TechFreedom’s Larry Downes was quoted in US News & World Report , explaining the problems with Lifeline and a proposed pilot program to extend access into broadband:

“It started out with, ‘Every household should have a dialtone, so you should call in an emergency,’” says Larry Downes of the technology think tank Tech Freedom. “Well, then it became, ‘They should have basic phone service. They should have a basic cellphone service.’ They say it’s become a basic staple of life. You can’t argue with that, but your electric bill doesn’t charge you a tax to make sure poor people have electricity.”

Because the program has no cap, the fees passed on to consumers are simply raised each year if more people enroll, which has been the case over the last couple of years. In Louisiana, the number of Lifeline customers grew from 38,000 in 2008 to 626,000 in 2011, an increase of 1,565 percent.

Downes charges that the system has been “fraught with fraud.”

“People have been ripping this thing off left and right,” he says. And the FCC knows it, too.