Lifeline Discount Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provide discounts on internet service to low-income households. Those who qualify for Lifeline automatically qualify for the ACP, which replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit and provides up to $30/mo: broadband and a one-time device discount.
To qualify, consumers must be a household of 135% or below the federal poverty guidelines and participate in an eligible assistance program like SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, or FHA loans. Proof of eligibility is required, such as pay stubs or tax returns.
1What is Lifeline?
Lifeline is a program the Federal Communications Commission offers to help low-income households afford phone and internet service. The program provides monthly support for phone, broadband, and bundled services. It is also available to customers on Tribal lands. Eligibility criteria vary by state. Most programs in some states, like the free government phone service in Ohio, demand that participants have incomes at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or membership in a recognized assistance program. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) manages the program who also takes care of data collecting, upkeep, support calculations, and payout.
To qualify for Lifeline, you must be in an eligible program or have income at or below 135% of the Federal poverty guidelines based on household size and state. Eligible programs include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps).
- Federal Public Housing Assistance.
- Supplementary Security Income.
- The Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit.
- Some Tribal programs.
You must provide pay stubs or other documents demonstrating your participation in these programs to prove eligibility.
2Who Is Eligible For Lifeline?
The Lifeline discount program is a government subsidy that helps eligible consumers receive affordable telephone service. The subsidy reduces monthly fees and can help pay for a landline or wireless phone connection. The program also provides a bill credit and waiver of federal subscriber line charges for landline phone services. Wireless customers may receive a free or reduced-rate phone plan with unlimited talk and text.
Eligibility guidelines vary by state and provider. To qualify, the individual must have a household income below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. A “household” is everyone living at the same address who shares responsibilities and expenses, such as cooking, cleaning, and child care. The Lifeline discount is limited to one per home. The program is not transferable.
In most states, you must recertify your eligibility for Lifeline once a year. If you do not recertify, your service will be suspended. Some states allow you to recertify with your Lifeline provider by calling a toll-free number or using an online self-certification tool. Other states require you to complete a form and mail it to your provider. The eligibility rules for each state vary, so it’s important to check with your provider before attempting to recertify.
To be eligible for the Lifeline program, it would benefit if you reside in a house you used as your primary residence. The application for Lifeline will ask you to provide proof of your residency. Some states accept a utility bill or rent receipt as proof of residency. Other states have a specific list of acceptable documents. For example, New Jersey requires that applicants submit a utility bill or rent receipt that clearly shows their name and address, the date of issue, and the service type.
3How Do I Apply For Lifeline?
Numerous phone and internet service providers give Lifeline discounts. To discover a participating provider, enter your address using the USAC search page. Additionally, you can inquire about your provider’s participation in the program. Once enrolled in Lifeline, you must recheck your eligibility every year. You can submit a form from your provider or call the online hotline to complete this process.
To qualify for Lifeline, you must have income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines. If you or a family member receives benefits from Medicaid, the Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit, Federal Public Housing Assistance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (previously known as Food Stamps), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Children, or Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, you may also be eligible. To apply, you must submit three consecutive pay stubs, tax returns, or pay stubs as proof of income.
You can use your Lifeline discount toward a home phone, wireless services, or bundled services like Internet and phone. The discount can be used once per household, at most $19.95 monthly. A bill credit and waiver of the federal subscriber line charge are available for landline customers, while a reduced rate or mobile data usage allowances are available to wireless customers.
4What Happens If I Don’t Qualify For Lifeline?
If you aren’t eligible for Lifeline, you may still be able to get help paying for your phone or internet service through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Many broadband providers offer a low-income discount plan through this program. On the ACP website, you may discover a list of participating providers. You must be a recipient of a qualifying federal assistance program, such as Medicaid, SNAP, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or Supplemental Security Income, to be eligible.
You must also meet the ACP income eligibility requirements, which are slightly higher than those for Lifeline. To apply for ACP, you can use this online tool provided by the National Eligibility Verifier or contact a provider directly to ask about their program.
The ACP and Lifeline are part of a family of FCC programs that make it easier for low-income households to access essential communications services. These programs include the Lifeline Modernization Order, which expanded the definition of a “household” to include groups of people living together who share expenses and are treated as one economic unit for eligibility purposes.