Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...
Lawmakers may have to revamp a Federal Communications Commission telephone and internet service subsidy program for low-income households to address concerns that it is plagued by fraud, a leading Senate Republican said Sept. 6.
The FCC’s existing Lifeline program “could be an ineffective means of increasing telephone subscribership among low-income consumers,” Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said during a committee hearing on alleged fraud and abuse in the program. Thune questioned whether Lifeline’s problems might extend beyond ones the Government Accountability Office reported on in June. The GAO said then it couldn’t verify Lifeline program eligibility for more than a third of the recipients it studied—36 percent, or about 1.2 million out of 3.5 million.
Thune said lawmakers may include changes to the program in an FCC reauthorization bill. He also said that the FCC is responsible for ensuring that Lifeline is meeting the needs of low-income people, and it doesn’t need legislation to do that. Thune’s committee is unlikely to tackle an FCC reauthorization bill this year, he said.
“If we come back to that issue,” Thune told reporters after the hearing, referring to an FCC reauthorization, Lifeline “is certainly something that could fall into that overall rubric.”
Seto Bagdoyan, the GAO’s director of forensic audits, pointed to what he described as lax verification standards in the program. But Lifeline advocates say it’s a conduit to crucial communications services for the poorest consumers, and that the GAO report doesn’t reflect program changes the FCC made last year, such as a national verification program currently in the works.
“The report doesn’t fully account for the ongoing efforts of the FCC to modernize, reform, and strengthen the Lifeline program,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the top Democrat on Commerce’s Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet Subcommittee, said about the GAO’s findings at the hearing.
Other witnesses said that Lifeline provides critical services for lower income people—especially those hit by disasters such as Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma, which is approaching the United States as one of the biggest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded.
The FCC “must ensure that everyone has access,” Jessica Gonzalez, senior counsel and deputy director at the public interest group Free Press, said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Jeffries at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)