It is part of a 1990 FCC mandated program to provide discounted or free telephone service to income-eligible consumers. It was expanded a few years ago to include cell phones.
And not just any cell phone.
A Lifeline cell phone isn’t a cheap wireless phone or a discounted model. These are recent models, fully featured cell phones, backed by prominent mobile phone companies.
In addition to the phone, which comes with voice mail, call waiting and caller ID, you will typically get up to 250 minutes of airtime per month… In addition, most companies offer the ability to send and receive text messages.
Here is how it works. There is a little item on your phone bill called the Federal Universal Service Fund (usually a percentage of your phone bill) that pays for the program. Check it out. The FCC web page rather hilariously states, “The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs.” Only a government bureaucrat would believe that the cost of their mandate would not be passed on to consumers.
To qualify it is necessary to provide proof of participation in other State or Federal assistance programs such as Federal Public Housing Assistance, Food Stamps and Medicaid.
An observation from the 2010 Index of Dependence published annually by the Heritage Foundation explains how damaging piling entitlement upon entitlement is to the body politic: “…no matter how well-meaning policymakers might have been when they created government aid programs like Medicare, unemployment insurance, and subsidized housing, these same programs quickly grow beyond their mission and turn into a mechanism that creates and sustains a never-ending cycle of dependence—and entitlement thinking.”
Paying for people’s cell phones is a textbook example of a program that has grown beyond its mission. The entitlement thinking is on display at every “occupied” site.
We have truly stepped through the looking glass into an alternate universe when luxuries become necessities.