The FCC has sought the help of state Public Utility Commissioners (PUC) to weed out what it says is waste, fraud and abuse in its Lifeline program, which is focused on providing traditional wireline and wireless voice services to lower income families.
In an enforcement advisory given to state PUCs last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote that the agency heard that a number of service providers were either not confirming to eligibility for the program or not providing adequate service. Although the regulator will look into those issues itself, the chairman wants states to be more proactive about weeding out program abuse.
"I encourage all of you to join the FCC in our efforts to reform the Lifeline program by closely scrutinizing the requests for ETC designation pending before you, to be on guard for abuse by ETCs designated to provide Lifeline service in your states, and to take swift and strong action when necessary to protect the program," wrote FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a letter to the state PUCs.
Following an initial discussion last March, Genachowski wrote in the letter that the agency plans to vote "soon" on its own plan to reform and modernize the Lifeline program.
Besides weeding out abusive tactics, the reform will include pilot programs that examine the role of broadband. The timing of incorporating broadband in the Lifeline program coincides with the agency's decision to migrate the Universal Service Fund (USF) from funding voice service to broadband.
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