FCC Listens, Pauses Phase-out Lifeline Support for Voice-Only Services

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After reviewing requests from a number of parties, the FCC has issued an order pausing, for an initial one-year period, the phase-out of its order which would have eliminated support for services that meet only the voice minimum service standards.

The Commission cited the creation of the Emergency Benefit Broadband (EBB) Program, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and “new data collected as part of the Bureau’s State of the Lifeline Marketplace Report” as providing “good cause for the Bureau to pause both the phase-out…and the increase in minimum service standards for mobile broadband data capacity.”

The phase-down began on December 1, 2019 per the 2016 Lifeline Order, with support reduced from $9.25 to $7.25, and continued on December 1, 2020 with a reduction of $7.25 to $5.25, where it will remain until at least December 21, 2022, pending further Commission action.

As we have said before, this FCC is showing serious concern for the interests of lower income areas, the people living in those areas, and the broadband providers that serve them. We would hope that this phase-out of support, which is very much in line with the principles of universal service at affordable rates, would be maintained until a more equitable means of support are adopted.

It is more than time for large, multi-state, multi-national broadband companies to share more fairly in the universal service support obligations that now fall so heavily on small, local RLECs.