Commissioner makes stunning announcement of how program is losing nearly half a billion dollars annually to fraud!
In a letter Wednesday, top Republican Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission expressed concern about the JCC’s Universal Service Fund, a program that provides a $9.95 monthly subsidy for telecom service to low-income people. The program’s website states, “More than 20 million Americans have already received a free Obama Phone and get 250 free cell phone minutes every month.”
The program is supposed to be limited to one phone “per independent economic household.” However, that restriction can be overridden if applicants simply check a box stating that they represent a “different household”, even if they have the same address.
Pai warned that information obtained by the FCC last month showed carriers have enrolled nearly 4.3 MILLION subscribers for the free phones, using the “Independent Economic Household” override exception between October 2014 to April 2016. It amounts to over ONE THIRD of all subscribers – costing American taxpayers almost half a billion dollars a year.
“Just one year of service for these apparent duplicates costs taxpayers $476 million,” said Pai. “Given the hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds apparently lost to unscrupulous behavior in the Lifeline program, I hope you will agree that USAC’s paramount task must be to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse from the Lifeline program,” he added.
The program has expanded far beyond what it was originally intended. It first started as a way to help low-income people in rural areas have access to 911 services. Then free cell phones were added. Now, in March the program was expanded to offer Internet service, for only $9.95 per month.