Good news for beleaguered believers in free government cell phones: According to TheHIll.com, one of the most important websites covering the American political scene, important voices are coming out in support of the program.
“Allow me to set the record straight,” said Mignon Clyburn, a member of the Federal Communications Commission. “Without this program, 15 million low-income families would literally be choosing between feeding their children or going without a dial tone that potentially could save their lives and put them on a better economic path.”
Critics say that Lifeline Assistance, the official name of the free government cell phone program, is the ultimate example of public waste, but others say it’s a vital program that must be preserved.
For example, Public Knowledge, Free Press, the Center for Media Justice and the Utility Reform Network and other public advocates have rallied behind Clyburn.
Another important voice, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, says that Lifeline is “vital.”
The FCC has chosen to protect the program by introducing new, tougher eligibility standards. It’s also mounted a massive database effort to make sure that multiple companies aren’t paid duplicate subsidies to serve the same customers.
Commissioner Clyburn said the reforms are working and that they saved $200 million in 2012 and may save as much as $400 million in 2013.
“We are open to making additional adjustments where necessary,” Clyburn insisted, “but in no uncertain terms should qualifying low-income consumers who have followed the rules be refused service.”
Far from being a drain on society, Clyburn believes Lifeline is a true bargain.
“Spending $2 billion a year to connect 50 percent of qualifying families is worth it,” she postulated. “Without access to 911, these families would be especially at risk, as the number of communications alternatives has decreased significantly, reinforced by the fact that fewer than 500,000 payphones remain in the United States.”
Right on, Commissioner Clyburn. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.