October 25, 2019
Partner John Heitmann
was quoted in the Communications Daily
article “States Slam 'Harsh' FCC Denial of Lifeline National Verifier Waivers.” Last week, states protested the FCC denying waivers of October 23rd
’s deadline to hard-launch the Lifeline national verifier in Connecticut, Georgia, Nebraska, New York and Vermont. State and other officials told us low-income people could lose inexpensive telecom service. Tuesday's Wireline Bureau order responded that states have themselves to blame. "It was harsh," said Vermont Department of Public Service Telecommunications and Connectivity Division Director Clay Purvis.
Some low-income people in states required to switch may need to go through manual verification to continue getting the subsidized phone and broadband service, at least until Universal Service Administrative Co. can connect more state databases to the NV, experts said. That can take more time than automatic NV USAC verification.
But the states aren’t the only ones frustrated. FCC "frustration with the states is understandable," said John, who represents the National Lifeline Association. "Too many have done too little to protect their low-income, Lifeline eligible consumers by not prioritizing and facilitating National Verifier access to state SNAP databases." The FCC and USAC got access to SNAP databases in 12 states or territories, he noted. "The order indicates that about 1/3 of all Lifeline applicants or subscribers are not able to be verified electronically -- and that less than 10% successfully navigate the manual review process. Failure rates of greater than 75% on securing SNAP database access, greater than 33% on electronic verification, and greater than 90% on manual verification provide strong indication that the National Verifier is not meeting its goals."
"Rather than unapologetically marching forward, the FCC should hit the pause button on National Verifier hard launches," the attorney added. He said the agency should "engage in an honest and fully transparent review of what is going on here and how it threatens the Lifeline program's primary goals."
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