Over and over we’ve warned our readers about fraud and abuse in Lifeline, the free government cell phone program. And now the Federal Communications Commission has revealed that more than 2 million of the cell phones may be in the hands of frauds.
A report from the FCC said, “The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has worked aggressively to enforce these new rules since their adoption, taking actions worth over $15 million, in addition to today’s $32.6 million in proposed forfeitures. Numerous additional investigations are ongoing. Moreover, over 2 million duplicate subscriptions have been eliminated, and the FCC’s reforms are on track to save the Fund more $2 billion over three years.”
FCC cranks up it’s efforts
It appears that the FCC is cranking up its efforts to root all fraud and abuse out of the program because the number of problem accounts has nearly doubled in the last 30 days, indicating that the agency is finding more problems the deeper it digs.
The Lifeline program has been helping financially strapped Americans get telephone services since back in the Reagan administration, but the program has ballooned in size as the economy has stumbled in recent years.
As we’ve frequently reported, the program’s budget has nearly tripled in the last four years and topped $2.2 billion in 2012. We’ve warned about the negative impact fraud and abuse could have on the free government cell phone program and the Wall Street Journal backs us up.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “A review of five top recipients of Lifeline support conducted by the FCC for the Journal showed that 41% [almost 2.5 million] of their more than six million subscribers either couldn’t demonstrate their eligibility or didn’t respond to requests for certification.”
The FCC recently issued a press release to announce that it has proposed fines totalling $32.6 million against three Lifeline providers — Conexions Wireless, i-wireless, and True Wireless. The Commission says all three companies allowed ignored rules limiting the number of free cell phones to one per household.
The way the program is supposed to work, free government cell phone companies can be reimbursed only if they have verified the eligibility of each subscriber, but the FCC contends that those eligibility confirmations were often overlooked.
Fraud and abuse must be rooted out
Let us make our position in this absolutely clear: We understand the difference free government cell phones can make in the lives of needy Americans. But we also understand that this program’s existence is threatened by fraud and abuse. Politicians across the country frequently attack Lifeline as a complete waste of money and stories like this reinforce their negative opinions.
So once again we urge you to report any Lifeline fraud of which you are aware. If you don’t take action to ensure the integrity of this program, you may wake up one day to discover that all Lifeline cell phones have been eliminated.
And that would be a tragedy.
Source: Weekly Standard (dead link: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/fcc-lifeline-program-fraud-and-abuse-surpasses-two-million-subscribers_766312.htm)