Thursday, November 30, 2017

LifeLine Program Loses Its Life Line

People with low income may soon find it more difficult to purchase subsidized phone and broadband plans, and may even be forced to find new carriers. This is the result of decisions made November 16th, 2017 by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC voted 3-2 to scale back the federal Lifeline program that lets low-income individuals use a $9.25 monthly household subsidy to buy Internet or phone service. The FCC also proposed a new spending cap that potentially prevents people who qualify for the subsidies from actually receiving them.

The FCC is also taking steps to prevent resellers, telecom providers that don't operate their own network, from offering Lifeline-subsidized plans.  This includes some carriers mentioned on our sites like Q-Link, Assurance Wireless, and Safelink.  Some of the these companies could be put out of business, overnight.

Some of the changes go into effect immediately. For others, the FCC is taking public comment before making the changes final. The proposed reseller ban would effectively force 70 percent of wireless phone users with Lifeline subsidies to find new providers, said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of two Democratic commissioners. "On top of that, they may not have a carrier to turn to after that happens." Excluding resellers from the program would limit competition in the market for subsidized plans and push consumers toward dealing directly with network operators like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile USA, and Sprint.  "These carriers opted out of offering Lifeline-supported service on their own and prefer to allow non-facilities-based wireless providers to serve Lifeline subscribers and the low-income segments of the wireless market," consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge wrote.

Tribal residents also got bad news from the FCC. The $25 enhanced subsidy also can no longer be obtained through resellers. This change takes effect right away without any further public comment.
Now, only Tribal lands in rural areas will still qualify for the extra $25 a month.

Lifeline is paid for by Americans through fees imposed on phone bills. It has a budget of $2.25 billion. The Lifeline program has about 12.5 million subscribers, but only about one-third of eligible households is receiving the subsidies. FCC Commissioner Pai said, "The reforms that we implement and propose today seek to...curtail the waste, fraud, and abuse that continue to plague the Lifeline program..."

There are indeed smaller wireless carriers in the US that are "facilities-based" and will be able to continue to offer Line programs.  Follow-up to this fairly major turn of events will be monitored on our web sites, Mountain Wireless, Mountain Prepaid and Cellular Back Door, with major events also reported here in the Noise.

story credit: arstechnica

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sprint Says New Coverage is Coming

In the wake of the end of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger talks, Sprint president Marcelo Claure recent said tower companies are, "going to be very happy."  Sprint has been expanding mostly in the micro-cell area and now is hinting that they're going to expand coverage in a bigger way.  This brings to mind the kind of topics this news page reported in the 2007 to 2013 time period.  We often reported when a carrier made a significant expansion along this road or in that town.  Now, we're hoping those days are back again.

While AT&T and Verizon made significant coverage expansions several years ago, T-Mobile has grown across rural America just in the last few years.  In comparison, Sprint's lack of expansion beyond urban areas has almost been embarrassing.  It's not where we live, it's where we might go.  Sprint has made meager attempts to cover these areas, but we're spoiled...we want coverage everywhere.  We really hope that Sprint will try to accommodate our selfish wireless desires.

Small cell sites look like they're the path to 5G, and Sprint has done well in filling these "holes".  Now let's see them expand along the rest of the Interstate highways and appear in states that need a 4th...or even a 3rd, national player.  And, the tower companies Mr. Claure refers to already have most of the cell site locations already in new permits needed.  Sprint also has the spectrum, both at 1900 and 2500 MHz.  We're ready to cover the new coverage.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

T-Mobile and Sprint See the Light

T-Mobile made the announcement, that T-Mobile and Sprint just can't get along.  For them it's a power thing, or a money thing.  For us it's a good thing.  We don't want 3 carriers...we want 4.

 That was close.. Sprint is now free to pursue life seeking a cable company hookup, and that will be OK.