Low-income subsidy for wireless phones to end
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.
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.