You’ve seen it on the news: People mistakenly calling their free government cell phone an Obama Phone. But is that nickname really appropriate?
While it’s true that the first free government cell phones were distributed in 2008, let’s look back at the history of the Lifeline Assistance program to figure out what it should really be called.
Call it the Bush Phone. The first free cell phone was doled out under President Bush, not President Obama. The Lifeline Assistance program had been in existence for decades, but under President Bush it was expanded to include cell phones.
Call it the Clinton Phone. The Lifeline Assistance program was enhanced by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was passed by popular bipartisan basis (meaning both Republicans and Democrats voted for it). It was signed into law by President Clinton.
Callit the Reagan Phone. The Lifeline Assistance program was created during the Reagan Administration. President Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission created the original program back in 1984.
Call it the Roosevelt Phone. Congress passed The Telecommunications Act of 1934 when Franklin Roosevelt was President. The act created the FCC and featured a promise “to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.” It also introduced the concept of “universal service”. Today’s Lifeline Assistance program is funded through a Universal Service Fund that evolved from that concept.
Call it the Wilson Phone. When the first telephone companies were founded, the phone service offered by one company in one town may not have worked with the phone service offered by another company in the next town. In 1913 the Woodrow Wilson administration solved the problem by giving AT&T a monopoly over phone service, which set the course for the evolution of the American telephone system.
Want to call it the Obama Phone? Fine. Want to call it the Bush Phone? Dandy. Want to call it the Wilson Phone? OK with us. Fact is one name is just as appropriate as another.
The Lifeline Assistance program lives and grows on its own no matter whom the president may be, no matter which party’s in power in Washington, DC.
If we had our druthers, we’d just call it the Free Government Cell Phone program and leave it at that.
Wilson Phones, anyone?