Lifeline

Provide High-Speed Broadband

All designated providers of Lifeline-supported service must provide broadband internet access support (BIAS) that meets the minimum service standards starting December 2, 2016, unless they complete the forbearance process with the FCC.

Planning to offer Lifeline-supported broadband service beginning in December 2016? Contact us and we will add your company information to our consumer-facing website and outreach materials.

Broadband Service Obligations

Service obligations vary based on the ETC type:

Current Lifeline-only ETCs: ETCs with designations that are limited to the Lifeline Program are:

  • Required to start providing broadband service on December 2, 2016.
  • Automatically eligible to provide Lifeline broadband service through their existing ETC designation.
  • Must comply with all service requirements, including any future rules changes, and the annually-updated minimum service standards.

Current ETCs designated to receive High Cost Program support are:

  • Required to start providing Lifeline-supported broadband service on December 2, 2016.
  • Required to provide Lifeline-supported broadband in areas where they commercially offer broadband service pursuant to their High Cost Program obligations.
  • Not required to offer Lifeline-supported broadband services in their designated service areas where they receive High Cost Program frozen support, if they avail themselves of forbearance from the FCC.
  • Automatically eligible to provide Lifeline broadband service through their existing ETC designation.
  • Required to comply with all service requirements, including any future rules changes, and the annually-updated minimum service standards.

Broadband-only Providers: New Providers that complete the FCC LBP designation process

  • Can receive reimbursement for Lifeline-supported broadband service, but not voice service
  • Must offer service throughout their designated service area
  • Must comply with all service requirements, including any future rules changes, and the annually-updated minimum service standards.

Forbearance from This Obligation

Carriers do not need to provide Lifeline-supported broadband service if they complete the forbearance process described in the Lifeline Modernization Order. Carriers that avail themselves of forbearance relief may still elect to offer and receive reimbursement for providing Lifeline-supported BIAS in Census blocks where they have availed themselves of forbearance relief.

Current Lifeline-only ETCs may avail themselves of the forbearance of their obligation to offer broadband service. That is, they may continue providing only voice service by notifying the FCC by December 2, 2016, or going forward, 30 days after they receive their ETC designation.

Current ETCs designated to receive High Cost Program support may avail themselves of the forbearance from their obligation to offer broadband service except where they offer qualifying BIAS pursuant to their High Cost public interest obligations. That is, they may continue providing only voice service in certain areas by notifying the FCC by December 2, 2016, or going forward, 30 days after they receive their ETC designation or there is a qualifying change to their high-cost support for a specific area (e.g., the high-cost support term ends, and the carrier does not receive another form of high-cost support for that area, or there is a determination that high-cost support is no longer available for a particular Census block). ETCs receiving high-cost support are not eligible for forbearance from the Lifeline-broadband obligation in Census blocks where they are subject to high-cost public interest broadband obligations but do not yet commercially offer BIAS with speeds of at least 4/1 Mbps or greater.

Beginning in September 2017, the Commission has forborne from High Cost ETCs' obligation to offer Lifeline voice service in counties where the following criteria are met:

  • 51% of Lifeline subscribers in a county obtain Lifeline broadband,
  • There are at least three other Lifeline BIAS providers that each serve at least 5% of the Lifeline BIAS subscribers in that county (NLAD and Opt-out data), and
  • The ETC does not receive High-Cost support in that area

ETCs that only receive High Cost Program frozen support or one-time Phase I high-cost support (i.e., incremental, Mobility Fund, or Tribal Mobility) are not subject to Lifeline Program Broadband service obligations where they receive the frozen support or one-time Phase I high-cost support, but must submit a forbearance notification to avail themselves of this relief.

How to Request Forbearance

To elect forbearance relief, submit notice to the FCC and to USAC by December 2, 2016, or within 30 days of receiving ETC designation as a Lifeline service provider in that area or a qualifying change to the high-cost support, whichever is later.

Submit to FCC: Use WC Docket No. 11-42 in the FCC Electronic Comment Filing System

Submit to USAC: If the forbearance notice and supporting documentation is under 15 MB, email it to Telco Lifeline. If the files are over 15 MB, contact us for instructions about how to upload via USAC's SFTP server.

Review the FCC's Public Notice for details about what information to include in a forbearance notice, such as:

  • Service provider name and any associated d/b/a
  • ETC designation information
  • All Census Blocks where the service provider is availing itself of forbearance relief, including appropriate documentation
  • Signature and contact information of the service provider's authorized representative
  • Information about other areas where the service provider will offer Lifeline broadband service (optional)

Minimum Service Standards

Carriers are required to meet these minimum standards for Lifeline-supported services starting December 2, 2016.

The minimum service standards will gradually increase over the next five years. These standards will be evaluated yearly to ensure the continued support of robust and meaningful broadband connectivity.

Date

Mobile Voice

Mobile
Broadband

Fixed
Broadband

12/2/2016

500 
Minutes

Speed: 3G or better
Usage Allowance: 500 MB

Speed: 10/1 Mbps
Usage Allowance: 150 GB

12/1/2017

750 
Minutes

Speed: 3G or WCB Updated Standard
Usage Allowance: 1 GB

Speed: Updating Mechanism 
Usage Allowance: CAF Standard or Bureau Determination

12/1/2018

1000 
Minutes

Speed: 3G or WCB Updated Standard
Usage Allowance: 2 GB

Speed: Updating Mechanism 
Usage Allowance: CAF Standard or Bureau Determination

12/1/2019

1000 
Minutes

Speed: 3G or WCB Updated Standard
Usage Allowance: Updating 
Mechanism

Speed: Updating Mechanism 
Usage Allowance: CAF Standard or Bureau Determination

12/1/2020

1000 
Minutes

Speed: 3G or WCB Updated Standard
Usage Allowance: Updating 
Mechanism

Speed: Updating Mechanism 
Usage Allowance: CAF Standard or Bureau Determination

12/1/2021

1000 
Minutes

Speed: 3G or WCB Updated Standard
Usage Allowance: Updating 
Mechanism

Speed: Updating Mechanism 
Usage Allowance: CAF Standard or Bureau Determination