Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Case No. TFW-T-09-01, Order No. 31028
May 5, 2010
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712
Wireless provider seeks Lifeline funding
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is taking comments through May 18 on an application by TracFone Wireless, Inc., to be declared an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier. ETC designation would qualify TracFone to receive money from federal and state low-income assistance programs. In Idaho, the program is known as “Lifeline.”
TracFone already offers pre-paid wireless service in Idaho, but seeks ETC designation so it can provide service to low-income customers under the name SafeLink Wireless. Qualifying customers would receive a free handset and up to 67 minutes of free time. For use beyond 67 minutes, customers purchase a pre-paid card at 20 cents per minute. SafeLink will offer service to low-income, low-volume users and transient users who either choose not to enter into long-term service commitments or are unable to meet the credit requirements necessary to obtain service from other carriers.
TracFone does not build facilities of its own, such as cell towers, but enters into re-seller agreements with other wireless carriers to offer services wherever those providers offer service. In Idaho, TracFone obtains services from AT& T Mobility, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
Lifeline offers discounted basic telephone assistance to low-income customers of either wireline or wireless providers. Lifeline is funded by a 6-cent charge on each residential, business and wireless phone line in the state. During 2009, 27,690 Idahoans receive Lifeline assistance. If the commission were to accept TracFone’s application, it would not impact the current 6-cent charge on phone lines.
Federal Communications Commission requirements for TracFone to be considered for ETC designation by state commissions are that the handsets be E911 compliant and that E911 emergency service can be dialed even if there are no remaining prepaid minutes. Further, TracFone must take steps to ensure that customers who are qualified for Lifeline assistance are heads of households who do not receive Lifeline assistance from any other provider. In Idaho, the state Department of Health and Welfare determines eligibility for Lifeline.
TracFone maintains ETC designation for SafeLink Wireless is in the public interest because it will “enable thousands of Idaho residents, including many who have been adversely impacted by the failing economy or job loss, to obtain a handset and wireless service, which would otherwise be unavailable to them, to assist in emergency situations, facilitate job search efforts and to maintain contact with family members.”
Comments are accepted through May 18 via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions." Fill in the case number (TFW-T-09-01) and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.