Though they are relatively recent inventions, cell phone and Internet services are essential to today’s modern world, helping you communicate with parents, spouses, children, friends, and all the companies who provide services to you. But cellphone and Internet services can be expensive, and there may not be enough money left to pay for them after the most important bills have been taken care of. Luckily, there may be a free or discounted cellphone program that can help.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established Lifeline as a way to make cellphones and cellphone service more affordable to low income earners. Currently, Lifeline provides eligible households with a discount of $9.25 per month for a cellphone line, landline, or broadband service.
In addition to saving $9.25 on your monthly phone service, you are guaranteed minimum service standards. These service standards include 500 minutes of talk time or its equivalent. Program reforms in 2016 have now increased the service standards. On December 1, 2017, you must be offered a plan with a minimum of 750 minutes of voice time or its equivalent, and by December 1, 2018, you must be offered 1000 minutes.
Assurance Wireless is a Lifeline program provided by Virgin Mobile, just one of the many programs that exist. Recipients of this program receive a free Android smartphone, 350 free minutes of talk time, Unlimited texts, and 500 MB free data every month. Some companies may provide different benefits, so always check the terms of your program assistance with the company provider.
Other providers offering free lifeline service include entouch wireless, safelink wireless and qlink wireless. Each provider is regional and periodically offer special deals. Please check that your location supported before applying.
How To Know If You Qualify
You are eligible to receive Lifeline assistance if you are already on another government assistance program: Medicaid, Food Stamps/SNAP, Supplemental Security Income, or Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8). If you are not on one of these programs, but meet the low-income requirement, you still may be eligible.
If you live on Tribal lands, you could be eligible for Enhanced Lifeline Benefits, which is an even greater monthly discount.
Since programs are run by the state, you would have to check with your individual state program for rules, requirements, and an application process.