May 29, 2015

The FCC is proposing to extend the Lifeline voice subsidy to broadband, so naturally Fox hates it. It's a three-fer for them. An excuse to rehash their previous "Obamaphone" attacks and to play the video that went viral on the right showing a black woman who claimed she received a free phone from President Obama.

It's also an excuse to call those living in poverty lazy (one of their favorite things to do on Fox, no matter how many times the talking heads on Fox or their enablers try to deny it.)

And it was a chance to attack The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare the the subsidies that are helping millions afford to pay for their medical insurance.

Here's Tucker Carlson and his buddy Charles Payne on this Friday's Fox & Friends.

CARLSON: So, the Obamaphone thing was real. The program preceded Obama, but it's been radically expanded under him and now it is set to expand still more to the Internet. So what is the plan?

PAYNE: Well, to your point, in 2009 is was an $800M program. Actually, Ronald Reagan started it. It's one of these things that was started for the right reasons I think, but again, it's been highjacked. Now it's almost $2B. From $800M to $2B and the idea is, hey, you know what, the world is moving to the Internet. You'll have to send your resume out. It's unfair that poor people don't have access to the Internet, so this is the next solution.

Now here's the problem. First of all, runaway costs, from $800M to almost $2B. The FCC admits that if they can keep certain plans in place they might be able to prevent $2B every three years of fraud.

The other problem is that this is a transfer of wealth from middle class to a little bit lesser class, because people, if you look at your phone bill, you see a universal service fee, that's where the money comes from.

I also think Tucker there's a moral issue to this. I honestly believe that this is yet another program that's going to make it really hard for people to get off the sofa.


PAYNE: And here's the beautiful thing. They're going to vote on it next month. Proponents are saying we acknowledge the fraud, so let's do this. Instead of having 13 million people who are on it right now, let's just give it to, automatically, anyone who is on food stamps. This will eliminate the fraud!

CARLSON: That's a lot of people.

PAYNE: So 13 million to 47 million people! And again...

CARLSON: Because it's a right. This is another reclassification of a virtue to a right. The left sees this as something it likes, broadband Internet, which is good, and says, you know what, you have a natural right to this, which means you have an obligation to pay for it.

PAYNE: You the people, yeah. It would be wonderful if middle class people had an option, you know, on their tax form. Hey, I want to help someone pay for the phone or I don't and pay for the phone. But again, I think the moral aspect of this is, when we're trying to get people into society, out of whatever, where they live and into the sort of economic sphere, the economic ladder if you will...

CARLSON: Yeah, contributing.

PAYNE: Here's the thing. I will tell you. People know this, you take a pay cut. And this is why it's hard for politicians...

CARLSON: You take a pay cut if you go off of government benefits and enter the workforce.

PAYNE: When you take all of these benefits and you add them up, because all of them are at 150 percent of poverty, 130 percent above poverty. Obamacare subsidies, 400 percent above poverty! That keeps a lot of people insulated.

CARLSON: Of course.

PAYNE: So here's the thing. Are you really helping someone by making it more difficult for them to go into the workforce? Are you incentivizing them or disincentivizing them? It's pretty clear what's happening.

For the non-Fox world view on this proposal, here's more from PC Magazine: FCC proposal would extend Lifeline voice subsidy to broadband:

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will consider including broadband within a controversial program that subsidizes telephone or mobile service for poor people.

Recipients of the FCC’s Lifeline program, which provides a US$9.25 monthly subsidy for voice service, could use that money to purchase broadband service instead under a proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Eligible households would continue to receive one $9.25 monthly subsidy, and they could choose whether to apply the money to traditional telephone service, mobile service or broadband, FCC officials said Thursday.

Conservative critics of Lifeline call the program Obamaphone, and they portray it as an attempt to give poor people free mobile phones in exchange for votes for President Barack Obama in past presidential elections. A single YouTube video from the 2012 election season drove part of the misconception about the program.

In some cases, the subsidy is enough to cover the cost of an inexpensive mobile phone and monthly service. But the program predates Obama’s arrival in Washington, D.C., by nearly two decades. The original program was established in 1985 during the presidency of Republican Ronald Reagan. Lawmakers tied its funding to the FCC’s Universal Service Fund in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, eight years before Obama was elected as a U.S. senator.

Calling broadband an essential service, FCC officials said Wheeler’s proposal would “reboot” the Lifeline program. The FCC, in 2012, passed new rules intended to deal with fraud and abuse in the program. About 48 percent of U.S. households making less than $25,000 a year have broadband service, while 95 percent of households making more than $150,000 do, the FCC said.

Under Wheeler’s proposal, the FCC would establish minimum service standards for both voice and broadband covered by the subsidy, and the agency would seek public comments about those service levels.

In addition, Wheeler would establish an new independent administrator to determine eligibility for Lifeline benefits. Now, telecom carriers determine who is eligible for the program, and critics have complained that the current setup invites waste and fraud.

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