FCC waives Lifeline eligibility rules for Hawaii FEMA recipients

The FCC has temporarily waived Lifeline eligibility rules to help Maui wildfire survivors stay connected to broadband and phone services.

Nicole Ferraro, Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast

August 28, 2023

2 Min Read
FCC Hawaii Wildfires Communications Status Report for August 25, 2023
(Source: FCC; Hawaii Wildfires Communications Status Report for August 25, 2023)

The FCC adopted an order to waive Lifeline eligibility requirements for Hawaii households receiving assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following the wildfires that caused destruction throughout Maui.

The order, published on Friday (August 25), officially waives Lifeline eligibility requirements for a period of six months for households receiving FEMA assistance. Once enrolled, households may participate in the Lifeline program – which provides a monthly subsidy of $9.25 for broadband or $5.25 for voice service – for one year.

"Ongoing participation in FEMA's IHP alone will not allow a subscriber to continue to participate in the Lifeline program when they reach their recertification period, but if the household is otherwise eligible to participate in Lifeline they can continue in the program after confirming such eligibility through USAC's recertification processes," the FCC said.

In addition to waiving eligibility requirements, the FCC is also waiving Lifeline's de-enrollment requirements for households that enter the program under this waiver.

Referring to its decision to issue this waiver, the FCC said: "The Commission may exercise its discretion to waive a rule where the particular facts make strict compliance inconsistent with the public interest. In addition, the Commission may take into account considerations of hardship, equity, or more effective implementation of overall policy on an individual basis."

Related:FCC urges caution with telecom cables following Hawaii wildfires

Notably, and in accordance with existing law, the FCC said that this waiver does not enable Lifeline participants to also enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers a $30/month broadband subsidy, unless they qualify for that program specifically.

According to the order, the FCC has directed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to "prepare outreach materials and communications to publicize this effort through its regular communications channels ... with as much speed as possible."

Friday's order follows another set of decisions made by the FCC on August 18, in which it waived certain other rules associated with Lifeline, as well as the ACP, in order to ensure current participants are not de-enrolled.

Ongoing outages

The fires that ravaged Maui on August 8 caused mass death and destruction, with hundreds of people still unaccounted for as of this writing, and an estimated 2,200 buildings lost, 86% of which were residential, according to CBS News.

Telecommunications has been severely damaged, further complicating rescue and relief efforts. Operators like Verizon and AT&T have deployed various mobile resources to the region to help connect first responders and residents.

As of the FCC's latest and final communications report on the Hawaii wildfires, published Friday, August 25, while all 21 cell sites are fully restored, there has been relatively no change to the number of fixed outages in the past week, with 14,147 wireline subscribers still out of service.

About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast, Light Reading

Nicole covers broadband, policy and the digital divide. She hosts The Divide on the Light Reading Podcast and tracks broadband builds in The Buildout column. Some* call her the Broadband Broad (*nobody).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like