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Thursday, August 4, 2011


Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

Does owning a house give you happiness?  Does having a nice car add to your joy?  How about having a college education, food on your table and health care, do those provide happiness?  How about having your own cell phone? 

Yesterday I heard an interesting debate on the news…owning a cell phone should be a civil right. 

One side was arguing that everyone should have access to phone coverage to help obtain jobs.  They say under -privileged Americans need cell phones to help secure jobs in today’s society and to be competitive to those who have phones.  The other side was disputing the necessity of phones for every citizen at the cost of others who are able to pay their bills. 

From their discussion I was able to learn that all people pay a fee to their phone companies, both home and cell, called the Universal Service Fund, USF.  The government now wants to require phone companies to pay for these phone services to non paying consumers out of this fund.  This enables the government to not call this a “tax” on citizens.   Instead they are requiring public companies to pay for it and telling them how to spend their money!

My question is…how will phone companies recoup the money they spend out of the USF?  Answer…by increasing the rate on consumers’ bills. So regardless if the government wants to call this a tax, we the “privileged” have to foot yet another ‘right’!   

I decided to look into this matter farther.  I started by looking at my own T-Mobil phone bill, which conveniently came in the mail a few days prior.  I was shocked to see a notice informing me, the customer, that a rate increase was going to be applied to my bill starting August 15, 2011!!!!  This rate increase is part of their Regulatory Programs Fee (RPF) and I would now be required to pay $1.61 per bill cycle per line instead of $1.41.  While $0.20 is not going to break me, I am outraged that I have to pay this!  I wanted additional information about their RPF so I logged onto T-Mobiles site, clicked under terms and conditions and found this information on #13:
“[A]s well as governmental-related Surcharges (such as Federal or State Universal Service fees, regulatory fees, and gross receipts taxes). Surcharges will apply whether or not you benefit from the programs, activities or services included in the Surcharge. You can find the Surcharges in either the “Taxes, Fees & Surcharges” or the “Other Charges” section of your bill.”(emphasis added is mine)

I next wanted to know more about the USF so I did a quick internet search and found out that the USF was created by the FCC in 1997 to help them comply with the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  This act was put in place to ensure all schools, health care providers, and libraries have telecommunications services.  It goes on to state that the FCC as well as the Federal-State Joint Board have the right to determine who is deemed necessary to have telecommunications to help protect public interest.  (I’m curious as to how everyone having access to phones is protecting public interest…are pay phones not sufficient?  And if the cost of pay phones is too high why not stop raising the cost!?!) 
For additional information go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Service_Fund

Next I went to Assurance Wireless (one of the programs available to the under-privileged) to find out more information regarding this service.  It is a very user friendly site that tells one how to qualify for this benefit and has a nifty option so you can quickly verify if your zip code is currently covered under this program. 
For more information go to http://www.assurancewireless.com/Public/Welcome.aspx

Finally I read through a few other blogs regarding this service from people who currently have it in operation in their state.  Here is one blog (from the New York Post) I found that provides additional information to help clarify this matter further.  http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/capitol/free_cell_phones_are_civil_right_htTMcKQFrjdvyl9A6NHPdP

After all my research I am firm in my belief that cell phones do not necessitate public interest.  There are ways for people to obtain jobs without a cell phone, or even a home phone.  One can provide an email address (public library is free and one can check their email there…I am okay with my tax dollars supporting libraries), one can ask a friend or family member if they can give potential employers their number or if possible purchase a go-phone.  When all else fails honesty is the best policy…simply tell a potential employer you do not have phone service at this time. 

I believe in our constitution, I believe everyone has unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  If having a cell phone makes you happy, you have a right to peruse that happiness as long as it doesn’t come at my expense. 

When will the government realize that eventually people will run out of money to keep funding these ‘benefits’ for the less fortunate? 

I do feel bad for people, I am not a harsh person, however I am realistic and I know that I cannot afford to keep paying my own bills if I must pay for others as well.  I will gladly help ensure people have food, electricity, running water, basic health care and overall fundamental necessities to survive, but I draw the line at extravagances such as cell phones! (By the way there are programs that exist outside government mandate that help people with issues such as obtaining cell phones. Verizon Wireless’ Hopeline Program, for domestic violence victims, is one example.)

What is the government going to do when no one can afford to pay for everyone?  Or is that the goal…

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