NaLA: FCC Must Act Now to Prevent Disruption in Lifeline Service for Millions of Low-Income Americans and Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans

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NaLA Urges FCC Vote on Its Petition Seeking to Hold Steady Current Mobile Broadband Service and Voice Support Amounts.

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Any increase in the Minimum Service Standards will require low-income Americans to pay an unfair co-pay for Lifeline and for additional data service they never asked for, can’t pay for and don’t want.

Members of the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent the disruption of essential Lifeline-supported service for low-income Americans, particularly low-income veterans. Unless the FCC acts now to prevent untenable increases in mobile broadband service levels without any increase in support amounts, most Lifeline users will be forced to switch from fully-supported “free” service offerings to service that requires a co-pay which more than 80% of subscribers say they cannot pay. Unless the FCC acts to reverse course, millions of low-income veterans and other Americans will lose Lifeline-supported access to the mobile voice and broadband services they need to stay in contact with employers, teachers, and loved ones during ongoing challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the FCC announced new Minimum Service Standards for mobile broadband services and a reduction in support for voice service provided through the Lifeline Program. This action was taken without increasing the subsidy for low-income Americans and without any study to determine the affordability of such services.

NaLA members repeatedly have told the FCC that the costs of providing such service will exceed the support amount by a wide margin – which will force the end of free Lifeline service and the imposition of co-pays. NaLA also conducted and filed at the FCC a statistically representative consumer survey that found that a majority of Lifeline subscribers are unbanked and an even larger majority are unemployed and could not afford a monthly co-pay of any amount.

NaLA also filed a petition with the FCC requesting to hold the Minimum Service Standards at the current level and it is awaiting a vote by the FCC.

“The FCC must act now to prevent increases in the Minimum Service Standards in order to preserve the viability of crucial voice and broadband services for low-income Americans and veterans,” said David B. Dorwart, Chairman of NaLA. “Any increase in the Minimum Service Standards will require low-income Americans to pay an unfair co-pay for Lifeline and for additional data service they never asked for, can’t pay for and don’t want. We ask that the FCC act now by allowing a vote on the NaLA Petition to ensure low-income veterans and other Americans will continue to have access to essential communications services during this pandemic and time of great economic uncertainty.”

An FCC failure to act now to grant the NaLA Petition so that it can pause and study service and subsidy levels would undermine the primary goal of the Lifeline program – providing accessible and affordable mobile voice and broadband service to individuals and families in need. Millions of eligible Americans have used Lifeline to maintain access to healthcare providers, employers, remote learning, emergency, and other government services, community services, and family during the pandemic. Failure to grant the NaLA Petition now to stop the December 1st Minimum Service Standard changes would result in millions of low-income Americans and hundreds of thousands of veterans being de-enrolled from Lifeline and losing access to mobile voice and broadband at a time when it has never been more needed.

Since the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, Lifeline service providers have seen an increase of up to 20% in voice minutes used and up to a 40% increase in data usage, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Lifeline Association.

Any low-income consumers who are experiencing difficulty getting or staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic can find more information about Lifeline eligibility and how to apply in their state here: https://www.lifelinesupport.org/

About the National Lifeline Association (NaLA):
The National Lifeline Association is the only industry trade group specifically focused on the Lifeline segment of mobile wireless marketplace. We support the four essential components of Lifeline: ETCs & Providers, Distributors, Lifeline Participants & Supporters, and Government & Regulatory Bodies. We are passionate about the continuity and advancement of the Lifeline program and we drive this vision through our mission to “support providers, distributors, participants, and supporters of Lifeline through education, cooperation, and advocacy.”
For more information on NaLA, visit https://www.nalalifeline.org.

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Jordan Axt
@NaLALifeline
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