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Old January 7th, 2010, 08:39 AM
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Default Free Cell Phones

Right off the bat this is apolitical as it was approved initially by the Bush Administration and is now going full bore. All I'm going to do is lay something out that I've known for awhile now but recently gained more information concerning this new Federal entitlement program.

Most all of us have cell phones for which not only do we pay for our "minutes" but a number of government fees as well. Attached to both your home phone bill as well as your cell phone is something known as a Federal Universal Service "fee." Just what is the reason for this tax? You may be surprised at the answer.

Anyone collecting food stamps is automatically eligible for a free cell phone along with one hour of monthly usage for talking, texting, forwarding of calls, etc. It is the fastest growing entitlement in the nation. Well, it's not exactly "free" of course, except to the users. The cost of this ballooning program is already costing the taxpayers almost a billion dollars a year through that "Universal Service Fee."

The kicker to all of this is there is absolutely no validation whatsoever of the eligibility of the individual applying for such a phone. In essence, currently anyone regardless of income, could possibly obtain one of these phones and the concommitant free service.

The above are simply facts and while there can be both pros and cons for such a situation, I am simply soliciting your opinion as to whether or not as an individual, you believe if such a program is justified under its current configuration.

Todd
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Old January 7th, 2010, 10:32 AM
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I'm not a big fan of "entitlements" either, but these days a cell phone can be real life-saver in terms of emergencies. One hour is not a lot of free time.

My step-kids are in deep financial trouble due to economy and had to give up their cell phones. They only have a (free with job) home phone because one works part-time for a telecom company.

That one hour of cell-phone usage a month would come in very handy at times - for emergency on the road phone calls for example.
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Old January 7th, 2010, 01:35 PM
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This is a program that I don't have problem with. Like any entitlement program there can and will be abuse but the vast majority of people who utilize it will have a legitimate reason.

Many people, on food stamps and assistance, do not have a phone or phone number. This makes applying for a job almost impossible. Without a phone in the home there is no lifeline for emergencies. I would rather give someone sixty minutes of air time rather than pay a monthly land-line bill.

Also the phones that are given out are not "IPhones" or "Blackberrys". They are basic cell phones and most of them are recycled phones from cell companies and individuals who have upgraded their phones and without reusing the donated phone it would end up in a landfill or parted out while it still has a valid use.

Yes: We are overtaxed in this country but some of them I have no problem paying to maintain a safety net. When Archer Daniels Midland receives over a billion dollars in subsidies for Ethanol manufacturing then I have a problem.

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Old January 7th, 2010, 03:12 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a law that states that all cellular phones, even if they aren't covered under a plan, must be able to dial 911?

If so, then anyone with a cellular phone would have access to emergency services via 911, even without a calling plan.

As a side note, here in the Portland metro area, and possibly elsewhere around the nation, you can donate your old cellular phone to battered women's shelters, so that the ladies have a phone in case of emergency. And since 911 doesn't require a calling plan, all they need is the phone itself.
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Old January 7th, 2010, 04:41 PM
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Mike, very funny post.

I would have a problem if they gave them 400 hours/month of talking because I know my DIL would be on it every hour possible. In her teens I though her cellphone was part of her body, she still has a permanently crooked neck - she was only person I new who could do a cell-phone hands-free.

And that is a good point about the 911. I was just refering to road emergencies like getting lost or a flat tire, but keeping one for real emergencies is a good idea.

I would also have a problem if they gave cell-phones to illegal aliens trying to sneak into the country. Come to think of it, my last car accident which resulted in $200k in medical bills before my health insurance was cancelled was caused by an illegal alien, but that's another story.

But I do agree with Todd - it is somewhat unfair that this program is funded by a service charge on our phone bills. Who knows how much of it goes into some bureaucrats' pockets?
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Old January 7th, 2010, 06:20 PM
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I'll now offer my opinion.

I absolutely see a valid purpose behind this entitlement. There are also valid purposes behind most entitlements. But as is so often the case, there are no protections whatsoever in place to prevent abuse.

All one need do to get a free phone is to receive food stamps and call a toll free number and answer a few basic questions. Here's the kicker. The government admits it doesn't verify any of the answers!

I would sincerely appreciate answers to the following questions which admittedly, some folks would consider rhetorical:

1. Can illegal aliens easily obtain these phones?

2. Are these new phones or are they, as Mike thinks, recycled ones?

3. If there is a family of four adults (2 parents and 2 grown children) who are receiving food stamps and are living at the same address, do each one of the individuals receive a free phone?

4. Does anyone see the opportunity for absolutely massive fraud with the program as currently implemented?

Mike, as for the ethanol thing, I personally feel it is a ridiculous boondoggle that not only drives up the cost of fuel (only one reason being the mileage reduction factor) but which also reduces the amount of farmland which otherwise would be used to raise food crops which in turn, has meant a huge increase in food prices.

Hopefully we'll all soon be, "....drinking Bubble Up and eating Rainbow Stew."

And that is my opinion for this thread.

Todd
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