Free Government Landline Phone Service: All You Need to Know
This information is current as of July 14, 2022.
You may have heard about free government cell phones, but did you know there is also a free government landline phone service? Both are available under the Lifeline program.
If you’re a low-income U.S. resident, you could qualify for a free government landline. This article will tell you all you need to know about the program, including:
- What is Lifeline?
- What are the Lifeline benefits?
- How to apply
- The benefits of a landline
- And more!
What Government Program Provides Free Landline Service?
Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided free landline service to qualifying low-income Americans in every state, commonwealth, territory, and Tribal land. Lifeline’s goal is to ensure every American can connect to family, jobs, and emergency services.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started the Lifeline program in the early 1980s. Since then, it’s developed into a robust federal program that helps thousands of people connect annually.
By 1997, Lifeline was available across the U.S. States were also required to match Lifeline benefits to make phone service even more affordable for citizens.
By 2005, Lifeline began to be applicable for cell phone bills and landline bills. While most Lifeline customers likely use the benefits for cell phones, you can choose and still keep a landline through the program if preferred.
Nowadays, Lifeline is part of the Universal Service Fund. This Fund subsidizes or covers the cost of phone service to low-income households in expensive areas.
Since most phone companies also provide internet service, Lifeline covers talk and broadband connections. Broadband is a word that means high-speed internet (anything faster than dial-up).
As of December 1, 2021, the minimum service standards and benefits for Lifeline customers are the following:
- 1,000 minutes
- Mobile broadband 3G speed with a usage allowance of 4.5 GB
- Fixed broadband speed of 25/3 with a usage allowance of 1229 GB
- $5.25 towards voice support per month
- $9.25 towards broadband support per month
How Do I Qualify for Lifeline?
There are three ways to qualify for Lifeline. You can either qualify based on your household income, if someone in your household already participates in specific government assistance programs, or if you live on Tribal lands and meet the income requirements or participate in specific federal programs.
Qualify Based on Your Income
To qualify for Lifeline based on your income:
- Based on household size, your annual household income must be 135% or less than the federal poverty standards. For example, a household size of one would need a yearly income of $18,347 or less.
- A household of eight would need an annual income of $62,951 or less.
See a complete chart of income requirements based on household here.
Qualify If You Participate in These Programs
You can also qualify for Lifeline if someone in your household participates in SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), or Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit. These programs have already verified your income, making you automatically eligible for Lifeline.
If your child or dependent is part of one of these programs but is not, you may still qualify.
Qualify on Tribal Lands
If you currently live on Tribal lands, you can qualify for Lifeline if your annual household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty standards.
Alternatively, you qualify if someone in your household participates in any of the federal programs listed above or in:
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Head Start
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
If your child or dependent is part of one of these programs but you are not, you may still qualify.
Getting Your Free Government Landline
You will need to follow a few easy steps to get a free government landline installed at your home. Once you know you are eligible, you must apply, choose a provider, await installation, and renew every year.
1. Qualify for Lifeline
You qualify for Lifeline if you meet the income requirements or someone in your household participates in a government assistance program. To find out if you’re eligible, you can use this guide.
2. Apply Online or by Mail
Even though this is a federal program, there are ways to apply through your state or certain phone companies in your area if you qualify.
To apply online, click here and choose your state to get started.
The application will require personal information such as your:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Home address
- Email, if applicable
You will also need to verify your identity with a Social Security Number, tribal ID number, driver’s license, military ID, passport, taxpayer identification number (ITIN), or another form of government ID.
Then, you should provide qualifying proof documentation to show that you are low-income or participate in a government program.
You can show your W4, W2, or three consecutive pay stubs for proof of income eligibility.
You will need to provide an official letter or document to prove that someone in your household participates in a government assistance program.
If you’d instead apply by mail, you can access the paper application form online and print it out or get a physical copy at the branch offices of participating phone service providers.
Once it’s filled out and you have copies of your supporting documents, you can send your application in the mail to:
USAC Lifeline Support Center
PO Box 7081
London, KY 40742
3. Choose a Provider
Once accepted into the Lifeline program, you must choose a phone provider (AKA company) within 90 days. Sometimes, customers choose their provider first, so long as that provider offers Lifeline services. Many people choose to apply to Lifeline straight through their provider, which means you get to skip this step.
