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STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI,
APPROVING IN PART AND DISSENTING IN PART
Re: Total Call Mobile, Inc., File No.: EB-IHD-14-00017650, NAL/Acct. No. 201632080004.
Beth, Alan, and David were sales agents for Total Call Mobile.
Beth specialized in signing up
ineligible consumers using false credentials.
Her supervisor told her to get a blank food stamp card, i.e.,
a temporary Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card, to use as eligibility documentation
for applicants already in the system.
Her supervisors had stacks in excess of 200 SNAP cards that the
managers had purchased on the street. She was told to rotate the use of temporary SNAP cards to ensure
that applicants could repeatedly sign up for phones. She also worked side by side with other Lifeline
carriers to increase the number of applicants each sales agent could sign up.
Alan specialized in manipulating the application process.
He took photos of an applicant’s
SNAP card and used that information to activate numerous customers, changing only the last four digits
of the applicant’s Social Security number. His supervisor used an app to generate legitimate Social
Security numbers to aid the process, and Total Call Mobile’s back-end staff would verify the application
even if the name on the SNAP card was not the applicant’s name. Alan also knew that the system would
approve a customer for multiple Lifeline subsidies so long as he entered the information on different
devices within a 15-minute window—and he coordinated with the sales agents of other Lifeline carriers to
sign up applicants up to four times.
David specialized in getting customers multiple phones.
His supervisor told him to change an
applicant’s last name if it came back duplicate and keep changing it until it’s accepted. He filled out
applications, checking off the boxes he knew applicants needed to check to enroll. He signed on their
behalf; his supervisor told him to match the signature on the applicant’s identification as closely as
possible. Another supervisor showed him how to sign up applicants for three phones apiece and how to
use nail polish remover to remove identification information from a SNAP card. Total Call Mobile’s
back-end staff facilitated David’s work, explaining how to cover expiration dates on eligibility
documentation or alter a person’s name to get through the review process.
Beth, Alan, and David were not alone. Nathan used his own identification as well as a stolen
driver’s license to sign up for service at least 22 times.
Fred enrolled an undercover FCC employee in
the program even though the FCC employee had no identification or eligibility documentation.
sales agents used the address of a local homeless shelter to enroll hundreds of applicants multiple times.
In November 2014, the Universal Service Administrative Company was able to identify 32,498 intra-
company duplicate subscribers enrolled by over 800 Total Call Mobile sales agents.
And during that
same quarter, Total Call Mobile bypassed the National Lifeline Accountability Database’s internal
The names of all sales agents have been changed to protect their identity.
See Sales Agent B Exhibit; Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 37.
Temporary SNAP cards lack information identifying the cardholder.
See Sales Agent A Exhibit.
See Sales Agent D Exhibit.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at paras. 48–51, 96.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 43.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 45.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 17; TCM-EB-000000868.
2safeguards for 99.8% of its newly enrolled subscribers.
No wonder that Total Call Mobile’s own
employees described the company’s practices as fraud.
I agree with my colleagues that Total Call Mobile apparently and repeatedly violated federal law.
And I appreciate that my colleagues acceded to my request that we order Total Call Mobile to explain
why we should not suspend all Lifeline payments to the company, revoke its ability to participate in the
Lifeline program, and end its authorization to offer telephone service entirely.
But I am disappointed that we do not—and to some extent cannot—sanction Total Call Mobile
for all of its wrongful conduct. Even though USAC identified 32,498 intra-company duplicates, we
pursue only 2,587.
Even though we have evidence that Total Call Mobile bypassed federal safeguards
to enroll 99.8% of its subscribers, we hold the company liable for only 16%.
circumstances, our precedent suggests that a forfeiture of at least $84,295,910 would have been
Yet the Commission settles for something much less.
One reason: Even though USAC discovered the intra-company duplicates in November 2014 and
even though our investigation had largely concluded by mid-2015, the Chairman’s office kept this Notice
of Apparent Liability on hold until March 2016—long after the one-year statute of limitations had passed
for most of those apparent violations. Even then, Commissioners were told that the Notice of Apparent
Liability could not be released or publicly discussed until April 1, 2016, conveniently one day after the
Commission was scheduled to expand the Lifeline program to broadband. That’s not right.
Another: The Notice of Apparent Liability repeatedly gives Total Call Mobile the benefit of the
doubt. For example, it treats less than 10% of Total Call Mobile’s subscribers as likely ineligible when
we have evidence that up to 99.8% were. Using that metric of likely ineligibility (one Total Call Mobile
refused to rebut by withholding information in response to Commission subpoenas
) would yield a
forfeiture amount of roughly $84 million, in line with what we should have proposed two years ago.
Instead, the Commission proposes a forfeiture of only $51,070,322,
which is not even a third
more than the $38,933,139 that Total Call Mobile has collected from the Universal Service Fund since its
misdeeds were exposed by USAC. That’s hardly the type of justice the American people deserve given
the sheer magnitude of misconduct at issue, and I accordingly dissent in part.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 27; Information on file in EB-IHD-14-00017650.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 102.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 95.
See Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 97.
Conservatively assuming that one out of every two intra-company duplicates was an eligible, non-duplicate
subscriber, the forfeiture would be at least 16,249 x $5,000 + 16,249 x $9.25 x 3 + 130 x $20,000 = $84,295,910.
Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 68.
Notice of Apparent Liability at para. 103.