FCC cracks down on Internet, phone subsidy fraud

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is putting together a team to crack down on fraud in the agency’s multibillion-dollar phone and Internet subsidy programs.

The new task force will build on the agency’s work to “ensure that the American people’s money is wisely spent,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement Monday.

The group — led by Loyaan Egal, formerly a senior assistant U.S. attorney in Washington D.C. — will focus on FCC subsidies, including the Universal Service Fund, which funds connectivity programs across the country.

That subsidy provides funds for multiple FCC programs, including the Lifeline program, which provides mobile phones for low-income households, and the E-Rate program, which provides funding for Internet access in schools and libraries.

The agency’s connectivity subsidies are often subject to criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who say the agency should do more to cut down on fraud and waste.

“The Commission is committed to aggressively rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse,” Wheeler said Monday, announcing the new task force.

The agency’s announcement pointed to its current work to combat Universal Service Fund fraud, including through the FCC’s Office of Inspector General and work with the Department of Justice.

The new task force “is a force multiplier for the FCC’s efforts to combat waste, fraud, and abuse,” Travis LeBlanc, acting director of the agency’s Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement.

The task force will be housed in the Enforcement Bureau and “will continue to grow to include experienced prosecutors, investigators, and forensic analysts,” the agency said.