On March 12, 2015, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) adopted revisions to its rules relating to administration of federal and state universal service programs, including Lifeline. While the revisions generally consist of an overdue overhaul of many outdated telecom service regulations, the OCC adopted a number of substantive rule changes affecting Lifeline ETCs, including: (1) removing regulatory distinctions between wireline and wireless ETCs; (2) changing the retention period for all Lifeline subscriber and household eligibility records, including initial certification, recertification and third party verification records, to three years; (3) revising its rules regarding mobile and door-to-door marketing of lifeline services; and (4) for receiving reimbursement under the state (“OUSF”) Lifeline program, adopting a new requirement that the subscriber’s certification form note the name of the ETC representative who verified the applicant’s eligibility and the type of eligibility documentation that was examined.
The final revised rules do not include prior staff proposals, later withdrawn, that would have formally required ETCs to charge a minimum monthly rate to Lifeline subscribers and would have assessed prepaid wireless service revenues for purposes of contribution to the OUSF. In addition, and oddly, the OCC’s order deleted an ambiguous rule that seemed to require Lifeline ETCs to review documentation of subscriber eligibility on an annual basis. But it replaced that requirement with an even more ambiguous one: new rule 165-55-23-12(b) states that “the customer must provide the ETC with documentary proof of program eligibility annually, in accordance with the recertification requirements at OAC 165:59-9-5.” Yet the cross-referenced rule actually deleted an annual documentation requirement and replaced it with a rule that requires annual recertification (already required under FCC rules) but makes no mention of the provision of eligibility documents such as a SNAP benefits card.