Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Government Wireless

As if I didn’t have any more reasons to hate the welfare system another one just fell in my lap today. Apparently there is a cell phone structure especially designed for people on the various welfare programs (Medicare, Section 8 Housing etc). The program is called Assurance which is handled through Pre-paid carrier Virgin Mobile which uses the Sprint Network for it’s service. The service is paid for through the Universal Service Fund which is apart of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Here is the bad and good part it’s only available in five states (Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia) therefore limits the abuse (wishful thinking I know), but at the same time everyone pays for it through taxes!

You may wonder why I would be upset over a program that has (relatively speaking) very low impact compared to rest of the abused welfare programs. Well today I had a customer who wanted to buy one of the high end Virgin mobile phones priced at $100. At least that’s what I was able to understand since he spoke ghetto-ese. I asked him if he had service with Virgin Mobile already or was starting new service. He replied that he had this Assurance service which uses Virgin Mobile phones in to which I said “oh so your just replacing a broken phone”. I was told that his phone wasn’t broken he just wanted a better one. At the time I didn’t think much of it until I looked up Assurance and found out it was a tax payer funded cell phone. In addition the guy paid for the phone with a government assistance card and I noticed food stamps in his wallet! Of course however this type of abuse happens with all the welfare programs. I remember one time selling a 32” LCD television to someone who lived in a HUD housing area.

Which angers me the most about this program is that the market has already fixed the problem of getting a ways of communication to low income people. It’s called pre-paid, I could understand the point of this back when the act was passed in 1996 when cell phones were still pretty expensive even for the most basic of service but that’s not the case anymore. At least in New York there are at least five pre-paid carries and all the major contract wireless carriers offer pre-paid service. Hell now a days Sprint’s minimum credit deposit for those that fall into that category is $50 and basic talk service typically falls into that price range. The wheels of the market may be slow but they turn up with better results than any government program can hope to dream of.

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