One California city is getting ready to ban the street tents and events that promote and distribute Lifeline free government cell phones.
Modesto, a city with about 200,000 residents, is located about 80 miles east of San Francisco. Officials there say they are getting ready to ban these pop-up street events because they are operating without business licenses.
California was late to the Lifeline free government cell phone program and service providers did not begin offering plans in the Golden State until 2013. Some of those providers — Life Wireless, Assurance Wireless, Airvoice Wireless and Bluejay Wireless, to be specific — began enrolling customers at street events in Modesto soon thereafter.
The problem? Some of those tents were erected on private property, in parks, and even on city sidewalks without permission from the property owners or the city. Complaints popped up almost as soon as the tents did.
The Modesto Bee explains what happened next:
Modesto’s municipal code does not allow itinerant vendors, a business without a brick and mortar location, said Neighborhood Preservation Unit supervisor Chris Kemper. There are exceptions for vendors at festivals and farmers markets, but the service providers can’t get a business license, then set up shop anywhere in town.
Police spokeswoman Heather Graves said that in addition to complaints about the location of tents, officers have responded to calls about tents damaging nearby vehicles and also to disputes between marketers who were set up near each other. The people marketing the phones get paid on commission per cell phone and plan issued, so the dispute was a turf war of sorts, she said.
Kemper said that over the past year, the police and Neighborhood Preservation Unit have responded to 30 to 40 complaints.
Confusion reigned. Modesto wanted to hand out citations, but didn’t because it realized that it had mistakenly given business licenses to two of the free government cell phone companies without realizing that they intended to do business as “itinerant vendors.”
One of the accidentally-licensed companies was authorized to operate at fourteen different tent locations.
The Bee reports the final outcome:
The companies that had the licenses were notified they would not receive a renewal, and those that have inquired since have been told they would not be issued a license…
Kemper said citations are likely if the vendors don’t comply when told to pack up shop.
He said, so far, he has only spoken with people at one tent that was in a park. He said he was met with hostility from the people, who accused him of harassing them.
Kemper said he is working with Modesto police “to make sure we do this correctly” before taking action.
Far be it from us to say, “I told you so,” but we have warned our readers over and over and over again NOT to enroll at tent events.
They have been the scenes of so much waste, fraud and abuse that we cannot bring ourselves to recommend that you enroll at one of those locations. Please do yourself a huge favor and enroll for the Lifeline free government cell phone program by phone or online from the comfort (and safety) of your own home.
In order to make that a little simpler, CLICK HERE to find a complete list of all the Lifeline companies and plans available in your state.