The Federal Lifeline Assistance Program originally only provided discounts on traditional landline phone service. Once the Lifeline program was updated to include wireless phone service in 2005, many eligible low-income Americans were able to receive discounts on their cell phone bill.
Currently, some cellular service providers of the Lifeline program can provide free cell phone service, and may even provide a free cell phone to each qualified Lifeline subscriber who cannot afford to purchase their own phone.
What kind of phones, plans and features are available? Issa Asad, the CEO of Dania, Florida’s Q Link Wireless, LLC, an approved provider of Lifeline service, explains that “the plans and features for Lifeline cell phone service are very similar to prepaid phone plans, and vary by state.”
Here’s a closer look at what types of Lifeline plans and features are available to qualified subscribers of the Lifeline Assistance Program.
Who Pays for the Phones?
Wireless service providers wholly subsidize the cost of the cell phones that Lifeline subscribers receive for free. The government, the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not contribute any money towards the cost of the cell phones. Providers are also not obligated by law to offer these phones; they choose whether to do so on their own. Q Link Wireless is one example of a Lifeline service provider that provides a free cell phone to every approved applicant.
What Types of Plans and Features Are Available?
The types of plans and features offered for Lifeline cell phone service vary by state, and by Lifeline service provider. In general, most states and Lifeline providers offer the following:
- Up to 250 minutes of talk time with an allotted amount of texting
- 911 access
- Call waiting and Caller ID
- Free domestic long distance
“Since the plans and features for Lifeline cell phone service are similar to prepaid phone plans, customers can easily understand and compare their options, as many are already familiar with prepaid wireless plans,” said Asad, the QLink Wireless CEO.
Customers who go over their minutes with Lifeline cell phone service have the option to purchase more minutes, similar to a prepaid cell phone service. Some plans also include the option to add other features, such as international calling and monthly rollover for unused minutes.
How Long Can Customers Use Lifeline Cell Phone Service?
Once applicants are approved, they are a Lifeline subscriber for at least 12 months. Lifeline subscribers must complete and submit an Annual Recertification form each year to continue receiving Lifeline discounts for the next year. This is one of the requirements of the Lifeline program. Most providers have an online or mail in form that customers can submit in order to re-certify their eligibility. Customers can also complete this process over the phone.
In most cases, customers who receive a free cell phone are allowed to keep it, even if they leave the Lifeline program. Customers may also continue using their Lifeline cell phone as a prepaid phone service by purchasing monthly minutes from their Lifeline service provider.
What Else Should Customers Know?
Most providers make it easy for customers to check their minutes or add minutes online or over the phone. Customers should also be able to enroll in the Lifeline program and check the status of their application through links listed on the provider’s website or by calling their support number.
What does it take to be eligible for Lifeline? How do you meet these requirements to apply for the program? In the next segment, we’ll go over the eligibility requirements and the application process for the Lifeline Assistance Program.
Above content provided by Q Link Wireless, a subsidiary of Quadrant Holdings in Dania, Florida.