James Wagner's recent letter to the editor about President Obama giving free cellphones to the poor is simply factually incorrect.
Yes, welfare recipients and others can receive free cellphones, but the program is not funded by the government or taxpayer money as he alleges. SafeLink Wireless does indeed offer a cellphone, about one hour's worth of calling time per month, and other wireless services like voice mail to eligible low-income households.
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Applicants have to apply and prove that they are either receiving certain types of government benefits, such as Medicaid, or have household incomes at or below 135 percent of the poverty line.
SafeLink is run by a subsidiary of America Movil, the world's fourth-largest wireless company in terms of subscribers, but it is not paid for directly by the company. It is funded through the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administration Committee, an independent, not-for-profit corporation set up by the Federal Communications Commission.
The SafeLink program has actually been offering cellphones to low-income households in some states since 2008, This specific program started under President George Bush, with grants from an independent company created under President Bill Clinton, which was a legacy of an act passed under President Franklin Roosevelt, which was influenced by an agreement reached between telecommunications companies and the administration of President Woodrow Wilson.
There is no connection to our current President.