Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Tim Griffin (R-AR) joined together to demand the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) answer questions about the Lifeline program, which is paid for by American telecommunications consumers. Even though theFCC has adopted two orders to reform the Lifeline entitlement program, it is still plagued by waste, fraud and abuse. The fact that the FCC can't even comment on whether or not the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston Marathon bombers, participated in the Lifeline program is further proof the program is mismanaged and dysfunctional.
"The Lifeline program is another example of how the culture of dependency is weakening America. How can the FCC justify the continued growth of the Lifeline program beyond $2.2 billion a year when they can't even tell us whether the Tsarnaev brothers participated in the program?" asked Blackburn. "I'm convinced that the only way to combat the waste, fraud and abuse of the Lifeline program is to freeze it until we get answers and have safeguards fully implemented addressing duplication, eligibility and illicit use. This effort is really about making government more efficient and doing what we can to lower the cost of consumers' cell phone bills."
"Earlier this year I introduced the Stop Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act (H.R. 176) because I was concerned with the failure of the Lifeline program," said Griffin. "Since millions of law-abiding American consumers pay for this entitlement program through a surcharge on their phone bill, the public has a right to know whether Lifeline benefits were received by the alleged Boston Marathon bombers. Ratepayers deserve to know that the money they pay to support Lifeline is spent wisely and not being used for illicit purposes."
The letter reads as follows:
The Honorable Julius Genachowski
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Chairman Genahowski:
We write to express our deep concern with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Lifeline program, which is paid for by American telecommunications consumers. This program has become symbolic of the mismanagement of the Universal Service Fund, and the Lifeline program's beneficiaries admit the program is plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse.
Law enforcement officials have indicated that Lifeline phones are often found at crime scenes and are used in drug deals. Earlier this month, in a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we learned from an expert witness that the number of recipients of free phones in Maryland was nearly twice the number that should be eligible. Furthermore, the Boston Herald has reported that the FCC, citing privacy laws, will not say whether the Tsarnaev brothers, the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, had a government-paid cell phone -- despite reports that members of the Tsarnaev family, including the suspects and their parents, benefited from taxpayer-funded assistance.
As investigators continue to look into the benefits received by the Tsarnaev family, we request that the FCC state whether members of the Tsarnaev family received benefits from the Lifeline program. Since millions of law-abiding American consumers pay for the program through a surcharge on their phone bill, the public has a right to know whether Lifeline benefits were received by the alleged Boston Marathon bombers.
We also are deeply concerned that the FCC has yet to stand up an eligibility database to root out ineligible participants. Ratepayers deserve to know that the money they pay to support Lifeline is spent wisely and not being used for illicit purposes. If the FCC isn't able to conclusively state whether the alleged Boston Marathon bombers received Lifeline benefits, we believe the program should be frozen until there are mechanisms in place to do so. Thank you for your time and consideration of this request.
Representative Marsha Blackburn Representative Tim Griffin