CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the House will begin consideration of H.R. 5525, End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5525 was introduced on June 16, 2016 by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) and was referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee.
H.R. 5525 would prohibit universal service support of commercial mobile service and commercial mobile data service through the Lifeline program beginning on January 1, 2017. However, for calendar year 2017, the amount certain telecommunications carriers are required to contribute to universal service support mechanisms will be determined as if there were not a prohibition on the use of these funds. The excess funds collected would be deposited in the Treasury’s general fund for the purpose of deficit reduction.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-104) codified U.S. policymakers commitment to ensure universal service in the provision of telecommunication services. In 1997, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Universal Service Fund (USF) intended to meet the objects including in the Act. The USF is funded by payments from telecommunications carriers that provide interstate service and certain other providers of telecommunications services.
The Lifeline program, established by the FCC in 1985, is one of four programs supported under USF. The Lifeline program is designed to provide support to assist eligible households to pay the reoccurring monthly service charges associated with connection to the telecommunications network. To be eligible, households must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal poverty level or enrollment in certain needs-based programs (e.g., Medicaid). There is a $9.25 per month subsidy per subscriber given to the telecommunications provider.
Originally, the program only covered one fixed line in an eligible household. In 2005, the FCC gave subscribers the choice to select either a fixed line option or a mobile/wireless option. On March 31, 2016, the FCC adopted an order once again expanding the scope of the program to provide subsidies for broadband adoption.
 See CRS Report, “Telecommunications and Media Convergence: Selected Issues for Consideration,” August 14, 2013.
 See CRS Report, “Federal Lifeline Program: Modernization and Reform,” April 5, 2016.
A Congressional Budget Office estimate is unavailable.
For questions or further information please contact Molly Newell with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 2-1374.