Phone Bills Assistance – Universal Service Program for Low-Income Consumers
The Universal Service Program, created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, is a federal program that helps low-income Americans pay their phone bills.
The purpose of the program is to ensure that all Americans have access to phone service, thus enabling them to search for jobs, call emergency services when needed, and connect to family and friends.
The center of the program is the Universal Service Fund which is used to pay the phone bills of low income qualifying consumers who cannot afford basic phone service.
This is done through Link Up (offers payments for initial subscription fee and installation of the phone service – land line or a cell phone) and Lifeline ( offers monthly payments toward the bill of a basic phone services).
Universal Service Fund helps qualifying Americans pay their phone bills in 2 ways with its Link Up and Lifeline programs:
1. Establishing a phone service – Link Up program offers up to $30 payment for covering initial installation fee for traditional land-line phone service at the primary residence or for the activation fee for one wireless phone service.
Additional discounts are available to qualified consumers living on Tribal lands where one time Link Up phone bill payment can be up to $100 on the initial installation or activation of either a land line or cell phone for the primary residence only. Subscribers may be eligible for Link Up bill pay again when moving to a new primary residence if they still qualify.
2. Subscribing for monthly basic phone service – Lifeline program makes payments towards monthly phone bill. The payment can be up to $10 or more per month, depending on the state. On the phone bill it is showed as a discount but the payment is actually made from the Universal Service Fund on behalf of the qualifying subscriber.
All eligible consumers get one Lifeline discount per household for either a land line or wireless service, but not both at the same time.
As a result of Lifeline program modernization in 2016 the financial help with phone bills has been expanded to include also Internet broadband bills.
Link Up (phone installation) and Lifeline (phone service) of the Universal Service Program for Low-Income Consumers is available to all consumers in the USA, its Territories, and on Tribal lands who have an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guideline, or already participate in one of the following federal assistance programs:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP);
Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8);
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program;
Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance;
Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF);
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR);
Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met).
How to Apply
Apply for Lifeline (phone service) and Link Up (phone installation) via your local telephone company. Use this pre-screening tool and find your company.
Applicants will be required to provide a proof of eligibility documentation for themselves or their dependents who live in the same household in order to participate in Link Up and/or Lifeline phone bill payment programs.