PUCO seeks comment on AT&T Ohio application to end discount program
COLUMBUS, OHIO (June 28, 2018) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today issued a call for comments regarding AT&T Ohio’s application to discontinue its participation in the federal Lifeline program throughout the majority of its service territory. Comments are due Aug. 31, 2018.
Lifeline is a federally funded program that provides monthly discounts to eligible consumers of landline, wireless or broadband services. Customers enrolled in their service provider’s Lifeline program receive a $9.25 monthly credit.
On Sept. 7, 2017, AT&T Ohio filed a petition with the PUCO to end its designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier, which provides it access to federal Universal Service Fund support to provide discounts to its Ohio customers. AT&T Ohio identified 10,482 customers that may be affected by it no longer providing Lifeline discounts.
If approved by the Commission, AT&T Ohio would no longer provide Lifeline discounts to its customers. In order to continue to receive Lifeline discounts, AT&T Ohio customers would need to enroll with a different provider. A list of providers offering Lifeline discounts is available online at lifelinesupport.org.
The Commission notes, however, that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a pending proposal to discontinue Lifeline support for non-facilities based wireless providers. If approved by the FCC, this proposal may reduce the number of alternative Lifeline providers. The PUCO has previously advocated that the FCC not adopt this proposal.
AT&T Ohio is directed to publish notice in local newspapers throughout its service territory. The full text of the notice is provided below.
A copy of today’s Commission entry is available online by visiting the PUCO website. Click on the link to the Docketing Information System (DIS), and enter case number 17-1948-TP-UNC.
Notice Seeking Comment on Petition of AT&T Ohio to Relinquish its Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier
Public notice is hereby given that The Ohio Bell Telephone Company dba AT&T Ohio has filed a petition with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, docketed as Case No. 17-1948-TP-UNC, seeking to relinquish its designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) for purposes of lifeline fund support for the majority of its service area in Ohio.
On September 7, 2017, AT&T Ohio filed a petition seeking to relinquish its ETC designation for all areas in Ohio in which it currently provides wireline voice service and for which it is not receiving federal Universal Service Fund (lifeline) reimbursement. This amounts to most of AT&T Ohio’s service area and would affect approximately 10,482 lifeline customers. The federal lifeline discount offered by an ETC in Ohio is $9.25 per month. If AT&T Ohio’s relinquishment petition is approved, eligible lifeline customers of AT&T Ohio within the affected service area would no longer receive this discount from AT&T Ohio. Lifeline customers could continue to receive the federal discount if they switch to another ETC in their service area. AT&T Ohio states that every wire center in the relinquishment area is served by at least four other ETCs. AT&T Ohio is not discontinuing any wireline legacy voice service as a result of this petition.
AT&T Ohio states that it will provide each affected AT&T Ohio lifeline customers at least 60 days notice via U.S. mail prior to the effective date of the relinquishment. The notice will explain the impact of the relinquishment on the customer and will inform the customer that the discount can continue to be obtained from the remaining ETCs in the area and will include a list of designated ETCs in the customer’s service area. A second notice and bill message will also be sent at least 15 days before the relinquishment date.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio invites interested persons to comment on the AT&T Ohio relinquishment petition. Written and electronic comments are due by August 31, 2018, and should be filed in Case No. 17-1948-TP-UNC. Further information may be obtained by contacting the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, 180 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3793, the Commission’s hotline at 1-800-686-7826, or the PUCO website at https://www.puco.ohio.gov.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.
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