Staying connected is a major part of living an enriched and fulfilling life. But despite millions of Americans being eligible for a free cell phone plan through providers like Lifeline Community Partners, only a small portion of these individuals are taking advantage of this service.
Below are eight surprising facts about this free government supported cell phone plan program you probably didn’t know.
- Over Thirteen Million Americans Are Enrolled to Receive Free Government Cell Phone Service
The program was initiated under President Reagan’s Administration in 1985 with a landline service. Carriers began to fund the program under the Clinton Administration in 1997, and it was further expanded in 2005 to include wireless service under the Bush Administration.
- 2. Nearly Sixty Million Americans Qualify for a Free Cell Phone
It is estimated that fifty-six million individuals living in the U.S. today qualify for a free cell phone plan, but many are unaware of the program and are not using this necessary service.
- The Program Was Not Introduced by Obama
Contrary to popular belief, the so-called “Obama Phone” free cell phone program has been in existence since the Bush Administration. However, when Obama was elected in 2008, a new FCC applied more rigorous rules which were intended to eliminate fraudulent use and abuse of the program.
- The Program Is Available throughout the Entire United States
Government supported wireless and home telephone service is currently available in every territory, commonwealth, state, and on Tribal lands. Anyone with proof that they are eligible may be qualified to enroll in the program.
- The Program Is Not Part of the Federal Budget
The Lifeline Program is not included in the federal budget. It is funded by the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is currently supported through contributions made from telecommunication carriers in every state. This cost is passed along to telecom consumers as a “Universal Service” fee which can be found on all monthly phone bills.
- You May Qualify for a Free Cell Phone by Receiving Other Government Assistance
Individuals or households enrolled in other programs including Medicaid, SSI, National School Lunch, food stamps/SNAP, Section 8 Housing, and more may instantly qualify for a free cell phone plan.
- Households with an Income That Is 135 Percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines May Be Eligible
Households earning 135 percent of the federal Poverty Guidelines may qualify for the free cell phone program. These guidelines vary depending on the number of people living in the home and also by state.
In the forty-eight contiguous states and Washington D.C., the poverty guidelines for four people living in a home was $24,300 in 2016. For Alaska this figure increased to $30,380 and in Hawaii the poverty guideline was $27,950.
- The Universal Service Fund Does More than Give out Free Phones
The Lifeline program makes up nearly one quarter (23 percent) of the total spending budget of the Universal Service Fund. The remaining amount is spent on three other programs including Telecommunications Access for Schools and Libraries and Rural Access Health Care Access.
Telecommunication services play a significant role in staying connected to all vital parts of our lives. From being able to keep in touch with friends and family to having access to employers and emergency services, it is important that all eligible Americans take advantage of this valuable service.