The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued orders to assist Lifeline participants affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
FCC Order DA 17-984 released October 6, 2017
FCC Order DA 17-1066 released October 31, 2017
FCC Order DA 18-102 released February 2, 2018
The FCC granted temporary hurricane relief for areas impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, from September 8, 2017 to February 28, 2018 for affected disaster areas in Florida and Georgia, and from September 7, 2017 to March 31, 2018 for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All other areas in Florida received temporary hurricane relief from September 8, 2017 to December 7, 2017.
The temporary relief for affected disaster areas in Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands suspended the non-usage rules and granted temporary recertification waivers for affected subscribers, which impacts how Lifeline service providers should report their recertification results on FCC Form 555. The temporary relief for all other areas in Florida only waives the recertification deadlines.
Service providers serving areas covered under the temporary relief will not have complete Form 555 data for the affected anniversary months because of the temporary recertification waivers issued for subscribers in the affected hurricane areas. When reporting your Form 555 results, if your SAC(s) has any subscribers that are covered under a temporary recertification waiver, withhold the data for the entire anniversary month on the Form 555 until you have completed the recertification process for all subscribers in the September anniversary month. For instance, if only 5 subscribers were subject to the temporary recertification waiver, you would withhold all of the data for the entire anniversary month, until you have completed the recertification process for all affected subscribers.
Service providers will be required to revise their 2017 Form 555 and include complete data for the affected anniversary months after they have completed the recertification process for affected subscribers. Even if you are withholding data for certain anniversary months to account for the temporary recertification waivers, you must still submit the FCC Form 555 by January 31, 2018.
Read the full issue: Lifeline Program News - December 21, 2017
USAC and the FCC recognize that Hurricane Irma has caused significant damage to the areas within its path, including substantial damage to the communications networks. The result of this damage includes power and network outages and service disruptions throughout Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida, and in parts of Georgia.
On September 7th and 8th, the FCC granted 90-day waivers related to the Lifeline Program's non-usage and recertification rules for the impacted state and territories.
Under these waivers, for Lifeline ETCs serving customers in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, and parts of Georgia, the FCC temporarily suspends the non-usage rules that require a service provider to de-enroll a customer who does not pay a monthly fee for their Lifeline-supported service and does not use that service for 30 consecutive days.
At the end of the 90-day period (December 6, 2017 for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and December 7, 2017 for Florida), subscribers who do not use their Lifeline supported device for a consecutive 30 day period will be de-enrolled per program rules.
For customers in the state and territories who are already in a 30 day non-usage period, the subscriber will be given the full 30 days after the 90 day period.
Additionally, the FCC has granted service providers additional time to recertify subscribers in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, and parts of Georgia whose anniversary dates fall within 90 days of the Orders (September 7 – December 6 for Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, September 8 – December 7 for Florida).
At the end of the additional time, all subscribers included in this group will have 60 days to complete the recertification process. For customers in the state and territories who are already in a 60 day non-usage period, the subscriber will be given the full 60 days after the 90 day period.
Many service providers conduct their recertification in batches. Any subscriber who has completed their 60-day recertification period prior to September 7th or 8th as appropriate, and has failed to recertify, either by indicating that they are no longer eligible for the program or by not responding to recertification outreach should be de-enrolled per program rules.
Service providers can resend recertification materials to those subscribers who are eligible for the extended recertification process, but must allow exactly 60 days for subscriber recertification.
This delayed recertification will not reset subscribers' eligibility anniversary dates or change the timing for their future recertification.