The Federal Communications Commission announced last week that it was ending the extra subsidies paid to free government cell phone companies in Oklahoma (Find more about it here.) We predicted then that Lifeline Assistance companies serving the state would be forced to cut back on the generous plans they have been offering.
Our crystal ball was working better than we anticipated, because Assist Wireless just became the first company to announce that it is cutting its Lifeline Assistance plan, from 1000 minutes or texts per month to just 250 minutes and 250 texts per month.
Here’s how Access made the announcement on its website:
Effective June 8, 2016, the Lifeline subsidy paid by the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to support your service is being reduced from $34.25 to $9.25 per month if you reside in certain affected areas of Oklahoma no longer recognized by the FCC as designated Tribal lands. As a result, we are forced to reduce the number of minutes and text messages in your plan in accordance with the new lower subsidy.
If you are an existing Assist Wireless Lifeline customer that is affected by this, you will be notified that you will be automatically moved to the either the $1.00 or $4.95 plan listed below on June 8, 2016. If you are currently enrolled in a $1 plan, you will move to the new $1 plan. If you are currently enrolled in either the $4.95 plan or the $18 plan, you will be moved to the new $4.95 plan listed below.
Here are Assist Wireless’ new Lifeline rates for non-tribal lands in Oklahoma:
Ouch. Your minutes and texts get cut by 75% overnight. If you’re an Assist customer in Oklahoma, that has to hurt worse than pulling a scab off your arm. Assist clearly realizes that many of its customers will be angry — unaware that these price increases and service cutbacks have been made only in response to the FCC’s reduced subsidies. The company made this statement:
We understand that you may be very frustrated, angry, or even devastated by this change. We have done everything in our power to preserve the Lifeline benefits you receive and we are just as disturbed by this ruling.
Assist isn’t taking the FCC’s decision without a fight. It’s encouraging its customers to let government officials know about their feelings and to explain how it will negatively impact their lives. They list FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, OCC Chairman Bob Anthony, and Oklahoma District Representative Steve Russel.
Assist also offers Lifeline Assistance plans in Arkansas, Maryland and Missouri, and their plans are not impacted by the changes in Oklahoma.