Lifeline’s website offers a Companies Near Me tool for those who don’t know which provider to choose. This simple tool allows you to search through Lifeline phone providers by zip code, city, or state. To see a complete list of options in your area, click “See the list of companies in your state” underneath the search engine results.
Some of the most popular providers that work with Lifeline are:
- StandUp Wireless
- Boost Mobile
- Metro by T-Mobile
- And many more!
Providers will offer you different landline plans they have available. You may get a better deal if you bundle your landline service with internet or a cell phone plan, but this will also increase your monthly bill.
Remember that you are responsible for any charges exceeding your Lifeline benefits.
For those who want to bundle their landline phone service with the internet, consider applying for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
If you have Lifeline, you are likely eligible for this program and can receive free or funded monthly internet service. Many companies accept Lifeline and ACP combined benefits to cover your monthly bill.
Don’t be afraid to say no to a provider and shop around. Get quotes from at least three companies before deciding which is best for you.
4. Await Installation
After choosing a provider, you will need to contact them to enroll and schedule a landline installation. You may need to fill out some forms with them to get the ball rolling. Have your ID, Lifeline acceptance form, and income information ready.
Once enrolled, you’ll schedule an installation. Some companies may charge for a new installation, so ask about costs before scheduling.
Once you’ve arranged the appointment, you must be home at the set time and wait.
5. Renew Annually
It would be best if you renewed Lifeline benefits every year. If you participate in another government program such as SNAP, Lifeline can already confirm that you still qualify, and there is nothing you need to do.
If Lifeline cannot confirm that you still qualify, you will get a letter in the mail or receive pre-recorded messages via phone. If you get a notification to recertify, you must do it within 60 days, or you can lose your Lifeline benefits.
To renew online, click the “Recertify to keep Lifeline” button. To renew by mail, complete the Recertification Form and send it along with copies of any documents you have to prove your eligibility. Mail it to:
Lifeline Support Center
PO Box 7081
London, KY 40742
For a Spanish version of the same form, see here.
Suppose you do not need to provide any supporting documents. In that case, you can also renew Lifeline by phone by calling (855) 359-4299, entering the application ID number in the letter you received, and following the prompts.
To recertify with your Tribal ID number, call (800) 234- 9437 and press 1 to speak with a live agent.
What Are the Benefits of a Landline?
Many people these days don’t have a landline and rely on a cell phone or internet-based system like a digital phone. What they don’t know is that a landline may be the most reliable phone on the market.
A landline works during an electrical outage and doesn’t need batteries to charge, making it the perfect security blanket in an emergency, especially if you need to call 911. Those living in areas prone to hurricanes, storms, or tornados may find it particularly life-saving.
Landlines also have excellent sound quality and clarity, never drop a call, and can’t be hacked.
You can use your landline for unlimited local calling, access a directory listing, and save money if you bundle it with other services or get it free through Lifeline.
How Is My Landline Bill Paid by Lifeline?
The Lifeline program partners with various internet and phone providers to handle the bill for you, so you have one less thing to worry about every month. Once approved through Lifeline and your phone carrier – you won’t get a monthly bill.
Instead, Lifeline will pay the phone carrier directly. You may still receive a bill or statement for your records.
The exception to this rule is if you contract a package that is more expensive than your benefits. Let’s say you have a $9.25 Lifeline credit monthly, but your bundle costs $14.25. In this case, Lifeline would cover part of it, but you’re still responsible for the $5.25 difference every month.
You can get your free government landline service through the Lifeline program. Lifeline provides a monthly cash benefit paid directly to your phone company to cover all or part of your bill
Low-income Americans qualify for Lifeline if they make 135% or less of the U.S. poverty standards. They can also be eligible if their child/dependent participates in another government program, like SNAP or Medicaid.
To apply for Lifeline, do so directly through their website or your phone company. You can search for companies in your area here.
Don’t delay – get your free or discounted phone service today. And don’t forget to pair it with ACP benefits to get phone service and internet all in one.
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
If you qualify for SNAP, you may also be eligible for Lifeline or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Both Lifeline and ACP are government-run programs designed to help low-income consumers receive free or heavily discounted communication services.
Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.