State Imposes New Monthly Fee on Recipients of Low-Income Phone Subsidy

Jan 15, 2013

Credit Anthony Dodd via Fotopedia

State officials today imposed a new $5 monthly fee on low-income Georgians who use a federal subsidy to pay for wireless service.

By a vote of 3-2, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted to add the fee to cut down on fraud and make sure recipients had some “skin in the game.”

Commissioner Bubba McDonald acknowledged the fee would be a significant financial burden for many using the subsidy, but said he didn’t see another way to cut down on abuse.

"There will be those that are disenfranchised by this but there has been an abundance of abuse out there. We've seen issues where people are passing out cell phones in shopping malls." 

The federal subsidy allows phone companies to extend 'Lifeline' service to nearly a million low-income Georgians, mostly free-of-charge. 

Commissioner Stan Wise, who opposed the fee, said the state should go after cell phone providers to prevent abuse, not the poor and elderly who use the subsidy.  

"I think the efforts today are ineffective, poorly-advised, probably not legal, and it really hurt a segment of the population that's not fraudulently receiving these lifeline phones."

Most wireless providers across the state came out against the fee, arguing they had cut down on the vast majority of fraud in recent years with new ID verification requirements.