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.