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PUC: Fewer Phone Lines in Idaho Triggers Lower ITSAP Fee

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Among the numerous mysterious fees on your monthly phone bill is something called ITSAP, short for the Idaho Telecommunications Service Assistance Program. Designed in 1985, the program subsidizes phone service for low-income Idahoans—including many senior citizens—in order to have a landline for medical and other emergencies. Eligibility is verified by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

However, it turns out that a decreasing number of Idahoans either qualify or are seeking eligibility for the program. Additionally, the number of telephone lines to support the fund, both landline and wireless, is declining. In 2011, there were 512,672 landlines in Idaho. That number dropped to 427,065. What's more, for the first time, the number of wireless lines in Idaho is dropping—from 1,395,896 in 2013 to 1,329,112 in 2014.

In response, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission has decided to lower the ITSAP fee on most Idahoans' phone bills. The surcharge was once as high as 12 cents per month, but now the commission is lowering the fee to 1 cent per phone line per month, effective June 1. The commission says the 1 cent surcharge should be enough to provide adequate funding for ITSAP.