Kentucky landline, wireless customers will see bill increase to - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky landline, wireless customers will see bill increase to save free phone program

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --The Universal Service Funds were created in 1996 to make telephone service available to low-income residents.

“It's been great for me,” said Darryl Ellery, who has had his Lifeline phone for about six months and doesn't go anywhere without.

“They don't have phones out on phone booths no more, so you need a phone just in case you get in trouble out here. You're going to have to have somewhere you can get emergency contact,” Ellery said.

Funding for this program has rapidly depleted over the years, and more than 100,000 Kentuckians were in danger of losing their free cell phone service.

But the Kentucky Public Service Commission came up with a temporary solution that will affect everyone in the state with a wireless or landline phone bill.

“The surcharge for the Universal Service Fund, which funds the Lifeline program, is going up by six cents, from eight cents to 14 cents,” said PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych

He said most phone providers supported the increase to keep the program stable, but many customers are against it.

“Six cents really isn't that much,” Melnykovych said.  “They have no sympathy for the folks that are reliant on that program on that phone service.”

But why is the Lifeline program running out of money so fast?

Ellery believes he has that answer.  

"Some people got three or four phones. They want those extra minutes. The government ... they don't got no way of controlling the system."

Melnykovych said if there are issues with fraud, it would fall to the federal government to investigate. It's not something for the PCS to investigate.

The PCS is still taking public comments to come up with a long-term solution for the free-phone funding. If you'd like to weigh-in, click here psc.ky.gov.

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