Hon. David Vitter
516 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Vitter:
Thank you for your letter concerning the Lifeline program and for forwarding the letter from the FCC regarding penalties associated with the program.
I believe there are only two questions associated with this program:
Should impoverished, disabled, or otherwise eligible American families receive assistance in order to participate in America's communications network?
How can this be done most fairly and efficiently?
When I visited Louisiana, I met with people in need who told me the importance of Lifeline to them. They explained that access to communications, including having their own telephone number, is vital to seeking and maintaining employment, as well as for health, medical, and community and personal safety issues. I found that more than 300,000 Louisianans, including some 30,000 veterans are using this program for their telephone services.
I also looked into the background of the program, a three-decades old program created under the Reagan administration and expanded under the Bush administration that is being brought forward to greater efficiency and effectiveness. I thought the overall approach - to have subscribers and carriers (not the government) foot the bill for those less financially able - was clever and appropriate. Having everyone "in the loop" builds a stronger and safer America.
Insofar as you're campaigning to improve the program, and better target it on those most in need, I am in agreement in principle.
However, I am concerned by the impressions given by you that these phones are somehow "government" phones, and that, therefore America can save scarce tax dollars and cut the deficit by ending the program. As you know, these services are not provided by the government and are not funded through general revenue collections. All eliminating the program would do is hurt people - including some of our nation’s needy veterans - and make our communities less safe and secure. I believe the current charge of $.40 per month per subscriber is a small amount to pay to help those who need it, including our veterans, and to make our country stronger.
You have asked that we debate the merits of this vital program and I am more than happy to do so in both Louisiana and in Washington DC if you would like to bring the subject to a broader audience. First as a pre-condition I would ask that you join me in one other activity: a sit down conversation with Louisiana veterans who are Lifeline users to discuss their usage of the program and how it impacts their lives.
As I have indicated I am more than happy to debate you on the merits of the program, I would much rather though that you join me in working to strengthen the program instead of so vigorously attempting to dismantle a program that so many Louisiana citizens rely on.
U.S. Army General, retired
P.O. Box 3276
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203