Low-income subsidy for wireless phones to end

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) –  The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) will be making some changes to the state program that provides assistance to low-income telephone customers.

According to the commission it will soon focus on meeting the needs of the elderly and rural customers who rely on landline phones.

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It says beginning May 1, 2017, Kentucky will no longer provide a $3.50 monthly per-customer payment to carriers that provide wireless phone service for eligible low-income customers.  Eligible wireless providers will continue to receive the $9.25 per month federal subsidy for each customer that receives Lifeline service.

The state reports it will continue to subsidize landline service for low-income customers. However, it will be eliminated entirely in December 2021, the state Lifeline subsidy will gradually increase.

The PSC claims the decision to restructure the state Lifeline program was the result of a number of factors, and that changes to the state Lifeline program also are being driven by changes at the federal level. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year decided to phase out federal Lifeline money for landline service in favor of providing funds for broadband service. The FCC also has also raised the cost of landline service in rural areas.

The PSC noted in today’s order that 56 percent of Kentucky Lifeline customers who receive landline service are over the age of 65. Another 36 percent are between the ages of 45 and 65.

Changes to the federal Lifeline program may put “some of the most vulnerable Kentuckians – the elderly and those that live in rural areas with limited wireless coverage” – at risk of losing their ability to access the telephone network and emergency services, the PSC said, but the changes are intended to assist those customers.

The PSC indicated that wireless customers will see little affect, due to the competition in the wireless market which keeps rates low.

 

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Amber grew up on the beaches of the Space Coast of Florida, but comes to Lexington from the Western Slope of Colorado, where she was the evening news anchor for the CBS affiliate in town. The change from flip flops to snow boots was a major culture shock, but she fell in love with the mountains, beautiful scenery, amazing people and endless opportunities to explore the western terrain. However, as a Gator and graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, she’s excited to be in Kentucky and back in SEC territory. She feels fortunate to have spent almost two decades working in various aspects all across the country in the world of television. From news to film, TV, and commercials, Amber has always loved the close connection the industry provides with the community and enjoys bringing breaking news to viewer’s homes, helping keep everyone aware of what’s happening. Telling people’s stories is her passion, and she’s learned everyone has something interesting to contribute, and many of the best lessons come from the most unlikely sources. While in Colorado, she covered a variety of stories, including the major changes, issues and solutions as medicinal and recreational marijuana are introduced across America. Like many Lexington residents, horses are Amber’s first love, and she’s so happy to be living in the Horse Capital of the World. Equine Science was actually her initial college major, with the intentions of becoming a veterinarian, so she has the utmost respect for everyone in the industry. She was a member of the University of Florida’s Equestrian team, Block and Bridle Club, and grew up riding and showing horses. She was extremely active in the 4-H Equine Horse Judging and Hippology programs and even competed at the Kentucky Horse Park on various occasions. Amber can’t wait to get involved in anything and everything horse related in the area. Her other hobbies include running, dancing, traveling, hiking, exploring, reading and art. She loves sports and can’t wait to attend games here in town. Amber loves meeting new people and trying new things. Traveling the world has inspired a list of what to do, where to go next, and what adventures await. She’s hoping to jump right into the Lexington lifestyle! Please send any and all ideas and thoughts for stories, things to do and try, etc etc and connect with her on both Facebook and Twitter: @AmberFreemanTV or email at Afreeman@wtvq.com.