FCC proposes $44 million in ‘Obamaphone’ fines

The Federal Communications Commission is trying to bring $44 million in fines against three companies that appear to have abused the agency’s Lifeline program.

The FCC’s Lifeline program is a subsidy program that provides phone service to the poor. Under FCC rules, the program can provide only one phone per househould.

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According to the FCC, three companies — Cintex Wireless, Telrite Corporation and Global Connection — requested government subsidies for people who appeared on the companies’ subscriber lists multiple times.

The companies are facing a total of almost $44 million and must pay back any government funding they received for duplicative subscribers.

The Lifeline program is often the target of criticism from Republicans, who say it allows for fraud and waste. In October, a group of House Republicans wrote to then-Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, saying that they would repeal the program if they could.

Critics of the program derisively call it the "Obamaphone program," despite the fact that it was created during the Reagan administration and expanded under President George W. Bush.

In its announcement Wednesday, the FCC noted that it reformed the program’s rules to cut waste and has brought eight Lifeline enforcement actions in the last three months. 

The newest “three fines bring the total amount proposed to $90 million over that period,” the agency said.