"Cell phones have become a necessary part of your day-to-day survival, and to be without one is unthinkable." Oh, I don't know about that. It's thinkable. But the quoted sentence comes from a website promoting the Obamaphone.
To get one the applicant has to earn less than 135% or 150% of the HHS Federal Poverty Guideline, depending on the state of residence, or already be on a state or federal assistance program. So all of the people currently holding a food stamp card are probably eligible. Just ask the Obamaphone lady.
Who pays for it? Silly question. However, if you said it's the taxpayer, you're only partly right, because the tax only applies to people who pay their phone bills. It's tacked on as a "Federal Universal Service Charge," which on my last monthly phone bill was $3.63.
But apparently the program is rife with fraud and the wireless companies that collect the money haven't been very diligent about making sure the applicants were really qualified. Not to worry. The FCC is on the case.