In a Public Notice, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announced the counties in which there will be conditional forbearance for eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) from their obligation to offer Lifeline-supported voice service, pursuant to the Commission’s 2016 Lifeline Order. The forbearance will apply only to certain ETCs that are designated to receive both high-cost and Lifeline support. This forbearance will become effective on September 21, 2019. A list of the eligible counties is included in the Public Notice.
In determining which counties are eligible for forbearance from ETCs’ obligations to offer Lifeline-supported voice service, the Commission uses the following criteria: (1) 51 percent of the Lifeline subscribers in the county need to be able to obtain broadband Internet access service; and (2) there need to be at least three other providers of Lifeline broadband Internet access services that serve at least five percent of the Lifeline subscribers in the county. The Commission uses the two competitive conditions to determine if a county is eligible. Then, the FCC will grant forbearance if the ETCs do not actually receive federal high-cost universal support. If an ETC receives high-cost support, the forbearance will only apply in areas where the ETC does not receive high-cost support.