Election is Over. Time for the FCC to Get Back to Business

Now that the 2012 Presidential Election is behind us, we hope to see government start moving again. During the election campaign, we see a lot of progress in government stop because people who have their position on the line are afraid that they could be seen in a bad light and lose votes. Most decisions that the government makes have both good and bad repercussions so there is inevitably someone who will be in disagreement. The result of that is to just make no decisions. It’s unfortunate and it seems like the public is being deceived. Its like the politicians are saying “we know that you’re not going to like what we are going to do to you so, we’ll wait and do it after you vote in favor of me”.

We see this in the progress of the FCC on reviewing compliance plans for wireless ETCs. Since the long overdue reform of the Lifeline program by the FCC in February, they have implemented a method of making sure that the companies who provide Lifeline services are making an effort to comply with the new rules. Each company seeking to get a piece of the Universal Service Fund through Lifeline reimbursements must submit a compliance plan to the FCC. This compliance plan outlines what that company will do to make sure that the funds are used properly in the manner in which it is intended. After submitting the plan, the company must wait for a hearing in which they appear before the FCC to answer any questions that the FCC might have in regards to the plan they submitted. Once that is done, the FCC reviews the results and will either approved or deny the request to become a wireless ETC.

Enter the Obama Phone Lady. You may have seen her in a campaign ad. You may have heard about her on the news. The Obama Phone Lady is a video making it’s way around the internet where a woman is campaigning for President Obama because “he gave us a phone”. It implies that if you are a minority  Obama is giving you a free government cell phone. It looks really bad for the Lifeline program and the current administration. So, the FCC stopped the process of reviewing the compliance plans. This was great news for all of the companies like Safelink Wireless and Assurance Wireless since they already had their Wireless ETC status. The FCC put the brakes on creating any competition for those who had already been approved.

Now it’s time to get the ball rolling again. Since the presidential campaign is behind us we should see the FCC get back to doing their job of reviewing the compliance plans of companies waiting to become a wireless ETC and start providing free mobile phone plans to those in need.

Lifeline Awareness Week

Did you know that the week of September 10-14 was Lifeline awareness week? Yeah, neither did anyone else. It was apparently an “outreach” effort by the FCC to make the public aware of the Lifeline program which provides government assistance to low income families for phone service – either wireless or wire line. It doesn’t appear to be very successful if no one has heard of it. I guess the tweets by the FCC and other Public Utilities Commissions were not enough. Could it be that the people who could benefit from the Lifeline program don’t follow their local PUC on twitter? Well, shame on them.

The best outreach available for this program is still word of mouth. I think the government needs to find a more effective way of getting in front of their target audience. I would think that with all of the millions they are now saving because of the recent reform of Lifeline, they would be able to make a better outreach campaign. But, it’s really not their job. The providers out there that stand to profit from the program are the ones that should be doing more to reach the public. It’s part of the agreement when becoming an Eligible Telecommunucations Carrier (ETC) which allows them to get Lifeline funds. Could it be that there just isn’t enough meat left on the bone for those ETCs after the cuts made in the reform? The proof is in the pudding.