FCC Commissioner ‘Outraged’ At What CBS4 Investigation Revealed About Free Phone Program

Article posted on July 24th, 2015 by WhatAmIMissingHere

WAIMH Red ArrowEDITOR’S COMMENT: Surprise! Surprise! The government’s Obamaphone program is still mired in fraud, waste and abuse. And, rather than correct all this fraudulent activity first, the FCC is about to implement its free broadband service program for low-income Americans under the existing Lifeline program. Don’t forget that the cost of the phone program already exceeds $1.7 billion annually.

By Brian Maass

Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Ajit Pai says a CBS4 probe of a government cellphone program revealed fraud, waste and abuse in the government’s Lifeline cellphone program that he called “shocking.”

“The CBS4 story highlighted the fact that in places there are no safeguards, workers are signing up people using fraudulent certifications,” said Pai, one of five FCC commissioners.

The comments from one of the top administrators at the FCC came seven months after the CBS4 investigation and just weeks after Pai played the CBS4 broadcast report at a monthly FCC meeting so his four fellow commissioners could see problems with the program before they voted to broaden the program to include broadband service.

“This is an FCC program, and if we don’t take action, fraud like this will persist,” said Pai.

The 2014 CBS4 investigation showed repeated instances of fraudulent activity and waste in the Lifeline program in Denver. It’s an FCC administered program designed to provide free monthly cellphone service to the needy so they can have cellphone service allowing them to seek employment or call for emergency help if needed. Recipients are required to show official documentation like Medicaid, housing assistance or food stamp cards verifying their low income status in order to receive the free phone service.

Vendors typically receive $3 for every phone they are able to give out. In other cases, vendors said a CBS4 producer could simply show someone else’s electronics benefit card in order to secure a free phone and service.

Pai said when he played the report June 18 for the public and his four fellow commissioners, “There was an audible gasp as you were able to get service based on someone else’s EBT card for example.”

“It covers people who don’t need help,” said Pai. “There are no safeguards to make sure the dollars are spent wisely. In the middle of Denver at a tent this fraudulent activity was going on. If it can happen in Denver it can happen anywhere.”    (my emphasis)

READ all of Brian Maass’ comments from CBS Denver here.

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