Late last week, the FCC issued guidance on its new re-certification rules. The current rule requires Lifeline ETCs to conduct their annual re-certification efforts without regard to an individual subscriber’s Lifeline start date, and involved a complicated method of determining which subscribers were subject to the re-certification requirement for a given year. In contrast, the new rule sets a subscriber’s re-certification deadline for 12 months after that person’s Lifeline start date; such that the re-certification process will take place on a rolling basis for an ETC’s subscriber base rather than in a re-certification “season” typically at the end of the year as had been the case under the current rule. In the guidance, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau clarified a few points regarding the new rule. First, it clarified that the re-certification process must be completed by the subscriber’s enrollment anniversary date, meaning that if the person fails to satisfactorily complete the re-certification process by that date, the ETC must complete the last step of de-enrolling that person by the anniversary. The Bureau has previously stated that this was required even under the current rule, although its position does not appear to be explicitly supported by any commission-level decision or regulation. In order to meet that deadline, the Bureau recommended that ETCs begin the process of contacting subscribers 150 days prior to their Lifeline start anniversary dates.
The new rule becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2017, meaning that any subscriber enrolled on or after that date must be re-certified based on the 12 month rolling process described above. For subscribers enrolled prior to that date, they will be subject to a 12 month rolling re-certification process beginning July 1, 2017. This will result in some subscribers who were enrolled prior to Jan. 1 “skipping” a re-certification cycle. For example, the recertification deadline for subscribers who were enrolled prior to Jan. 1, 2017 and whose service anniversary dates falls between Jan. 1 and June 30 will be re-certified in 2018, rather than 2017.
The Bureau also clarified that the relevant anniversary date is when the subscriber began receiving Lifeline from his or her current ETC, not when the person first enrolled in the Lifeline program. Moreover, the relevant anniversary is from the subscriber’s current subscription in cases where the subscriber had previously enrolled and de-enrolled with the ETC, such as de-enrollments for failure to use the service.
The Bureau reminded carriers that if they wish to delegate their re-certification responsibilities to USAC, they must notify USAC by Dec. 15, 2016, by sending an email to USAC at LIVerifications@usac.org.