What the hell is going on at Q Link? Whatever it is, none of it looks good.
The bottom line: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to slap Q Link Wireless with a whopping $62,000,000 fine as punishment for Affordable Connectivity Program hanky panky.
What did Q Link do to trigger this immense fine proposal? Seems to us that they (“they” being those corrupt government bureaucrats) don’t want to come right out and say the fine is punishment for fraud. No, no, no. They have take all mention of the word “fraud” out of the story and they now refer to the issue merely as “alleged misconduct.”
FreeGovernmentCellPhone.com readers may well remember our January 10, 2021 article headlined “Q Link Wireless raided by FBI, IRS, US Post Office, Sheriffs.” Astute readers may well assume that the proposed $62,000,000 fine is being proposed as punishment for whatever illegal actions supposedly took place prior to that raid.
That assumption would be wrong.
The proposed $62,000,000 fine appears to be for a second set of completely unrelated “infractions.” “Infraction” sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? Something akin to being pulled over and issued a speeding ticket for going 66 miles per hour in a 65 zone. “Bosh, it’s almost nothing. They merely found us guilty of a few infractions.” In this case, however, “infractions” looks more like a euphemism for “crimes.”
In addition to the $62,000,000 proposed fine, the FCC is threatening Q Link with a death sentence. The government’s supervisory committee also wants to boot Q Link out of the ACP program, and wants to revoke the authorization it previously gave Q Link to act as a U.S.-international common carrier. As if that weren’t enough to set Q Link’s leaderships’ knees aquiver, they’ve been give just 30 days to explain why the company should not receive the death penalty.
Let’s make sure we all understand the timing on the various elements of this story. The original raid on Q Link back on January 10, 2021 had nothing — absolutely nothing — to do with the new ACP program. No, that raid revolved around a completely different set of “irregularities” (another euphemism) that have never been fully explained.
Fierce Wireless points out that the new allegations are very specific. “The activity in question took place over a roughly four-month period between December 2021 and March 2022. During that time, Q Link allegedly submitted reimbursement requests for devices covered by the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) which overstated the cost of those devices.”
Some dates to clarify when the various “infractions” took place:
January 10, 2021: Original raid on Q Link headquarters
Law enforcement officials hauled away “truckloads” of documents in the original raid.
May 12, 2021: EBB Program launched and consumers could apply for the program
Clearly, the original infractions involved a completely separate set of allegations because the raid took place four months prior to the launch of the EBB program and eleven months prior to the launch of the ACP program.
November 15, 2021: Congress created the Affordable Connectivity Program to replace EBB
December 31, 2021: ACP replaces EBB
March 1, 2022: EBB program officially ends
Dec 2021 – Mar 2022: New ACP “infractions” occurred
As this timeline indicates, the original raid on Q Link had nothing to do with EBB nor ACP because the former was not launched until four months after the raid, and the latter was not launched until another eleven months later. So we still do not know the purpose of the raid on Q Link headquarters, what crimes they have accused of, nor the result of those investigations.
Fierce Wireless adds this note at in the last paragraph of its story: “This isn’t the first time alleged problems have been uncovered in the EBB and ACP. The FCC’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a memo in November 2021 flagging instances in which individuals signed up for subsidy support by falsely claiming to have a child enrolled in an eligible school. In September 2022, the OIG warned ISPs were inflating enrollments by using the same child to qualify multiple households for simultaneous support.”
Readers have repeatedly asked and we have repeatedly researched the issue, yet this is the first time we have seen the original set of “infractions” spelled out.
Luckily, the FCC has been much more specific in spelling out the current “alleged misconduct.” Specifically, it says that Q Link manufactured its own 8-inch Android Scepter 8 tablets for the ACP program, but grossly inflated the value of those tablets. In another odd move, the FCC redacted the costs and supposed values from its public notice, and said only that Q Link submitted claims for reimbursements that “apparently substantially exceeding (the tablets’) market value.”
Did Q Link do it once? Twice? A dozen times? According to FCC allegations, Q Link was paid $20.8 million on “hundreds of thousands of computer tablets.”
Shame on Q Link if these allegations turn out to be true. And shame on the FCC if they don’t.
It’s all very confusing and we look forward to the day when the facts are finally revealed.