Broadband, Minimum Service Standard Requirements, and New Support Levels
Beginning December 1, 2016 (or 60 days after Paperwork Reduction Act approval, whichever date is later), Lifeline subscribers will be able to use their subsidy towards broadband internet services. The inclusion of broadband will provide increased access to employment opportunities, healthcare information, and educational resources.
Minimum Service Standards Requirement
The new Order outlines minimum service standards that you - carriers - must meet when providing Lifeline Program Service.
Broadband Internet - Starting December 1, 2016, you must offer a minimum of 500 MB per month for mobile broadband data. Fixed broadband speed minimums will begin with a requirement of 150 GB per month at 10/1 Mbps.
Voice - Starting December 1, 2016, you must offer a minimum of 500 voice minutes to subscribers using mobile voice services.
Support Level Phasedown
As of December 1, 2016 (or after PRA approval), subscribers can apply their full support amount ($9.25) towards mobile, fixed broadband, or bundled packages. For the next three years, subscribers can continue to receive mobile or fixed voice-only services at the full support amount, too. Though on December 1, 2019, support for voice-only services will begin to gradually decrease.
Program Eligibility Streamlining
Streamlining eligibility for the Lifeline Program will improve the effectiveness of the program and the overall experience for both you and your customers. Beginning December 1, 2016 (or after PRA approval), individuals can only qualify* for a Lifeline benefit by participating in one of the following assistance programs:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Federal Public Housing Assistance
Income-based eligibility (subscribers at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines)
Veteran's Pension & Survivor's Pension benefit
* There are no changes to the eligibility criteria for residents of Tribal lands who participate in a federal or state assistance program.
In an effort to ease the administrative burden to carriers and also to promote subscriber choice, the FCC has directed USAC to create a National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier), a system that will determine subscriber eligibility. We will continue to keep you apprised of any developments as this project progresses.
The Order highlights some additional changes to the program, such as changing how recertification is done and updates to the non-usage rule. Visit the Additional Changes section for more information about these items.
Please check the 2015 & 2016 Lifeline Orders page frequently for updates about the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order, and look for more information in future newsletters. The Lifeline Team is here to assist you through the implementation of this Order, so feel free to contact us with your questions or concerns at any time.