The Lifeline program is meant to make it easier for low-income households to afford phone and Internet service. However, the program does have some rules that must be followed. These include only one discount per household, filling out questionnaires truthfully, using the phone each month, and recertifying every year.
The Purpose of Lifeline
Lifeline aims to make phone and internet services more affordable for low-income consumers. The program has been around since 1985 and is currently administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). In addition to providing administrative support, USAC is responsible for helping consumers apply for Lifeline and understand their eligibility requirements. It also administers the National Verifier, a centralized verification system that determines whether or not subscribers are eligible for Lifeline. In recent years, the FCC has made significant changes to the program to make it more efficient and up-to-date. For example, in 2016, the Commission reformed the Lifeline program to include broadband as an eligible service. Additionally, the new program uses a national verifier that allows participants to proactively verify their eligibility rather than asking providers to do so.
The new program is also designed to be technology-neutral, so more providers like enTouch Wireless can offer broadband and voice service eligible for Lifeline. However, it is essential to note that a household is only allowed one lifeline benefit. This prevents people from gaming the system, a major concern before the national verifier. If a person is found to be receiving multiple benefits, they could face fines, de-enrollment, and even criminal prosecution. In addition, it is illegal for a provider to assist someone in fraudulently gaming the national verifier.
The Benefits of Lifeline
Since its creation in 1985, Lifeline has been the Federal Communications Commission’s program for making telephone and Internet services more affordable. The program offers subscribers a monthly discount on landline or wireless phone service, home or mobile broadband Internet access, and bundled phone and broadband Internet service. Unlike traditional utility assistance programs, Lifeline is funded through direct federal appropriations rather than by fees on consumer bills. This enables consumers to use the National Verifier to proactively self-verify their eligibility and then take that verification directly to participating providers to receive discounted phone or Internet services. Lifeline is available to low-income households in every state, territory, and commonwealth, and those residing on Tribal lands. The term “household” is broadly defined and includes all individuals who share household income and expenses, including children, adults, and relatives. Only one Lifeline benefit is allowed per household, and the benefit may be used to cover either a landline or wireless phone service, home or portable internet, or a bundled package of these services. USAC also provides various tools and resources for social service agencies, consumer
How to Get Lifeline
If you meet the income guidelines and participate in a government assistance program such as Medicaid, NJ SNAP, or SSI, you are eligible for Lifeline. In addition, you may qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a discount of up to $30 per month on internet service and up to $75 on computers and tablets. You can apply for Lifeline online or over the phone. You can also find information about the program on your local phone and Internet service providers’ websites. Some providers may have their own Lifeline application process, so contact your provider for more information. The program is a monthly discount that can be applied to your home telephone or broadband Internet bill, but not both. The discount is only available to one household, and the benefits include a bill credit, waived federal subscriber line fee, free voice and data usage, and reduced rates. You must recertify your eligibility each year to keep the benefit. You can recertify online, by phone, or by uploading proof of your eligibility. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USAC has implemented temporary program changes to help ensure that Lifeline subscribers continue to receive service and remain eligible for the benefit.
The Rules of Lifeline
To keep receiving free or discounted phones and broadband service through Lifeline, there are a few rules that everyone needs to follow. Only one phone per household is allowed and can only be used for landline or wireless service. You can use this phone to access a free or discounted plan or get a home phone and wireless service for a single low-cost monthly rate. Eligibility is based on income, and the program requires participants to provide proof of income or participation in federal assistance programs. This includes SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, Head Start, BIA General Assistance, or Tribal TANF. Individuals who live in nursing homes and homeless shelters can also be eligible if they meet certain criteria.
You will be asked yearly to recertify your eligibility through your Lifeline service provider. It’s a quick and easy process, and it is important to do so. If you fail to recertify, your Lifeline phone will be disconnected.
If you have any questions or concerns about Lifeline, the FCC has a help center that can answer your inquiries. The program also has its website, updated frequently to reflect new information and technologies.