The United States (Todd Shields-Bloomberg) – Congressional Republicans want to rein in a $2.2 billion U.S. mobile-phone subsidy for the poor, saying it’s riddled with fraud and benefits the world’s richest man, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.
Slim’s TracFone Wireless Inc. received about a quarter of the funds from the U.S. government’s Lifeline program, according to the latest figures. Today, a House subcommittee asked why the program, paid for by fees charged to U.S. phone subscribers, tripled in cost since 2008.
“It’s not fair that people save and work and pay for phones from whatever funds they have, and other people get them for free,” Representative Tim Griffin, an Arkansas Republican who wants to eliminate the mobile subsidy, said in an interview before the hearing. “It’s not fair the biggest beneficiary of this is Carlos Slim, the billionaire owner of TracFone.”
Slim owns Mexico’s biggest phone company, America Movil SAB (AMXL), which offers mobile service in 17 Latin American countries and the U.S. Its TracFone unit is the largest recipient under the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline program, taking in $451.7 million, or 28 percent, of payments in 2011, the last year for which records are available.