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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 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
quote:
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.


Bullshit.


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!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide


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:
http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/26/technology/mobile/...
http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2012/...

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
quote:
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?

quote:
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
quote:
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.


"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings











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