Lifeline is a service that you would not be proud to tell someone you’re a part of. You need to fit within certain criteria the federal government has set for you to be labeled “low income” or qualify for social services. Around 90% of Americans have a mobile phone according to Nielsen, which may sound like a lot, but penetration rates in many European countries have exceeded 100% (more than one phone per person) for quite a long time. That leaves 32 million Americans without a mobile phone.
No one is questioning the need to stay connected and I hope the people who are against government funded mobile access come to the realization that being connected to the world is just as important as clean water and free education. The number of people using Lifeline has doubled since November 2008 and is now around 1.4 million and it works by operators receiving a $10 per month government subsidy for providing 68 minutes a month of talk time. Tracfone, a company based out of Florida that has a successful prepaid business, provides the handsets and operators like AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are supporting the Lifeline initiative.
There is currently a debate as to whether or not the government subsidy should be applied for wireless service, which again, is tied to the old line of thinking that a mobile phone is equated to having a luxury item.
[Via: New York Times]