The FCC proposed a $62 million fine against Q Link Wireless LLC for apparently violating the agency’s rules governing Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program reimbursements. In a Notice of Apparent Liability, the Enforcement Bureau alleges the carrier incorrectly claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in EBB support through the EBB reimbursement program.
Q Link Wireless is a limited liability company organized in Delaware and based in Dania Beach, FL. Q Link is a telecommunications carrier that has provided wireless Lifeline service on a resale basis since 2012, operating in 31 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the EBB Program, Congress and the Commission imposed several restrictions and requirements on participating providers. Among other things, reimbursement claims for connected devices are limited to the market value for the provided device, less a required co-pay.
The bureau says Q Link allegedly claimed $20.7 million in support above market value for customer devices from the EBB Program between December 2021 and March 2022. Internet-connected devices and “hundreds of thousands of computer tablets” were involved, according to the Commission.
“Q Link failed to cooperate with the Bureau’s investigation,” said the agency, which obtained a subpoena from Q Link’s supplier for device information. The FCC considers the case serious, hence the high fine. It says the telecom’s apparent claimed reimbursement prevented those funds from being used for other eligible households.
The FCC ordered Q Link to respond within 30 days to the NAL, explaining why it should not be removed from the reimbursement program and/or why its Commission authorizations should not be revoked. The telecom can seek a reduction or cancellation of the fine.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief