The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) today ordered Tele Circuit Network Corporation (Tele Circuit) to show cause why its Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) status in Florida should not be revoked for using non-compliant wireless service for its Lifeline Assistance customers. The Lifeline program helps keep low-income consumers connected to family, friends, and community, as well as important emergency services.
The PSC also ordered a separate show cause to revoke Tele Circuit’s Competitive Local Exchange Certificate (CLEC) for its insufficient managerial capability to provide service in Florida.
“ETCs in Florida offer Lifeline’s landline—sometimes called wireline—option for consumers, especially seniors and low-income residents, who rely on it as a safe link to their communities,” said PSC Chairman Art Graham. “These vulnerable customers don’t deserve to be misled or defrauded, and PSC rules require companies to operate in the public interest.”
Instead of offering the Lifeline discount for wireline, Tele Circuit was substituting a wireless hub. The PSC grants ETC certification for Lifeline wireline service, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants ETC certification for Lifeline wireless service. Tele Circuit was offering customers a “wireless home phone-hub” service, a clear violation of the PSC’s ETC Order.
In April 2018, the FCC issued a “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture” (NAL), proposing a $5.3 million fine against Tele Circuit. The company apparently switched consumers from their preferred carrier to Tele Circuit without consent, misled consumers into believing that telemarketing calls were from their current carrier, provided fabricated consumer consent recordings to the FCC, added unauthorized charges to bills, and failed to fully respond to a PSC inquiry. Tele Circuit also has an “F” rating on the Better Business Bureau website, and continues to receive complaints of slamming, cramming, and other misleading and deceptive marketing practices.
In ordering its separate show cause, the PSC found that the serious allegations in the FCC’s NAL question Tele Circuit’s managerial ability to stop employee misconduct and to continue offering CLEC service in Florida.
Tele Circuit— based in Duluth, Georgia—will have 21 days from issuance of a PSC order to respond in writing why the company should not have its ETC status and its CLEC certificate revoked.
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