Uncle Sam's Unlimited Plan: How the Government's Cell Phone Giveaway Is Costing You Billions

I've heard from many Arkansans about one wasteful Washington program that's riddled with instances of abuse. It's a government-run, taxpayer-funded program that's running wild and costing more and more. The evidence is stacking up: dead people are receiving free cell phones in the mail, eligible and ineligible individuals are obtaining more than one, and electronic kiosks have been stationed in convenience stores to spread the word about this "free" opportunity. The truth is, though, that taxpayers are footing the bill. The program is called Lifeline, but in reality it's turned into Uncle Sam's Unlimited Plan. My bill returns the Lifeline program back to its original structure by ending federal subsidies for free cell phone services. This growing government cell phone program is costing American consumers and taxpayers, and my bill puts an end to it.

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Videos: How the Government's Cell Phone Giveaway Is Costing You Billions
End Uncle Sam's Unlimited Plan
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The Facts
How the Lifeline cell phone program is being advertised
Read Tim's bill: The Stop Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act

Videos: How the Government's Cell Phone Giveaway Is Costing You Billions

More coverage:
KATV: Arkansas Congressman making strides to wipe out free cell phones
Fox News: Lawmaker looks to rein in program after free cell phones sent to dead people
The Wall Street Journal: illions improperly claimed U.S. phone subsidies
The Washington Times: Obama crony wins contract to give phones to jobless
Hot Air: Video: Uncle Sam’s unlimited cell-phone plan
Daily Caller: Ark. congressman wants to disconnect $1 billion free cell phone program

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End Uncle Sam's Unlimited Plan

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The Facts

The Lifeline Program was established in 1984 to subsidize landline phone service for low-income individuals. Under the program, telecommunications carriers submit reimbursement requests to the government-run Universal Service Fund (USF) to receive a subsidy for services provided to qualifying low-income subscribers. The USF is funded through fees collected from telecommunications carriers which are directly passed onto their customers, as part their telephone bill.

In 2008, the Lifeline Program was expanded to include wireless service providers. Between 2008 and 2009, non-landline costs for the program doubled – from $143 million to $384 million – and then doubled again, totaling over $719 million in 2010, $1.215 billion in 2011, and $1.744 billion in 2012.

Before the certification of the first wireless carrier, the overall Lifeline Program cost about $822 million per year, an amount consistent with the previous five years. That number grew to $1.025 billion in 2009 and to $1.315 billion in 2010. In 2011 it grew to $1.75 billion, and then to $2.189 billion in 2012.  According to the Federal Communications Commission, it is common for multiple wireless service providers to seek reimbursement for Lifeline services provided to the same household.

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How the Lifeline cell phone program is being advertised

Real advertisements from around the country.

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Read Tim's bill: The Stop Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act

Note: In the 112th Congress, this bill was known as H.R. 3481. In the 113th Congress that began on January 3, 2013, Rep. Griffin reintroduced his bill. It is now H.R. 176.

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