Citing escalating costs, waste and fraud, Congress should eliminate the wireless service nicknamed “Obama-phone,” a Florida lawmaker tells Newsmax.
“I believe we need to unplug the phones,” Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan said.
The Stop Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act is gaining momentum in the House, and now has nearly 50 co-sponsors. Buchanan said that it is especially appropriate to deactivate the program in light of current austerity measures in Washington, including recent cutbacks at the Federal Aviation Administration that Congress is working to restore.
“We’re going to be very aggressive in getting this bill passed,” Buchanan said. “It defies common sense that we’re giving away millions of free cell phones at the same time the federal government is threatening to ground planes nationwide.”
The original “Lifeline Program” was established in 1984 to subsidize landline phone service for low-income individuals in the event of an emergency, according to Buchanan’s office. It was dubbed “Obama-phone” during the 2012 election after a woman who was praising the program referred to it that way.
In 2008, the Lifeline Program was expanded to include wireless service providers. Between 2008 and 2009, non-landline costs for the program doubled — from $143 million to $384 million — and has sky-rocketed ever since, totaling over $719 million in 2010, $1.215 billion in 2011, and $1.744 billion in 2012.
The FCC itself has recognized that the program needs to be reformed and modernized.
“While Lifeline since 1985 has helped tens of millions of low-income Americans afford basic phone service – providing some of our most vulnerable citizens a communications lifeline to jobs, family, emergency services and more — the program rules we inherited were designed for the age of the rotary phone and failed to protect the program from abuse,” Julie Veach, chief of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, said in a recent statement.
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