McCaskill threatens to oppose phone subsidy

Pushes effort to end abuses of program

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has resumed her campaign against abuse of the telephone tax that funds free or reduced price cell phones and cell-phone service to low-income people.

McCaskill said she will oppose the program by introducing legislation to terminate it if the FCC does not stop abuses in the program.

Two years ago McCaskill launched a campaign exposing “waste, fraud and abuse” in the federal program that subsidizes Lifeline phone service to low-income people.

In 2008, the Lifeline phone tax program was expanded under the Universal Service Fund tax charged to all land-line phone customers to provide increased phone service to low-income people and welfare recipients.

McCaskill said for the last few years unscrupulous firms have been drawing money from the federal government’s tax fund and offering free cell phones.

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McCaskill on Monday called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to refer multiple firms now providing Lifeline tax-paid services to U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors after reports of potential criminal violations.

McCaskill served as the Jackson County prosecutor in the Kansas City area from 1992 to 1999.

McCaskill also asked the FCC to begin its own enforcement actions against offending companies and “to significantly increase its oversight of the Lifeline program.”

The Lifeline program funded by the Universal Service Fund receives its money from a fee users pay on their phone bill.

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