‘Obama phone’ expansion takes heat at Senate hearing

‘Obama phone’ expansion takes heat at Senate hearing
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Lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday turned a critical eye to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that provides phone service to low-income individuals.

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Less than a week ago, the FCC announced its intention to expand the Lifeline program, which opponents call “Obama phones," to cover broadband service. But critics said Tuesday that the government should be wary of an expansion before there are more accountability measures in place.

“Before again expanding the program, we need to consider what problems remain and how we can address them, since consumers are bearing the cost of funding the program with increasing phone bills,” said Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong Breitbart charts path for 2018 midterm races MORE (R-Miss.), who chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee on communications, which convened the hearing.

Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong The Hill's 12:30 Report Breitbart charts path for 2018 midterm races MORE (R-Neb.) said that because of “the waste, fraud and abuse that’s already been identified,” she supports capping the program’s budget and requiring participants to provide a copay.

Lawmakers also raised questions about how the program is perceived in their home states. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry Overnight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Lawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill MORE (D-W.Va.) said he heard many stories of people using their Lifeline service for “illicit” purposes and said his constituents were “sick and tired” of waste in the program.

The program also has its supporters. A group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced a bill to support the FCC’s proposal.

“With this enduring principle in mind, it is critical that we not forget the importance of the FCC’s Lifeline program to advancing our universal service goals,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate panel approves bill to speed up driverless cars Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump proclaims 'Cybersecurity Awareness Month' | Equifax missed chance to patch security flaw | Lawmakers await ex-CEO's testimony | SEC hack exposed personal data MORE (D-Fla.) said.

Congress is scrutinizing the proposal as the FCC prepares to bring it up at its June 18 meeting.

The update would also include accountability measures, including a new third party to determine who is eligible for the program. Currently, eligibility is determined by the phone service providers.