The National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates

Resolution 2006-01

Increasing Participation in Lifeline and Link-Up Telephone Assistance Programs Through Additional and More Effective Public Outreach

WHEREAS, On July 26, 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) launched “Lifeline Across America,” a nationwide initiative to provide relevant stakeholders with additional outreach resources on federal universal service Lifeline and Link-Up programs, to educate consumers, and to increase eligible consumers’ participation in those programs; and

WHEREAS, As part of the “Lifeline Across America” initiative, on September 28, 2005, the FCC announced the members of a joint Working Group, including a representative member of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) and indicated that the joint Working Group would identify best practices and develop outreach materials to promote public awareness of and eligible consumers’ participation in state and federal Lifeline and Link-Up telephone assistance programs (DA 05-2539); and

WHEREAS, As a member of the “Lifeline Across America” joint Working Group, NASUCA has worked closely with representatives of NARUC and the FCC to plan and implement outreach initiatives intended to increase enrollment in Lifeline and Link-Up assistance programs, with the ultimate goal of maximizing low-income residential telephone penetration rates across the country, consistent with long-standing federal universal service directives; and

WHEREAS, The “Lifeline Across America” joint federal/state Lifeline and Link-Up Working Group (the Working Group) established a Web site,, which aggregates important information on Lifeline and Link-Up programs and will serve as an electronic conduit for making finished outreach materials available for use by interested stakeholders across the nation; and

WHEREAS, At the 2006 NARUC Summer meetings, the Working Group presented the results of its work to date regarding the current outreach efforts and possible next steps to improve outreach in the future; and

WHEREAS, There is further work to be done by state and federal government agencies and by all eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) providing federal universal service Lifeline and Link-Up discounts to eligible consumers upon request; and

WHEREAS, A key finding of the Working Group is that public/private partnerships involving ETCs, state public utility commissions, consumer advocates, and other community organizations have been successful in improving outreach efforts and increasing enrollment in Lifeline and Link-Up; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, That all ETCs should:

  • Include information about Lifeline and Link-Up on all disconnection notices and payment plan confirmation letters;
  • Regularly train customer service staff so they have and distribute accurate information and are ready and able to educate potentially eligible callers and customers about Lifeline and Link-Up programs and help them apply for those discounts; and
  • Add (or otherwise improve accessibility to and content of) Lifeline/Link-Up information on their Web sites to make it easier for more consumers and other interested entities (e.g., social workers, local government officials and charities) to find Lifeline/Link-Up information; and be it further

RESOLVED, That ETCs should regularly update their information on USAC’s Web site concerning the availability and terms of their Lifeline and Link-Up discount programs, how eligible consumers can apply for those discounts, and contact information for any ETC customer service representatives that respond to consumer inquiries regarding these programs; and be it further

RESOLVED, That state commissions, public utilities and consumer advocates are urged to collaborate with and encourage ETCs and community-based organizations to:

  • Adhere to the above recommendations;
  • Support the establishment of public/private partnerships of state commissions, utility boards, social service agencies, other community-based organizations and other relevant associations whose members have direct contact with eligible consumers to focus on educating all relevant stakeholders about the Lifeline and Link-Up programs, including consumers (especially those without any telephone service in their homes), to facilitate the distribution of accurate program information to all potentially eligible consumers, and to help eligible consumers enroll in one or both of these universal service support programs;
  • Add (or otherwise improve accessibility to and content of) Lifeline/Link-Up information on their Web sites and/or on Web sites of other state or local government offices likely to interact with eligible consumers;
  • Review their consumer service staff’s Lifeline/Link-Up telephone scripts to ensure they are adequate, accurate and current; and
  • Encourage gas, electric, water and sewage treatment utilities to include  Lifeline/Link-Up bill inserts (or their e-mail equivalents) in at least one round of billing statements each year to help inform potentially eligible households that do not have residential telephone service about available Lifeline and Link-Up assistance programs; and be it further

RESOLVED, That NASUCA supports the above recommendations of the joint federal/state Lifeline and Link-Up Working Group; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the NASUCA Telecommunications Committee and Consumer Protection Committee, with the approval of the Executive Committee of NASUCA, are authorized to take all steps consistent with this Resolution in order to secure its implementation.