Print 73 comment(s) - last by LordanSS.. on Feb 14 at 6:34 PM

Carriers say most people drop simply didn't respond to requests

The United States government has collected a tax on phone lines under the Lifeline program that began back in 1984. The purpose of this tax was to provide phone service for people who were unable to afford it on their own to ensure that these people weren't cut off from emergency services, jobs, or family. Every American citizen who has a phone line has paid into this Lifeline program.

Payouts in the program in 2008 amounted to $819 million. In 2012, the U.S. government spent $2.2 billion providing free phone service to low-income Americans.
In an effort to squash government waste, the FCC believed that many of the Americans who were claiming the free phone service were not eligible so it tightened the rules last year forcing carriers to verify that existing subscribers were in fact eligible.

The Wall Street Journal reports that far more subscribers to the program were dropped than expected. A review has shown that the top five carrier recipients of Lifeline support had a total of 41% of over 6 million subscribers that couldn't demonstrate their eligibility or simply didn't respond to requests for certification.

These top five carriers were AT&T, Telrite Corp, Tag Mobile USA, Verizon, and Virgin Mobile. Together these carriers account for 34% of all Lifeline subscribers as of May 2012. The Lifeline program is open to subscribers that meet the federal poverty guidelines, are on food stamps, Medicaid, or other assistance programs.

Previous program rules allowed consumers to certify themselves for free phone service without having to prove they met federal poverty guidelines.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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By Rukkian on 2/13/2013 10:37:22 AM , Rating: 5
This is one of those entitlement programs that should be gone. I could see maybe giving a dumb phone with say e911 and maybe 150 mins a month if a cell phone was even needed, but it is ridiculous to hand out phones with texting/internet for free. Internet is available at pretty much every library in the country, and is not needed on a phone if you cannot afford it. Texting is by no means mandatory for anybody.

This is just one more example of government waste in action.

RE: Nonsense
By Motoman on 2/13/13, Rating: 0
RE: Nonsense
By DanNeely on 2/13/2013 11:36:22 AM , Rating: 2
The same's true of bulk cellular access. At most they'd be paying the same as low end MVNOs; and the ones that don't do any sort of device subsidizing can afford to sell minutes for a few pennies each.


At this point I suspect a free landline program would be near useless since most of the (non-elderly) people who are eligible wouldn't take one even if offered; and even if they did take it would still spend $10/month for a cheapo pre-paid phone defeating the programs purpose.

RE: Nonsense
By Motoman on 2/13/2013 3:49:48 PM , Rating: 4
The problem with that is you still have to buy the cellphone itself...contrary to people's perceptions, cell phones aren't free.

Meanwhile, the cheap-but-usable $5 landline phone at Walmart can probably be had for $1 apiece to the government.

And if younger poverty-stricken people turn their nose up at a free landline, then f%ck 'em. You're poor. You know what they say about beggars and choosers.

IMHO if you've got any money at all to spend monthly on a cell phone, you're not in poverty. Because if you were, that would be the last thing you'd spend money on.

RE: Nonsense
By notathome on 2/13/2013 5:52:11 PM , Rating: 3
I totally agree with everything motoman has said. Nothing is free. If you are poor, you get the bottom line. That's a land line. If you can afford the luxury of a cell phone, buy it yourself.

RE: Nonsense
By Reclaimer77 on 2/13/2013 6:06:40 PM , Rating: 4
True "poverty" basically doesn't exist in America as a national issue. A stunning testament to America's capitalist system, "poverty" in America has been re-defined to mean people with roofs over their heads, three meals a day, a vehicle and all the creature comforts one would expect. That's "poverty" here.

I remember living in New Orleans and I had a friend from Brazil. He was living in what is called a "housing project", trust me, a place nobody wants to end up. But what was amazing to me is that he had NO concept of this. To him he was living in a really nice apartment with clean running water, central air and heat, electricity etc etc. Things we totally take for granted. You see "poverty" in Brazil means your ass is out on the street starving in a corner somewhere so nobody kicks your teeth in.

