Congressman Austin Scott Introduces Legislation to Rein in the “Obama Phone” Program
(WASHINGTON, DC) – U.S. Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08) today introduced H.R. 4884, the Controlling the Unchecked and Reckless Ballooning of Lifeline Act of 2016 (CURB Act) which makes significant reforms to the Lifeline Program.
“I have been fighting to end the unchecked spending and lack of accountability in the Lifeline Program since I came to Congress,” said Congressman Austin Scott. “While the program’s original purpose had merit, the program in its current form is wrought with fraud and abuse, and its past time for Washington to respond to the calls of our constituents to rein this program in. American citizens, who are all too familiar with “Obama Phones”, understand this and can agree that it is simple good governance to ensure we are curbing wasteful spending while also promoting accountability across the federal government. We have a responsibility to the American citizens to practice the same spending discipline they would in their own homes.”
The Lifeline Program, which was created in 1985 and is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was created under the Federal Universal Service fund to advance the FCC’s statutorily mandated goals of providing access to telecommunications services to consumers, including low income consumers, at just, reasonable, and affordable rates. Unfortunately, the program has ballooned in its scope, and its unchecked wasteful spending is rife with fraud and abuse.
The FCC intends to issue an order at the end of this month that will increase the budget for the Lifeline Program to $2.5 billion; a dramatic $725 million increase from the current budget level. Congressman Austin Scott’s legislation will cap Lifeline’s budget at $1.5 billion. This cap will protect consumers, whose monthly phone bills include the “Federal Universal Service Fee” to fund the Lifeline program, from increased costs associated with these unilateral actions by the FCC. His legislation also targets waste, fraud, and abuse by phasing out the mobile-voice-only “Obama Phone” program. Lastly, the CURB Act prohibits the use of Lifeline funds for the purchase or subsidy of devices, including smartphones, tablets, or laptops.