As part of its effort to fight abuse of a phone program for low-income households, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed $4.8 million in penalties against an Oklahoma telephone company.
The commission said Icon Telecom Inc. should have known it enrolled 938 ineligible households for the federal Lifeline program in September 2012. Only one Lifeline service per household is allowed.
Icon has 30 days to appeal for a reduction or cancellation of the proposed penalties.
“Icon learned this morning that the FCC issued an order seeking to impose significant penalties on Icon for apparent duplicate consumer enrollments,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “While Icon no longer participates in the Lifeline program, Icon will continue to work with the FCC to address any and all compliance issues as expeditiously as possible.”
The proposed penalties are in addition to more than $32,000 that Icon has paid back the administrator of the Lifeline fund for duplicate accounts. Icon received more than $25.7 million in federal Lifeline reimbursements in 2012, according to data from the Universal Service Administrative Co.
The FCC also took action Monday against four other phone companies for alleged rules violations in the Lifeline program, proposing total penalties against those companies of $9.4 million. Among them were Assist Wireless LLC and Easy Telephone Services, both of which do business in Oklahoma. The commission also proposed penalties against TracFone Wireless Inc. and UTPhone Inc.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said federal Lifeline reimbursements to phone companies grew to $2.2 billion in 2012, up from $817 million in 2008. He said a “significant amount” of that growth was due to increased waste, fraud and abuse.
“The substantial abuses of the Lifeline program deserve a significant response,” Pai said in a statement. “A slap on the wrist is not sufficient when the same company seeks Lifeline support more than once in the same month for the same person.”