TracFone is owned by one of President Obama’s biggest donors, and the company has just been awarded a contract for some new and improved Obama Phones. Oh wait, did I say improved? Oops, sorry. We’re supposed to think these new “smart phones” are going to teach people vital office skills to make them more employable. Unfortunately, they don’t do that. But they do help people make calls, play games and catch up with friends on social media on the taxpayers’ dime. All the while Obama’s buddy will be laughing all the way to the bank.
The program’s supporters tout it as a way for the unemployed to learn technical skills, to prepare resumes and to search for jobs, but one of the 14 pilot contracts that the FCC awarded went to Miami-based TracFone Wireless Inc.
TracFone CEO F.J. Pollak has been a frequent White House visitor and his wife Abigail has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both Mr. Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
And although TracFone had originally lobbied for the program, critics say its contract would not provide recipients with skills-boosting computers and services, but would supply high-end Android phones, ready to play games and browse Facebook but doing little in the way of getting a job.
Other companies selected to provide Internet service noted that merely allowing viewers to use apps such as Twitter and run simple Google searches on a small phone screen didn’t meet the spirit of the program’s intent, which included goals of “increasing digital literacy and use of the Internet [to] help bridge the skills gap [and] reduce job search discouragement.”
“The small screen, keyboard and perhaps connectivity issues make it harder for smartphone-only users to engage as deeply with the Internet as home broadband users,” wrote John B. Horrigan of the Partnership for Connected Illinois, which will provide DSL hookups and computer hardware for the poor in that state. (Read More
Welcome to the Obama economy – when only the well connected get ahead.