RE: Nonsense
By toyotabedzrock on 2/14/2013 1:13:27 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah it does, but that is ok keep fooling yourself. When they rob you I don't wanna hear you wine.

RE: Nonsense
By LordanSS on 2/14/2013 6:34:13 PM , Rating: 3
I'm from Brazil. I'll give you a couple examples. Poverty here varies depending on the region you're in.

Extreme poverty, Northeast region (semi-arid):

Poverty in Rio de Janeiro, a "favela":

Both are extremes of poverty here in Rio. First doesn't even have running water, no energy, nothing at all. Just a "roof" over their heads. The other has a couple more services, like electricity and water (many times stolen from the mains, tho). Some might even have cable TV but, again, most of the time is stolen signal.

So, indeed. Poverty in Brazil and poverty in the US are very, very different things.

RE: Nonsense
By NellyFromMA on 2/13/2013 1:11:00 PM , Rating: 2
The gov finds it convenient to have these people on gps trackers which is more important to them than their having access to a phone line at all seeing as they are the most likely to commit larceny or thefts as opposed to middle and upper class. Better to have the option than to not, plus this way you don't have the pre-paid problem where they can't ID the actual user because no name is verified or sometimes required to activate the line.

On that note, its ridiculous and just another example of waste that our government actually refuses to even assess. Amazing.

RE: Nonsense
By Noonecares on 2/13/2013 7:23:16 PM , Rating: 2
Larceny and theft you say. Crime doesn't pay says McGruff, but it pays when you get too big to fail. Besides I am sure it was the poor who caused the real estate crash...How many of those people involved with that went to jail? Where were Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Why didn't that teacher in Conn use proper gun safety and storing measures, when she knew her kid was quite 'special'? But it wasn't their fault at all. Blame it on Saddam, Al Queada, assault rifles, and the poor. Welcome to the blame game. You are winning.

RE: Nonsense
By Reclaimer77 on 2/13/2013 7:46:07 PM , Rating: 2
Besides I am sure it was the poor who caused the real estate crash

They sure didn't help. Maybe if you're making $20k a year and you sign on a loan for a $300k house, you should ask yourself if you can actually afford it? Just a thought...

RE: Nonsense
By Noonecares on 2/13/2013 8:08:01 PM , Rating: 1
That is true. But the banks had a system where it shouldn't approve those people in the first place. Maybe we need to add a class to grade school. Money management skills or something similar.

RE: Nonsense
By BifurcatedBoat on 2/14/2013 4:03:15 PM , Rating: 4
They did have a system ...and then laws were passed so they couldn't use it. "Everybody deserves a home", said Clinton.

RE: Nonsense
By Jeffk464 on 2/13/13, Rating: 0
RE: Nonsense
By Reclaimer77 on 2/14/2013 12:03:18 AM , Rating: 3
Right it's "fraud" that banks were basically forced by the Government to make unwise loans, because it was "racist" to deny loans to people who probably couldn't pay them off. Nice spin lol.

Oh if you don't believe the banks were forced, umm yeah, Google is your friend. "Obama sued Citibank" is a good start.

I guess the truth is fluid though. If you deny a loan, it's "discrimination". If you make the loan and things go bad, it's "fraud".

RE: Nonsense
By insurgent on 2/14/2013 2:29:43 AM , Rating: 2
Google is your friend. "Obama sued Citibank" is a good start.

This was the top link:

RE: Nonsense
By Mint on 2/14/2013 4:43:45 AM , Rating: 2
This is DailyTech, where facts don't matter and any post scapegoating Obama gets rec'd.

From your link:
Specifically, the lawsuit charged that Citibank "rejected loan applications of minority applicants while approving loan applications filed by white applicants with similar financial characteristics and credit histories. "

Yeah, what a commie.

RE: Nonsense
By Noya on 2/13/2013 9:18:15 PM , Rating: 1
I couldn't have said it better...thumbs up.

