Rules & Orders


47 C.F.R. § 54.400-417 are the rules governing the federal universal service Lifeline Program (formerly Low Income Program).


  • On June 6, 2014, in Order FCC 14-785 the FCC conditionally granted petitions for waiver filed by USTelecom, individual state commissions, and a state carrier association that waives sections of the Commission's rules which govern subscriber certification forms.
  • On February 6, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission released its Lifeline Reform Order (FCC 12-11) that makes significant changes to the federal Low Income Program.
  • In August 2010 Allied Wireless Communications Corporation Order the FCC grants the petition of Allied Wireless Communications Corporation (AWCC) to be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) in the state of North Carolina. AWCC met the eligibility requirements of section 214(e)(6) of the Communications Act and the Commission's rules to be designated as an ETC in North Carolina.
  • On July 30, 2010, the FCC conditionally granted Head Start, Consumer Cellular, Midwestern Telecom. Inc., Line Up Forbearance Requests for Lifeline Universal Service Support.
  • On June 25, 2010, the FCC conditionally granted the i-Wireless Forbearance Request for Lifeline universal service support.
  • In May 2010, the FCC issued the Low Income Joint Board Referral Order asking the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service (Joint Board) to review the Commission's eligibility, verification, and outreach rules for the Lifeline and Link Up universal service programs, which currently provide discounts on telephone service for low-income customers.
  • On February 2, 2010, the FCC released the Lifeline Declaratory Ruling Order. In this order, they address four petitions for waiver of section 54.410 of the Commission's rules and six requests for a declaratory ruling concerning the Commission's Lifeline certification and verification requirements.
  • In October of 2009, the FCC approved the Virgin Mobile Compliance Plan. This order approved Virgin Mobile USA, L.P.'s compliance plan submitted as a condition of its designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier eligible only for Lifeline support in its licensed service areas in New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • On March 5, 2009, the FCC released the Virgin Mobile Conditional Forbearance and Lifeline ETC Order. This conditionally granted a petition filed by Virgin Mobile USA, L.P. (Virgin Mobile) seeking forbearance from the requirement that a carrier designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) provide services, at least in part, over its own facilities. The Commission granted Virgin Mobile forbearance for ETC designation for Lifeline universal service support only. The Commission also conditionally designated Virgin Mobile an ETC for Lifeline support only in New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • On March 3, 2009, the FCC released the TracFone PSAP Forbearance Condition Modification Order. This order modified a forbearance condition imposed on TracFone Wireless, Inc. as a requirement that TracFone must meet prior to receiving support under the Lifeline universal service program. Specifically, TracFone must request a certification from each public safety answering point (PSAP) where it provides Lifeline service confirming that TracFone provides its customers with access to basic and E911 service; however, if, within 90 days of TracFone's request a PSAP has not provided the certification and the PSAP has not made an affirmative finding that TracFone does not provide its customers with access to 911 and E911 service within the PSAP's service area, TracFone may self-certify that it meets the basic and E911 requirements.
  • In April of 2008, the FCC released the TracFone Wireless, Inc. ETC Designation which conditionally designated TracFone as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier for Lifeline services in Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.
  • In October 2005, the FCC established temporary Lifeline and Link-up Assistance benefits for eligible consumers affected by Hurricane Katrina.
  • In September 2005, the FCC released the TracFone Forbearance Order. This order granted TracFone forbearance from the requirement for eligible telecom carrier designation for Lifeline support only.
  • On March 17, 2005, the FCC adopted additional requirements for ETC designation proceedings in which the Commission acts pursuant to section 214(e)(6) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. 
  • In April 2004, the Federal Communications Commission released In the Matter of Lifeline and Link Up modifying Low Income program. The effective date of this order was June 22, 2005. Changes included:
    • The addition of new eligibility criteria;
    • Verification and certification procedures;
    • Recordkeeping requirements;
    • Outreach guidelines;
    • The Order also included a voluntary survey for states concerning state Lifeline and Link Up programs.
  • The FCC released a second Tribal Order on May 21, 2003. In this order, the FCC:
    • Clarified the definition of "reservation"" and "near reservation"" in the context of the universal service program;
    • concluded that Link Up support could not be applied to the cost of a wireless handset;
    • clarified that low-income individuals living on reservations could qualify for the federal portion of Lifeline support if they met any of the eligibility criteria included in 47 C.F.R § 4.409 (b) or (c) regardless of whether they are in a federal default state or a state that mandates Lifeline support; and,
    • sought comment on how "near reservation" should be identified and defined in the context of universal service programs.
  • In February 26, 2002, the FCC released the Multi-Association Group (MAG) Order and NPRM which prohibited non-price cap local exchange carriers from recovering their Universal Service Fund contributions from Lifeline customers.
  • In January 2001, the FCC released the Coalition for Affordable Local and Long Distance Services (CALLS) Order which increased Tier One Lifeline support to coincide with the increase in consumer's residential Subscriber Line Charge (SLC) and prohibited price cap companies from assessing a federal Universal Service Fund contribution on their Lifeline customers.
  • On August 31, 2000, the FCC released the Tribal Stay Order and Further Notice, which stayed all portions of the June 2000 order that applied to low-income customers residing near reservations.
  • On June 20, 2000 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the Tribal Order, which enhanced the federal Lifeline and Link Up programs to better serve residents living on or near federally recognized tribal lands and reservations. The Order also established the FCC's role in designating eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs).
  • In the Sixteenth Order on Reconsideration, the FCC agreed with the 5th Circuit Courts decision that the FCC had no jurisdiction to prohibit carriers from disconnecting Lifeline customers who failed to pay their toll charges, and therefore rescinded the "no disconnect" restriction.
  • The 1997 Universal Service Order, Section 8 established the framework for the current Lifeline and Link Up program, including the eligibility criteria, discount rate, and basic services.