Today (October 15), in a sharply divided 3-2 vote, the Georgia Public Service Commission (“PSC”) adopted a requirement that Lifeline ETCs either bill and collect a $5 minimum monthly Lifeline rate or offer a Lifeline plan that includes 500 monthly minutes. The rule is slated to become effective on January 31, 2014. In its entirety, the new rule states:
An Eligible Telecommunications Carrier shall either bill and collect from its Lifeline customers a minimum monthly service rate of $5.00 per month after application of the Federal Lifeline discount or provide to its Lifeline customers a minimum of 500 minutes of use per month. Nothing in this paragraph prohibits an ETC from billing and collecting $5.00 per month on a quarterly basis. This paragraph shall become effective on January 31, 2014.
The new rule has a tortured history. It is the culmination of nine Notices of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the PSC since March 2012. This January, the PSC actually voted to adopt a $5 minimum monthly Lifeline rate requirement, only to withdraw it from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office while it considered various alternatives and variations to the rule. On Feb. 15, CTIA-The Wireless Association filed a federal district court challenge to that rule. This lawsuit, which has been held in abeyance as the PSC proceedings continued, will now resume, and it is expected that CTIA will soon seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect.