Thursday, March 06, 2008

FCC Orders Telephone Lifeline Providers to Include Digital TV Transition Information in Customer Bills

In its March 3rd Order regarding the digital television transition, the FCC announced that local exchange carriers which have been designated as Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”) must provide information in the monthly bills to their low-income Lifeline and Link-Up customers about the transition to digital television in February 2009. This information must be included in every such bill through March 2009.

The ETCs operating in New York include all of the incumbent local telephone companies, for example, Verizon and Frontier, several competitive local companies, and Sprint/Nextel wireless. The cable television companies and VoIP providers are not ETCs and are not presently required to offer Lifeline or Link-Up.

Importantly, there is no reference in the FCC Order regarding customers eligible for reduced rate Lifeline service -- including hundreds of thousands in New York State alone -- who do not receive Lifeline service and therefore would not receive this information deemed valuable and necessary by the FCC for low income consumers.

The information announcement can be a “bill stuffer” or as part of an information section on the bill itself and must clearly state:

(1) That on February 17, 2009, analog broadcasting will end and analog-only televisions may be unable to display broadcast programming unless the viewer takes action.

(2) That analog televisions should continue to work as before with cable and satellite television services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products.

(3) That more information on the transition can be obtained by going to

(4) That more information about the converter box program (which provides coupons for the purchase of a converter box to permit continued viewing of television programming on an analog television) by going to or by calling the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) at 888-DTV-2009.

Carriers required to include the notice may use languages other than English, if necessary.

More information on the transition and the $40 converter box coupons is available from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Further information on the digital transition is available directly from PULP.

Lou Manuta

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