It may seem too good to be true, but it actually is. The government is offering free cell phone services to select individuals in the country. This is through the Lifeline program for low-income consumers. The program works with free government cell phone companies to make cell phone services accessible to the challenged.
It is an amazing program that can greatly aid you if you are struggling with finances. Below is a detailed description of the program, how it works, who qualifies for it, and the free government cell phone companies that offer this service.
The Free Government Cell Phone Program
This program is formally referred to as the Lifeline Assistance program. It is part of the larger Lifeline program that was launched in 1985 with the aim of subsidizing phone services for citizens with low income. The reason behind this is that phone services were deemed essential. They enable users to access emergency services, contact family members, and also seek job opportunities.
The government phones program is run by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) with administrative input from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC oversees the calculation of low-income statistics, determines who qualifies, and how much they get. The most recent partners to join this team are the free government cell phone companies.
Why Bring In Free Government Cell Phone Companies?
The program was initially limited to landline phones for close to three decades. With time, landline phones grew irrelevant as cell phones grew in popularity. Landline services also became inaccessible to people of low income, as they are often left out in low-income house constructions. This brought the need to bring in free cell phone companies into the program.
In January 2012, FCC reformed and modernized the Lifeline program to incorporate free cell phone services. Several network providers were included into the program as free government cell phone companies. Under the guidance of USAC, the government was able to come up with the scope of services to be provided by the companies.
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Cell Packages Offered By Free Government Cell Phone Companies
The Lifeline Assistance program wanted to ensure that low-income individuals enjoy almost similar cell services as the paying members. The program, therefore, took into account call minutes, text messages, and broadband data service. Every package contains these three. At the point of entry into the program, most free government cell phone companies offer users a standard package that includes a free phone, 250 free minutes of talk time, free texts, and for some, about 500MB mobile broadband data.
Who Qualifies For Services From Free Government Cell Phone Companies
Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is the body that oversees the regulation of the eligibility criteria. The company collects data on income levels and expenditures in all locations in the country. It then gives recommendations to FCC and free government cell phone companies on who should be included in the program. They collect data on a yearly basis, and therefore the criterion is subjected to frequent amendments.
The criterion generally focuses on income level. Anyone whose income is less than 135% of the government’s Federal Poverty Guidelines qualifies for services from free government cell phone companies. You will, however, be required to provide proof of your financial income. Those who receive other forms of government aid such as food stamps, medical care, section 8, or SSI, stand a good chance of qualifying, that is if they automatically don’t. Take note that the income levels vary from state to state. So make sure to check out the cut off levels for the area you reside in.
There Are However Several Limitations To This Program:
- Be located in an area covered by free government cell phone companies
- Only one beneficiary per household. So for families, you’ll have to choose one member to enrol.
- Free government cell phone companies will need notification of a change in address whenever you move.
- You will need to re-apply each year to the Lifeline program, and to the free government cell phone companies. This is very important for the government phones program.
After qualifying for the program, the next big challenge is to identify one of the free government cell phone companies that serve your locality. There are tons of companies offering this service nationwide. Some are national, while some serve specific localities. Below are some of the notable free government cell phone companies
Top Free Government Cell Phone Companies
#1 Safelink Wireless
Safelink is one of the leading free government cell phone companies. As of 2015, the company already had over 4 million people subscribed to the free cell service program. It is under TracFone Wireless Inc, a network company with nationwide coverage. It is also trusted and relied on for its steady quality of service. Safelink offers 250 free talk minutes on its program. Subscribers additionally get more minutes if they refer someone to Safelink. It is definitely a provider worth considering.
#2 Assurance Wireless
Assurance wireless is a branch of Virgin Mobile. It was set up specifically to deal with the free cell program. This division of the company has grown Virgin Mobile’s client base by close to 3 million users, making it one of the best free government cell phone companies in the country. their free mobile package includes 250 minutes and unlimited texts to all networks. Using Virgin Mobile’s infrastructure, Assurance Wireless network reaches most parts of the country.
#3 Budget Mobile Wireless
Budget Mobile Wireless is a phone company that was established to purposely service the Lifeline program. It is one of the few free government cell phone companies that exclusively offer free cell phone packages as their only service. Their package includes a free Budget Mobile cell phone, 250 talk minutes and free talks. Some people have concerns about the company’s genuineness since its a new player in the mobile industry. The company’s however fully legit, and recognized by the FCC as one of the free government cell phone companies. The company is however still gaining ground and is not yet established nationwide. It currently serves close to half of the country. You can check out the site to see if their service is available in your state.
