Pennsylvanians on public assistance now have a new ‘civil right’ — free cell phones. Meanwhile, the rest of us get to pay higher cell bills as a result.
Recently, a federal government program called the Universal Service Fund came to the Keystone State and some residents are thrilled because it means they can enjoy 250 minutes a month and a handset for free, just because they don’t have the money to pay for it. Through Assurance Wireless and SafeLink from Tracfone Wireless these folks get to reach out and touch someone while the cost of their service is paid for by everyone else. You see, the telecommunications companies are funding the Universal Service Fund to the tune of $4 billion a year because the feds said they have to and in order to recoup their money, the companies turn around and hike their fees to paying customers. But those of use paying for the free service for the poor, should be happy about this infuriating situation, says Gary Carter, manager of national partnerships for Assurance, because “the program is about peace of mind.” Free cell service means “one less bill that someone has to pay, so they can pay their rent or for day care…it is a right to have peace of mind,” Cater explained.
The $4 billion a year Universal Service Fund – which provides the poor, schools and library’s with free phones – is paid for by telecommunications companies.
The cost is then recouped form the average American bill payer, who has a ‘universal service’ charge added to their cell contract every month.
Well, the telecommunications companies don’t seem to love providing this ‘right’ to poor folks because they are trying to renegotiate the deal with the FCC. The telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T want more paying customers, but their desire to reform their deal with the feds dovetails nicely with the political ideology of the current FCC chairman Julian Genachowski, who like all Obama administration flunkies sees ‘rights’ where others see ‘priviledges’. Just listen to how the agency put the question of providing broadband and cell service to those in rural and poor communities. “The goal of reform is to provide everyone with affordable voice and broadband,” the agency said.
Between 14 million and 24 million Americans lack access to broadband, “and immediate prospects for deployment to them are bleak,” the FCC said in a report last year. “Many of these Americans are poor or live in rural areas that will remain unserved without reform of the universal service program and other changes,” the report said.
But who says that cheap or free broadband is anything more than a luxury?
Well, another Obama flunkie, Rahm Emanuel, that’s who. As we reported in June , the new mayor of Chicago was all excited to proclaim the wonderful news of free internet service to poor kids in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods. And how could Mayor Emanuel pay for this new ‘civil right’? Well, because the federal government extorted the money from Comcast when it wanted to buy NBC-Universal. Once again FCC chairman Genachowski was all about “helping the kids” by forcing the internet provider to give poor kids free netbooks, laptops, and internet service, indefinitely. And who is going to pay for this gift? Well, of course the rest of us poor saps who actually pay our bills.