TR Daily Pai Proposes Mobile Lifeline Change to Curb Data Boost
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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pai Proposes Mobile Lifeline Change to Curb Data Boost

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a draft order to his fellow Commissioners today that would revise the agency’s methodology for calculating annual revisions to the minimum service standard for mobile broadband Lifeline service.

This change in the methodology would mean that the minimum monthly mobile broadband data allowance for Lifeline supported service would increase on Dec. 1 from 3 gigabytes to 4.5 GB. “Absent this reform, the standard would increase from 3 GB to 11.75 GB per month,” the FCC noted in a press release.

It noted that the Commission acted last year to prevent an increase in the minimum data allowance from 2 GB to 8.75 GB per month, as the formula would have dictated. That action was taken—in response to a petition from CTIA, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the National Consumer Law Center on behalf of its low-income clients, the United Church of Christ Office of Communications, Inc., and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates—over the dissent of Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks (TR Daily, Nov. 19, 2019).

The press release emphasized that the methodology change would “ensure predictable, reasonable yearly updates to the standard so that Lifeline subscribers can receive robust yet affordable mobile broadband service.” It also said that the change would “better account for the needs of smaller-than-average households” and “enable the Wireline Competition Bureau to rely on the latest data sources in making its calculations.”

In a statement, Chairman Pai said that “as the communications marketplace continually evolves, it’s critical that minimum standards for Lifeline service increase so that Lifeline subscribers do not receive second-class service compared to other consumers. But the formula the FCC adopted back in 2016 to update the minimum standard for Lifeline mobile broadband data capacity is flawed. It results in drastic year-over-year increases that could impact the ability of Lifeline carriers to continue providing affordable service.

“Last year, the first time the formula was applied, the current Commission had to step in to avoid this outcome. Now, I’ve circulated an order that would permanently clean up the mess caused by the 2016 order. I hope that my colleagues will vote for this order, which will provide much-needed certainty to Lifeline subscribers and providers alike,” he added.

Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s office responded to TR Daily’s request for comment by saying they were still working through the order and had no comment at this time. Other Commissioners’ offices did not respond to TR Daily’s query by our news deadline. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews FCC UniversalServiceLifeline

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