Two Oklahoma wireless companies pay more than $1 million to settle federal telecom case

TerraCom LLC and YourTel America Inc. will pay the settlements to resolve claims of improper reimbursements for a low-income phone program called Lifeline.
by Paul Monies Published: February 28, 2013

“We began correcting the issue when we discovered it, and for the past several months we've been implementing protections and controls to prevent this from happening again,” Schmick said. “Although we believe this issue occurred as a result of the inconsistent address formatting in our old systems, it is still a matter of serious concern for us and it is why we fully cooperated with the FCC.”

The FCC instituted several reforms to the Lifeline program last year, including a rule requiring customers to recertify their eligibility annually. The top six carriers in the program told the FCC they dropped about 33 percent of their Lifeline customers — almost 3.3 million subscribers — after reviewing eligibility recertification in December.

Other reforms include a new national database for telephone companies to check customer addresses.

“Once it's up and running, carriers will be required to query this database when they add a subscriber,” said FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield. “If that household has a Lifeline service already, then they won't be able to sign up again. That will be a proactive way to deal with duplicate subscriptions.”

Separately, public utility division officials at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission this month filed cases against five phone companies providing wireless Lifeline service in Oklahoma, including TerraCom. Officials want to know if the companies have been verifying applicant eligibility for the program.

Phone company reimbursements from the federal Lifeline program in Oklahoma jumped to $218 million last year, up from $90 million in 2011, according to data from the Universal Service Administrative Co., a nonprofit that administers the Universal Service Fund.

by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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