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Lifeline Discounted Monthly Phone Service

  • Published: 2013-11-10 (Revised/Updated 2016-04-20) : Author: Thomas C Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Information on The Lifeline Program a U.S. federal program providing support to telecommunications companies for discounts to eligible consumers.

Main Document

"The Lifeline program is available to people who are low-income and eligible in every state, commonwealth, territory and on Tribal lands."

Lifeline is a government benefit program that provides people with discounts on monthly phone service. It is a program for eligible people with low-incomes to assist with ensuring they have the ability to connect to America's communications networks, access health care services, find jobs, connect with their children's schools and with family members, as well as have the ability to call for help in an emergency. Lifeline is supported by the federal Universal Service Fund (USF).

Lifeline provides discounts on monthly phone service, either wireless or wired, for people who are eligible. The discounts are currently set at $9.25 a month. Federal rules prohibit eligible people from receiving more than one Lifeline service per household. What this means is low-income people who are eligible may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireless or wired service, yet may not receive a Lifeline discount on both services at the same time. Only one Lifeline service can be obtained per household.

A, 'household,' is defined as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address as one economic unit. An, 'economic unit,' is defined as, "all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses of a household." Lifeline support is available to people with low-incomes who are eligible and living in group living facilities. Lifeline applicants may demonstrate when they are initially enrolling in the program that any other recipients residing at their residential address are a part of a separate household.

Enhanced benefits are provided to people with low-incomes who live on a federally recognized Indian Tribe's reservation, pueblo, or colony. The same is true for people with low-incomes living on an Indian allotment, a former reservation in Oklahoma, within an Alaska Native region established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, or Hawaiian Homelands held in trust pursuant to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920.

Qualifying for Lifeline Discounts

Chart showing Lifeline qualifying programs
About This Image: Chart showing Lifeline qualifying programs
The Lifeline program is available to people who are low-income and eligible in every state, commonwealth, territory and on Tribal lands. A person must be eligible in order to enroll. To participate in the program, a person must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines, or participate in one of the assistance programs below:

Paying for the Lifeline Program

Telecommunications service providers, as well as certain other providers of telecommunications, must contribute to the federal USF based on a percentage of their end-user telecommunications revenues. The companies include wireline phone companies, certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and wireless phone companies.

Some people might notice a, 'Universal Service,' line item on their phone bills. The line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from customers by billing them for the charge. The FCC does not require the charge to be passed along to a person. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover Universal Service costs.

Participating with Lifeline

People are unable to receive more than one discounted service. Federal rules prohibit people who are low-income and eligible from receiving more than one Lifeline discount per household. A person who is eligible might receive a discount on either a wireless or wired service, but not both. If you or another person in your household are currently receiving more than one monthly Lifeline service you have to select one provider to provide you with your Lifeline service and you have to contact the other provider to de-enroll from their program. Subscribers who are found to be in violation of this rule might also be subjected to criminal or civil penalties. There are some key provisions of the Lifeline rules to include:

People who wish to participate are required to make certain certifications upon signing up for Lifeline and every year following. Subscribers or a member of their household must participate in a qualifying federal program or meet the income qualifications for Lifeline. Subscribers must provide proof of eligibility and receive only a single Lifeline service.

If a person applies based on income, the person must present the number of people living in their household. The information provided by the person must be true and correct to the best of the person's knowledge - providing false or fraudulent information is punishable by law. If a person is applying for Tribal Lands Lifeline support, the person must reside on federally-recognized Tribal land. The person must acknowledge that they might be required to re-certify their continued eligibility for Lifeline.

Subscribers will also be required to provide certain information to the phone company or a state agency, depending on how people in their state sign up for Lifeline. The information includes the person's name and address, date of birth and the last 4 digits of their Social Security number. People who participate in the Lifeline program have to notify the phone service provider within 30 days if they move, or if they are no longer eligible for the program.

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