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Cellular Back Door

FREE (or almost Free) Wireless
There are several methods to get Free, or almost Free, cellular service. One of them could work for you.



 OR

■ You might qualify for Subsidized Cellular:

Most 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.

Qualifications 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:

  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) or Section 8
  • Food Stamps
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Medicaid
  • National School Lunch Program
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Old Age Pension (OAP)
  • Aid to the Blind (AB)
  • Aid to the Needy (AND)
  • Aid to Children
  • Residents of Tribal Territories*
  • If 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.

*To 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.

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.

To 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 wireless carrier.

Or Take the Easy Way:

There are companies that provide service specifically to Lifeline 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 amounts. Some wireless carriers do not significantly discount LifeLine plans so shop carefully.



      FREE, Emergency-Only Cellular Service!  
Almost 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,
    involving 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 directions.

  • You must be within cellular coverage.
    The 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.

  • Never 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.


  • If 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!


There are 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.

  • One of the best low-cost plans is T-Mobile Prepaid. Their $3 per month plan is very convenient.  You get 30 minutes 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.



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