Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, September 6, 2013
Residents in the District of Columbia are being urged to pick up their ‘Obamaphone’ as part of the city’s “District of Columbia Lifeline Awareness Week.”
The event, which was announced Thursday and is scheduled for next week, is designed to make sure that everyone has access to a phone in the event of emergency situations.
“[T]he Lifeline Assistance programs offer tremendous benefits for eligible consumers in America which help make basic telephone services more affordable and provide a discount to eligible low-income customers,” DC Mayor Vincent Gray wrote in his proclamation.
The event will be managed by the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, which is an independent agency that regulates utilities for the nation’s capitol.
“Access to local emergency services and community resources is vital to all District residents,” DCPSC Chairman Betty Ann Kane said in a statement. “The Lifeline Program, known as Economy II Service in the District, helps low-income, District consumers connect to the nation’s communications networks, access health care services, find jobs, connect with family, and call for help in an emergency. For some, a local phone can be the difference between social connection and complete isolation.”
D.C. residents who are eligible for the government-subsidized phones are able to get phone plans with Verizon for as little as $1.00 per month plus applicable fees.
Although the federal government’s Lifeline program, which is run by the Federal Communications Commission, has been around for several years, it has come under criticism under President Obama’s tenure as the program’s cost more than doubled from $822 million in 2008 (when the program was expanded to include subsidized cell phones) to $2 billion in 2012.
“The free government cell phones issue just keeps getting more outrageous,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) told the U.K.’s The Daily Mail back in June. “This phone program has expanded far beyond its original intent, and having Washington force people to pay for free cell phones for others is offensive enough, but the waste, fraud and abuse is beyond words.”
An investigation by conservative activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas found that vendors were actually giving away ‘Obamaphones’ to recipients who willingly admitted they were selling them for drugs and other goods.
The DCPSC was unable to return Red Alert Politics’ request for comment as of press time.