carriers offer a government-subsidized
"Lifeline" or "Link-Up" service at a significantly reduced cost if you
can qualify based on your income.
Lifeline support lowers the cost of basic, monthly local telephone
service and can be Free or just a few dollars per month. An eligible
customer may receive the Lifeline discount on either a wireline or
wireless connection, but the discount is available for only one account
per household. Lifeline discounts do not apply to taxes or surcharges,
and don't relieve the account holder from paying the monthly bill.
Details on how to sign up are below.
might qualify for Subsidized
to receive Lifeline discounts vary by state. The qualifying programs
are either determined by each state's Public Utility Commission or the
federal Lifeline/Link-Up program. Some states and U.S. territories do
not provide state-funded discounts, but in most cases, an individual is
eligible if he or she participates in one of the following programs:
receive Lifeline discounts in Tribal territories, you must reside on
land that meets the Bureau of Indian Affairs definition of a
reservation, specifically any federally recognized Native American
tribe's reservation within an eligible carrier's coverage area, based
on the zip code of your home address.
Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) or Section 8
Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
School Lunch Program
Security Income (SSI)
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Age Pension (OAP)
to the Blind (AB)
to the Needy (AND)
of Tribal Territories*
your household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty
Guidelines, you may qualify for Lifeline based on income.
You will need to provide current documentation that shows
your household income. Contact your chosen carrier for details.
Does It Cost?
Lifeline services range from Free to $20 per month. Don't confuse
Lifeline plans with "Senior" plans that are offered by some companies.
Lifeline (also called "LifeLink") is supported by government subsidies.
Sign Up For LifeLine Service:
If you qualify, you can contact wired and wireless telephone companies
and ask about "Lifeline" service. You can shop among the programs to
see which one will give you the best offer. These programs are not
limited to your local telephone company, you can call your local
Take the Easy Way:
There are companies that provide service specifically to
customers across the nation such as Q Link Wireless and SafeLink.
Not all carriers provide Lifeline service and not necessarily
in their entire coverage areas. Also, not
all states support
subsidized wireless service and not necessarily at the same subsidy
Some wireless carriers do not significantly discount LifeLine plans so
LifeLine May Have a Limited Life:
Watch our Wireless Noise News Page as the LifeLine program goes through some significant changes.
Emergency-Only Cellular Service!
any digital cellular phone can call 911, sometimes even if the phone
screen shows "No Service." This means even discarded or deactivated
digital wireless phones can be set aside in a glove compartment or
night stand and used to summon help. Don't expect a cellular company to
give you one of these "free" phones. Instead, ask a friend or relative
if they'll give you one of their old phones. You can call the
associated carrier and ask if that particular phone model will work.
Some may be missing a "SIM" which can be found on eBay or from some
cellular stores. We include this option because it's possible, but we'd
rather spend a few dollars for
something more reliable.
Here are some important considerations for using an "old" cellular
phone for this kind of emergency-only use:
- The calls must truly be an emergency,
life and death situations, fires, injuries or other dangers to people
or property. They cannot be used to request a tow truck, gas refill or
must be within cellular coverage.
phone must use a technology that is currently supported by US carriers:
GSM or CDMA. It cannot be from a foreign country or use analog or TDMA
(old Cingular and AT&T phones) technology.
call 911 to "test" the phone.
Call your local police or fire administrative number from a different
phone and ask for their assistance.
- Check the phone's battery.
Look at the indicator on a regular basis or keep a charger handy.
you make an emergency call:
Give the dispatcher complete information including where you are and
what is needed. Once you hang up they cannot call you back!
real Prepaid wireless plans than can cost about $3 a month and maybe
less! Just don't expect to get a lot for a buck.
of the best low-cost plans is T-Mobile Prepaid.
Their $3 per month plan is very convenient. You get
of Calls or Texts
and, if you need them, additional Calls & Texts at .10 each.
You can sign up for Auto-pay and you can use, or not use your
phone, and you'll know you'll only pay $36 a year. And
T-Mobile coverage is much improved.
- For $2.50 a month you can get Voice, Text, 411,
and Data in small quantities using the largest
wireless network in the US, with Page Plus Cellular.
There are several other Inexpensive Prepaid Plans.