TURN Victory Expands Low-Income Phone Service, SS# No Longer Required

Changes won by TURN today will promote universal phone service in California and dramatically improve on the current LifeLine low-income phone program.

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network, www.turn.org

Contact: Mindy Spatt, TURN, 415.929.8876, ext. 306

January 16, 2014 San Francisco—The transformation will keep low-income customers connected to affordable, reliable phone service whether they chose a mobile or landline plan for discounted service. In a landmark decision, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) agreed with TURN that Californians without social security numbers should not be disqualified from the state program. California is the first state in the U.S. to eliminate the requirement.

The changes demanded by TURN and other consumer groups are key to insuring California’s commitment to universal phone service while expanding the choices available to customers. In her decision, CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval credited testimony from public hearings organized through TURN’s statewide PolicyVoice organizing project.

Commissioner Sandoval’s decision noted that  “…many California ratepayers do not have a valid SSN, yet currently pay into the [Lifeline] Fund when they buy communications services. Extending the availability of LifeLine…is consistent with this Commission’s policies of promoting public safety, access and affordability”

“LifeLife is often the only option for low-income customers to access essential medical care, housing, emergency services and family connections,” said Mark Toney, executive director of TURN. “The guarantees of affordability won by TURN will give eligible customers assurance that their rates will remain stable, which is especially important for seniors and others on fixed incomes. With family plans, adequate minutes, and phones that connect customers to 911 in emergencies, California is maximizing its investment in LifeLine.”

Customers will have the option to use their LifeLine discount on basic voice and text services or choose bundles and wireless family plans. “The CPUC heard from consumers throughout California that affordability, choice and access were key,” said Toney. “Commissioner Sandoval listened, and has crafted a program that addresses consumer concerns while keeping costs down and increasing customer choice, a win-win for California and its consumers. With today’s decision, California will be setting new national standards for LifeLine phone service, one that we hope other states will follow.”