Lifeline: Affordable Telephone Service for Income-Eligible Consumers

Background  

Lifeline is a government benefit program that provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services. Lifeline is supported by the Federal Universal Service Fund (USF).  

What Benefits are Available Under the Lifeline Program?  

Lifeline assistance lowers the cost of basic monthly local telephone service. An eligible customer will receive a discount of $9.25 per month. Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than ONE Lifeline service per household. That is, eligible low-income consumers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, but may not receive a Lifeline discount on both services at the same time. Additionally, only ONE Lifeline service may be obtained per household. “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 eligible low-income consumers living in group living facilities. Lifeline applicants may demonstrate when initially enrolling in the program that any other Lifeline recipients residing at their residential address are part of a separate household.  

Lifeline can also include Toll Limitation Service, which enables a telephone subscriber to limit the amount of long distance calls that can be made from a telephone.  

Link Up provides eligible low-income consumers living on Tribal lands with a one-time discount of up to $100 on the initial installation or activation of a wireline or wireless telephone for the primary residence. Tribal Lands Link Up also allows consumers to pay the remaining amount that they owe on a deferred schedule, interest-free. Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than ONE Link Up discount at a primary residence. Eligible consumers may be eligible for Link Up again only after moving to a new primary residence. Link Up support is only offered to carriers who are building out infrastructure on Tribal lands so not all carriers may discount their activation fee. Enhanced benefits are provided to low-income consumers who live on a federally recognized Indian Tribe’s reservation.  

How Do I Qualify for Lifeline Discounts?  

The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands. You must be eligible to enroll. To participate in the program, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in one of the following assistance programs:  

  •              Medicaid
  •              Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP) 
  •              Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 
  •             Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8) 
  •              Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Programs

TRIBAL-SPECIFIC PROGRAMS: 

  •             Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance 
  •              Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF) 
  •              Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) 
  •              Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)

 

When you qualify for any of the above programs, you must complete a Lifeline Assistance Application. For more information, or to find out if you qualify for the programs, call your local telephone company, state Public Utility Commission, or the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-CALL-FCC. You may also visit the “Lifeline Across America” Web site [www.lifeline.gov].