Poor implementation and management could lead to waste, fraud, and abuse, as with any subsidy program. Subscribers to Lifeline must present identification as proof of eligibility and swear under pain of perjury that they are enrolled in an approved program or that their household income is at or below the federal poverty level. The Affordable Connectivity Program offers a discount on broadband Internet and connected devices from participating providers. To see if your provider is participating, use a search tool.
What is Lifeline?
The Lifeline program is a federal subsidy that provides discounts on phone and broadband internet service to eligible low-income households. The program was established by the FCC in 1985, and it has undergone significant reform twice since then to combat fraud, to bring the service offerings more in line with emerging technologies, and to reduce administrative costs. In addition to reducing the cost of basic telephone and broadband services, the Lifeline program provides free phones to eligible participants. A household’s income must be equal to or less than 135% of the federal poverty level. Subscribers must recertify their eligibility each year; if so, they may retain their benefits. The discount for Lifeline can be used for a landline or a wireless connection, but only one telephone or internet service can be used per household. There are hundreds of providers nationwide that offer Lifeline service. Utilizing the search function on the USAC website, which manages the National Verifier database produced by the FCC, you can locate them. This search tool includes national carriers and many smaller regional and discount carriers. You can also find providers by asking them directly or visiting their websites.
How do I qualify?
The essential requirement for getting a free government phone and internet service is that you or someone in your household receives one of the standard support programs: Food Stamps (SNAP), Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit. You also must have income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or have an eligible child or dependent in your home. The program was created in 1985 and is funded by fees on your telephone bill. Its initial focus was voice telephony, but the FCC reformed it in 2016 to include broadband as an eligible lifeline subsidy. The reform included minimum service standards and a national eligibility verification system that does not involve provider participation. To apply, find a phone or internet provider participating in Texas Lifeline Internet. Many large nationwide providers do. Some states do not participate in the National Verifier database, so you must apply through your state’s existing Lifeline application process. Once approved, you can choose a participating provider and enjoy your service. You can use your Lifeline subsidy to get a free landline or wireless phone or a bundled phone and internet service.
How do I get Lifeline?
The federal Lifeline program supports telecommunications services, including a home phone connection and broadband Internet access. Fees on consumers’ telephone bills fund it. Lifeline is available to households with earnings at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Eligibility is based on household size and participation in specific federal assistance programs, like Medicaid and SNAP. You may apply online, by mail, or through your chosen provider. The provider will verify your eligibility with the National Verifier. It would help if you recertified annually to continue to receive the benefit. You can be qualified for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) if you qualify for Lifeline. To qualify for ACP, you must contact a participating internet service provider and enroll in their low-cost internet service plan. You can find a provider that offers both Lifeline and ACP through the ACP search tool. It would help if you qualified for both Lifeline and ACP before you can start receiving either benefit. You can find out if you qualify for Lifeline by checking with the National Verifier or by applying with a provider who participates in both programs. The fastest way to qualify for Lifeline is by using the National Verifier, which provides an eligibility decision within minutes. If you prefer to apply by mail, check out the Documents Needed page to find out what information you’ll need to submit with your application.
What is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)?
The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps eligible households pay for internet service by providing a monthly subsidy of up to $30 (or $75 for those who live on Tribal Lands). This new program builds upon the foundation set by the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the Lifeline service itself. Universal Service Administrative Company implements it. It leverages USAC’s National Eligibility Verifier, the National Lifeline Accountability Database, and the ACP Claims System for subscriber eligibility verification, enrollment, and service provider reimbursement. To qualify, you must be a household member of an ACP-eligible household or family (or live with one). Household members include children and adults ages 18 and over, as long as they contribute to and share in the household’s income and expenses. You can apply online at ACP’s Show You Qualify portal or call the ACP hotline to provide income proof with documentation like paystubs, tax returns, Social Security benefits statements, or SNAP verification letters.