But Indiana Representative André Carson defends the cell phone component of Lifeline. In a statement to 13 investigates, Carson said, "We should always look for ways to improve these programs, but Lifeline is a valuable and effective, bipartisan tool. And it doesn't rely on a single tax dollar."
Jim Bryant disagrees.
"It's mandatory, so it's a tax," he said.
"Sounds good for the people who's getting the free phones, not for the people who's paying for the people to get free phones," said one couple.
The FCC audited the Lifeline program last year, uncovering 400,000 instances of multiple phones distributed to individual people. In Indiana alone, 16 percent of people who got free cell phones did not qualify for the program.As WTHR explains, the FCC ordered phone companies to provide basic phone services for free to low-income persons; however, it permits the phone companies to impose a universal service charge on phone customers to pay for the program. A typical phone user pays $4.83 a month for the service, or about $60 a year. Recipients of Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 housing and persons who qualify for a free or reduced school lunch program qualify for free phone service. The FCC pays phone companies $9.25 per customer per month to support the program. Unbelievably, users of the free cell phone service complained to WTHR that they only get 250 minutes a month of use on their cell phone, which they say they consume in as little as three days. That has led to abuses in the program. Free users simply go to other providers to get additional free cell phones thanks to the tax you pay every month on your phone bill. Yes, Rep. Carson, it is a tax.