This morning’s New York Times includes a story about the efforts of the Georgia Public Service Commission to impose a $5 per month fee on lifeline phone service–AKA Obamaphones–used by some 721,000 people in the Peach State. The article focuses on how the poor will be impacted by the surcharge.
From her trailer with a rusting roof on Lot 54, Donna James uses the free Samsung cellphone provided by a federal program to speak with friends who give her rides, clerks at medical offices, a caseworker, emergency dispatchers and, of course, bill collectors.
“If it weren’t for my free phone, there were a few times I wouldn’t have made it to the hospital,” said Ms. James, who is unemployed because of chronic health problems and has no other telephone or Internet connection in her home.
The fee, which was supposed to take effect on January 31st, is temporarily on hold, pending a decision on its legality by a federal court. If the injunction is lifted, other states might start imposing a fee as well.
Is the fee for lifeline telephones a matter of requiring some personal responsibility from its beneficiaries, a way to prevent massive fraud in the lifeline program, or a cynical effort to make the neediest decide between their prescription drugs or having a way to get emergency help if needed? Tell us in the comments.