The history of the Lifeline (aka Obamaphone) program is often cited by progressives as a Republican scheme, and in some ways, it is. As Daniel Greenfield explains:
At the same time it should be recognized that the roots of this monstrosity began under Bush when the [Universal Service Fund] USF was used to subsidize cell phones. The original purpose of the USF was to provide landline access to rural communities.
That made sense because people who are 40 miles away from help need a lifeline. Then the ‘lifeline’ became a way for every housing project resident, who has a cop downstairs, to get a free cell phone.
That’s why the lefty howls of “It’s a ReaganPhone” are lie. This was never supposed to mean free cell phones with every welfare check. But then it was and did.
This is one reason that I oppose almost all such federal programs; over time, they become bloated, wasteful, abused “rights” that no longer even remotely resemble the original program or its intent.
Now, Obama’s FCC plans to take the Obamaphone program to the next level: the internet.
But the agency’s Democratic majority wants to broaden the program to pay for Internet service to give more people access to broadband and close the nation’s “digital divide.” Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated his proposal to the other commissioners on Thursday so they can vote on it at the agency’s June 18 meeting.
Wheeler said he wants to “‘reboot’ Lifeline for the Internet age.”
“[A]s communications technologies and markets evolve, the Lifeline program also has to evolve to remain relevant,” he wrote in a blog post. “Americans need broadband to keep a job, as companies increasing require basic digital literacy skills. We rely on broadband to manage and receive healthcare, and to help our children do their homework.”
Progressives intend to use this as a means of “evening the playing field” and ensuring that everyone is “equal.” As usual, they don’t want to work on underlying problems like too much government regulation and “oversight” that squashes opportunity; they just want to guarantee outcomes. That’s what net neutrality was about (at least in part; it was also about controlling political speech, but we can discuss that another time).
The following is an entertaining (and insightful) examination of the net neutrality that is making the coming ObamaNet possible:
Luckily, there are some GOP opponents of the Obamaphone program who want to see the whole thing eliminated. Politico reports:
The expansion plan is not sitting well with some GOP opponents of Lifeline who want to kill the program entirely.
“Even after a GAO report questioned the effectiveness of Lifeline and the FCC’s promises of ‘sweeping reforms,’ we continue to have regular reports of fraud and abuse,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). “The free government cell phone program is beyond reform and should be ended.”
FCC action on Lifeline would mark the agency’s latest effort to shape the future of broadband. The commission’s Democratic majority in February approved new net-neutrality rules that treat broadband like a utility, a move that enraged Republicans and telecom giants who warn of overregulation. And the FCC raised doubts about Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable over concerns it would concentrate too much of the nation’s broadband service in one company’s hands. Comcast ended up dropping the deal last month.
I’m not sure that the current GOP leadership will do much about this, so you can likely expect new charges to appear on your internet bill to pay for the ObamaNet.DONATE
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