Oklahoma has its own version of the Lifeline program for low-income households. Last month, Icon announced it was pulling out of both the federal and state versions.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved an emergency order Sept. 18 telling Icon it had to give Lifeline customers in Oklahoma 30 days notice that it was stopping their service. Icon has appealed the Corporation Commission order; a hearing is set for Oct. 10 in Oklahoma City.
Corporation Commission staff filed “show-cause” applications in February against five phone companies, including Icon, doing Lifeline business in Oklahoma. The staff wanted to know more about how the companies verified customers in the program. A later enforcement action against Icon said commission staff found more than 40,900 possible violations of federal Lifeline rules for duplicate customer reimbursements.
Brandy Wreath, director of the commission's public utility division, said the FCC's action on Monday vindicated the separate actions of Corporation Commission staff in Oklahoma.
“We were pleased to see the FCC investigating the program,” Wreath said. “We were pleased to see them uncovering similar issues that we were finding.
“We're looking at it more from the standpoint of the businesses that are staying in Oklahoma have good practices for ongoing protection. We will keep moving forward with our investigations to ensure Oklahomans are protected for the long run, not just during this time of heightened awareness.”
Both the state and federal Lifeline programs are funded from Universal Service Fund surcharges on telephone customer bills. The federal Lifeline program offers eligible phone companies up to $34 per subscriber in monthly reimbursements; the state program offers $1.85 per subscriber in monthly reimbursements.