The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the Florida Public Service Commission’s (PSC) request to temporarily waive two Lifeline Assistance program rules for participants in counties hit by Hurricane Michael last month.
“Offering a discount for phone or internet, Lifeline helps low-income consumers stay connected to family, work, and community and emergency services,” the PSC noted. “Four-month temporary waivers for Lifeline non-usage and recertification rules will run from October 10, 2018 to February 10, 2019. The PSC said that the non-usage rule waiver is justified because subscribers’ Lifeline-supported service may have been inoperable during the storm or may be inoperable due to extended power and cell site outages.
“In addition, a recertification rule waiver is justified because recertification packets sent prior to the hurricane might have been destroyed, or might not have been deliverable to residents needing to relocate. Lifeline customers must recertify their eligibility every year, and the rule waiver will help them retain access to communications services and allow companies to continue providing service,” the PSC added. “At the end of the waiver period, Lifeline subscribers will have 60 days to respond to their provider’s recertification efforts. Subscribers whose anniversary date falls within the waiver period but who have already recertified their eligibility, or are recertified through an eligibility database, are not required to undergo an additional recertification at the end of the waiver period.”
PSC Chairman Art Graham offered his take on the FCC’s decision on Tuesday.
“We don’t want to risk consumers being de-enrolled in the program because they need to replace mobile devices lost or destroyed during the hurricane, or to re-establish communications service,” said PGraham. “The FCC’s rule waiver will also allow companies providing Lifeline in those counties additional time to complete the recertification process.”
The following counties are impacted by the decision: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington.