This is a rule so crazy that if makes no sense. Absolutely no sense at all.
Current Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone rules say that subscribers must be automatically de-enrolled from the program if they don’t use their cell phones for sixty days.
OK, you might say, that makes sense. If a customer goes sixty days without using this free service, perhaps they really don’t need it. But this is where it gets crazy. Current Federal Communications Commission rules state that texting doesn’t count as “usage”. That’s right. You can text from your free government cell phone a thousand times every day of the week, but if you don’t make an actual telephone call, the FCC thinks your service should be automatically terminated because you’re not “using” it in the way they want you to.
Luckily, there appear to be at least a few rational folks at the FCC and according to LifelineLaw.com, they’ve just “issued a public notice seeking comment on a Petition for Rulemaking and Interim Relief filed by TracFone on October 1, 2014, requesting that the FCC consider whether sending and receiving text messages should count as usage under the FCC’s Lifeline rules.”
We understand the purpose of the existing regulation, but if reasonable minds prevail, the FCC must certainly come to the conclusion that this inane ruling must be amended to allow texting to count as usage. The purpose of the regulation was to make sure that Lifeline customers didn’t become ongoing drains on the budget after they no longer wanted nor any longer wanted the service.
This is one of the many reasons we doubt the efficiency and efficacy of any government that becomes too large and cumbersome. Do we really need an endless series of expensive, time-consuming public hearings and endless comments to come to the very rational conclusion that texting is now a primary means of communication and that it should clearly count as “usage” of a cell phone.
Here’s a suggestion: Instead of holding those hearings, leave your office and walk out onto 12th Street SW in front of your plush Washington, DC offices and ask the next twenty people you run into on the sidewalk if they consider texting to be a vital form of communication. Or even better, go over to the closest Starbucks, interrupt twenty latte-sipping Washington, DC hipsters and ask if they could make it through the day without texting.
We’re pretty sure they’d look at you like you were insane.
Even the President of the United States is well-known for his texting habit. USA Today reported:
“Singer, songwriter, businessman, and aspiring sports agent Jay-Z knows a lot of people well — including President Obama.
“I’ve spoken to him on the phone and had texts from Obama,” he told New York radio station Hot97.
President Obama even joked about texting. Back in 2012 TheHill.com quoted this joking comment from the President:
“Four years ago I was locked in a brutal primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Four years later, she won’t stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena,” said Obama in his address to laughter from the audience.
LifelineLaw said, “FCC staff’s initial reasoning for not including texting on the list of activities that count as usage was that texting is not a supported service. Yet the act of purchasing additional minutes (regardless if those minutes are used) and responding to ‘contact’ from the carrier (which could be a letter) seeking to confirm that the subscriber still desires the service are both activities that do constitute usage under current rules. Obviously, the Lifeline program supports the provision of telecommunications services, and neither of these two activities are telecommunications services, so it seems that staff has no basis to exclude texting from the list of activities that constitute usage.”
If you’d like to add your comment in support of the texting waiver and rule change, you can do so electronically at http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/ by December 1, 2014.