Free Lifeline Phone Service
Overview & Qualification
Lifeline phone service has seen tremendous growth, particularly as
wireless providers have been spending a lot of money promoting it and
competing for customers across the nation. Lifeline initially
applied to landlines, however, as wireless not only became mainstream,
but began to replace household fixed telephone lines, companies
offering lifeline free cell phones began to proliferate.
Interest from visitors to this site in this program has been amazing,
which is why you'll now find this intro page with key topics to educate
yourself. You can then dig deeper by linking over to related
What is Lifeline Assistance?
The first question for those not familiar with it will most certainly
be: "What is it?!" Lifeline is a government sponsored program
to provide low income households with access to phone service, which is
considered critical to ever day life. Consider the need to
keep in touch with loved ones, get medical assistance, transport
coordination, job searching, etc.
Note that only one free phone/service is allowed per
household. In other words, it's not meant to be provided as a
luxury where every family member will be running around with the latest
iPhone or Android smartphone. It truly is meant to be used as
a tool to enhance the lives of those who otherwise would not be able to
afford a phone (wireless or landline).
Government Lifeline Program Background
Can you believe the Lifeline phone service program has actually been
1985! Contrary to what many believe, the Lifeline program is
not a tax sponsored program. Every wire line and wireless
customer pays a nominal fee as part of our phone service to the FCC
(Federal Communication Commission). As it's often buried in
the cost of one's plan, particularly for prepaid wireless, we often
don't explicitly see it. A portion of these collected funds
are then allocated to providers who offer the service. The
program is actually administered by the Universal Service
Administrative Company (USAC).
The program usually manifests itself in the form of a free phone and
some portion of free minutes, text messages, and now data each
month. However, some providers have implemented it in the
form of a monthly statement credit instead (ex. $9.25 per month off of
your bill). Obviously the free phone and service option is
far more popular and desirable, not to mention much easier to market to
Who Qualifies For Lifeline Phone Service?
Here's what the FCC states on their site that defines eligibility:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Tribal-specific programs: Bureau of Indian Affairs General
Assistance, Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TTANF), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
(FDPIR), Head Start
- Income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
What Are The Federal Poverty Guidelines?
Here's the official poverty guideline tables for your reference.
Why So Many Lifeline Cell Phone Providers?
Initially there weren't a ton of Lifeline phone service providers
phones and service. The market was really dominated by
Sprint's Assurance Wireless, and TracFone's SafeLink
Wireless. HOWEVER, that is no longer the case! The
number of providers became so overwhelming to casually mention here and
there in the discussion forums that I created a separate page that
lists the vast majority of them! You can find that page at Lifeline
Personally, I think there are way too many providers. I don't
see any strategic government reason to have so many approved providers.
The administrative cost to approve and manage them would most
certainly have diminishing returns. That said, it must be a
job creator! So long as the Lifeline phone service can be
nationwide, having them compete with one another really offers no
direct customer value. I say that because the amount of the
subsidy is fixed! You will find some differences, however,
note that the offer does vary slightly by state. Though
within a given state, the offer between providers should be essentially
the same. They may differ in terms of which ones allow you to
bring your own device, and some may subsidize the program with their
own profits to enhance their programs. However, generally
speaking, the offers are virtually identical.
Is A Phone A Human Right?
actually have a page dedicated to this topic that. It
includes the ability for your to post your own thoughts, as well as
respond to those who have already expressed their opinions.
You can find it at Free
Cell Phone Service - A Human Right?
That page also
includes a listing of wireless providers that offer free phone service
that are NOT Lifeline providers. This is a great resource for
those who don't qualify for Lifeline.
Lifeline Also Includes Broadband!
As of December 2016, the program was extended to include mobile
broadband, which can include fixed or wireless, and can be a standalone
service, or bundled with voice services. You can find a
dedicated page on this topic at Free
Broadband Internet Access
Lifeline phone service is a hot and growing topic. Given the
number of providers, and the maturity of the program, you'll find that
it has become more complex over time. The good news is that the
services and phone options continue to improve, which is great for
customers. Note that there have been fraud issues, which you
can learn about at Lifeline
Phone History & Fraud Issues
. Lastly, here
are additional links to very extensive
discussions that visitors to this site are having:
Changing Assurance Wireless Phone
To Use A Smartphone On Assurance Wireless
Option With Assurance Wireless
Learn how to make money as a Lifeline Free Cell Phone Service Agent!
Lifeline Free Phone Service Overview