Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: April 17, 2013
Sen. Rob Standridge
Senate approves regulations to reduce abuse in ‘Obama phones’
The Senate this week approved legislation establishing
regulations for the Lifeline Program – a federal program administered
by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The program, widely known
as ‘Obama phones’, provides phone service for qualifying
Standridge, Senate author of House Bill 2165, said the bill
would require that phone service providers participating in the
program verify the eligibility of their customers. The measure would
also limit recipients to one phone line. The Oklahoma Corporation
Commission would enforce fines established by the legislation.
“The state of Oklahoma doesn’t have a choice as to whether
it participates in this program, but we should do whatever we can
to ensure it is responsibly administered. Otherwise, it will only
continue creating opportunities for fraud and abuse,” said
Standridge, R-Norman. “By establishing meaningful guidelines
at the state level, we can help adequately regulate the program,
ultimately saving taxpayer dollars. This is one instance where the
state Legislature can do something to stem the tide of federal waste.”
Standridge noted that Oklahoma telephone companies YourTel America
Inc., and TerraCom LLC recently agreed to pay significant penalties
resulting from an FCC investigation related to their participation
in the program. The FCC found the two companies failed to adequately
document individuals enrolled in the program, resulting in numerous
participants receiving duplicate wireless or landline services.
The Oklahoman in February reported the two companies agreed to pay
penalties totaling more than $1 million.
Underscoring the potential for abuse in the system, Oklahoma companies
received $236 million in connection with the Lifeline program in
2012, according to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Rep. Jon Echols, primary author of HB 2165, said the bill would
bring accountability to the program.
“This legislation gives the Oklahoma Corporation Commission
some additional enforcement authority and creates badly-needed requirements
for more information and verification of true eligibility from the
phone service providers,” said Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “There
is documented abuse of the program from providers who have given
out duplicative lines and not done enough to verify the continuing
eligibility of their customers served by the program.”
House Bill 2165 was approved Tuesday by a vote of 41-0. The measure
will now return to the House for further consideration.
For more information, contact:
Sen. Standridge: (405) 521-5535