The initiative requires providers to remove Lifeline subscribers who do not use their phones at least once every 30 days. As such, it is suggested that Sprint deliberately defied the rules.
The findings came from an investigation by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
We have asked Sprint for comment. However, it will not be surprising if the carrier returns. The FCC effectively claims that Sprint used a number of false Lifeline claims to curb the economy. It's a serious accusation, and potentially fatal, when Sprint still struggles to remove its union with T-Mobile. The states that are participating in a lawsuit to block the merger are already convinced that Sprint is not honest about their intentions, and this will not help the case.
Update 9/24 1[ads1]:50 PM ET: As you might imagine, Sprint has a different version of events. It said it was a "mistake" made in July 2017 when the network implemented sweeping Lifeline changes the FCC introduced in 2016. Sprint said it was "proactively" investigating and resolving the FCC problem, and brought an independent reviewer to study its effectiveness to the changes. The company said it was "obliged" to compensate the authorities for the subsidies required. You can read the full statement below.
"In 2016, FCC approved sweeping changes to the Lifeline program. These changes required Sprint to update how it calculates usage and therefore qualification of Lifeline customers. An error occurred when these new requirements were implemented in July 2017.
"When the error was discovered, we immediately investigated this and proactively addressed this with the FCC and appropriate state regulators. We also engaged an independent third party to review the results of our review and the effectiveness of our operational changes.
"Although insignificant to Sprint's financial performance, we are obliged to reimburse federal and state authorities for any subsidy payments collected as a result of the error.
" We are proud of the benefits we provide to qualified low-income individuals. through discounted wireless services. We believe this program is valuable to underserved populations. "