Kudos to SMBS for going through the paces to be eligible to received Lifeline. They aren’t the only ones doing it. But the article in the Lakefield Standard does such a nice job detailed what it means and what it required I wanted to share it for folks who might qualify and for folks who might be in a position to replicate the effort or make policy decisions to support extensions and expansions…
From its beginning, Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services has offered the discounts to qualifying customers through a program dubbed “Lifeline,” but more recently has been actively working to make known the fact that telephone and Internet service discounts are available through the multiple-municipality-owned utility.
“We started offering it to our qualifying customers from the very beginning, but then, in October of 2015, petitioned the Minnesota Public Utility Commission and federal government to become an eligible telecommunication provider of the Lifeline service,” said Travis Thies, SMBS general manager. “That eligibility has opened it up for us to promote it more and make it available to the people, our customers, qualified for the service.”
Lifeline is both federally and state funded through SMBS, providing a credit toward voice service; the federally funded credit helps cover the costs of both voice and Internet service.
“One piece of it is federal and one piece of it is from the state with the voice service,” Thies said. “If people qualify for the federal, they also qualify for the state. But at this time, the state funding is only for voice service, while the federal funding is for both voice and Internet service. People are more dependent on Internet service and the federal help in funding the service can be applied to Internet service or both Internet and voice service, while the state funding can only be applied to voice right now. It has been only very recently that the federal side has been made applicable to the Internet too.”
To qualify for Lifeline, SMBS customers only need to come into the SMBS office in Lakefield and fill out an application. Customers who are receiving federal public housing assistance, Medicare/Medical Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, Supplemental Security Income or Veterans Pension or Survivors Pension benefits and those with income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines may qualify for the Lifeline discounted services.
Details on the money…
The Lifeline telephone and Internet discounts come as a flat dollar amount and vary with a customer’s service. The state credit for voice or telephone service is $3.50, while the federal credit for both voice and Internet is $9.25. If a person chooses to have only Internet, his or her credit will be $9.25; if a person decides to have both telephone and Internet service, which Thies noted is the better deal, he or she would receive the state $3.25 credit and the federal $9.25 credit for those services.