T-Mobile has agreed to pay a $200 million penalty imposed by the Federal Communications Commission for an investigation into Sprint’s compliance with the Lifeline telephone service. Now that Sprint is absorbed into T-Mobile, the Un-Carrier is strapped with paying the fine.
In 2019, the FCC accused Sprint of collecting monthly subsidies from 885,000 Lifeline subscribers “even though those subscribers were not using the service.” The FCC opening an investigation into Sprint, saying that the subsidies were in violation of the usage rule that says service providers can only be reimbursed for a Lifeline subscriber if the subscriber has used the service in the past 30 days.
The Lifeline program provides qualifying low-income consumers discounts on voice or broadband Internet access service to help ensure that all Americans have access to affordable communications service.
The FCC reports that $200 million is the largest sum ever received for an investigation case.
Earlier this year, the FCC extended unlimited voice calling and data coverage for subsidized Lifeline plan customers to be continued throughout the duration of the pandemic.
As part of the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected pledge, program rules were waived. The FCC guaranteed that those who were enrolled in the Lifeline Program would not be involuntarily removed during the coronavirus pandemic.