It’s Not Lifeline Awareness Week!

That was two weeks ago, apparently.

But since nobody seemed to notice, I am going to bring you up to speed on Lifeline, and why it should change, starting today.

On your phone bill there is a line marked USF or Universal Service Fund. It goes back to the beginning of the FCC and it is there to allow for universal access to telecommunications. Some of that money is used for rural connectivity and various other programs, and some of it is used to support a program called Lifeline.

Lifeline provides those on public assistance with a free (to them) cell phone or landline. It actually costs $9.25 but the money for it comes from the USF. It is generally limited to 63 minutes, so Lifeline customers are encouraged by the providers to get more than one and stack them just in case they go over.

How do the providers benefit here? They get to cash $9.25 a line for a bunch of lines that are never used.

A new rule out for comment and up for a vote today would put a small fee per line on the customer – not enough to discourage those who need a heavily subsidized phone, but one that would prevent the multiple unused lines problem. You may remember from Economics that as cost approaches zero, demand approaches infinity, so any consumer cost here will curb the problem.

But will it pass?

 

I’ll update this post after the vote! #pinsandneedles

 

 

Follow me on the twitters @stefanturk

16 comments

    • Stefan says:

      Well, the “Obamaphone” thing is being pushed because it dovetails nicely with the “food stamp president” thing they are doing. But this program has gone on a long time, and part of the purpose of the Telecommunications Act was to provide for universal access. You cannot be a full member of society without a phone. You cannot participate in much of anything, really, without a phone. It is integral to life. I am totally okay with providing massively subsidized phones to those who cannot pay. Cell phones are no longer luxuries, especially for those whose lodging situations are tenuous. They serve as the sole means for many to pursue jobs, educational opportunities, places to live…

      The program is a good idea. It just needs to be tweaked.

  1. “You cannot be a full member of society without a car. You cannot participate in much of anything, really, without a car. It is integral to life. I am totally okay with providing massively subsidized cars to those who cannot pay.”
    Fixed it for you.

Comments are closed.