May 18, 2016
Partner John Heitmann was quoted in the Law360 article “Hard Lifeline Budget Cap Could Cut Service To The Poor.” Congress' proposal to place a hard budget cap on the newly expanded Lifeline program could jeopardize the goals of the program by preventing eligible, low-income consumers from enrolling, and experts say the flawed plan is based on a lack of understanding about how Lifeline functions. Mr. Heitmann notes that, in practice, a capped program might mean that new subscribers who are eligible could suddenly be denied service if the money were to run out in October or November. "The consumer gets the benefit based on predetermined eligibility criteria," he said. "You’re either eligible or you’re not. … What do you tell the consumer who just lost their job and became eligible three weeks later?” And cutting eligibility “based on hitting an arbitrary number” doesn’t make sense either, he said. Mr. Heitmann went on to comment on FCC moves such as adding a national database to prevent and remove duplicates have had a much more important impact on abuse. Vigilance against abuse is important, he said, “but the size of the program is not an indicator of waste, fraud and abuse,” especially given the low participation rates for eligible consumers.
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