Good news: Phone companies meet demand for free government cell phones by increasing contributions to Universal Service Fund

USF rate increaseHere’s news that will please those who support the free government cell phones program and infuriate those who oppose it:

AT&T and other phone companies have announced that they are increasing the Universal Service Fee that funds the FCC’s Lifeline phone program for both the free government cell phones and discounted landline programs. The increase will funnel more money to the program and allow the supply of free cell phones to meet demand for them.

Here’s how AT&T explains it on the company website: “While we support the spirit and the principles of universal service, we cannot simply absorb the USF expenses. We believe we are recovering these expenses in as fair and equitable a manner as possible … Effective January 1, 2012 the Universal Connectivity Charge will change from 15.3% to 17.9% of your state-to-state and international long distance charges as well as any service charges. This is the same percentage that is assessed by the FCC on carriers. This fee will not be waived and customers who choose not to pay the charge will be entered into our normal collections process.”

The Universal Connectivity Charge (also known as the Universal Service Fee) is a small “tax” added to each phone bill each month. It’s purpose is to expand phone service to those who need it, but can’t afford it.

Just last week (January 31, to be exact) the Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal that would add cheap internet service to the Lifeline program, which has until now given free cell phones and minutes to America’s needy. Under terms of a pilot program, the cheap internet service will be available to anyone who meets the program’s liberal requirements. It’s expected that the demand for cheap internet would have put further pressure on Lifeline’s budget. This move should ease those fears. estimates that as many as ten million Americans already have already signed up for free government cell phones and also receive 250 free air and text minutes per month. But the program has been expanding so rapidly during today’s economic distress that some supporters feared it would not be able to meet the demand for more free phones.

We’re happy to say that this increase in the Universal Connectivity Charge (also known as the Universal Service Fee) will alleviate those worries and allow the free government cell phone to continue growing and helping those needy Americans how need it most.


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  1. Sandra Wiatrowski says

    And I am one who this news INFURIATES! The FCC is illegal, this TAX is illegal, and having a cell phone and internet service is NOT A RIGHT! If I find my service provider increasing my fees, they will first get a letter from me excoriating them and then, they will lose my business of $150/month!

  2. Bruce InCharlotte says

    I’m an employed American, but due to these increased “taxes” on my cell phone I am unable to afford to pay the bill. How do I shift the burden of paying this from me to the rest of America?

  3. Tex Euro says

    What fricken idiot named this free cellphones? Nothing is free. If It’s government sponsored it comes on the backs of hard working Americans. You people are so stupid it boggles the mind.

  4. Dburr says

    Stop calling this politically motivated government bureaucracy a program for Free Cell Phones. The name should be changed to Taxpayer Subsidized Cell Phones. The word Free should be banned from the government lexicon and replaced with taxpayer subsidy!
    This is a program funded by hard working Americans and since when is it a “Right” that those who supposedly cannot pay their own way have a right to my Pay Check!
    This is Obama’s redistribution of wealth and soon you will be paying a service fee every time you pay for medical care in order to pay for Obama’s “FREE” Contraception Program!

    • Ginny Procuniar says

      As well as more taxes we haven’t even seen. Once people start sucking from the public trough, it becomes hard to get them away from it. It is part of Obama’s strategy to enlarge his voting blocs, whether illegal or not. He needs to be voted out – if not, we won’t even recognize this country after another four years of him.

  5. Cheryl says

    Finally the excuse I have been looking for to get rid of my phone service.

    No bill – no tax from me!

    Sad thing is I would probably qualify for the free phones but, I don’t go looking for handouts so I will live without.

    What a joke, some poverty stricken people have cell phone for free and I choose to spend my hard earned money on things like necessities.

  6. Tburr says

    My body aches after a hard day of work earning a living and paying taxes. Is there a government program that gives away free hot tubs or vouchers for massages?

  7. Shelley Walton says

    I Have Trouble Hearing and operatring The Cell Phones.Is There anyway I could get an Old-Fashion Land Line?
    PS:I grow up before Computers,and Cell phones Never Existed!
    I still have a MA-Bell Telephone