I’m trying to not appear insensitive, but here are a couple of thoughts to consider.
Shockingly it only took the Public Utilities Commission 3 years to come to a decision.
You have to love the liberal mind, next thing you know there will be mandatory quotas set on private business’ to hire the homeless. What’s not to like?
Let’s get them homes and a car too. A huge number of people living on the street do so because it’s a life style choice.
William Locke of San Francisco, who uses a wheelchair, wears his cell phone around his neck and says he could really use the money he would save with a low-cost or free cell phone plan. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle / SF
Throw in your schizophrenic, what do they need a phone for?
They all belong in the warm chambers of the U.S. Congress.
Remember this is California the land of fruits and nuts.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it I’m J.C. and I approve this message.
San Francisco Chronicle
Homeless and other poor people in California are on track to soon get virtually free cell phones and service so they can keep in touch with family, potential employers and others crucial to improving their lives.
The cell phones would be handed out through a federally funded Lifeline program – already operated by service provider Assurance Wireless in 36 other states – that is likely to win final approval in the next couple of weeks from the California Public Utilities Commission. (complete article below)
State PUC officials have been reviewing the Lifeline proposal from Assurance Wireless for three years. Word came Thursday that all but a minor detail had been approved, ending years of effort by advocates for homeless people.
“This is great – it is transformative for homeless and low-income people,” said Bevan Dufty, San Francisco’s head of homeless initiatives, who has been one of the program’s most ardent advocates. “I expect San Francisco to be in the forefront and a model city for this program.
“Fundamentally, to be in the mainstream of our society you have to have a phone,” he said. “And really, for the homeless population, you need a cell phone because they don’t have a home to hard-wire one into. We really need this plan.”
Dufty said if the program launches as expected, it would greatly help an initiative he is trying to start that would let the homeless call a 311 number to find out where and when a shelter bed is available. This would reduce staff work and save the homeless hours of waiting in line and walking miles between booking offices.
Dialing into services
“This cell phone program is an exciting change for homeless people and for the state of California,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, who as head of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness also urged approval. “If you don’t have a phone, you can’t hear if you are on a waitlist for housing, if the housing authority needs to contact you or if an employer needs you. It’s crucial in order to get off the streets.”
Brittney Ames, a homeless 24-year-old, needs a cell phone but can’t afford one.
Having a phone would enable her to take callbacks from the restaurants where she’s applied to work as a waitress, she said. And she’d love to be able to regularly talk with her family in Orange County.
“I can’t stay in touch with everyone I need to, especially for the most important thing of all – getting a job – without a phone,” Ames said as she sat outside the Multi-Service Center South homeless shelter in San Francisco where she stays. “But with no money, I can’t get one.”
The state’s decades-old Lifeline program, like those all over the country, pays for all but a few dollars of the monthly phone bill for poor people, generally meaning those whose annual income is below $14,702. But until now, California’s PUC rules only authorized Lifeline service for “wireline” phones, meaning traditional phones wired into residences – and those rules didn’t authorize anything for free.
Getting set up not easy
Setting up the program in California has been no easy task, officials said.
“This is a new, particularly complicated product,” which requires intricate attention because it ripples through many regulations, said Bill Johnston, a CPUC telecommunications expert who helped evaluate Sprint’s proposal. “It’s not something you can do overnight.”
Approval of the cell phone program came Thursday from the telecommunications specialists at the CPUC, which oversees the state’s Lifeline plans.
All that is left now is final approval of the language Assurance Wireless – an arm of telephone giant Sprint – will use to promote the program. That should take one or two weeks and no wrinkles are expected, said officials with both Sprint and the CPUC.
“We’re very excited,” said Jayne Wallace, an Assurance Wireless spokeswoman. “We know from experience this can make a big difference in people’s lives.”
The need for changing the rules has become obvious even to Sprint’s competitors.
AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman said landline usage by California’s phone customers, regardless of who supplied the service, plummeted 43 percent between 2000 and 2010. Cell phone subscriptions during then shot up 123 percent.
Cost of program
Some 560,000 Lifeline home phone customers in California have dropped their service since 2009, Kasselman said, leaving 1.6 million users still in the program. He believes the drop is largely due to people exclusively using cell phones.
Assurance Wireless first offered its free cell phone proposal to the CPUC in 2009 and got tentative clearance in 2011. It has been a slow process since.
Under Assurance Wireless’ new program, a customer will initially pay $20 for a Virgin Mobile cell phone and pay 10 cents a minute. This initial plan will fulfill state regulations that only people with existing phone service qualify for a Lifeline program.
Immediately, however, the customer will be rolled into Assurance Wireless’ Lifeline plan, which will provide 250 free minutes of talk time and 250 free text messages per month. The customer will then get the initial $20 back as a credit to be used whenever he or she exceeds the talk and text limits.
“I would prefer it to be free, but this at least opens the door,” said Dufty. He said he would explore if other funding sources could backfill the up-front $20 charge.