The Free Obama Phone: Real or Urban Legend?


Since the day Barack Obama was inaugurated, the term “The Obama Phone” has persisted. People say Obama is redistributing the wealth by starting a program that gives free cell phones – Obama phones – to the poor. Detractors of both President Obama and of the government’s long-standing phone assistance program have fought over this claim since 2009 with each side mudslinging “facts” at each other.

Obama Phone: Urban Legend or Real?

The other day while driving I saw a man with a sign which said free cell phones. While this seems to be a good idea in one respect because lower income people are not completely cut off I would hazard there is a lot of fraud going on as to those who may have them.


Now read the article accompanying this. CLINTON started the funding of landline program which has continued under Bush and now Obama. The phones are at manufacturers cost. This is not an Obama program .


[quote=“njc17, post:2, topic:36350”]
Now read the article accompanying this. CLINTON started the funding of landline program which has continued under Bush and now Obama. The phones are at manufacturers cost. This is not an Obama program .
[/quote] I read the whole article before I posted it and was aware of this but the point was that it seems that I encounter, mainly in comments to articles, where it is claimed these are Obama phones. There was one last night where there were two or more posters fighting with a clearly Obama supporter who claimed these phones were free and it cost no one any money to have them.


And if you read even more you find the lifelife and link-up programs were started by Reagan


Well, if they are free, maybe I should get one. Of course, it would be useless, anyway, since we can’t get reception here. But I mean, if it’s free, why shouldn’t I have one?


Its not quite “free”

Lifeline provides discounts on monthly telephone service (wireline or wireless) for eligible consumers. These discounts average $9.25 per month, and may be more depending on the state. Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than ONE Lifeline service per household.

Link Up provides eligible low-income consumers living on Tribal lands with a one-time discount of up to $100 on the initial installation or activation of a wireline or wireless telephone for the primary residence. Tribal Lands Link Up also allows consumers to pay the remaining amount that they owe on a deferred schedule, interest-free. Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than ONE Link Up discount at a primary residence.

Lifeline: Affordable Telephone Service for Income-Eligible Consumers |


Spin it all you want but the bottom is its just another taxpayer funded handout.

But the giveaways of taxpayers money are so hidden and buried that most don’t know nor have they ever heard.

Like the awarding of GRANTS by the feds to provide bicycles to the poor and needy. Its going on across the US.

Here its disguised as provided ‘last mile’ solutions to the poor who must ride the transit systems. Ft Worth Tx got $946k to buy bicycles…hellva lot of bicycles in fact, it made the news in San Antonio and showed the welfare-ites lined up to get their free bike…wish someone would do an ‘after-story’ on how many still have there bikes and how many are at pawn shops…


The horror. Meanwhile the pentagon usually has billions if not trillions of dollars unaccounted for every year. If you want something to point out to represent massive government waste, it’s that, not free bicycles. Plus you could even make the argument that giving these people bikes may cause them to get and keep jobs.

How about having to earn your bicycle and phone? If one month after receiving it, you haven’t found a job yet, you lose it until you can find one.


You have no earthy idea what you are talking about.

As a retired military officer and Program Manager of key US Army program I could account for every single dime of my funding. In fact the printout spreadsheet was over 7 feet long, 2 pages deep. I was audited annually and 2x I had in depth no notice audits from Wash DC. Allow me to provide some insight on a AAA audit:

About 0830 you are called and requested to come to the JAG office immediately. You are ‘read your rights’. You and the team return to your office, you show them the location of your files and provide passwords to your computer. You are told to leave the building but be at a fone (they recommend you go home), they will call you when they get finished or have any questions. You will sit by the fone for several days. If there are no findings you just go back to work, if there are findings you won’t have a good day.

