Senate Passes McCain Troops Phone Home Free Bill.

April 2, 2003

Senate Passes McCain ‘Troops Phone Home Free’ Bill

Washington, DC – In order to improve the ability of American service personnel fighting overseas to communicate with their loved ones at home, the Senate today adopted the Troops Phone Home Free Act of 2003. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the bill last week. McCain’s statement follows:

“The Troops Phone Home Free Act of 2003 bill would provide a monthly allotment of free telephone calling time to members of the armed forces outside of the United States who are directly supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The legislation would direct the Secretary of Defense to provide these troops with the ability to call home by providing a prepaid calling card or equivalent telecommunications benefit worth up to $40 every month. The bill would also direct the Secretary to work with telecommunications providers to facilitate the deployment of additional telephones for use by our troops. We must be mindful, however, of our principal purpose in this mission. And, therefore, the Secretary would not be required to take any action that will compromise our military objectives.

Telephone conversations can provide significant emotional and psychological support to both the soldier and the family member at home. Unfortunately, for some, the cost of placing these calls can be prohibitively expensive.

I recently asked the country’s telephone companies to commit to ensure that families of service personnel do not have their telephone lines disconnected due to a short term inability to pay the costs incurred for calls with troops overseas. I also asked for a commitment to implement special reduced rates where feasible for telephone calls to and from members of the armed forces overseas. I am pleased and grateful that more than 50 telephone companies around the country have agreed to make these commitments.

While these voluntary commitments are appreciated, Congress should do more to help the troops cover the cost of calling home. This bill would ensure that brave men and women who are putting their lives in harm’s way for the cause of our protection are not forced to pass up on opportunities to talk with their loved ones because of the cost of placing such calls.”

McCain also indicated that he looked forward to working with the Department of Defense to make any necessary changes to assist the Department in effective implementation of the bill.

Telephone Companies that Responded to McCain Letter

Alenco Communications, Inc. All West Communications American Discount Telecom Andrew Telephone Company AT&T ATX Communications Inc. BellSouth Bentleyville Communications Corp. Call America Cbeyond CC Communications Choice One Citizens Telephone Co. Coastal Communications Covad Cox Communications Cunningham Telephone Company Deerfield Farmers Telephone Co. DFT Communications EPIK Communications Eschelon Telecom Farmers Telephone Company FairPoint Communications Focal Communications GCI Grande Communications Green Hill Telephone Companies` Hamilton Telecommunication Home Telephone Co. InterBel Telephone Iowa Telecom ITC DeltaCom, Inc. Jefferson Telephone Co. Jordan-Soldier Telephone Co. KMC Telecom LecStar Telecom Inc. Le-Ru Telephone Company MCI Monroe Telephone New Edge Network, Inc. New Edge Networks Nii Communications Nortex Communications Co. NW Iowa Telephone Co. OmniTel Communications One Eighty PacWest PaeTec Peace Valley Telephone Company Pigeon Telephone Co. Qwest Prairie Wave Ritter Communications Holdings, Inc. Rothsay Telephone Co. SBC Sprint Supra Telecom Talk America, Inc. TDS Metrocom The Rainier Group TXU Communications USLEC Communications VeriSign Verizon Walnut Telephone Company Wilson Telephone Co. Xspedius Communications