We need phones and internet services for everything- work, everyday life, leisure, education- you name it. But not everyone can afford these services. That’s why the United States Government decided to do something about it in 1985 by introducing the Lifeline Phone Service program.
Lifeline Phone Service is a federally-supported program that provides free or discounted phone services to eligible low-income customers. In order to participate in the Lifeline Phone Service, customers must apply and be approved by their state or tribal government. Once approved, customers can choose from a variety of providers to receive their Lifeline service.
In this blog post, we will discuss what you need to know about Lifeline Phone Service. We will cover eligibility requirements, benefits, and how to sign up for the program.
What is the Lifeline Phone Service?
The Lifeline Phone service is a program that makes phone services more affordable and accessible to low-income citizens in the United States of America.
Since 1985, the Federal Communications Commission has been providing the Lifeline service to low-income users around the country. Now it is part of the Universal Service fund, a system of telecommunication subsidies provided by the FCC since 1997.
The aim is to ensure essential telecommunications services to the people living in all regions, states, and territories. This allows them to have access to all forms of opportunities for employment, education, and other resources.
When the program was initially introduced, it provided support for landline services only (as that was the standard telecommunication technology of the time).
But over the years, the program has grown to include mobile phone services and now broadband internet.
Administration of Lifeline Service
The administration of the program is handled by USAC, short for United States Administrative Company. The role of the USAC is to assist consumers in applying for the Lifeline service program.
They will inform the users on how to apply for the service and the eligibility requirements associated. They will also assist with keeping users certified on an annual basis.
The official website of the USAC provides all the required information on the program and the processes involved.
Benefits of the Lifeline Phone Service
The purpose of the Lifeline Phone service is to make phone services cheaper so that lower-income individuals will be able to afford them. Some of the benefits of the program include:
- Eligible individuals can get monthly discounts on phone and broadband services of up to $9.25
- If you live in tribal land, you will discounts of up to $34.25.
You can avail lifeline for either your wireless or wireline services, but you can’t have both at the same time.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)?
The Affordable Connectivity Program is another FCC service that makes wireless internet access more affordable to low-income citizens. The program was introduced on 1 April 2020.
Like the Lifeline program, this one is also administered by USAC. Several companies have been involved in the program including AT&T, Comcast, Verizon Communications, Frontier Communications, etc.
Benefits of the program
The ACP was introduced very recently as a bonus program for making phone and internet services even more affordable For every single household, you only get a discount for one device every month.
The benefits of the program include:
- Monthly discounts for eligible households go up to $30 per month.
- Tribal land residents will enjoy discounts of up to $75 per month.
- You can also get up to a $100 discount for buying laptops, desktop computers, or tablets if you contribute $10 and $50.
What is the difference between lifeline and ACP?
Both Lifeline and ACP serve a similar purpose and offer similar benefits of making phone and other telecommunication services more affordable. But there are some key differences that we will discuss here.
The Lifeline Phone service is a permanent ongoing service that has existed since 1985. It offers essential communication services including broadband for discounted prices for low-income households.
In contrast, the ACP is a very new service that started in 2021. It aims to provide even further support than the Lifeline service for affordable broadband internet services for a very specific set of low-income households.
Comparing the benefits of either program, the maximum discount you can get from the lifeline program is $9.25 while ACP gives you up to $30 monthly.
If you live in tribal land, then Lifeline support for you goes as high as $34.25. In contrast, with the ACP program, you can get discounts of up to $75.
With the ACP program, you can also get financial support of up to $100 for purchasing laptops or other types of computers. The Lifeline program has no such perk to offer.
While both programs offer different perks, they are not mutually exclusive. You are allowed to enjoy both Lifeline and ACP services in the same household.
Who is eligible?
The Lifeline service is only accessible to very low-income consumers. This means you need to lie anywhere below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines to apply for this program.
You may also apply for the program if you are already involved with any of the following federal assistance programs.
- Public Housing Assistance Program
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Supplemental Security Income
- Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefits
How Do I Apply For Lifeline?
If you want to apply for the lifeline services, there is a process for that. Below we describe the step-by-step process of how to apply for the program.
Step 1: To apply for the lifeline program, make sure to use the National Verifier Application System. It is a system created by the FCC and operated by the USAC that determines whether an applicant is eligible for the lifeline service.
To check if you are eligible for the service, go to the National Verifier website and check eligibility for your respective state.
You should take note that consumers in the 3 states of Oregon, Texas, and California need to go through the state-based process that is already in place.
Step 2: If you want to have the program under a service provider, then go to the official website of USAC and use the “Search Providers” tool listed on the “Companies Near me” page.
The tool gives you the list of lifeline service providers in each state, so you check the closest one where you live.
If you like to know more about the application process, or an application sent to your mail address, then here are the contact details.
Phone: (800) 234-9473
E-mail: [email protected]
The Lifeline service as you can see is very beneficial for people with low incomes. But, before you can think about applying for the Lifeline Phone service, you need to first check whether you are eligible for the service or not. So make sure to check for the requirements first.
While the Lifeline service has its’ benefits, we believe you should be better advised to check the ACP program as well. As we mentioned here, the two programs are not mutually exclusive, so you can enjoy both programs simultaneously if you want.