I turned in my tax returns every year to JAG

Every year I was called in to discuss my spending and funding targets. You cannot go over budget (you can request additional funding, but your fund stream is what you have) your goal is to exactly HIT (spend) your funds by 30 Sept…that is near impossible on the kind of money a PM has. So you end up underspent, you BETTER be within .5% of target or you did not manage you funds…DO NOT let they happen 2 years in a row. PM positions are coveted,

My out year planning goes 10 years, up to 3 years out I am planning at the rental car cost level and how many days of travel my folks will be on the road, GLOBALLY…

NOTE: I am NOT saying this applies to ALL of govt nor all of DoD which is made up of a LOT of civillians…they can lose money and have no idea where it is and they will get a promo, new assignment and a bonus, let a military officer make a .10 cent mistake and his career is on the line, let it be a dishonest mistake and his next duty assignment is Ft Leavenworth US military prison and yess I have seen full COL’s get shipped out to the big house in Kansas!


Correct. So when the article Sam linked to claims it was Clinton, then summarizes the story with, “Now that you have all the facts…”, it makes it rather hard to believe much else they printed.

Still, people are taking WAY too much advantage of a program that’s original intent was to aid people who were homebound in case of an emergency. While I don’t have too much of a problem with that, I do wonder where the FCC got the authority to implement and/or enforce such a plan.
It was when cell phones got added to the program that it exploded with all the unintended consequences. Here is one example in AR where Rep. Griffin is trying to address (and fix) the problems:

No one likes paying cell phone bills. What if you could get a free phone with a calling plan whose cost was paid by the federal government? What if you could have eight free cell phones? You can, and people do, Rep. Tim Griffin told The Daily Caller. The annual bill runs over $1 billion, and he’s trying to stop it.

The federal government started the Lifeline program to provide phones to low-income Americans. It originally provided only landlines, but cell phones were added several years ago.

“That’s when the program absolutely exploded and has become a nightmare,” Griffin said in a phone interview with TheDC. Calling it “Uncle Sam’s unlimited plan,” the Arkansas Republican has proposed a bill that would scale back the program to its original form: landlines only.

“People are not only getting [one free cell phone], they’re getting multiples. There are reports of people getting 10, 20, 30 — just routinely getting more than one, selling them, storing them up, whatever,” Griffin said.

“And they’re not just phones that are able to dial 911. They’re smartphones. They’re the type of phones that you and I pay hundreds of dollars a month to have contracts for.”

Read more: Ark. congressman wants to disconnect $1 billion free cell phone program | The Daily Caller

Another article that exposes the REAL numbers, and why there is a problem: (They got the “mid-80’s part” right, and graph real numbers, state by state, I’ve a tendancy to think it’s accurate:)

Program participation was stable from 2005 to 2008, from 6.9 million to 7.1 million participants, but increased to 8.6 million in 2009. Likewise, support payments were relatively stable from 2005 to 2008, from $802 million to $823 million annually, before increasing to approximately $1 billion in 2009.

And the freebies won’t end with basic calling service. As part of the effort to extend broadband, the FCC has been discussing making broadband service part of the Lifeline program. In other words, taxpayers could soon be paying for smartphone features on these free government phones.

The real question is why American consumers should be providing free cell phones and free monthly talk time to 10 million people in the first place.

Spending Off the Hook: Free Phones Costing Taxpayers $2.1 Billion Per Year

Obviously, it’s gotten out of hand. I just got through paying and EXTRA $15.36 on my phone bills - not to help the needy, but as a hand-out to free loaders!
And just like everybody else, I’m getting MORE than a little tired of it! :mad:

Court Backs Michigan on Affirmative Action

Of course it was Reagan’s fault, if not his then it has to be Bush, then if a Dim cannot link it to R & B then they play the race card. WHich means that we don’t want poor blacks to have cell fones because we are racists…


FC was about 2 years old when I first had a phone - of any kind. My family didn’t have a phone when I was growing up (most of our neighbors did).


