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house Bill H.R. 5525

Should the Government Stop Providing Low Income Americans With Cell Phone and Internet Subsidies?

Argument in favor

The simplest way to stamp out fraud in the Lifelines program is to remove cell phones and wireless broadband from the list of eligible services. Americans should not be forced to pay tax dollars to subsidize fraud.

GrumpyMSgt's Opinion
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06/22/2016
Just remember the NFL, there is no free lunch! This TWO BILLION DOLLARS would be better used at the VA where services were EARNED. Stop these handouts!
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SUMN3R's Opinion
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06/27/2016
These are not required for those that need help. This is not an EBT or WIC category. No one in this life "needs" a cell and Internet.
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David's Opinion
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06/28/2016
When the government provides housing, food, health care, day care, cell phone, and Internet, what then is to incentivize people to get up, get out, and be productive? It is not the function of government to prop up those who will not support themselves or their families. Life is a struggle, and success must be earned if one is to achieve a sense of self worth. True freedom can only be experienced through responsible action.
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Argument opposed

Fraud in the Lifelines program should be investigated, but cell phone and internet subsidies should not be stripped from struggling Americans. These services are crucial for accessing education, jobs, and services to lead a stable life.

Gary's Opinion
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06/21/2016
Stop providing corporations with subsidies and tax breaks, then we'll talk about low-income citizens.
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Devin's Opinion
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06/27/2016
How should someone expect to get a job without a phone?
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gailnabity's Opinion
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06/24/2016
Without access to a phone when you're trying your best to rebuild your life so that you aren't dependent on the government will make it nearly impossible to find a good job. Furthermore, in the 21st century a mobile phone to call 911 in an emergency is critical. These people have children who need to be kept safe. And that my friends is a national responsibility. These children just as all children are America's future. Most Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. Being laid off...an illness or accident...a divorce that leaves a wife and her children penniless or in poverty while she gets an education that makes her marketable...there are endless scenarios that force good people to apply for government assistance until they have the necessary income to depend on only themselves. I am disgusted to see how Republicans treat the least of these.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Rejected June 21st, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 207 Yea / 143 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
    IntroducedJune 16th, 2016

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What is House Bill H.R. 5525?

Since 1985, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has operated the Lifelines program to provide subsidized phone service to low-income Americans. In 2005, the program expanded to cover basic voice-only mobile phone plans, and in March 2016, the FCC voted to expand the program to include internet service (including mobile data).

This bill seeks to remove wireless voice and data services from the list of eligible Lifelines services. Sponsoring Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) argues that the program is already too expensive and that the FCC does not do a sufficient job preventing fraud and misuse.

The FCC, however, believes cell phone and internet access are modern-day necessities that help people pursue education, access services, and maintain connections with friends and families. According to a press release from the FCC announcing the program expansion, 43 percent of America’s lowest income households cannot afford broadband. This gap in access can contribute to greater income inequality.

Impact

The FCC, People who participate in the Lifelines program or may in the future, Taxpayers

More Information

In Depth: The Lifeline subsidy provides up to $9.25 per month to qualifying participants in U.S. states and territories who earn less than 135 percent of the federal poverty line. It is funded through a tax on mobile phone bills.

Although 40 million Americans are eligible, only about 13 million take part in the program. The FCC estimates that the addition of internet services will draw another 5 million participants, bringing the program cost to $2.25 billion.

Ajit Pai, an FCC Commissioner, has criticized the Lifelines program for failing to catch and prevent fraudulent enrollment. For example, although each eligible household is allowed just one subsidy, a special override that permits two users to enroll at the same address has been used millions of times.

Critics of the program like Pai and Scott believe Lifelines should have a hard cap on its budget (Rep. Scott has suggested a budget of $1.5 billion). Currently the program has a flexible budget of $2.25 billion, meaning it can be expanded if enrollment grows.


Of Note: Sponsoring Rep. Austin Scott said in a press release:

“While the program’s original purpose had merit, the program in its current form is wrought with fraud and abuse, and it's past time for Washington to respond to the calls of our constituents to rein this program in.”


In an advocacy letter opposing the bill, civil rights group The Leadership Conference wrote that the bill:

“would undercut both the goals of the Lifeline program and the principles for Lifeline modernization… It is essential to ensure that people of color, low-income people, and other vulnerable populations have access to broadband. Without Internet access, students of color cannot do their homework, working single mothers cannot earn degrees online at night, and seniors and people with disabilities cannot utilize the most modern and accessible health care."


