Join Lifeline as an ETC
Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs, or service providers) can offer a discount to eligible low-income customers on their home phone, mobile phone, or mobile/fixed broadband bill, and receive a reimbursement from the federal universal service fund.
To offer Lifeline-supported services, service providers must:
- Become an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC)
- Create a Compliance Plan
- Obtain a Study Area Code (SAC)
- Obtain a 498 ID
1. Become an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC)
To participate in the Lifeline Program, service providers must be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) by their respective state regulatory commission or, in some cases, by the FCC. After receiving the designation, ETCs must meet all Lifeline requirements.
Lifeline ETC Designation through States
Where states designate Lifeline ETCs, service providers should contact their respective state utility commission to initiate the ETC designation process.
Lifeline ETC Designation through the FCC
Where states do not designate Lifeline ETCs, service providers must apply to the FCC for designation. These same rules apply to service providers intending to serve Tribal residents on Tribal lands.
- Tribally-owned service providers
If a service provider is not subject to a state regulator’s jurisdiction, it may petition for ETC designation directly with the FCC.
- Other service providers
If a service provider consults with its state utility regulator and determines that the state does not have the authority to designate it as an ETC, it must seek designation through the FCC.
Submit ETC Order to USAC
To receive Lifeline Program support, a service provider must submit:
- A copy of its ETC designation order from its state utility regulator or from the FCC, and
- Attachments and supporting documentation necessary to identify the new ETC service area within the incumbent service area(s) at the wire center-level.
This information may be submitted to USAC via email (HC Orders) or regular mail:
Universal Service Administrative Co.
Attn: Customer Operations
700 12th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Relinquish an ETC Designation
If a company no longer wishes to participate in the Lifeline Program, it must relinquish its ETC designation with the designating authority. ETCs must submit their relinquishment order to USAC via email (HC Orders).
Learn more about ETC designations and obligations via the FCC’s website.
2. Create a Compliance Plan
Service providers who are designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) by the state must also provide USAC with a summary of their Lifeline Program compliance plan(s).
The summary should include:
- The details of the number of minutes provided as part of the plan, along with any additional charges for toll calls and rates, and
- A summary of the terms and conditions of the plan and whether the plan is made available to the public.
3. Obtain a Study Area Code (SAC)
A Study Area Code (SAC) is a unique number that USAC assigns to eligible telecommunication carriers (ETCs) that uniquely identifies that company based on its service area. Companies must have at least one SAC per state in which they operate, but can have more than one SAC within a state if they have more than one service area.
SAC requests should include:
- A completed SAC Request Form,
- The ETC’s designation order,
- Terms and conditions of Lifeline Program service, including service plans, and
- The compliance plan (if applicable).
All service providers previously designated to provide wireline service that subsequently are designated to provide wireless service must request a separate SAC.
To submit the completed SAC request or for more information about SAC requests, email HC Orders.
4. Obtain a 498 ID
A 498 ID (also known as SPIN) is required for all parties that participate in any of the four universal service programs and receive payment directly from USAC. This ID is a unique number assigned to each service provider by USAC and serves as USAC’s tool to ensure that approved support is directed to the correct service provider.
FCC Form 498
Recipients of universal service support receive disbursements through automatic deposit to the bank account designated on the FCC Form.
The FCC Form 498 collects service provider contact, billing, and collection information.
Register for a 498 ID
Service providers register for a 498 ID by visiting E-File in one portal and selecting “create an account” from the bottom menu. Then they select “Service Provider – 498 ID” and click “Register Your Company.” Once the information has been validated and approved, USAC will issue a 498 ID.
For more information on how service providers can obtain and manage a 498 ID, refer to the Register for a 498 ID web page.
After you have completed steps one through four on this page, ensure your company’s information is reflected on Lifeline’s Companies Near Me tool by emailing LifelineProgram. This tool enables consumers to search for a list of Lifeline service providers in their area by zip code or city and state.