The Lifeline program which gives phones to the poor free of charge has come under significant fire as of late from both the public and members of Congress.
The program, more commonly referred to as the “Obamaphone” program was actually started under President Reagan, began offering cell phones under GW Bush. Under Obama it has been expanded in a very big way. The program costs taxpayers over $2 billion. TracFone, owned by Carlos Slim, one of the wealthiest men in the world and a supporter of the president, get’s nearly a quarter of that money.
That doesn’t sit right with many folks. Some in Congress have moved to end the program. TracFone, afraid of loosing its mainline of cash directly from the taxpayer to its bottom line, is fighting back via lobbyists and PR efforts. It spent $640,000 wooing the more receptive in Congress last year.
TracFone, a prepaid service provider led by one of the world’s richest men, longs to cut the “Obama phone” line of attacks to save a program for the poor — and its bottom line.
The company, controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, has launched a lobbying ground war to promote the controversial phone subsidy initiative known as Lifeline. And in the wake of congressional blasts, the program’s largest participant has found backhanded support from an unlikely coalition of rights groups and industry advocates pushing for the same goal: to spare it.