CITIZEN: The government, the taxpayers, I don’t pay for it. Like I said, I can’t afford it, so it helps me.
REPORTER: The money actually comes from the extra dollar or two we all pay every month on our phone bills. To receive the “free phones” plus 100 minutes a month of talk time, people simply need to show a driver’s license and proof they live at the poverty line. A food assistance card will do. In 2008, 107,715 people in Illinois received the free wireless phones. Last year, the numbers soared to 569,000, a 429 percent increase. Nationally 13 million people signed up for the free cell phone program at a cost of $1.2 billion.
REP. JOE WALSH: There’s no need or no reason for the government to be doing this, and it just teaches the wrong lesson to folks that they don’t have to be responsible for things like this.
REPORTER: In recent months the FCC has started cracking down after the agency found 400,000 people received multiple phones. Now subscribers have to re-qualify every year. An FCC spokesperson said –