For to add (still cannot edit my posts) Reagan did NOT start a free cell fone program. In 1983 a friend of mine worked for Motorola. They had released a cell fone we called the ‘brick’, looked like a WWII walkie talkie. My bud was in sales and he stopped by one day to show me and maybe sell me the brick. IIRC it was about $3000, plus about a $1000+ per mo fone bill. About the same time I saw in the paper where some real estate mogul had bought one and he talked about how he helped him make deals, I do remember he said he was spending over $2000 per month in talk time.

Cell fones did not get cheap till the early 90’s, IIRC I got my first one for business around 1990 or so and we got a package deal on them for the entire office.

So no, don’t believe Reagan was buying $3000 buck fones to the sick, lame and lazy…


Ack! Read the links, dude. It WAS under the Reagan administration that the FCC enacted, and he agreed to, a LANDline emergency hook-up and call system - FOR EMERGENCY CALLS ONLY.

What happened is, that once cell phones became cheaper than landlines, the gov’t decided that’d be the cheaper way to go. AND, seeing as the minutes accumulated made no difference in price, we now have people who no more need emergency service than the man in the moon picking up “free” cell phones hand over fist.

THAT is what has to STOP!!!

(I had a “bag phone”, what you describe as a “brick”, in the 80’s. I don’t recall it being near that pricey.)


"Notice that earlier we said Link-Up helps fund “installation.” What installation does a cell phone have? None. So why is installation part of Link-Up, which is under the Lifeline program umbrella? Because, the whole thing began back in 1996 when the Federal Communications Commission authorized the programs for landline phones. At that time it provided discounts on landline phones only, for obvious reasons.

To this day the government provides discounts on landline phones for financially disadvantaged people in the United States and U.S. territories. The Link-Up portion helps with the installation and the Lifeline Assistance part helps with the monthly bills, to the tune of roughly ten dollars a month.

So, the subsidization of phones began under President Clinton, and has continued under Presidents Bush and Obama."

"Martin Cooper (born December 26, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, USA) is an American former Motorola vice president and division manager who in the 1970s led the team that developed the handheld mobile phone (as distinct from the car phone)

DynaTAC is a series of cellular telephones manufactured by Motorola, Inc. from 1983 to 1994. The first model, the 8000x, received FCC certification in 1983,[1] and became the first cell phone to be offered commercially when it went on sale on 6 March 1983. It offered 30 minutes of talk time and 8 hours of standby, and a LED display for dialling or recall of one of 30 phone numbers.** It was priced at $3,995 in 1983. **

The original Motorola DynaTAC handset weighed 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) and had 35 minutes of talk time. Cooper has said “The battery lifetime was 20 minutes, but that wasn’t really a big problem because you couldn’t hold that phone up for that long.”[11] By 1983 and after four iterations, Cooper’s team had reduced the handset’s weight by half that of the original. The list price was around $4,000 (2009: $8,600). "



Sheesh, chill dude. I got my first bag phone in 1989. (Maybe 1990, come to think of it.) Cost was $300. No recollection of monthly charges.


Lifeline was started in the mid-'80s to reduce the cost of phone service to rural and needy customers. The program’s costs are covered by a tax included on every monthly phone bill called the Universal Service Charge. The program eventually grew to include discounted cell service but took off in 2009, partly because TracFone announced a new program whereby eligible individuals could get a free phone and free monthly minutes. As a result, participation in the program (and costs) skyrocketed:

“Lifeline” started in 1984. It was enhanced in 1996 to include cell phones because it was thought - at THAT time - that it would cost less, considering no installation was neccessary. Problem is, law of unintended consequences being what it is, that it didn’t occur to them how easy it would be to commit fraud due to the inability to keep track of how many people had how many phones.

Okay, we now see the problem - something that started out as a GOOD thing has gotten way out of hand. Happily, there are good people like Rep. Griffin,, who want to do something about the mess that has been created by paring “Lifeline” back down to its original intent.
I applaud them.