Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Issues $200 Million Lifeline Civil Penalty, Louisiana To Require Emergency Plans From Cable and Video Providers
FCC Issues $200 M Lifeline Civil Penalty
The FCC has released the terms and conditions of a consent decree entered into with T-Mobile under which T-Mobile will pay a $200 million penalty to the U.S. Treasury to resolve an investigation of its subsidiary Sprint’s compliance with the FCC’s Lifeline rules. The FCC said that the payment is the largest fixed-amount settlement it has ever secured to resolve an investigation. The settlement comes after an Enforcement Bureau investigation into reports that Sprint, prior to its merger with T-Mobile, was claiming monthly subsidies for serving approximately 885,000 Lifeline subscribers even though those subscribers were not using the service, in potential violation of the FCC’s “non-usage” rule. The matter initially came to light as a result of an investigation by the Oregon Public Utility Commission. In addition to paying a $200 million civil penalty, Sprint agreed to a compliance plan to help ensure future adherence to the FCC’s Lifeline program. This includes appointment of a compliance officer, creation of operating procedures, a compliance manual and a compliance checklist (including procedures for employees to anonymously report wrongdoing by the company to the FCC’s whistleblower hotline); and an employee training program. The company will also have to file compliance reports with the FCC for the next 3 years.
In response to the consent decree, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said: “Lifeline is key to our commitment to bringing digital opportunity to low-income Americans, and it is especially critical that we make the best use of taxpayer dollars for this vital program. I’m pleased that we were able to resolve this investigation in a manner that sends a strong message about the importance of complying with rules designed to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program. In addition to the great work of our Enforcement Bureau team, I would like to thank the Oregon Public Utility Commission for its efforts in this case. States play an important role in helping low-income consumers get access to affordable communications through Lifeline and making sure the program is run efficiently.”
Louisiana To Require Emergency Plans From Cable and Video Providers
A new law in Louisiana will require cable service providers and video service providers to annually prepare and submit to the Public Service Commission emergency plans that include a provider's emergency preparedness and response plan to an emergency or disaster. The new law becomes effective December 1, 2020 and the first plan must be filed on or before June 1, 2021 and annual thereafter on June 1 of each year. Among other things, the plan must include contact information for two persons who have 16 knowledge of the provider's emergency operations, certain information about the company’s emergency equipment and facilities, a description of the drills or exercises to be performed at least annually, and how the provider will communicate with the PSC in the event of a disruption of telecommunication services. The plan must be reviewed on an annual basis and a filing must be made with PSC either updating the plan or saying that the previous plan is current.
If a provider cable service provider or video service provider uses the same facilities to provide any other service regulated by the PSC and filed an emergency service plan for that service that includes an emergency preparedness and response plan for cable service, video service, or both, the provider is not required to submit an additional emergency service plan under the new law.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.