RE: Nonsense
By Jeffk464 on 2/13/2013 9:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
gov finds it convenient to have these people on gps trackers

ah man you beat me to it, it wouldn't surprise me if this is the reason.

RE: Nonsense
By Mint on 2/13/13, Rating: -1
RE: Nonsense
By NellyFromMA on 2/13/2013 1:13:06 PM , Rating: 3
LOL, you're griping over the one part of his comment that specifically addresses texting. Swap out that whole section altogether. The same thing applies. We subsidize someone elses luxury, NOT NECESSITY.

Is your point that tax payers paying for people on assistance to have cell phones is ok if its minutes only? Does that fundementally change the conversation? What is your point even?

RE: Nonsense
By Mint on 2/13/2013 2:38:45 PM , Rating: 2
Rukkian is okay with limited minutes, but has an issue with internet and texting. The minutes part I agree with. The internet part is false, AFAICS. The texting part is basically free. I therefore addressed his entire comment, not one part.

The point of my post is that if you're okay with 150 min, then I don't see why you're not okay with one extra minute equivalent (if even that) for the couple hundred free texts or whatever.

Suppose they get 300 free texts/mo, which is maybe 100kb after overhead. That's what, $0.10-0.20 of wireless bandwidth on low-use data plans (which in turn have rates 100x as high as monthly plans)?

RE: Nonsense
By SPOOFE on 2/13/2013 8:08:00 PM , Rating: 2
Text messages are carried over the same signals cell phones use to maintain contact with local towers, which is why there's a fairly small character limit. It doesn't cost anything other than the usual overhead of maintaining cell phone coverage.

Of course, I don't blame anybody for not knowing that, because it used to be that they'd charge you for texts, which is a total rip-off (see "doesn't cost anything other than the usual overhead").

RE: Nonsense
By JPForums on 2/14/2013 9:46:27 AM , Rating: 2
The texting part is basically free.
I think what you mean is the texting part should be free. It is an insignificant amount of data and is piggybacked on the tower maintenance signals. However, the truth is that it is not free. Lets take a look at two of the top five carriers involved in lifeline support: AT&T and Verizon (because they are well known).
AT&T offers two plans $20 unlimited and $.20 per message.
Verizon's lowest cost plan is $10 for 500 out of network texts.
While 300 free texts/mo may cost almost nothing to the carrier, the cheapest way to get there on Verizon is $10. On AT&T you're looking at at least $20.

Now I'm not sure exactly where these two rank on the list as there is no given ranking, but that's pretty expensive for two of the top five. If for some reason the government gets this for free or near so, then they should really be launching investigations to find out how these companies justify charging these prices to regular customers and end the pricing collusion.

RE: Nonsense
By DanNeely on 2/13/2013 11:31:11 AM , Rating: 3
At this point a phone *without* texting would be a custom design and more expensive than just buying up leftovers of a carriers previous free on contract feature phone was. One of the companies promoting this service sends me, or rather 'current resident', junkmail about the program a few times a year; and the phone they were offering was either a cheapo candybar or flipphone model; not a smartphone of any sort.

RE: Nonsense
By GulWestfale on 2/13/13, Rating: -1
RE: Nonsense
By MadMan007 on 2/13/2013 12:58:15 PM , Rating: 2
There are numerous federal and state programs that are self-certifying. If someone knowingly provides false information, it's a criminal offense, obviously that doesn't stop people though. The alternative is to add cost by requiring certification, where the balance lies between reducing fraud and added certification cost is the key to knowing which is better.

RE: Nonsense
By GulWestfale on 2/13/2013 2:40:47 PM , Rating: 2
but doesn't the government already know who is poor, after all they're the same people who mail out welfare checks?

RE: Nonsense
By DanNeely on 2/13/2013 3:39:51 PM , Rating: 2
Welfare is only available to parents of minor children. The unemployed, people working part time or at low paying jobs, or people who are retired without any savings could also fall below that threshold.

The closest thing to a complete record set I think the feds have is tax records; and even those would miss someone who didn't file because they had no income during the past year.

