Public Service Commission Calls Off Free Phone Giveaway


A free phone offer attracts hundreds but there are issues with the giveaway. The company is now facing tough questions.

Free phones rang up excitement for 750 people who normally couldn't afford one. But the government-backed giveaway for low income customers caused static with the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

"My concern is people were getting them that aren't qualified to have them because they don't meet the government standards," says Anne Boyle, Public Service Commissioner.

A portion of phone fees we all pay goes to federal and state funds called "Lifeline." That program provides cell phones for those who can't afford them in case of emergencies, like if someone suffers a heat stroke on a hot day and needs a bystander to call 911.

But the emergency call six weeks ago brought police to the phone giveaway when tempers flared on a hot day.

"They should have had security out here to help," one customer says.

State wireless regulators didn't know about the giveaway until complaints started coming in.

"They did a lot of things that were improper," Boyle says.

The president of Life Wireless says he regrets and apologizes for problems arising from the event. He says the company will cover costs without federal reimbursement and customers found ineligible will have service terminated. For future phone giveaways, there will be security and water.

"We appreciate what they're trying to do, but get some organization," one customer says.

Life Wireless promises to dial in on customer concerns and government regulations before holding another event in Nebraska. The company tells Fact Finders all future phone service sign-ups will be done in compliance with state requirements. The Public Service Commission will get an explanation for it all at a hearing on Tuesday.


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