Telephone customers who receive discounted service through either the “Lifeline” or “Disabled” programs will see the amount of that discount increase under a decision by the Missouri Public Service Commission. The commission has increased the Missouri Universal Service Fund support amount for both of those programs. Affected telephone providers may implement the support change as soon as practical, but no later than Feb. 1, 2020.
Under the commission’s decision, eligible customers of the Lifeline Program will see the monthly discount increase by between $14.75 and $16.75 a month, depending on whether the customer has qualifying broadband service. The total Lifeline support from federal and state programs combined will be $24 a month. The Lifeline Program is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission in partnership with the states. The Lifeline discount is available to qualifying landline or wireless customers.
For eligible customers under the Disabled Program, the discount amount will increase from $6.50 a month to $24 a month. The Disabled Program in Missouri is solely funded through the Missouri USF and is limited to landline providers.
The Lifeline or Disabled program discount is available for only one phone per household. If a customer qualifies for both the Lifeline and Disabled program discounts, the customer cannot combine the discounts. Customers should contact their telephone provider to see if it participates in the Lifeline or Disabled programs.
In its decision to modify the Missouri USF, the commission also suspended the assessment that provides the funding for both programs starting Jan. 1, 2020. Suspension of the assessment will remain in effect until Jan. 31, 2021, unless the commission orders otherwise. The Missouri USF is funded through an assessment to landline telecommunications companies and interconnected VoIP providers. This assessment is ultimately paid for by consumers and shows up on their monthly telecommunications bill as the Missouri USF surcharge.
In a motion filed by the Public Service Commission staff, staff recommended the Missouri USF support amount be increased for Lifeline and Disabled program subscribers in Missouri and that the USF assessment to support the programs be suspended.
“A significant decline in the number of subscribers supported by the Missouri USF is creating a growing fund balance surplus,” said the PSC staff recommendation. “Suspending the assessment and increasing the amount of per subscriber Missouri USF support is a reasonable way to reduce the fund balance over several years.”