A Edmond telecom company under investigation by state regulators said Tuesday it wants to stop doing business under a program that helps low-income households pay for telephone service.
Icon Telecom Inc. advised customers to seek Lifeline service with other providers in the state, according to a filing with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Staff for the commission's public utility division criticized the move, saying the company should give at least 30 days notice to customers.
“A reasonable transition period will allow Icon's customers to retain their current number through number portability, thus ensuring quality, reliability and expediency when switching ETC (eligible telecommunications carrier) providers,” wrote Brandy Wreath, public utility division director.
Only the Corporation Commission can relinquish a company's state designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier. Icon's filing starts the process for the relinquishment.
In a statement, Icon said it filed separately with the Federal Communications Commission to notify it of the company's decision to stop providing Lifeline service in Oklahoma under a federal version of the program.
“This voluntary filing was prompted by a number of factors, including the costs of continuing to provide service and those associated with investigations and audits regarding Icon's subscriber enrollments,” the statement said. “During the course of these investigations and audits, Icon voluntarily has detected and corrected problems that will result in some reimbursements to the federal Lifeline fund. Icon has not received any reimbursements from the Oklahoma Lifeline fund.”
Icon is named in several pending actions before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, including an enforcement action and a “show cause” action for further information. It also applied last year for monthly reimbursements of almost $393,000 from the Oklahoma Lifeline fund.
Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said those other cases remain open.
The Corporation Commission's public utility division filed an enforcement action against Icon in August, listing more than 40,900 possible violations for not adequately verifying customer eligibility under federal Lifeline rules. Only one Lifeline service is allowed for each household. The enforcement action said a review of Icon's customer lists showed numerous customers with the same post office boxes, dates of birth or mailing addresses.
Icon's attorney, George Makohin, argued last week in a hearing for dismissal that the commission didn't have jurisdiction to enforce federal Lifeline rules.
Icon received more than $25.7 million in federal Lifeline reimbursements in 2012, according to data from the Universal Service Administrative Co.
Both the state and federal Lifeline programs are funded from surcharges on telephone customer bills. The federal program offers eligible phone companies up to $34 per subscriber in reimbursements; the state program offers $1.85 per subscriber in reimbursements.