NTCA Supports Waiver of Requirement that Lifeline Subscribers Must Upgrade to Larger Wireless Data Plan on December 1, 2019

NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association filed comments with the FCC on July 31, 2019, supporting a petition for waiver filed by CTIA, public interest, consumer and civil rights organizations seeking to suspend the commission’s requirement that Lifeline subscribers upgrade to a wireless data plan capable of approximately 9.5 GB per month or lose their Lifeline support on December 1, 2019.  Petitioners noted that, without a waiver, Lifeline subscribers will be forced to increase their data plan by nearly 500 percent, up from the current 2 GB per month requirement.  NTCA referred to its own petition for waiver filed with the commission on July 29, 2019, that sought to allow existing Lifeline subscribers to choose whether to apply their Lifeline support to their current level of fixed broadband service or upgrade to the commission’s stated level of 20/3 Mbps on December 1, 2019.  NTCA noted that non-Lifeline customers are not forced to upgrade their service and forcing Lifeline customers to do so may result in those customers having to disconnect their service due to the inability to afford the higher monthly fee that often accompanies higher wireless data plans and faster fixed broadband services.  Such a result, NTCA stated, is inconsistent with the commission’s goals of ensuring all consumers have access to the same public safety, education, employment and health opportunities that wireless and fixed services make available.