Government shutdown or not, the Federal Communications Commission announced a proposal to fine five cellular service providers a total of $14.4 million for violating the rules of its Lifeline phone subsidy program. In case your memory needs to be jogged, Lifeline allows economically disadvantaged people to get subsidized cellphone service through carriers. Assist Wireless, Easy Wireless, Icon Telecom, TracFone Wireless and UTPhone are all in Uncle Sam's crosshairs for allegedly giving multiple subsidized accounts to folks who should have only received one through the program. This development comes after the commission's revelation that 41 percent of last year's subsidies didn't go through the appropriate verification process. The FCC's sanctions don't stop at the multi-million dollar penalty either. If the federal body gets its way, cash collected through duplicate accounts will have to be returned by offending companies.
Update: TracFone reached out to us with a response to the FCC's proposal, saying that the commission's dispute with it involves less than $8,000 and fewer than 850 people -- a drop in the 4 million person Lifeline-customer bucket. Hit the break for the firm's full statement.