The multitude of pricey welfare programs burdening our nation continues to grow, and SB 1441 enables North Carolina to participate in one of the most recent of these federal programs: Lifeline Online, a brainchild of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). SB 1441, sponsored by Sen. Joe Sam Queen (D – Haywood), appropriates $25,000 to e-NC to apply for this FCC program, which affords substantial discounts on broadband Internet service costs to welfare-participating families. This program allows welfare recipients to receive more funding for nonessential purposes, creates perverse incentives to stay on welfare, and passes the costs on to taxpayers.
The Lifeline Online program is an emerging communications welfare program that seeks to connect low-income and welfare-participating families with access to broadband Internet access by providing them with substantial subsidies to pay their bills. Like its predecessors Linkup and Lifeline, Lifeline Online is funded by taxing telecommunications companies, which in turn, pass the costs on to the consumer. These funds are channeled into the Universal Service Fund (USF), which has collected nearly $9 billion. Due to the government allowing telecommunications corporations to tax the public to compensate for revenue lost by this initiative, programs like Lifeline Online are an unseen tax on the public.
SB 1441 seeks to hand out $25,000 so that e-NC can apply for the Lifeline Online pilot program and become the agency controlling the dissemination of USF funding. E-NC is the state initiative to connect all North Carolina to broadband Internet, specifically focusing on rural and low-income areas.
This bill is complicit in the expansion of the myriad of already existing welfare policies, which encourages a dependency on those programs amongst its participants and taxes the industrious working class. For example, to meet the eligibility requirements for Lifeline, Link-up, and other programs, you would only have to receive welfare such as Medicaid or Food Stamps. Therefore, participants have an incentive to keep below a certain income level, because if they exceed a particular income amount, they not only lose Medicaid and Food Stamps, but also their communications welfare.
Broadband Internet is a luxury, not something that should be handed out to everyone. Hard working Americans should not have to pay more so that welfare recipients can get the latest high speed Internet. This creates more perverse incentives to encourage people to get on, and stay on indulgent welfare programs. For aiding and abetting our ballooning welfare state, SB 1441 is this week’s bad bill of the week.