Free Markets, Free People

A Federal program that provides free cell phones is being abused? Go figure …

I know, I know … it’s just so unusual, right?

What if you could get a free phone with a calling plan whose cost was paid by the federal government? What if you could have eight free cell phones? You can, and people do, Rep. Tim Griffin told The Daily Caller. The annual bill runs over $1 billion, and he’s trying to stop it.

The federal government started the Lifeline program to provide phones to low-income Americans. It originally provided only landlines, but cell phones were added several years ago.

“That’s when the program absolutely exploded and has become a nightmare,” Griffin said in a phone interview with TheDC. Calling it “Uncle Sam’s unlimited plan,” the Arkansas Republican has proposed a bill that would scale back the program to its original form: landlines only.

“People are not only getting [one free cell phone], they’re getting multiples. There are reports of people getting 10, 20, 30 — just routinely getting more than one, selling them, storing them up, whatever,” Griffin said.

The phones come with 100 minutes or more of free air time.  And they’re not just basic models either, they’re smart phones, like that one you paid a couple of hundred dollars for along with the contract you are obligated to pay each month.

Silly you.  Playing by the rules and trying to make it on your own.  Ever wonder what that line on your bill that says “universal service fund” was all about?  Well, this is what its about.  Your government giving away cell phones with no apparent accountability and you paying for them.

And the companies filling the requests for these phones?  Much like what happened in the housing market, they’ve been given incentives by government to fill as many requests as they can.

This is an outgrowth of a program that was initiated to ensure that low-income people had a land line and access to emergency services.  Then came cell phones and somehow the yahoos in DC thought it was only “fair” (one supposes) to give those who qualify as low-income individuals access to them too (why, I’m not sure, if the intent was to have a point of access to emergency services, a land line serves that purpose).

The inevitable result is good old waste, fraud and abuse to the tune of a billion dollars a year – something for which government is justly famous.

Oh, and here’s my favorite part:

The Federal Communications Commission, the government agency that is in charge of Lifeline, has also called for an overhaul of the program to deal with fraud and abuse. The FCC’s proposed changes call for a database to keep track of who already has phones, to prevent any one person from gaming the system. The proposed overhaul would also institute “a one-per-household rule applicable to all providers in the program.”

Seriously?  Now they think they need a “database” of users?  Now?

Have they any idea of who has the phones now? 

And, most importantly, why wasn’t this done in the beginning?  You know, we do live in the computer/information age.  How hard would that have been?

Just another in a long line of well thought out, well run and efficient government programs.

Yeah, let’s campaign for even more, shall we?



Twitter: @McQandO

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17 Responses to A Federal program that provides free cell phones is being abused? Go figure …

  • AH! Part of Mitt Romeny’s War on Poor Women Cell Phone users!  Cell phones and net access are a right!

  • I read somewhere…a few years back…that something like 80% of the world’s population had cell phones.
    If really poor people can afford them, who in American could not?

  • And they’re not just basic models either, they’re smart phones, like that one you paid a couple of hundred dollars for along with the contract you are obligated to pay each month.
    You can get smartphones free-with-contract (heck, even an iPhone, now); they barely cost more (at the low end) than a feature-phone, so that doesn’t really bother me.
    Nor does the idea of – if one could keep it from being gamed easily– providing a cell rather than a land line, with the idea that it makes it a million times easier to arrange employment.
    (After all, with a mobile, one can respond while on the way to an interview or while doing any number of other things, rather than sitting at home waiting for calls. Plus, land lines aren’t free! It might even be cheaper to provide a cell.
    The stupid, stupid, stupid thing is that they haven’t been keeping track of recipients since day 1.)

  • But they’ll run healthcare WITHOUT A HITCH!

  • Okay, I can see a reason to help people get EMERGENCY phones, so they can dial 911, and if that’s the purpose why not just give them old cells sans calling plan? Those work to dial 911. I carry an obsolete, plan-less phone in each of my vehicles for that reason: emergency use.
    I’m sure they could get secondhand cells for pennies, or even free.
    Beyond that, they can do what I had to do when I couldn’t afford a phone: Do without. The idea of giving them calling plans on our dime is obscene. Kill this damn thing.

  • Didn’t Masta P have a movie about something like this? I think it was called “I got Da Hook up”

  • Right.  But every time someone suggests cutting expenses it involves laying off teachers, police and firefighters.

  • What I find most amusing is the ad at the top of this page that loaded up an offer for a free cell phone and minutes through  Very convenient for me to hop on the bandwagon.

  • Three words: drug deal phones.

  • Has anyone seen the TV commercials? The one that really sticks in my craw features a construction worker flaunting his taxpayer-provided phone: “Now I can tell my boss when I’ll be there!” He already has a freaking <i>job</i>, and yet I have to pay taxes so he can have a phone? Meanwhile, I never have to tell my boss when I’ll be at work. He already knows I show up an hour early to get more work done, because he knows I’m gunning for that promotion this year…so that I can get a salary boost and, um, pay more taxes.

    Bruce, you’re right. I’m silly.

    On a similar subject, I’m reminded of a true welfare queen. My family learned about this from her pissed-off sister. Supposedly it’s not possible (liberals tell us there’s no way to abuse the system, right?): this piece of work has gets $900 a month for each of her SEVEN children. She’s never worked a day in her life, and after having the last baby, she was finally “making” enough money to buy a big house and new Lincoln Navigator.

  • I have an old Nokia 6100(?). Every year I dump $100 into my T-Mobile prepay plan. It works very well.

  • what would jesus say about all of your complaints and would u say them in front of jesus?
    keep it moving!!!