Media:

Summary by Katie Rose Quandt
(Image Credit: Victorgrigas/ Wikimedia Commons)

AKA

End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act of 2016

Official Title

To prohibit universal service support of commercial mobile service and commercial mobile data service through the Lifeline program.

    Just remember the NFL, there is no free lunch! This TWO BILLION DOLLARS would be better used at the VA where services were EARNED. Stop these handouts!
    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
    Stop providing corporations with subsidies and tax breaks, then we'll talk about low-income citizens.
    Like (137)
    Follow
    Share
    How should someone expect to get a job without a phone?
    Like (76)
    Follow
    Share
    Without access to a phone when you're trying your best to rebuild your life so that you aren't dependent on the government will make it nearly impossible to find a good job. Furthermore, in the 21st century a mobile phone to call 911 in an emergency is critical. These people have children who need to be kept safe. And that my friends is a national responsibility. These children just as all children are America's future. Most Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. Being laid off...an illness or accident...a divorce that leaves a wife and her children penniless or in poverty while she gets an education that makes her marketable...there are endless scenarios that force good people to apply for government assistance until they have the necessary income to depend on only themselves. I am disgusted to see how Republicans treat the least of these.
    Like (55)
    Follow
    Share
    It's so heartwarming (NOT!) to see how many of you lump all low-income Americans together and ASSUME that they're ALL a bunch of lazy bums! What if YOU were a disabled person who was unable to hold down a job, and/or a senior citizen trying to keep body and soul together on less than $800/mo. Social Security?! I have to wonder how some of you can call yourselves human beings sometimes. Some of you seem completely unable to empathize with the less fortunate members of our society! NOT EVERY LOW INCOME AMERICAN IS A FREE LOADER DOING DRUGS AND JUST WANTING TO SPONGE OFF THE REST OF SOCIETY!
    Like (26)
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    These are not required for those that need help. This is not an EBT or WIC category. No one in this life "needs" a cell and Internet.
    Like (15)
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    Fraud is rampant, however the need for low budget and affordable technologies for struggling Americans takes precedent over that. Fraud can be investigated and lessened over time.
    Like (14)
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    When the government provides housing, food, health care, day care, cell phone, and Internet, what then is to incentivize people to get up, get out, and be productive? It is not the function of government to prop up those who will not support themselves or their families. Life is a struggle, and success must be earned if one is to achieve a sense of self worth. True freedom can only be experienced through responsible action.
    Like (8)
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    In today's world access to the Internet and a phone is critical to find and apply for jobs.
    Like (8)
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    They need access to phones. Pay phones don't exist anymore
    Like (7)
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    Obama phones (as they are known) do not have internet service and their phone services are VERY limited. This is a non issue
    Like (6)
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    Those who believe that a cellphone and an Internet connection are merely unnecessary entertainment devices have not been on the job market recently. These are becoming vital commodities for getting and holding occupations in our growingly technological nation. Regardless of your feelings on government funding, this is a necessary equalizer for the impoverished people who have not been born with such money for cellphones and Internet as others have. This legislation is an indirect slap in the face to free market capitalism.
    Like (5)
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    Internet should be treated like electricity it's a necessity to the modern world
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    My fellow Georgian wants to screw over poor even more. It's not enough to push them out of healthcare (Gov Deal refused to expand Medicaid) and trying to stop giving their children school lunches, now they should be shut out of the Internet and phones. What is wrong with these loser republicans? They sure aren't Christians, no matter what they say.
    Like (4)
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    In order for people to pull themselves out of poverty they need access to phones an internet. That is just the reality of our society.
    Like (3)
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    It appears that fraud & abuse is the real issue here. It makes sense to me to focus efforts on eliminating the fraud issue rather than eliminate these services, which penalizes those who are legitimately entitled.
    Like (3)
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    I honestly think that our taxes shouldn't go towards people who get these so called phones for the heck of it because in all honestly they don't use them for the appropriate reasons anyways
    Like (3)
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    They should try to lower the prices on regular cell phone bills
    Like (3)
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    I've witnessed fraud ABUSE in 3-generations of a family. Let's multiply this across the nation. People who choose wisely will outgrow and not need to "use-the-system". It's the people who choose to "abuse-the-system" I vote "STOP"!
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    I've seen people complain and say to stop corporate subsidies first... Why not follow the constitution and stop both? The subsidies are all illegal and undermine the role of our country and founding principles.
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