petitions are due are due are due within 15 days of the date of public notice of the petition in the Federal Register. Replies to an opposition must be filed within 10 days after the time for filing oppositions has expired. Taken together, the petitions for reconsideration challenge the core of the latest Lifeline reforms. These petitions come in addition to the recent petitions for review filed by NARUC and a coalition of twelve states in the DC Circuit challenging the Lifeline Modernization Order. Interested parties should follow this proceeding closely. DWT will monitor both the appellate and reconsideration proceedings and provide further analysis of the issues as we learn of them.
Links to the reconsideration petitions are provided below:
- NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband
- United States Telecom Association
- Joint Lifeline ETC Petitioners’
- General Communications, Inc.
- Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
- Tracfone Wireless, Inc.
- National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (“NASUCA”)