Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The government's definition of phone sex ...


... appears to be "let's screw people who pay full price for their phones so that we can give phones to other people."

This program appears to have been around for awhile, but it's only lately that I've seen television commercials for the landline version and web ads for cell services like this one.

A little Googling pulled up the details of the scheme:

Lifeline - If you qualify for this program, Lifeline can save you at least $10 a month on your phone bills, depending on what state you live in and which phone company in your area provides this program. Some states provide more discounts to make local telephone service even more affordable. To determine if your state offers these additional discounts, contact your state’s public utility commission, www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm.

Link-Up - Link-Up pays up to $30.00 of a qualified consumer’s home phone startup fees (even if it’s a cell phone), not including the cost of the phone. Link-Up also lets consumers borrow up to $200 of set-up fees, interest-free, for up to one year.

Tribal Lands - Those living on tribal lands may qualify for additional discounts.

The word "discount," of course, is just a euphemism for "subsidy."

How expensive is the program? There's a lot more fog around that, but here's a clue from 2004:

Currently, California's ULTS is a $570 million program. Of this amount, approximately $330 million is financed by federal Lifeline/Link-Up funds and $240 million is from an all-end-user surcharge assessed on consumers' intrastate telephone bills.

California's population is 12.09% of the entire population of the US.

So, if the program is evenly distributed population-wise (I have no reason to believe it is, and reason to believe it isn't, since some states apparently don't participate, but give me a break for cutting the Gordian "lots of unknown variables" Knot), the federal expenditures come to ... lessee, where'd I put the calculator ... about $2.7 billion, or nine bucks or so for every man, woman and child in the US. That's just the federal money, not counting the state phone tax. And that was six years ago!

Once upon a time, $2.7 billion was considered a lot of money. These days, that much change apparently falls out of Nancy Pelosi's purse and rolls into the gutter during her walk from the US House chamber to her car.

I don't know about you, but there have been times in my life when I couldn't afford a phone at all, let alone a cell phone. And during those times I lived without one.

In order to even find out about this program, you apparently need access to either cable television (the commercials I've seen have uniformly been on late-night cable) or a computer with an Internet connection ... but Uncle Sugar's supposed to hook you up with phone service at everyone else's expense? Good grief.

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