FCC Levies Harsh Penalties for Violations of Lifeline Program


Just prior to the federal government shutdown, the FCC released Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture Orders against five (5) wireless providers that participate in the federal Lifeline program.  The FCC proposed more than $14.4 million in forfeitures against Icon Telecom, Inc., TracFone Wireless, Inc., Assist Wireless, LLC, Easy Telephone Services d/b/a Easy Wireless, and UTPhone, Inc.

Among the FCC’s rules governing the Lifeline program, service providers that benefit from Lifeline subsidies are prohibited from requesting and/or receiving support for consumers already subscribed to the Lifeline program, i.e., prohibition on receipt of “duplicate” support.  The wireless providers targeted by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau were accused of knowingly or unknowingly providing multiple subscriptions to identical consumers and deriving duplicate support payments from the Lifeline fund.

According to acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, “the fines in these cases are purposely large.”  However, Clyburn pointed out the corresponding goal of “ensur[ing] adequate deterrence without harming the legitimate service these providers bring to their subscribers.”  The FCC’s NAL order states that the wireless providers either knew or should have known about these violations.  The severity of the financial penalties demonstrates the FCC’s commitment to reach their stated goal of eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse while maintaining the availability of communications services to the program’s intended beneficiaries.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this Advisory, please contact the attorney responsible for your account.

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