The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB or Bureau) has announced the counties in which conditional forbearance for eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) from the obligation to offer Lifeline-supported voice service applies, effective on September 18, 2020, pursuant to the Commission’s 2016 Lifeline Order. More specifically, this forbearance applies only to the obligation of ETCs who receive both high-cost and Lifeline support to offer and advertise Lifeline voice services. The 2016 Lifeline Order established the ability for the Commission to grant conditional forbearance given certain competitive conditions. The Bureau is tasked with releasing an annual public notice announcing the eligible counties. A list of eligible counties is included in this Public Notice.
In order for a county to be eligible for this forbearance, the following competitive conditions must be met: (1) 51% of the Lifeline subscribers in the county are obtaining broadband Internet access service; and (2) there are at least three other providers of Lifeline service that each serve at least 5% of the Lifeline subscribers in that county. The Commission will then grant forbearance in areas where the ETC is not receiving federal high-cost universal service support.