Free Markets, Free People

Federal Communications Commission

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?

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO