Wireless companies shouldn’t cut any corners before issuing a so-called Obama phone to an applicant, the federal government has warned.
The government’s Lifeline program distributes free cell phones to low-income Americans (roughly $16,000 income or less) and was made famous by the Obama phone lady last September. Although the program started under the Reagan administration when it was all landlines, it has mushroomed into a $2 billion taxpayer-funded cell phone expenditure in 2012. The most common way to qualify for an Obama phone is to produce an EBT card.
The Federal Communications Commission, the agency in charge of overseeing this program, has warned participating cell phone distributors — officially called eligible telecommunications carriers in government lingo — not to activate any phones prematurely. The reminder from Washington states “that they must verify the eligibility of a low-income consumer prior to providing Lifeline service to that consumer, and may not provide an activated device intended to enable access to Lifeline service to a consumer until that consumer’s eligibility is fully verified and all other necessary enrollment steps are completed. We take this action in pursuit of the Commission’s goal to combat any and all forms of waste, fraud, and abuse.”
An FCC official denied that this notification had anything to do with controversial muckraker Jame O’Keefe’s recent hidden camera investigation into the Obama phone program. “We want to make sure providers are following our new rules and we are continuing to look for ways to improve the program and reduce waste and abuse,” the official told The Hill.
Last month, O’Keefe’s Project Veritas undercover reporters purposedly told seemingly indifferent wireless store employees that they planned to resell their government-subsidized cell phones for drugs, shoes, or Louis Vuitton handbags. Some of those employees were later fired.
Athough O’Keefe has his share of detractors for his particular brand of journalism and/or whistleblowing, the Project Veritas team has also exposed the corrupt ACORN organization, voter fraud, and revealed that some anti-gun journalists declined to post gun-free zone signs outside their own homes, in addition to the Obama phone reporting.