Last month we reported that effective dates for some, but not all, of the rules revised as part of the Commission’s reform of its Lifeline program had been set. It looks like the effective dates of the rest have now also been set, although the Commission’s own Federal Register notices concerning those dates leave at least some room for doubt.
The Lifeline reforms were adopted back in February. In a Federal Register notice published in March, the Commission announced that Sections 54.411, 54.412, 54.413 and 54.414 were to take effect April 1, 2012 and Section 54.409 will take effect June 1. No problem there. But it then said that Sections 54.202(a), 54.401(c), 54.403, 54.407, 54.410, 54.416, 54.417, 54.420 and 54.222 wouldn’t kick in until after the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had given them the Paperwork Reduction Act once-over.
According to the latest Federal Register notice, OMB has completed its review and given its thumbs up. So the FCC has announced that Sections 54.202(a), 54.401(d), 54.403, 54.405(c), 54.407, 54.416, 54.417, 54.420(b), and 54.422 have become effective as of May 1, 2012, while Section 54.410(a)-(f) will take effect June 1, 2012.
Careful readers will note a couple of minor discrepancies between the March notice and the most recent. Where the March notice referred to Section 54.401(c), the April notice refers to Section 54.401(d). Also, the April notice indicates that Section 405(c) is among the sections taking effect on May 1. But that particular section wasn’t among those listed in the March notice. And, in the most recent notice, the Commission mentions, pretty much in passing and without explanation, that it has also removed certain provisions (in particular, the temporary address confirmation and recertification requirements set forth in Section 54.410(g), the chunk of Section 54.405(e)(4) relating to temporary address de-enrollment, and the biennial audit requirements of Section 54.420(a)). It’s not clear what that means. The rules have, after all, been formally adopted by the Commission and are therefore technically in the books, but if OMB hasn’t signed off on them (which appears to be the case), they can’t become effective. So they’ll presumably just be dead wood in the rule book, at least for the time being.
These discrepancies, though, may be relatively minor, particularly given the enormity of the changes the Commission is making to the overall Lifeline program. Look for the Commission to tie up any loose ends eventually.
One final observation. While the standard OMB approval extends for three years, this OMB approval is for a paltry six months. That means the FCC will be back knocking on OMB’s door before you know it. Interestingly, the FCC asked OMB to act on this particular request on an emergency basis. What was the emergency? According to the FCC: “The Commission has set a budget target to eliminate $200 million in waste in 2012, which is dependent on certain rules going into effect as soon as possible.” Ah, a self-created emergency. We can’t wait to see what they come up with in six months.