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CPUC Explores Government Partnerships and Pilot Programs to Expand the California LifeLine Program

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In our ongoing efforts to make high-quality telecommunications service available to all Californians at a fair price, we have taken steps to increase participation of eligible consumers in the California Universal Telephone Service (LifeLine) Program.

Established in 1984 by the Moore Universal Telephone Service Act, California LifeLine ensures that high-quality basic telephone service remains affordable for low-income Californians, making discounted landline and cell phone services available for qualified households.

A December 13, 2018 decision took two important steps.  First, it established a framework for pilot programs that will examine how best to increase participation in California LifeLine by underserved and unserved low income households.  Second, it set forth criteria  for partnering with other state and local government agencies that serve low income Californians to spread information about the program.

The CPUC will adopt up to four pilot programs to: 1) figure out how to sign up more eligible Californians; 2) increase the number of service providers who provide LifeLine service; 3) improve the California LifeLine Program's enrollment process; and, above all, meet consumers' communications needs. The CPUC will see what works and what doesn't, and use that information to shape the future of California LifeLine.

We also seek to partner with state and local government agencies to increase participation of eligible consumers in California LifeLine. These partnerships will serve several important purposes.  First, in some cases, low income Californians who are eligible for other government benefits will automatically be eligible for California LifeLine.  Second, we will coordinate the LifeLine enrollment process with enrollment for those other benefits. Third, the CPUC and the other government agencies will coordinate how best to reach out to LifeLine-eligible Californians.

These outreach efforts are increasingly vital: On December 1, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reduced the number of people eligible for the federal Lifeline program. In light of the FCC's latest cutbacks, the CPUC continues to test new strategies to serve low income California households that are ineligible for the federal Lifeline program. 

The CPUC opened this proceeding on March 24, 2011. Since the California LifeLine program started, the CPUC has consistently modernized and expanded the scope of the program to help low income Californians.

The proposal voted on is available on our website.

Documents related to this proceeding are on the proceeding's Docket Card.

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