Access Wireless is a Lifeline program that offers government sponsored free cell phone service. It's part of parent company i-wireless, which offers prepaid wireless service available in Kroger brand grocery stores. Jenifer Kues, Director of Marketing and Communications at i-wireless, was kind enough to offer her time to participate in the following interview with Prepaid-Wireless-Guide.com. Thank you Jenifer!
Interview Date: August 15, 2012
| What inspired
i-wireless to participate in the Lifeline program?
The opportunity to become a provider of Lifeline services was a logical extension of our core business because of our existing relationship as the exclusive wireless provider to the Kroger Co., the nation’s largest traditional grocer. As the economic climate suddenly changed for many folks, we saw an opportunity to provide a valuable Director Of Marketing & CommunicationsDirector Of Marketing & CommunicationsDirector Of Marketing & CommunicationsRead Jenifer Kues, Director of Marketing & Communications, Interview With Prepaid-Wireless-Guide.com!Read Jenifer Kues, Director of Marketing & Communications, Interview With Prepaid-Wireless-Guide.com!service to a class of customers that really could benefit from the type of assistance that Lifeline has always been intended to provide.
| What differentiates Access
Wireless from the other similar programs?
Access Wireless users can earn additional minutes on their phone when they shop at participating Kroger-owned stores. Many recipients of government-assisted programs such as SNAP or Medicaid already have a relationship with Kroger. As an Access Wireless user, they can receive additional value from those existing relationships by earning additional rewards on their wireless phone.
| I understand
that Lifeline providers receive a specific dollar amount per month per
customer (ex. $10/month) from the government, and that these programs
can be highly profitable. Can you share any feedback
regarding the financial sustainability of the program for i-wireless?
Once a customer has qualified for Lifeline service, the program entitles them to a free wireless phone and a monthly allotment of minutes/texts for one year. This ensures a steady revenue stream for Lifeline providers for 12 months. After a year, customers may re-certify their eligibility to receive Lifeline assistance and have their service renewed on an annual basis.
subscribers has a lot to do with customer awareness. How are
you promoting the program so target subscribers are aware of your
More than 45m Americans participate in the food stamps/SNAP program and we work with Kroger to identify those customers and educate them that they are likely eligible to receive Lifeline assistance. Additionally, we foster relationships with strategic distribution partners and various organizations that regularly interact and provide services to low-income residents that would benefit from programs such as Lifeline.
| Does i-wireless
use a different call center for Access Wireless calls? A lot
of customers have questions regarding application denials due to
invalid addresses and the like; are they able to easily talk with
someone who can help resolve their issues?
Yes. We provide assistance to potential Lifeline customers during the application process to ensure that they provide us with the correct information and required documentation for program approval. If a customer is denied approval, we help to determine why their application may have been denied and advise them on how to re-apply for service. Once a customer is approved and activates their phone, they can manage their accounts online or by calling our dedicated Access Wireless Customer Care line.
| I understand
that Lifeline is seeking to offer a similar program for broadband
service. Would i-wireless also seek to participate in free
We understand that the FCC is in the process of considering a pilot program that would extend the Lifeline program to include broadband service and would welcome the opportunity to provide additional benefit to our Access Wireless customers.
| I've heard that
there are a lot of issues with fraud for Lifeline services in
general. As carriers seek to build safeguards against
fraudsters, it can make it more difficult for legitimate customers to
get service. Can you offer any words of wisdom, advice, or
insight for customers seeking to minimize issues getting or losing
We’ve worked closely with the FCC to address concerns about fraudulent abuse of the Lifeline program by requiring a valid form of ID, proof of participation in a qualifying program (i.e. SNAP card, Medicaid card), date of birth and last 4-digits of their Social Security number with each potential application for service request. Additionally, we have processes in place to monitor for duplicate information that may serve as a red flag for abuse or fraud. Lifeline assistance is intended to make telecommunication services available and affordable for everyone. Customers that legitimately have a need should easily be able to qualify for service. Once a customer has been approved, they need to utilize the service. If they don’t use their phone for an extended period of time, their service may be cancelled due to non-use.
| Is there
anything else you'd like to share with prospective Access Wireless
subscribers that could help them better understand the program, or help
them in making a decision to choose Access?
Access Wireless is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the Lifeline program and our desire to bring wireless service to those experiencing difficult times is sincere. We’re committed to ensuring that low income residents have the opportunity and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family and 911 services. We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to be among the small number of carriers that the FCC has approved to offer Lifeline assistance.
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