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Blackburn Wants Answers From FCC on Lifeline

Rep. Marsha Blackburn took aim at the FCC's Lifeline program Tuesday and wants the commission to freeze the program until it can answer whether the government subsidy for telecom service to low-income Americans was used by terrorists.

In calling out the program, she repeated her invocation of the Boston bombers from an April 24 hearing on the program, saying in a release Tuesday, "The fact that the FCC can't even comment on whether or not the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston Marathon bombers, participated in the Lifeline program is further proof the program is mismanaged and dysfunctional."

The FCC has taken steps to reform the subsidy to reduce waste, fraud and abuse and increase accountability, but Blackburn remains concerned that more is needed to weed out abuse, hitching that to the terrorist attacks and a Boston Herald report that the FCC, citing privacy concerns, would not say whether the alleged bombers "had a government-paid cell phone."

In a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, Blackburn, joined by Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), said the program remains "plagued" by waste, fraud and abuse and called on the FCC to freeze the fund until she got answers. The letter also said that Lifeline-supported phones are "often" found at crime scenes and used in drug deals, citing law enforcement officials.

Democrats have also sought reforms, while still supporting and defending the program.

An FCC spokesman was not immediately available for comment.