California LifeLine Program
California’s LifeLine program was established in 1994 as the Moore Universal Telephone Service Act (PU Code §§ 871–884). The program provides discounted wireline or wireless service for low-income households. To qualify for the program, a customer’s household income must be below 1.5 times the federal poverty level. To see if you qualify, please visit the California LifeLine webpage. The discount amount per household is up to $12.65 per
month. Eligible customers can also receive an additional discount of up to $9.25 from the Federal LifeLine program. The Lifeline Program is funded via a surcharge assessed on revenues collected from customers of intrastate voice telecommunications services. This surcharge is not assessed on revenues collected from customers of broadband or high speed Internet access services.
In 2011, the CPUC opened a Rulemaking to make forward-looking modifications to the LifeLine program. In January 2014, the CPUC issued a Decision that allows the LifeLine program to include wireless service and wireline interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. In February 2015, the CPUC issued a Ruling to consider further revisions to the LifeLine program to develop participation rules for VoIP service providers that do not have a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). VOIP service providers without a CPCN are currently not regulated by the CPUC. The CPUC will consider the following issues:
- Service Elements
- Program Implementation
- Program Administration
- Legal and Jurisdiction
- Consumer Protection
- Program Compliance
- Complaint procedure
- Enforcement Actions
- Program Evaluation
In March 2015 the CPUC issued a Ruling seeking comments on its Staff Report proposing rules to accommodate Fixed-VoIP service providers that do not have a CPCN into the LifeLine program, including requiring service providers to adhere to the CPUC’s:
- Minimum service quality standards
- Customer privacy rules
ORA's Policy Position
ORA supports the LifeLine program to ensure universal access to available wireline and wireless voice services.
ORA finds it would be beneficial to include Fixed-VoIP service under the LifeLine program because it would enhance customer choice. ORA supports most of the rules proposed in the March 2015 Staff Report because they provide reasonable customer protections to accompany the participation of Fixed-VoIP service providers in the LifeLine program, such as requiring adherance to the CPUC’s minimum service quality standards and customer privacy rules.
The Staff Report, however, lacks a framework that would clearly allow the CPUC to enforce its rules. Therefore, ORA recommends that the CPUC require Fixed-VoIP service providers to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), as this will more adequately address the CPUC’s enforcement authority.
See ORA’s April 2, 2015 Opening Comments to the March 2015 Staff Report.
ORA expects to file Reply Comments on April 27, 2015 to the March 2015 Staff Report.
See the Proceeding docket.
California LifeLine Program Discount Comparison
CPUC Consumer Programs and Information