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:
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.”