Free government phones help low-income residents in Georgia. If you receive assistance from a free government agency, you may qualify for this benefit. Budget Mobile is one of the providers servicing the state. The point of the free government phone is to help the poor, that is why they are “free!” That may change in one state. The state has decided to stop the no-cost government phone program in Georgia. Now recipients of the Lifeline program will pay $5 a month, for cell phone service they receive free.
How the FCC Helps
The Telecommunication Trade Association has challenged this fee, by filing a lawsuit. Georgia Public Service Commissioner Everett stated the fee began as a measure to stop fraud widespread in the program. But will $5 stop fraud when people can still get $40 worth of phone service for $5? The Lifeline Assistance program expanded to include not just landlines, but cell phones in 1985.
Presently most free cell phone providers give up to 250 minutes of talk and text time a month. There is also the option to purchase more time and upgrade phones. Each household gets one phone, but somehow, this has not been the case. There have been cases of people receiving multiple phones and selling phones.
Georgia Free Cell Phones
These new fees will go to the phone companies, and not to fill Georgia coffers. Time will tell if this $5 a month rule, will set a persistent for other states to follow. If the FCC does not crack down on the phone companies, the $5 fee will be meaningless. There is still fraud on the part of telecommunications companies. Some phone companies in the program, are still not screening applicants properly, and padding the number of new applicants they have enrolled.
Commission Everett stated, the number of poor in Georgia receiving free government phones has jumped 7-fold in the last ten years. The $5 fee won’t be a hardship to all recipients of the free government phones, but there are always exceptions. The fee is due to begin this year (2013) on the 31st of January.
The cell phone industry association CTIA, feels the additional fee is like the government “setting cell phone rates.” They have no authority to set cell phone rates! Also, now phone companies will have to send out monthly phone bills to recipients to collect fees. The telecommunications companies complain the fee will not even cover the new costs, of mailing out monthly bills. CTIA will continue to press the issue in courts.
Helping or Hurting?
Spokeswoman Liz Coyle for Georgia Watch, a non-profit group, stated that this fee will cause undue hardship on the poor have not committed fraud. So, is it a matter that Georgia, wants to stop fraud, or punish the poor? The government has to pass laws, that will create jobs for those who need to work, as well as increase the minimum wage.
There are many hard-working individuals receiving free cell phones. Free government phones are like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg; but as long as the lack of jobs and low wage paying jobs to persist, there will be a need for these government services.
These providers offer free cell phones in Georgia:
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