Talk Is Cheap

By: Mike Vasilinda
By: Mike Vasilinda

A universal service charge appears on every landline phone bill every month.

The fee is used to help low income people pay their phone bill, yet only 14 percent of those eligible here in Florida take advantage of the program.

Why usage is so low has everyone stumped, including Jack Shreve, the man who fought the phone companies for the $13.50 a month break.

Jack says, “There are no hooks in it, no gimmicks, but you’d be surprised; a lot of people out there don't trust anything quite this good.”

To increase enrollment, phone companies sent a flyer home with every public school student at the beginning of the year, but so far response has been spotty.

Charles Rehwinkel, Sprint Vice President in Florida, says, “We know there are brochures sitting at home on the mail table, or somewhere else like that in the household.”

Critics say more can be done. A handful of states have automatic enrollment.

Florida already knows who’s eligible. It’s the people who sign up for food stamps or other low income programs. In states with automatic enrollment, the state simply sends that new information to the phone companies.”

The AARP says it can be done here.

Charles Milsted, AARP Associate State Director, says, “We know that Texas has automatic enrollment, California has automatic enrollment, Massachusetts, Maine have automatic enrollment."

Every new Lifeline recipient costs the phone company $3.00 a month. If you are interested in applying for the $13.50 a month Lifeline Savings Plan you must call the public counsel's office at 800-540-3552. You may also be eligible for a $30 break on connection charges under the same program.


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