Lifeline

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LI Program News - July 19, 2017

    July 19, 2017    

FCC Public Notice about Lifeline Minimum Service Standards 

On June 26, 2017, the FCC released Public Notice DA 17-619 to inform Lifeline service providers of the updated minimum service standards that will go into effect on December 1, 2017. The standards are the same as those announced in the Lifeline Modernization Order, but include a newly-announced standard for fixed broadband of 15 Mbps downstream, 2 Mbps upstream, and usage of 250 GB per month.?

 

National Verifier Update

The National Verifier build is moving forward! In December 2017, the National Verifier will "soft launch" in the initial states, followed by a March 2018 "hard launch" (full deployment). Upon deployment in each state, it will handle initial subscriber eligibility checks and annual recertification. For an overview of the National Verifier's functionality, view the National Verifier Plan (January 2017 version). The next plan update will be published at the end of July.

 

In August, we'll announce the initial states to transition into the National Verifier, and release a training plan for those states. We are preparing a multi-channel training program that will cater to different learning styles. The training will be delivered through a variety of vehicles including written guides, videos, and live online training sessions. We anticipate the majority of training sessions will occur in September and October.

 

Stakeholders are welcome to share their questions, concerns, or suggestions at any time as a comment on the National Verifier blog or an email to LifelineProgram@usac.org. We encourage interested parties to sign up as feedback volunteers and join future feedback sessions about specific National Verifier features and functionality.

 

To review some of the feedback we received so far, watch a recording of the June 14 webinar.

 

For more information, visit the National Verifier page on our website. We look forward to sharing more updates soon!

IN THIS ISSUE

 

QUESTIONS? / FEEDBACK

The Lifeline Program team is here to help you! Visit the Contact Us page and let us know how we can help you.

 

This year's FCC Form 555 is re-designed to accommodate the new rolling recertification process. FCC Form 555 is due January 31, 2018 for the 2017 data year, but USAC recommends preparing for the new reporting format right away. 

 

Changes this year include:

  • Report Results Per Month: Filers will report their subscribers' recertification results per month, based on the anniversary date (in prior years, results were reported for the year in aggregate). Because of the new reporting format, there will be new fields in the online interface and a new bulk upload template.
  • File through E-File Only: Beginning in July, the form must be completed and submitted online using E-File. Other submission types – including paper forms and email – will no longer be accepted.
  • Transition Period: In 2017, service providers will only report recertification results on FCC Form 555 for anniversary dates in July – December to account for the transition period

These changes were the focus of the Lifeline Program webinar on July 12. During the webinar, we explained the new reporting format and shared a prototype of the online form. For a copy of the recording and slides, visit the Trainings and Outreach page. For additional information on the changes to the FCC Form 555, visit the Recertification (FCC Form 555) page and access to a monthly recertification tracker tool to record your rolling recertification results in the correct format as they become available.  

 

Reminder: we changed our consumer support number. The old number is still available for use; however, we advise carriers to encourage consumers to call the new number.

 

Going forward, consumers can contact our call center at (800) 234-9473, then press 1 for English, or 2 for Spanish. If consumers have questions about their carrier, port freeze date, or other common issues, our service agents will be available to assist them from 8 a.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET.?

 

The common audit finding "Lack of/Inadequate Documentation" occurs when service providers fail to obtain required information from their subscribers, or fail to keep all of the necessary records.

 

To avoid this finding, service providers must retain the documentation for as long as the subscriber receives service from that ETC, but for no less than the three full preceding calendar years. Service providers are required to document their compliance with all FCC and state requirements for both Lifeline and Tribal Link Up.

 

Examples of this Audit Finding:

 

1. Lack of Documentation: The service provider does not have the subscriber's certification form (where the documentation is missing entirely).

 

2. Inadequate Documentation: The service provider did not keep accurate records detailing the data source it used to confirm the subscriber's eligibility (e.g., qualifying letter for an eligible program, proof of income, etc.).

 

 3. Inadequate Documentation: The certification form has blank fields (e.g., the subscriber's last four SSN digits are missing, or the subscriber did not sign the form).

 

Best Practices to Avoid this Finding:

  • Keep all documentation for all subscribers – including both the initial certification and annual recertification -- for as long as they receive Lifeline support, but for no less than the three full preceding calendar years.
  • For any Lifeline Program filings, save a copy of the data sources used and keep it in your records for the document retention period. For example, when filing FCC Forms 497 or 555, keep copies of the subscriber count summary used, and of the detailed subscriber listings (all relevant information for each subscriber included). Be sure the information you retain is the same as the detailed data listing you would provide to auditors to substantiate your filing.

USAC recommends using the Documentation for Auditors Checklist to make sure you are retaining all the documentation required to show your compliance with the rules.

 

For more information, please reference the Lifeline Program Rules (Section 54.417 – Recordkeeping) and visit our website for more examples of this common audit finding.

 

Please note that eligibility rules changed effective December 2, 2016, in the Lifeline Modernization Order. For more information on these changes, please visit the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order web page.

 

August 9: Register for the Next Lifeline Program Webinar

Join us on Wednesday, August 9 for our monthly Lifeline Program webinar. You can always access the webinar slides or recordings of previous webinars on our Trainings and Outreach page.

 

Lifeline Program

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July 2017

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