Lifeline program. The nine companies included Spot On, Boomerang Wireless, KonaTel, FreedomPop, Applied Research Designs, Liberty Cablevision (from Puerto Rico), Northland Cable Television, and Wabash Independent Networks.
For those not familiar with Lifeline, it is a program that provides $9.25 monthly to poor folks so that they could use it for basic communications purposes (like wireless service). Last year while former Chair Tom Wheeler was still in the FCC (he resigned after Donald Trump got elected), the program had started to also support broadband. But now that Pai is the new Chair, the FCC is now moving to overturn some of the changes introduced by Wheeler not too long ago. The agency is now implementing measures to make sure that fraud and improper business practices are minimized in Lifeline, and cutting the broadband subsidies will supposedly help expedite that objective.
One of the nine companies directly affected is FreedomPop, and the mobile virtual network operator (it leases network capacity from major US wireless carriers such as Sprint and AT&T) has since responded to the FCC’s recent actions by way of a blog post, essentially stating that it is willing to work with the agency in making sure the Universal Service Fund is protected from fraud and abuse. At the same time, the MVNO once again expressed its commitment to help low-income Americans have better access to mobile communications.
As explained by Eric Schimpf, the Head of Lifeline at FreedomPop, it will be significantly increasing its efforts in ensuring that those who signed up for the Lifeline program will not be abandoned, despite the new changes introduced by the FCC. Last year, FreedomPop had applied for a Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) designation, and it was granted that designation more than a couple of months ago. The carrier’s plan was to provide a mobile broadband package that retails for $10.99 to qualified Lifeline customers. If they like, these customers can also get a plan with heavier data inclusions on a discounted price ($10 off). Despite having its LBP designation rescinded by the FCC, FreedomPop has remained positive that it can still launch its Lifeline services across the country soon.