So if you missed the Free Obama Phone lady that hit the web yesterday, IR posted RealFreedom1776's Youtube Thursday morning when it had less than 400 views. Friday, after being featured on several cable network political shows, the Free Obama phone Youtube is trending and registering 1,078,434 views.
But there's one place not so happy about the negative exposure "free" cell phones is getting. A website, www.freegovernmentcellphones4u.com says that woman's free phone isn't really an Obama Phone. The website says the $1.6 Billion free phone program, which started in the 1980s and was updated in the mid 90s, now has 12 million users taking advantage of the Lifeline Assistance Program that dates back to the Clinton Administration.
Lifeline Assistance is funded by telecom companies, which in turn charge their customers what is known as the Universal Service Fee. The telephone tax was first set into effect with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 - when Bill Clinton was president.
So, indeed, what this lady credits to Barack Obama he does not provide nor did he initiate. The website says (rather defensively, we'd note):
The program as it is known today was created by an act of Congress, the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Earlier versions of the act were in operation as early as 1980s. So as you can see, the Obama administration had nothing to do with the enactment of the Universal Service Fund.
And the rationale:
The intent of these programs is to insure that anyone, regardless of income, has access to telephone services to stay in contact with family members, make emergency calls, and communicate with employers.
But unlike the Obama Phone lady claims, you really don't have to be that bad off to get a "free government phone"- paid for by paying cell phone subscribers -you know, the 53%??
Lifeline Assistance programs are not just for Welfare recipients... Eligibility criteria differs from state to state, but generally applicants can qualify if their total household income is below 135%-150% of the Federal Poverty Limit or if they participate in certain government assistance programs, such as Medicaid, Section 8, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), or the National School Lunch’s Free Lunch Program.
But recently, Congress figured out the the free phone service was being abused. When U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (MO) got an application for a free government paid phone (doesn't she have one at her office anyway?) she launched an investigation which led to more regulations.At the senator’s urging, the website says, the Federal Communication Committee (FCC), which oversees the Lifeline program, is making significant changes to the way the program will be overseen.
These changes, in part, will include:
- The creation of a National Lifeline Accountability Database. This database will keep a record of all customers of the Lifeline Program, so that customers cannot apply under separate carriers to obtain additional phones.
- The creation of eligibility databases with data supplied from federal benefit programs. This database will allow the wireless companies operating under the Lifeline program to automatically determine initial and ongoing eligibility of their customers. Previously, customers in some states were told to certify annually whether they were still eligible for the program.
- Establishing and enforcing a one-per-household rule. This will not apply to separate families living at the same address. Customers with more than one account will be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties.
- Companies will also be required to close the accounts of Lifeline customers which have been inactive for 60 days.
It is expected that the changes to these programs will save over $200 million in 2012 and up to $2 billion over the course of three years, by eliminating users who don’t qualify and those who have multiple phones.
So when the Obama Administration pushes away from the claims the Obama Phone woman makes, they're right - but the fact is that those phones aren't "free," they're not paid for by "the government," but the taxpaying Americans that also pay for their own cell phones.
The Obama Phone lady simply put a face to the 47% entitlement faction of America Mitt Romney described in the video Mother Jones rolled out - and the fact that those folks really exist is the real tragedy of the Obama Phone lady.