1,440 (and counting) sign Consumer Action’s “Save Wireless Lifeline” petition

Contact: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Consumer Action, 202-544-3088

Washington, DC, April 24, 2013—Alarmed by partisan attacks on a key low-income subsidy—the wireless telephone Lifeline program—Consumer Action, in just days, collected 1,440 (and counting) signatures on a petition to “Save Wireless Lifeline”. The petition was delivered to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, as part of the record for the April 25 hearing, “The Lifeline Fund: Money Well Spent?”

The so-called "Obama phone" program, which subsidizes cell phone service to low-income Americans, was started in 1984 under President Reagan and expanded to include wireless phones under the Administration of George W. Bush. Despite its Republican foundation, House Speaker John Boehner and his allies want to kill the subsidized phone service. On Feb. 19 the Speaker tweeted @SpeakerBoehner: "Nobody should be talking about tax hikes when govt is spending taxpayer dollars on free cell phones."

Republican lawmakers are mischaracterizing the source of this crucial subsidy that keeps low-income families connected to schools and job opportunities and to emergency services (E-911). In fact, wireless and landline Lifeline programs are not paid for by taxpayers, but receive their income via the Universal Service Fund (USF). Telecommunications providers must contribute to the USF through an assessment on their interstate and international revenues. While the telecommunications providers typically pass the USF assessment on to customers in their bills, Lifeline subsidies are not taxpayer funded.

Many of the signers of Consumer Action's "Save Wireless Lifeline" petition work for community-based organizations that serve underrepresented consumers throughout the country. They know why Lifeline works. Here are just a few of the hundreds of statements left by petition signers about the difference Lifeline makes in the lives of low-income Americans:

  • As a community action agency, in providing various resources to the poor, a telephone is the "lifeline" to important services (medical, school, job search, and other daily emergencies.) Many of these individuals are in hard-to-reach areas of services and their only means of contact for many services is via "affordable" telephone services. — Community Action Partnership
  • I work with veterans and find they need this service to stay in touch. They often lose their cell phone service because they can’t pay their bill. It is vital for us to stay in touch with our vets to make sure they get their services. — Eden Information & Referral
  • We serve the working poor community whose lives are dependent on wireless phones. Due to difficult circumstances, many of our families live in slum conditions, have to move often to follow job possibilities and their lifestyle is not conducive to land lines. Yet, it is critical that they be able to stay connected to loved ones. Mobile phones are the vehicle for this—do not remove this critical benefit. — Centro Latino de Educacion Popular

Click here to read a PDF with more about the importance of Lifeline to low-income communities across the nation.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Consumer Action focuses on consumer education that empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers to advance consumer rights and promote industry-wide change.

By providing consumer education materials in multiple languages, a free national hotline, a comprehensive website (www.consumer-action.org) and annual surveys of financial and consumer services, Consumer Action helps consumers assert their rights in the marketplace and make financially savvy choices. Nearly 7,500 community and grassroots organizations benefit annually from its extensive outreach programs, training materials and support.




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