Central Valley Business Times

California’s LifeLine program, which provides affordable telephone service to low-income consumers, is being expanded to include wireless carriers under an order from the California Public Utilities Commission.

“This is a landmark decision,” said Greenlining Institute Energy and Telecommunications Policy Director Stephanie Chen. “More and more Californians are using wireless as their main telephone access, and communities of color are particularly dependent on wireless phone services.”

She says wireless LifeLine service “is a great step forward that will move us closer to our goal of connecting everyone in California.”

Key elements of the CPUC decision include:

  • LifeLine will be expanded to include wireless providers, allowing eligible consumers to apply the LifeLine discount to wireless phone plans.
  • It includes wireless voice, text, and data services.
  • Eligible individuals who don’t have a Social Security number will now be able to sign up for LifeLine.
  • The new rules require LifeLine providers to offer customer service in the same language that the provider marketed or sold the service.

The decision provides $5.75 in reimbursement to the LifeLine carrier from the California LifeLine fund when an eligible subscriber chooses a wireless plan that offers between 501-999 minutes, which could be matched with the federal Lifeline funds of $9.25.

It offers $12.65 a month to the LifeLine carrier for eligible subscriber participation in wireless plans that offer 1,000 minutes per month or more. When coupled with federal funds, the $22.40 in monthly support envisioned by the decision for plans offering 1,000 minutes or more increases by orders of magnitude the affordability of voice, text, and data plans.