The Florida Public Service Commission’s (PSC) annual report on Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up Florida shows enrollment continues to rise. Customers benefitting from the telephone discount programs increased by 3.8 percent from July 2009 through June 2010, reaching 642,129 participants.
Florida continues to be the largest net contributor to the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) supporting the programs, according to the PSC report Number of Customers Subscribing to Lifeline Service and the Effectiveness of Procedures to Promote Participation, which was sent to the Governor and Legislature this week.
All telecommunications service providers and certain other providers must contribute to the USF based on a percentage of their interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues. Companies may pass these costs on to their customers. Service providers include wireline phone companies, wireless phone companies, paging service companies, and certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers. In 2008, Florida paid $482 million into the USF and received only $178 million back.
“I’m pleased that many consumers needing assistance continue to benefit from the Lifeline programs, but my goal is to make sure Florida receives an equitable share of benefits from the funds we’re contributing,” said PSC Chairman Art Graham.
Initiated by the PSC and Florida’s Department of Children and Families, the automatic enrollment process is the primary reason for the increase in Lifeline participation, according to the report. Other factors contributing to enrollment increase were the PSC’s Lifeline Awareness Week on September 13-19, 2010, and community outreach.
The federal Lifeline Assistance program offers customers who participate in certain public assistance programs a basic telephone service discount of at least $13.50 per month, or $162 per year. Link-Up Florida provides a 50 percent reduction in the telephone service installation charge, up to a maximum of $30, for qualifying households that do not currently have telephone service. Both landline and wireless providers offer the Lifeline program.
Applying for Lifeline is easy. Florida residents can call their local phone company, the PSC at 1-800-342-3552, or the Office of Public Counsel at 1-800-540-7039 for assistance. Information is also available at www.floridapsc.com and www.floridaopc.gov/lifeline.cfm.
The PSC facilitates safe and reliable utility services at fair prices for Florida's consumers. Primary responsibilities include setting fair rates, encouraging competition, and monitoring for safety and reliability.