Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Use the links below to jump down to the desired category of FAQs.
FAQs about the Office of Public Counsel
Q. Who pays for the Office of Public Counsel?
A. Public Counsel is funded by general revenue. You do not pay for Public Counsel through your utility bill.
Q. Does the Public Counsel work for the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC)?
A. Absolutely not. The Office of Public Counsel is not accountable in any way to the FPSC and is independent of the FPSC.
Q. If the FPSC establishes a policy or rule, can the Public Counsel argue against that rule?
A. Yes. Under Florida law, the Public Counsel can urge any position which he or she deems to be in the public interest, whether consistent or inconsistent with positions previously adopted by the commission or the counties.
Q. Who does the Public Counsel work for?
A. The Public Counsel works for the Citizens of the State of Florida through the Joint Committee on Public Service Commission Oversight—a joint Committee of the Florida House and Senate.
Q. Is the Public Counsel the same as the Public Defender?
A. No. The Public Defender represents the criminally accused; the Public Counsel appears in utility cases.
Q. Under what statutory authority does the Office of Public Counsel exist?
A. Section 350.0611 of the Florida Statutes.
Q. Does the Public Counsel represent the citizens of Florida against all utilities?
A. No. The Public Counsel only represents citizens in utility cases over which the FPSC has jurisdiction. The FPSC has no jurisdiction over municipally (city or county) owned utilities and very little over electric cooperatives. Public Counsel authority is slightly different in water and wastewater utilities. If you have a question regarding Public Counsel authority in water and wastewater utilities, you should either click on the 'contact' button at the top of this page, or call us toll-free at 1-800-342-0222.
Q. I live in a county in which the FPSC has no water and wastewater jurisdiction. Does Public Counsel have authority in my county?
A. Yes. Public Counsel's authority in water and wastewater extends into counties where the FPSC has no jurisdiction.
Q. Can the Public Counsel appeal decisions of the FPSC?
A. Yes. Public Counsel can appeal decisions of the FPSC to the appellate courts of our state and sometimes does.
Q. My utility has asked the FPSC for a rate increase. How do I get the Public Counsel involved?
A. You should either click on the 'contact' button at the top of this page, or call us toll-free at 1-800-342-0222. The Public Counsel routinely intervenes in large utility cases. However, in smaller cases, especially in water and wastewater cases, Public Counsel involvement is upon the request of customers. If you believe the Public Counsel should become involved in ANY case, you should contact our office.
Q. What is the size of the Office of Public Counsel?
A. The Office of Public Counsel is currently composed of fifteen positions, six of which are experienced members of the Florida Bar. The office also includes legislative analysts who are experienced in utility matters, as well as administrative support staff.
Q. Does the Office of Public Counsel retain outside expertise?
A. Yes. The Office of Public Counsel occasionally retains expert analysis and testimony where the complexity of the case and resources justify.
Q. Where is the Office of Public Counsel located?
A. The office is in the Claude Pepper Building in Tallahassee.
Q. We would like the Public Counsel or a member of his or her team to appear before our civic association. How can we contact the Public Counsel for this purpose?
A. You should either use the contact form
on this site, or call us toll-free at 1-800-342-0222.
FAQs about the Lifeline Florida Programs
Q. What does 'LL' mean?
A. 'LL' as it is used in these FAQ's refers to the Lifeline program.
Q. What is the Lifeline program?
A. Lifeline is a program by which low-income households can apply to receive a credit on their monthly telephone bills. A credit means that you receive some help paying your telephone bill.
Q. Do I have to apply for a credit every month?
A. No. You have to apply no more than once a year. After that, you may be contacted by us or the telephone company to establish whether you are still eligible for Lifeline.
Q. I receive Food Assistance (SNAP) or other assistance from the government. How do I apply for Lifeline assistance?
A. If you participate in the Food Assistance program (SNAP), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing (Section 8), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans pension benefit or Survivor benefit or the Bureau of Indian Affairs Programs, you should apply through your telephone company for Lifeline assistance; or contact the Florida Public Service Commission at http://www.floridapsc.com/ConsumerAssistance/LifelineAssistance
. Also, make sure you read the next question below.
Q. I don't receive any assistance from the government, but I believe my income is lower than 135% of the federally established poverty level. How do I apply for an LL credit?
A. You send an application
to the Office of Public Counsel. You can also contact your telephone company to see if your company is voluntarily enrolling Lifeline applicants through the income eligibility test of 135% or less of the federal poverty income guidelines.
Q. I just got a letter from your office saying that I have qualified for LL. Should I call the telephone company now that I have been approved for the LL credit?
