Archive for Discount Phone Service

Oct
15

Get Your Free Obama Phone!

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The Obama Lady 

The political ads and graphics are everywhere:  TV, newspaper, YouTube, Facebook, email – we’re inundated 24/7 with political advertising, and most of it isn’t very nice.  One of the not-so-nice videos I’ve seen floating around Facebook via YouTube is “The Obama Lady”.

The video is of a woman, jumping around and waving a poster board sign in a reporter’s face, all the while ranting about her “Free Obama Phone”.  In 2008, an email with the same script made the rounds, but four years down the road, technology has moved the email to video.  “The Obama Lady” video is tasteless, with the intent to convince the public that their tax dollars are going to give free cell phones, courtesy of President Obama, to every disadvantaged person in Cleveland, and, in turn, the entire country.  It’s an effort to embarrass and disenfranchise the poor among us, and generate anger toward the current White House Administration.

Lifeline Phone ServiceA few things in the video ARE true.

The government does give out “free” phones.  They’ve been doing it for almost 30 years, based on a Congressional mandate that ensures communication is available to all Americans.

In 1985, a program named “Lifeline” was started that gave discounted phone service to the poor, the elderly, disabled veterans, and the sick.  “Lifeline” was there so that if someone needed to call 911 due to an emergency, or make an appointment with their doctor, or call and check on a job application because they were unemployed and trying to find work, they could.  If Grandma fell and broke her hip, she had a phone to call for an ambulance, even when her Social Security check didn’t reach far enough each month to cover the phone bill.  The program started by furnishing land-line service, and expanded in 2005 to include limited, pre-paid cell phone service.

Do You Need a Hand-Up, Not A Hand-out?

The “Lifeline” program is available in every state, but it doesn’t come without rules and regulations.  Since its beginning, the program has required that anyone participating must have an income at or below the poverty line or participate in one of the following low-income assistance programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Food Stamps or SNAP
  • SSI
  • Section 8 Housing
  • Low-income energy assistance
  • Free school lunch program
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • Head Start
  • State assistance programs (if applicable)

There are other rules, too.  Only one Lifeline phone is allowed per household.  The household can have a land line or a cell phone, but not both.  The program doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles – this is basic and limited phone service.  The cell phone service is pre-paid with a limited number of minutes, and the land line is limited in service.  You’ve got to reconfirm eligibility on an annual basis in order to remain in the program.

Are You Eligible?  Is Grandma? 

If you’re interested in the Lifeline program, start by calling your phone company.  Over 2,000 phone companies across the country provide discounted phone service through Lifeline.  You can find a list of companies by state here:

Lifeline Support Companies By State

You can also use the Lifeline Pre-Screening Tool and check eligibility status.  It takes about 15 minutes:

Lifeline Pre-Screening Tool

 

Learn more about Lifeline here:

USAC – What Is Lifeline?

Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers

Lifeline Public Service Announcements 

 

Who Pays for Lifeline?

The phone companies contribute a percentage of their revenues to the Universal Service Fund (USF).  Your phone service provider may charge you a service charge called “Universal Service” if they try to recoup part of the cost of the program from customers.  The USF is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Universal Service Administration (USAC), which pays for the discounted Lifeline phone service out of the fund.

The USF is also responsible for other communication programs.  In addition to Lifeline, the fund also makes discounts available to schools and libraries for telecommunication services, Internet access, and information services.  Rural health care providers, through the fund, have the capability to link to city hospitals and medical centers, giving rural America access to medical services they wouldn’t normally have available.

Find out more about the USF and FCC here:

FCC Consumer Guide

 

 

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