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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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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.

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