National Lifeline Association v. FCC, No. 18-1026 (D.C. Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Petitioners challenged the FCC's adoption of two limitations to programs that make voice and broadband services more available and affordable for low-income consumers. Petitioners argued that the limitations limited the enhanced Tribal Lifeline subsidy to services provided by eligible telecommunications carriers that utilize their own fixed or mobile wireless facilities, excluding carriers that resell services provided over other carriers' facilities (Tribal Facilities Requirement). Second, it limited the enhanced Tribal Lifeline subsidy to residents of "rural" areas on Tribal lands (Tribal Rural Limitation).
The DC Circuit granted the petition for review, holding that the Commission's adoption of these two limitations was arbitrary and capricious by not providing a reasoned explanation for its change of policy that is supported by record evidence. In this case, by adopting the Tribal Facilities Requirement, the Commission's decision failed to consider the exodus of facilities-based providers; did not point to evidence that banning resellers from the Tribal Lifeline program would promote network buildout; failed to analyze the impact of the facilities requirement on Tribal residents who currently rely on wireless resellers; and ignored that the Commission's decision was a fundamental change that adversely affects the access and affordability of service for residents of Tribal lands.
Likewise, by adopting the Tribal Rural Limitation, the Commission failed to consider the impact on service access and affordability. Finally, the court held that non-harmless procedural defects also existed.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on April 10, 2019.