#4 Access Wireless
This is another big player in the list of free government cell phone companies. It is another company that exclusively services the free cell program. It is funded by the Universal Service Fund. The company has aggressively grown over the years and expanded to over 30 states in the country. Their network reception is top notch, and they offer decent packages. This is why the company has managed to gain over a million users despite being a new player in the industry. Their package also offers unique options to its members: apart from receiving the standard Access Wireless mobile phone for the program, users have the option of upgrading the phone at an affordable price.
#5 Life Wireless
This is a regional mobile company that is establishing itself in this space of free cell services. It, however, offers exemplary service that warrants it to feature in the list. Life Wireless offers its services to states in the West Coast, Middle West, southern states and select states in the Eastern part of the country. It has however really specialized in California and Oklahoma. In these two states, users get unlimited voice calling and unlimited texting. For the rest of the states, users get 250 minutes of talk time and unlimited text messages. Additionally, all users, regardless of state, get 500MB of mobile broadband data monthly. Their package is arguably one of the best compared to other free government cell phone companies.
#6 Reachout Wireless
Reachout wireless is another national mobile company that is yet to establish itself in all states. It is under Nexus Communications Inc, a reliable communication company offering network services. The company is currently available in the following states: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississipi, New Jersey, and West Virginia. But just like its name, Reachout wireless is actively expanding its network to reach out to new users. The unique aspect of its service is that t offers users extra packages apart from the simple free package.
#7 Q Link Wireless Limited
Q Link is a major player amongst regional free government cell phone companies. It covers Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Q link program also has an excellent bonus program. For every approved referral you make, you get 100 minutes extra of your monthly talk time. This program is partly responsible for the rapid growth of Q Link Wireless Limited.
There are various online tools that show you free government phone locations to buy the government phones. You can try and first search using your Zip code as this is the best way of getting information about government phone programs near your location.
Frequently Asked Questions About Free Government Mobile Cell Companies
What Happens When You Exhaust Your Minutes?
This is a common concern among users as 250 minutes is often not enough, especially for large households. All free government cell phone companies sell extra minutes, texts and data bundles to users once they have exhausted their monthly package.
However, the rates of sale are usually special, and not as steep as the market rates for the same package. This is all in line with making cell services reachable to those in low-income strata. It can be as cheap as $2 for 20 extra minutes of talk time. The other alternative to this is waiting for the remaining period of the month until the package is renewed at the beginning of the new month.
What Is The Free Phone Like?
Contrary to what many people think, the phone offered is quite decent. The phones are usually recent models, no more than 3 years old in the market. They often feature good battery life and other features that make it convenient for talks. Additionally, they may incorporate some smart features including internet connection. But all these vary depending on the company you are subscribing to.
However, the devices are not high-end. They are meant to fulfil the primary role of calling, texting and possibly accessing the internet. So don’t expect 20MP cameras and HD screen display in any of these deals. Some companies, however, offer customers the option to upgrade the phone at a minor fee of say $20 or $50. So check up on the company’s package details before committing to it.
What Do The Companies Stand To Gain From Offering Free Services?
All the companies enrolled in the Lifeline Program receive reimbursement from the government for the services they offer. For every free monthly package you receive, the company gets $10 from the government. This is enough to cover the cost of the service and a small profit for the company. Free government cell phone companies also get revenue when users purchase extra minutes, texts and data after exhausting their monthly limited packages.
The companies, however, offer a free mobile handset to everyone who enrols in their program. This is a cost they have to bear in the short term in order to profit from your package over the coming months. It is, therefore, a win-win situation for the company, government, and of course the beneficiary.
Is This The Obama Phone Program?
Though sometimes referred to as the Obama phone program, this is far from true. The Lifeline Assistance program has been in action since President Reagan’s administration in the 80s. The cell phone part of the program is only a section of the program that was kicked off in 2012. Therefore, this is not an Obama program but a Lifeline program.
The free cell phone service program is one of the most successful social programs run by the government. It has enabled over 20 million Americans to access mobile phone services which would have been otherwise unaffordable to them. Accessing this service is quite easy. Simply check online whether you are eligible for the program, and pick a free mobile phone service provider of your choice. Currently, there are a lot of free government cell phone companies offering this service. Users have the option of selecting one that best serves their interest. Additionally, users have the freedom to switch providers at the end of the month.