FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- January 12, 2017
Contact: Kevin Kelly (573) 751-9300
AT&T Missouri may Relinquish ETC Designation and Cease Providing
Discounted Telephone Service Under the Lifeline and Disabled Programs
Southwestern Bell Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T Missouri has met the federal requirements to relinquish its Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) designation and, therefore, the Missouri Public Service Commission must permit AT&T Missouri to relinquish its ETC status. As a result, AT&T Missouri may cease providing discounted telephone service to eligible Missouri customers under federal and state Lifeline and Disabled Programs effective July 5, 2017. ETC designation is needed to participate in the Lifeline and Disabled programs.
Under federal statutes and regulations, a state commission "shall permit" an ETC carrier to relinquish its ETC designation in any area served by more than one ETC carrier. In a December 9, 2016 recommendation, the Public Service Commission Staff indicated that there is at least one other ETC in all areas served by AT&T Missouri. The recommendation noted that all such ETCs offer only wireless Lifeline support. Staff further noted that AT&T Missouri has chosen to relinquish its ETC status throughout the country, not just in Missouri.
In its order, the Commission stated that it has only those powers that have been conferred upon it by the legislature and does not have the power to order AT&T Missouri to continue to retain its ETC status, except in the limited circumstances established by law. "After reviewing the results of Staff’s investigation as described in its recommendation, the Commission finds that AT&T Missouri has met the requirement of federal law to relinquish its ETC status because the areas it currently serves are served by more than one ETC. Under that circumstance, the Commission must permit AT&T Missouri to relinquish its ETC status," said the Commission.
Lifeline is a national program designed to provide discounted telephone service to qualifying low-income customers. Additional discounts are provided through the Missouri Lifeline Program. The Disabled Program is a Missouri program designed to provide discounted telephone service to qualifying disabled landline customers and is administered by the Missouri Public Service Commission.
In its filing, AT&T Missouri stated that dramatic changes have occurred within the telecommunications market since it began serving as an ETC, and those changes affect AT&T’s desire to continue operating as an ETC in Missouri. In addition, AT&T Missouri stated it meets the standard for relinquishment of its ETC designation because each wire center in AT&T’s current ETC designated area has at least one other ETC, and its Lifeline subscribers can obtain Lifeline-discounted service from other ETCs. AT&T Missouri stated that after relinquishment, it will continue to offer and provide service in its Missouri service territory but it will no longer provide discounts under the federal and state Lifeline Programs and the state Disabled Program.