Bill to Improve Wireless Lifeline Service Program is Signed into Law

Monday, September 26, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Bill (AB) 2570, a bill that will give guidance to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to improve the administration of the wireless California Lifeline Program (Lifeline) was signed into law by Governor Brown.

The Moore Universal Service Telephone Act of 1987 directed the CPUC to develop Lifeline to provide basic telephone service at a discounted cost to low-income households. In January 2014, the CPUC expanded the program beyond just wireline service to allow wireless carriers to offer LifeLine service. “The enrollment process for Lifeline has experienced problems with customers enrolling in multiple service plans within a short period of time or repeatedly switching among various services,” Assemblymember Quirk stated in explaining his reason for authoring the bill. “Failure to act and create more stability would put the program at risk of being eliminated,” he continued.

In order to expeditiously begin to deal with existing problems in the program’s administration, AB 2570 requires the CPUC to adopt a rule regarding an enrollment freeze by January 15, 2017. In adopting a rule, the CPUC must consider that the enrollment freeze be for 60 days, but also include some period of time where an enrollee can terminate lifeline service without penalty. Lastly, the CPUC must also consider putting requirements in place that would enable the lifeline program administrator to provide more information in real time to providers about the enrollment status of potential subscribers.

"These common-sense changes bring California’s LifeLine Program in line with the federal program and ensure that we continue to be on the forefront of providing affordable services to all who need and deserve them," stated Nathan Johnson, Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of TruConnect, a California family-owned telecommunications company.

“This bill will provide more market certainty to providers, reduce fraud, and decrease administrative costs to the CPUC in the long run. Signing of this bill continues to improve access and affordability to the program,” Assemblymember Quirk commented upon learning his bill was signed.

Elected in 2012, Bill Quirk brings his PhD in astrophysics and career as an educator and scientist to the State Assembly.  He is the Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on California’s Clean Energy Economy, and a member of the Assembly Committees on Agriculture, Appropriations, Public Safety, Revenue & Taxation, Rules, and Utilities & Commerce.

Website of Assemblymember Quirk: http://www.asmdc.org/quirk