Phone customers could see bill increase to help pay for free government phones
According to the Public Service Commission, The Kentucky Universal Service Fund is in danger of being exhausted by April.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- According to the Public Service Commission, The Kentucky Universal Service Fund is in danger of being exhausted by April.
“I can't afford to pay for a phone. I'm broke,” said Kenneth Hammond.
He’s one of more than 100,000 people in Kentucky with a Lifeline phone.
The wireless device is issued to low-income applicants who can't afford the average phone bill.
Lifeline customers are required to provide proof of their low-income qualifying status to the phone company on an annual basis.
“It's good to have that phone for emergencies to call 911, or just to call someone for a ride,” said Lifeline customer Sherri Smith.
Through federal and state funding, Universal Service Funds (USF) were created by the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, with the goal of making telephone service available to everyone.
“Problem is...that fund has been rapidly depleted over the years and is in danger of running out of money,” said Andrew Melnykovych, a spokesman for the Kentucky Public Service Commission. “More people are aware of the program. Those are things we are going to have to look at over the long-term.”
The Kentucky Public Service Commission has opened an investigation to determine how the program will stay afloat.
But it doesn't just affect low income customers.
If you have a landline or wireless phone, take a look at your bill because you're already paying for these wireless phones.
“For every line, we pay eight cents for that fund,” said Melnykovych.
The PCS estimates that the monthly per-line assessment will need to be increased from 8 cents to 14 cents or the monthly Lifeline subsidy will need to be reduced to about $2.
That means Lifeline customers may have to pay the difference.
Either way, Smith says she needs her phone.
“They're very helpful," Smith said. "I hope they don't take it away.”
The PSC is now accepting public comments. If you’d like to weigh in, click here.
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