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Waste Watch
Hundreds Of Millions In Waste Found In Federal Cell Phone Program
June 13, 2012

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Eyewitness News continues to watch your tax dollars. We're taking a closer look at a federal program called Lifeline, which provides free cell phones to the poor. But did you know, you are actually paying for those cell phones.

Every person who pays their bill is helping to pay for those free government issued cell phones. It shows up as a "Federal Universal Service Charge" hidden among all those other fees on your cell phone bill. The money funds the Lifeline program, which provides free cell phones, with about 250 minutes on them to people who qualify for a long list of other types of government assistance. The lifeline program costs Americans $1.75 billion each year.

There has recently been a lot of concern about the program. It was established by the FCC in 1985 to provide a line of communication to everyone, even the poor. But in the past few years, the program has skyrocketed in cost and in scope. It expanded to cell phones in 2008, to help the poor look for jobs and have for emergencies. Now more than 13-million Americans have the connection.

The FCC admits there are real challenges facing the program. In just a few months, they've identified $200-million in waste. So starting this month changes are coming to the program, there's a new database, there will be pre-screening and they're implementing a one per household rule to try and cut out the waste and fraud but many like Representative Shelley Moore Captio are wondering if it will be enough. She says congress should take an even closer look at the program and questions how many people are actually using the phones to look for jobs.

If you have a government waste story, you can call us on our Waste Watch tipline, 304-346-1147, you can remain anonymous. You can also submit a tip to news@wchstv.com

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