RE: Nonsense
By BaronMatrix on 2/13/2013 5:59:52 PM , Rating: 2
There are feature phones that are only phones with an ARM chip...


RE: Nonsense
By Samus on 2/13/2013 12:26:36 PM , Rating: 5
This is an excellent, albeit abused, program. The author is completely misinformed and the whole thing is blown completely out of proportion.

The phones don't come with unlimited anything. None of them have data, and only AT&T phones have text. My wife is a social worker that signs people up for these types of programs, people in poverty that need a contact number for callback interviews, paying utility bills, etc. A phone number is required for just about everything these days from a bank account to a job application.

I have the lifeline application in front of me, in paper, on my desk, and it defines someone who qualifies as having an income under $14,000, and the phone, a Samsung M370 or equivilent, will include "250 monthly minutes of talk time provided by Verizon Wireless in the following regions....and AT&T in the following regions...."

No data, no text, not even very many minutes. The program costs the government $20 per subscriber per month. Considering Link cards are filled with $100-$200 per month, this is really a non-argument monetarily if it results in somebody getting a job or into college because they were able to receive the phone call.

But this being Dailytech, I'm sure nobody is fond of the Link program either. After all, people don't need to eat, right?

Some of you guys are Nazi's. You don't at all understand the challenging problems associated with providing for the impoverishment and lifting them out of their situations, many of whom have mental illness that the government doesn't provide necessary, inexpensive care. Many of them are in their situations BECAUSE of the local governments displacing them, racism, sexism, or other social issues that could have been prevented.

RE: Nonsense
By Dr of crap on 2/13/2013 1:01:31 PM , Rating: 2
I don't have a problem providing for those that NEED it. But as stated all that had to happen prior was to say that you qualified. REALLY? That's our govt. Can't get even a simple basic thing right. And this is the kind of thing that causes us on DT, and all over, to be against this kind of free services.
I'm on the fence with this one, landline yea, cell service, don't know. But does our govt have to fund sex reappointment surgery? Sad but they do. And that kind of thing also has a majority against free handouts. TOO many people don't TRY becauae our govt hands out money and goods too easily.
There needs to be more involvement in those that receive the funds, then just waiting for the govt to step in and hand out what they need, and more.

But then again, donkeys will fly before that happens. Can't get re-elected if you cut program access to anyone!

RE: Nonsense
By FITCamaro on 2/13/2013 1:16:07 PM , Rating: 3
Many of them are in their situations BECAUSE of the local governments displacing them, racism, sexism, or other social issues that could have been prevented.


RE: Nonsense
By BaronMatrix on 2/13/13, Rating: 0
RE: Nonsense
By TSS on 2/14/2013 3:57:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah! Governments do no wrong!

RE: Nonsense
By bh192012 on 2/13/2013 1:31:01 PM , Rating: 3
But you're proving the wrong point here. $20 a month for 250 minutes is ridiculous for basic government subsidized cell phone service.

As a regular person I can get 250 minutes, 250 txt and 10MB data for $12 a month from Page Plus. I would think a large government contract could get that down to $10 a month. But instead of shopping/bidding they said thanks for the donation, and here's some money big cell companies.

Why pay double for a program? That's before they trim the fat the way they just did. Almost every stupid government program is run like this! They have more than enough revenue, they just blow it cuz they can.

RE: Nonsense
By Mint on 2/13/2013 2:55:23 PM , Rating: 2
Contracts are always written for fixed terms, so $20/month is probably old.

Recent articles peg it at $9.25-$10/mo:

That's right in line with your expectations, but of course it's a lot more fun to assume that the gov't is wasting money by paying double, isn't it...

RE: Nonsense
By bh192012 on 2/13/2013 4:56:33 PM , Rating: 2
See the 41% reduction mentioned above? So even if they are only paying 10$ a month, up to that point it still cost double what it should.

