Obama is distributing phones to millions of welfare recipients. At the same time, he is taking away cell phones from many lower-level Government workers, some of whom may need to react in some way in an emergency.
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) was recently changed so that Obama can send messages directly (See video below). Previously, the messages originated only at the state and local level, not from the White House. At the same time, the capability is being expanded to include messaging to cell phones.
The Federal Government has had a “Lifeline” Program since 1985 that helped low-income households have a land-line telephone.
If they have a telephone at home on a land-line, a cell phone is a luxury for the unemployed. But it is necessary, if Obama needs to communicate directly with masses of low-income people in real-time.
For what purpose? Even during the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear attack was imminent, the presidents did not feel the need to communicate directly via the EAS. It seems that Obama does not trust the state and local authorities to send out his messages during a time of crisis.
The description of how Obama will be able to send text messages to mobile phones is towards the end of this clip.