A. No, the Office of Public Counsel will inform your telephone company of your eligibility to receive the LL credit.
Q. How long before I see the credit on my phone bill?
A. You should see the credits on your bill within 30 to 60 days.
Q. Are retirement/nursing home/assisted living households eligible for LL?
A. Yes, if the resident is head of household and has telephone service in their name.
Q. My parent or child has a telephone in their room and the service is in their name. Are they eligible for LL?
A. No, the parent or child is not head of the household.
Q. How do I document my income?
A. Any official document that shows your current household income is acceptable. A complete list of acceptable documents is on the Lifeline page
. You need to submit ONE of the acceptable documents, however, please send us only what applies to you and it must be current for ALL members receiving income in the household.
Q. Do prepaid telephone service providers participate in the LL program?
A. The following prepaid service providers currently participate in the LL program: Tracfone (Safelink Wireless Program) and Virgin Mobile (Assurance Wireless Program).
Q. What telephone companies currently participate in the LL program?
A. Current participants in this program are:
- Cox Communications
- FairPoint Communications
- Frontier Communications
- Global Connections Inc. of America
- ITS Telecommunications
- Phone Club Corporation
- SafeLink Wireless/TracFone
- Smart City Telecom
- TDS Telecom – Lifeline
- Tele Circuit Network
- T-Mobile South
- Virgin Mobile d/b/a Assurance Wireless
- Windstream Florida
- Wow!-Bay County
- Wow!-Pinellas County
Some other providers do have low income programs of their own, so if you are not served by one of the companies listed above, check with your provider.
Q. I qualify for LL but I have an unpaid bill with the telephone company. What should I do?
A. The telephone company can require you to make payments on the local part of the unpaid bill. If you have not paid for your long distance charges, you may need to have your long distance calling blocked (“toll-blocking”)..
Q. I have a calling plan. Can I still receive LL credit?
A. It depends on the calling plan. Some calling plans will disqualify you for LL. You should determine whether a plan is eligible for LL BEFORE you sign up for it. Ask your telephone company what programs are available with LL.
Q. Are cellular telephone customers eligible for LL?
A. Yes, but not all cellular companies participate in the program. Check with your service provider.
Q. If I have a free cell phone through Safelink or Assurance Wireless or if I have LL credit on a cellular phone with T-Mobile or any other cellular company, may I apply for LL on my home telephone?
A. No. If you or anyone who lives in the household currently receives Lifeline benefits through any of the following programs: Safelink Wireless, Assurance Wireless, T-Mobile or any other wireless company, you must contact those companies to cancel your benefits BEFORE applying for Lifeline on your home telephone. Households are eligible to receive only ONE Lifeline benefit. If you have any questions regarding this requirement, please contact our office at 1-800-540-7039.”
Q. The phone is in my deceased spouse's name. Do I have to put the service in my name?
A. Yes. You will have to contact the telephone company to have your name added to the account at no charge. You can request that the telephone number remain listed under your deceased spouse's name if you wish.
Q. I understand that I may be eligible for LL if my income is less than 135% of the U.S. poverty guidelines. What are these guidelines?
A. Consult the table of U.S. Poverty Guidelines is on the Lifeline page
Q. Does income mean Gross or Net?
A. Gross, including any social security benefits
Q. We live off of investment income which totals less than the annual income criteria for a two-person household. Are we still eligible for Lifeline?
A. Yes, if it is the total household income from all sources.
Q. How are assets counted in my eligibility?
A. They are not counted. Income generated or earned from assets is counted, Assets are not.
Q. Why must I have a telephone plan with features I cannot use and do not need?
A. You don't. Lifeline is a reduction in the local basic service charge. Basic service does not require you to purchase additional features. You can get LL without features, such as “call-waiting, call-forwarding, etc…
Q. Are minor children receiving Social Security or other benefits eligible for LL?
A. No. Minor children are not heads of household. Only the head of household is eligible for LL credit. Note that if minor children in the household receive Social Security, child support or any other monetary benefits, it will count towards the total income of the household.
Q. Can I keep my call waiting and call forwarding, etc. if I apply for LL?
A. It depends on whether or not you have subscribed to a discounted package, calling plan or bundled service that affects your right to LL. ALWAYS ask your telephone company whether any service you purchase will affect your right to receive LL, BEFORE you sign up for the plan!
Q. If I get LL, can I still make long distance calls?
A. Yes, you may still make long distance calls. LL does not affect your ability to make local or long distance calls. LL is only a reduction in the local basic service charge. Once again, if you have an outstanding long distance bill with your telephone company, your long distance may be blocked until the bill is paid off.
Q. I am a student; my income is loans, grants, and scholarships. Am I eligible for LL?
A. Yes, if you are an independent student. If you can be claimed as a dependent on your parent's income tax return, you would not be eligible for LL. Remember that in order to qualify for LL, you must be a head of household.
Q. If I use a post office box as a mailing address, do I need to put the physical address of the telephone on the application?
Q. Does applying for LL enroll me in other programs for low-income households?