(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is speechless after naming Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) as its September 2013 Porker of the Month for her increasingly vocal support of a proposed expansion of the Lifeline Program, popularly referred to as “Obamaphones,” to include broadband connections. The program was created in 1985 to provide discounts on only landline telephone services for qualified, low-income individuals, and was expanded to include pre-paid wireless service plans in 2005.
Lifeline is bankrolled by the Universal Service Fund (USF) fee, which is included in every monthly telephone bill as a hidden tax. Lifeline Program spending has increased from $667 million in 2000 to $2.1 billion in 2012, even though 96.2 percent of Americans have the ability to access phone service. Rep. Matsui is calling for further expansion of the program to provide discounted broadband services at taxpayer expense, even though these services are being provided to low-income Americans through private-sector initiatives such as EveryoneOn’s Connect2Compete, and Comcast’s Internet Essentials.
A 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed drastic increases in demand for discounted wireless services through the Lifeline Program, as well as multiple instances of program fraud and abuse. Recipients of wireless phones were using Craigslist to advertise resale of the phones, as well as signing up for services from multiple carriers, which violates FCC rules that eligible recipients cannot receive more than one Lifeline-supported service at a time.
Members of Congress such as Rep. Matsui seem to think the funding that supports the program is unlimited and the government’s role in providing service is clear. In an op-ed published in The Hill on September 16, 2013, Rep. Matsui explained her support for expanding the Lifeline Program: “Universal Broadband is imperative for all Americans, especially as our economy becomes increasingly linked to the Internet. A connected America will promote cost-effective solutions for many of our nation’s challenges and open doors to vulnerable populations seeking greater opportunities.”
Without a concise and accurate definition of eligibility for federal assistance, additional Lifeline funding could be distributed to regions that already have adequate services offered by the private sector. Rep. Matsui wants to expand a program that has inadequate guidelines and has also been full of waste, fraud, and abuse, raising the specter of turning broadband into a new wasteful entitlement program at the taxpayers’ expense, making her duly entitled to be CAGW’s September 2013 Porker of the Month.
CAGW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.
Visit Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) for more information