RE: Nonsense
By Rukkian on 2/13/2013 3:03:12 PM , Rating: 1
If it is only 250 minutes with no text and no data, then I have less of a problem with the whole thing, but there was a program that was at least proposed to give texting and what I thought was some data. Maybe it never went through, maybe it was in some bizarre dream.

I still dont see why you would need a cell phone for this, especially at $20/person/month. That seems like alot of money. There are plenty of people with jobs that either dont want a cell phone, or feel it is not necessary.

What would be wrong with using some VOIP with a voicemail account and setup some small "phone booths" at libraries, or shelters? This would have be less than the amount this program would cost.

Maybe it is being calloused, but I still do not see a reason somebody "needs" a cell phone. There are plenty of resources out there if somebody wants to get a job.

I am not saying my option is the best, or even better, just that it seems ridiculous to be providing cell phones to people.

RE: Nonsense
By Mint on 2/14/2013 5:00:15 AM , Rating: 2
Some providers give X free texts because texting costs them almost nothing.

It's not $20/person/month. It's half that, and similar to the landline subsidy (while also avoiding the installation subsidy). I know it's hard for you to believe, but for low usage, cell phones are actually cheaper than landlines.

Communication is a basic need. If an employer can't contact someone reliably, they'll hire someone marginally less productive but much more responsive because he has a phone.

RE: Nonsense
By Reclaimer77 on 2/13/2013 5:13:06 PM , Rating: 2
Some of you guys are Nazi's. You don't at all understand the challenging problems associated with providing for the impoverishment and lifting them out of their situations, many of whom have mental illness that the government doesn't provide necessary, inexpensive care. Many of them are in their situations BECAUSE of the local governments displacing them, racism, sexism, or other social issues that could have been prevented.

Yeeeah and nothing helps those issues more than a cellphone let me tell you.

Oh and Nazi's? Really, did you just go there?

My wife is a social worker that signs people up for these types of programs, people in poverty that need a contact number for callback interviews, paying utility bills, etc.

Yes so clearly you're totally impartial on this topic...

I guess if I'm a Nazi than your wife is a .... nvm, I'll take the high road this time.

RE: Nonsense
By 91TTZ on 2/13/2013 9:40:09 PM , Rating: 1
Some of you guys are Nazi's.

Oh stop it with the tired Nazi references. They just disagree with you. That's it. It doesn't make them Nazis.

RE: Nonsense
By mikeyD95125 on 2/14/2013 3:55:28 AM , Rating: 2
Sadly this Nazi reference might actually be appropriate, because Reclaimer, FITCamaro, and others on this forum support a kind of capitalism that taken to its logical conclusion, necessarily leads to corporate Fascism.

RE: Nonsense
By marvdmartian on 2/13/2013 3:15:58 PM , Rating: 2
But how else can they buy votes, than by giving away phones with service??

RE: Nonsense
By BaronMatrix on 2/13/2013 5:40:32 PM , Rating: 2
It's just a little abuse... All you get is a cheap phone with some minutes... 70 minutes...

People who need no help make me sick forgetting things weren't always so rosy UNLESS YOU GOT LUCKY...

RE: Nonsense
By Reclaimer77 on 2/13/2013 5:49:05 PM , Rating: 2

Yup just another poor "unlucky" person, looking hard for a job.

RE: Nonsense
By KOOLTIME on 2/13/2013 8:55:43 PM , Rating: 2
I think they government should have a yearly renewable registration card. They control the card each year being valid for the year and folks can just use the card to register each annually for food stamps medical phone and other services for low income or disabled persons.

A 1 stop registration process for a card, and then use that card for the intended registration at those services.

If they do it yearly on the card expiration, then its always up to date for the most part, based on folks taxes they filed for qualifications.

RE: Nonsense
By Wolfpup on 2/14/2013 11:16:29 AM , Rating: 2
This article makes this sound like a GOOD thing. If this was how it actually worked, I'd totally support it. But in reality, after jumping through hoops, carriers just give some terrible plan that's no better than what they give everyone else (and often worse). If they're actually getting government money for it, we're getting scammed, but in principle I like the idea of providing basic services like this.

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