In an article entitled PUC set to OK free phones for homeless, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, “Homeless and other poor people in California are on track to soon get virtually free cell phones and service so they can keep in touch with family, potential employers and others crucial to improving their lives.”
The cell phones will be distributed via the “federally funded Lifeline program,” run by Assurance Wireless, which is already operational in 36 other states and is set to get the green light to hand out the phones by the California Public Utilities Commission.
“Until now, California’s PUC rules only authorized Lifeline service for “wireline” phones, meaning traditional phones wired into residences – and those rules didn’t authorize anything for free,” states the article.
Indeed, discounts under the previous incarnation of the program were only up to $10 dollars a month and only applied to land lines.
Under the new program, the customer will have to pay an initial $20 fee to receive the cellphone but will then be immediately rolled into the Lifeline plan that will give them 250 free minutes of talk time and 250 free text messages per month. The $20 fee is then refunded as a credit that can be spent on extra talk time and texts, meaning the program is virtually free for the user.
As FactCheck highlights, “Lifeline is funded by telecom customers who pay a universal service fee as part of their phone bills,” a charge some have complained represents a tax. Given that the majority of people who actually pay for their own cellphone service are likely to be working Americans who pay taxes, characterizing the ‘Obama phone’ program as taxpayer-funded is by no means a stretch.
Rest assured, now that the free ‘Obama phone’ program has been extended to cellphones, that “tax” may be getting a whole lot steeper should a rush of welfare recipients seek to obtain their complimentary cellphone.