In a continuing crackdown on the federal government’s Lifeline program, sometimes known as “Obama phones,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has revealed that fraud and abuse in the program exceeded two million subscribers. New rules were established after it became clear that subscribers and providers were taking advantage of the system:
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has worked aggressively to enforce these new rules since their adoption, taking actions worth over $15 million, in addition to today’s $32.6 million in proposed forfeitures. Numerous additional investigations are ongoing. Moreover, over 2 million duplicate subscriptions have been eliminated, and the FCC’s reforms are on track to save the Fund more $2 billion over three years.
The two million is up from a figure of 1.1 million in an FCC press release just a month ago.
The Lifeline program was started in 1985 to allow low income household to have basic and emergency phone service, but has grown dramatically since its inception. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that payments ballooned from $819 million in 2008 to more than $2.2 billion in 2012. The Journal investigation also found that the kind of fraud uncovered by the FCC in its current action was rampant:
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