Government Cell Phone Service Cost Taxpayers $2.2 Billion

November 18, 2013

When you pay your monthly phone bill, you're not only paying for your own service, you're paying for someone's free cellphone service, too, says the Fiscal Times.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed millions of dollars in fines against providers of free government-paid cell phone service, probably the first time many Americans have heard of the program, let alone the fraud, duplicate payments, waste and other violations the fines are supposed to address.

  • The government spent $2.2 billion on the program last year alone, and a review of the top five providers by the FCC for the Wall Street Journal showed that 41 percent, or 6 million of their free-phone subscribers, couldn't demonstrate eligibility or failed to respond to requests for certification.
  • Some 20 million Americans now have government-paid cellphones.

Qualifying for a free phone is simple enough. If anyone in a household takes part in any government assistance program -- from food stamps to unemployment -- or if the household income is below federal poverty guidelines, a free phone is available.

The free-phone program has even poked its way into a debate, mostly among conservatives, over whether entitlement programs like this will ever be trimmed or eliminated (the scenario is that the welfare state implodes as financially unsustainable) or remain a politically untouchable part of American life, whatever the cost.

Source: John Leo, "What that Sneaky Fee on Your Phone Bill Means," Fiscal Times, November 7, 2013.

 

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