Hundreds of thousands of people are able to receive a free government cell phone and service because of a government benefit program called Lifeline. The program offers eligible low-income Americans the ability to call friends, family, job opportunities, co-workers, doctors, and 911 emergency services.
The Federal Lifeline Assistance Program was actually established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the 1980s under the Ronald Reagan administration. The program first only offered a discount off of landline telecommunication services. Later on, in the 2000s, Lifeline was updated to also include cell phone services.
Who pays for the free government cell phones and service? Many people falsely believe that taxpayer money is used to provide the Lifeline cell phones and services. Opposite to this belief, Lifeline is actually funded by a collection of fees that make up the Universal Service Fund, or a USF. These fees are gathered by all wireless service providers, and not by taxpayer money.
The USF was created in 1990s by the FCC in order to modernize and maintain America’s telecommunications and technologies. Furthermore, the USF ensures everyone has access to telecom services that allows a safe and productive life, regardless of income status.
Here is a break-down of the USF and Lifeline. Everyone who pays a phone bill has a few cents added on each month that goes to the USF. The USF is then used to fund the Lifeline program. The Lifeline program is then provided to eligible low-income individuals.
Who pays for the cell phones? Although nicknamed a “free government cell phone”, the government, the FCC, or the USF does not pay for any cell phones. The FCC allows certain cell phone service companies to provide the Lifeline program. These cell phone service providers completely pay for the cost of the free cell phones used with the free cell phone service. Lifeline providers are not mandated to provide the free cell phones, however, they choose to in order to help out eligible Americans in need.
How can you get a “free government cell phone”?
A free cell phone and Lifeline service is available to all eligible individuals who currently meet the qualification criteria. There are two ways to qualify; either by participating in a government benefit program such as Medicaid, Food Stamps (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or most other government assistance programs, or by meeting state specific Federal Poverty Guidelines. Some other examples of government benefit programs include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Free Lunch Program.
Eligibility criteria may be different for each state. All participants of Lifeline must only have one Lifeline account per household, and may not have multiple cell phones from Lifeline service providers. Furthermore, every Lifeline participant must annually verify their eligibility for Lifeline via an Annual Recertification.
Are you ready to receive your free government cell phone today? See if you’re eligible for Lifeline or sign up immediately by entering your information in the fields below and clicking on the orange button now!