Monday, August 04, 2014

Alabama Needs a LifeLine to Common Sense

I just became aware through a story in today's Communications Daily that Alabama collects a fee of $1.75 per month for 911 service from LifeLine subscribers. According to the story, Alabama estimates there are 200,000 consumers in the state who are LifeLine customers who must pay the $1.75 per month fee on the $9.25 per month subsidy they receive.

I think someone needs to throw Alabama a Lifeline to the Common Sense safe harbor.

Apparently, Alabama is among the few states that require low-income residents who receive subsidized telephone service to pay a 911 fee. It may be the only one. It is true that LifeLine customers may need to call 911, just like non-LifeLine. But that's not the point. Indeed, there is a reason it is called LifeLine service.

To my mind, it just doesn't make sense to grant certified low-income consumers a $9.25 subsidy on the one hand, and then make those same customers pay a $1.75 fee on the other.

TracFone has filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of Alabama under state law to impose the 911 fee on LifeLine subscribers. If common sense doesn't prevail first, perhaps TracFone's lawsuit will bring about a change.

One way or the other, Alabama's practice of imposing the 911 fee on LifeLine customers should be jettisoned.