FCC Hits T-Mobile With A $200 Million Fine For Sprint’s Abuse Of The Lifeline Program

The FCC fined T-Mobile $200 million for Sprint’s abuse of the Lifeline program. Under the Lifeline program, wireless carriers can get a nearly $10 subsidy for each eligible, low-income American they provide phone service to. Often, the Lifeline subsidy is large enough for carriers to offer basic service at no cost to eligible consumers.

According to the Lifeline program rules, carriers are only supposed to get subsidies for lines that are in active use. Lines that go unused are supposed to become ineligible for a subsidy. Here’s how the FCC explains the rationale for rules about usage:

The FCC developed this and other rules after investigations showed that companies were aggressively selling free Lifeline service, knowing that they would get paid each month even if consumers didn’t use their phones. Since there was no bill, consumers had no incentive to relinquish the subscription.

Before Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile, the carrier was receiving subsidies for almost a million lines that we’re in violation of the usage rules. Since T-Mobile now owns Sprint, T-Mobile is on the hook for the FCC’s $200 million fine. The FCC’s press release describes the fine as the “largest fixed-amount penalty to be paid in Commission history.”

When Will Starlink Be Available In More States?

February 12, 2021 Update: Starlink has expanded availability substantially since this page was first published. You can check availability at your location on Starlink’s website.

Users on a Reddit thread are logging information about the locations of Starlink beta testers. At the moment, it looks like Starlink has sent invites to people in latitudes between 45.3°N and 48.4°N. Some invites have been sent in at least seven states:

  • Idaho
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Tweet updates

Today, Elon Musk suggested more invites are about to go out:

Follow-up comments shed a bit of light on Starlink’s expansion plans:

While a comment on Twitter falls short of a formal statement, Musk’s comment provides the most recent information I’ve seen about Starlink’s timelines. We might only be a few months away from Starlink offering service in a lot more places.