Public Service Commission approves changes to Lifeline subsidized phone service

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Prompted by the federal government, the Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved changes in the Lifeline subsidized phone service for low-income residents, reports the News Service of Florida. The changes include reducing the amount of monthly credits that enrollees can receive from $13.50 to $12.75. Also, the changes include elimination of a process in which people can sign a document certifying that they are eligible for the program. The Federal Communications Commission earlier this year required changes in Lifeline programs across the country, saying the changes are needed to “reform and modernize” the program. In part, the changes reflect a shift from land-line to mobile phones and an effort to expand broadband communications. Lifeline is financed through what is known as the Universal Service Fund, which is a charge on telephone customers’ bills. The federal government will reduce the amount of credits that it provides for Lifeline customers in Florida from $10 to $9.25. A state share will remain at $3.50. Also, the elimination of the self-certification process is part of a FCC push to reduce fraud. PSC officials say Florida has been successful in limiting fraud and has developed a computerized system with the Department of Children and Families in which phone companies can verify eligibility. PSC member Lisa Edgar, however, expressed concerns Tuesday about the changes after the state has made efforts in recent years to increase enrollment. The PSC’s staff said it will look for ways to make sure enrollment is as easy as possible.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.