FCC Pauses Lifeline Phase-Out and Mobile Data Capacity Increase

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The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau released an Order pausing the scheduled phaseout in Lifeline support for voice-only services and the scheduled increase in the mobile broadband data capacity minimum service standards for the Lifeline program.  In 2016, the Commission directed that support for services that meet only the voice minimum service standard be eliminated in most areas on December 1, 2021. The Commission also created a formula to determine annual increases to the minimum service standard for mobile broadband data capacity, which would result in an increase to 18 GB per month beginning December 1, 2021.  The Bureau found that the creation of the Emergency Benefit Broadband Program, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and new data collected as part of the Bureau’s State of the Lifeline Marketplace Report “provide good cause for the Bureau to pause both the phase-out in support for voice-only services and the increase in minimum service standards for mobile broadband data capacity.”  The pause will last for one year, until December 1, 2022, during which time the Commission intends to evaluate whether the changed circumstances warrant longer-term modifications of the Lifeline program.