The U.S. government spent about $2.2 billion last year to provide phones to low-income Americans, but a Wall Street Journal review of the program shows that a large number of those who received the phones haven’t proved they are eligible to receive them.
The Lifeline program—begun in 1984 to ensure that poor people aren’t cut off from jobs, families and emergency services—is funded by charges that appear on the monthly bills of every landline and wireless-phone customer. Payouts under the program have shot up from $819 million in 2008, as more wireless carriers have persuaded regulators to let them offer the service.
Suspecting that many of the new subscribers were ineligible, the Federal Communications Commission tightened the rules last year and required carriers to verify that existing subscribers were eligible. The agency estimated 15% of users would be weeded out, but far more were dropped.
A review of five top recipients of Lifeline support conducted by the FCC for the Journal showed that 41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn’t demonstrate their eligibility or didn’t respond to requests for certification.
The program, which is administered by the nonprofit Universal Service Administrative Co., has grown rapidly as wireless carriers persuaded regulators to let people use the program for cellphone service. It pays carriers $9.25 a customer per month toward free or discounted wireless service.
Americans pay an average of $2.50 a month per household to fund a number of subsidized communications programs, including Lifeline.
Until last year, FCC rules didn’t require carriers to certify to the FCC that subscribers were eligible. Consumers could self-certify, and in many states documentation wasn’t required.
Carriers said many of the disqualified subscribers simply didn’t reply when asked to prove their eligibility. They also said the FCC rules on self-certification, and the absence of a national database of participants, made it hard to keep ineligible people from signing up.
No good deed goes unpunished? Nah. This was a BS idea from the get go. It would have been easier to allow a one time $40 charge on the EBT to get a phone, and then an extra $10/mo for purchasing minutes. At least that way the only people getting the phones would be those already on the dole. But wait; having to flash you EBT would almost be like asking for ID when you vote. Therefore it’s raaaacis!!
Lifeline started out as a program that enables the housebound to have basic landline phone service for 911 purposes. Like all government programs, it has expanded way beyond its original intent.
It would have been easier to never have extended such a program to cell phones in the first place.
One other ’unintended consequence‘ of the program is that recipients are gaming the system to get multiple cellphones and then sell them to drug dealers.
No wonder they’re called obamaphones…
I was constantly harassed by ‘customers’ who were expecting their Obamaphones yesterday. Then they had the gall to blame me if their phone got stolen. Unless they made other arrangements, I delivered packages to their door. Knocked. Hard. You ain’t home? Tough! Call the police. The only reason I wouldn’t leave it at your Section 8 apartment door is if I needed a signature.
Actually the original Lifeline program was for the poor elderly to have a landline phone and every few years, they added a new category until at the end (remember that was a Democrat Congress) of the Bush Administration they came up with moving into cell phones, it was just Obama who in March 2012 just before his re-election vote started advertising the program to increase the number of people on it.
And wasn’t it one of the big o’s promises to search out and end - fraud, waste, abuse and redundancy to help reduce the debt by half by the end of his first term?
Next entry: Closing That Inconvenient Loophole, Part One
Previous entry: Sweden, where stupidity is understood as brilliance.