The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported that the Public Utilities Commission of the state of Georgia is proposing some changes to their free government program. Concerned with fraud in the program and idea that full-price customers are subsidizing free cell phones for the poor, the Commission has proposed that recipients of free cell phones pay $5 per month to continue their service.

This money is designed to go back to the cell phone companies that have issued the phones. If the measure is approved,  Georgia will be the first state to implement restrictions on the Lifeline Assistance Plan.

The proposal have come to the surprise and concern of the companies that operate in the state as they have not requested this revenue. They are now concerned with having to deal with billing and the inevitable delinquencies.  The companies are also concerned about  customer loss as the fee would make it more difficult for those who are at their poorest to get and maintain phones. Under the new restrictions, the companies will also have to maintain photo ID for all customers that they give service to. Maintaining these IDs are another burden that the companies would like to do without.

As difficult as these changes may seem, the leaders of the commission want the program to continue in the state. “There are some people out there that need this, and therefore I don’t want to totally end it,” Doug Everett, the commissioner said. “There are people who are using it properly.”

What might this mean across the nation?

We will be watching this story closely. If this measure passes and is implemented, obviously  it will reduce the amount of fraudulent and duplicate phones, but it may also shut out many who need it most. It will be interesting to see if other states follow suit. If more states start charging fees for their customers, it may change the Lifeline Assistance program and the way that thousands of Americans are able to communicate.