Anyone who was within range of a television during the 2012 election remembers Michelle Dowery, even if they can’t quite place her name.

Dowery was the enthusiastic Obama supporter who famously explained to a news cameraman, “Everybody in Cleveland, all minority got Obamaphone, keep Obama in president, you know? He gave us a phone, he’s going to do more.

It may have taken several years, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has now approved a new program finally making good on Obama’s promise to “do more” by expanding the “Obamaphone” program to include high-speed Internet. The vote came along party lines with two Republican members voting against the expansion.

The LifeLine Program, which is funded by a fee assessed on all unsubsidized phones, was originally intended to provide landline phone service to seniors, the poor, and those living in remote rural areas to ensure their ability to call 911 for emergencies, make doctor’s appointments and arrange for rides.

Since that time, the program has shifted to providing cellphones, texting, and voicemail.

The added high-speed Internet access will increase the cost of the program by 50 percent, without a commitment to reducing the waste, fraud and abuse in the program that has been identified by the FCC, including allowing beneficiaries to enroll via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a welfare program rife with fraud allegations.

In addition, the FCC has filed a Notice of Apparent Liability as the first step in recovering $51 million from Total Call Mobile, a Lifeline provider in 19 states, of “systematic and egregious misconduct and widespread enrollment fraud.”

Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of two Republicans on the FCC Board, revealed that he and other commissioners were instructed to keep the extent of the fraud and details of the lawsuit until after the Board voted on high-speed Internet issue.

“Commissioners were told that the Notice of Apparent Liability could not be released or publicly discussed until April 1, 2016, conveniently one day after the Commission was scheduled to expand the Lifeline program to broadband,” Pai wrote in a partial dissent from the vote. “That’s not right.”



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