Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Case No. TFW-T-09-01, Order No. 32179
March 25, 2011
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712
PUC to conduct hearing regarding wireless service targeted to low-income residents
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will conduct a technical hearing on Thursday, March 31, regarding 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 that are funded by other telephone users. In Idaho, the low-income program is known as “Lifeline.”
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 immediately impact the current 6-cent charge on phone lines.
Commission staff recommends denial of the TracFone petition because: 1) TracFone does not require its customers to contribute to a fund that helps provide telephone service in rural, high-cost areas as required by Idaho law, 2) TracFone does not contribute to the Idaho Emergency Service Fund for 911 service as do other providers and as required by Idaho law and 3) TracFone provides incomplete evidence to support that it will be able to fully serve all wire centers with its wireless service, particularly those in rural areas.
TracFone argues that the issues regarding payment of fees to the high-cost fund or to the Emergency 911 fund can be addressed in separate proceedings and that ruling in favor the ETC designation now will make its service immediately available to many low-income households in Idaho.
The hearing, which is open to the public, begins at 9:30 a.m. in the commission’s hearing room at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise.
Testimony from representatives of the company, commission staff and the Idaho Telephone Association, which opposes the application, is available on the commission Website at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on the telephone icon, then on “Open Telecom Cases,” and scroll down to Case No. TFW-T-09-01.