There have been major developments in the wake of the 6 Investigates exposé on an Oklahoma cell phone company that made tens of millions of dollars by providing cell phones for the poor. We've learned that company, Icon Telecom, is shutting down its Lifeline service.
Oklahoma City-based Icon Wireless provided government-subsidized cell phones to the poor and, in its first full year, raked in $36 million in federal subsidies.
Our News On 6 investigation discovered the feds have been writing that company checks with no audits of its paperwork, meaning those millions were given to them based on the honor system.
Icon already received another $27 million in government subsidies this year.
Following our series of reports on the Lifeline program, 6 Investigates learned the Oklahoma Corporation Commission had been investigating Icon Telecom.
In February, the OCC notified Icon it had concerns about its business practices and in August a division of the OCC filed a complaint, asking the commission to pull Icon's permit to provide Lifeline service in Oklahoma.
State regulators cited more than 40,000 violations, including lots of missing information from the company's list of subscribers.
After receiving a total of more than $60 million in government subsidies, Icon says its shutting down its Lifeline service and has voluntarily given up its permit.
We called Icon's customer service line and got this automated message: "Attention. On September 18, 2013, Icon will terminate service to Lifeline Wireless Service for all customers. For new service choose another provider..."
But state regulators say, once again, Icon is out of line and can not leave customers high and dry with no notice. The Corporation Commission says Icon must give customers 30 days' notice.
In a statement, Icon's attorney said its shutting down due to the cost of providing service, and the costs associated with investigations into the company.
The statement also says the company has detected some "problems" and will reimburse "some" money to the Lifeline fund.
Here's the entire statement from Icon's attorney:
ICON Telecom, Inc.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - September 17, 2013
ICON Telecom, Inc., a provider of wireless Lifeline service in Oklahoma, today filed its notification of voluntary relinquishment of its Eligible Telecommunications Carrier designation with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, effective September 18, 2013. The notification was filed pursuant to federal law. The FCC has been notified separately. As of September 18, 2013, ICON will no longer provide Lifeline service in Oklahoma.
Customers were notified of the termination of service, and were advised to seek Lifeline service from other providers. The number of providers of Lifeline service in Oklahoma should make that an easy process for customers.
This voluntary filing was prompted by a number of factors, including the costs of continuing to provide service and those associated with investigations and audits regarding ICON's subscriber enrollments. During the course of these investigations and audits, ICON voluntarily has detected and corrected problems that will result in some reimbursements to the federal Lifeline fund. ICON has not received any reimbursements from the Oklahoma Lifeline fund.