Lifeline offers a monthly discount on phone service, internet access, or a bundled package. It helps millions of Americans stay connected with family, friends, healthcare, and job opportunities.

State-by-state variations may occur in the requirements for participation in the Lifeline Assistance Program, which offers qualifying low-income people free or significantly reduced phone services. However, standard eligibility criteria generally apply across the United States. Remember that the Lifeline program has expanded beyond traditional landline phone service to include cellphone service.


Lifeline provides free phone service or discounted wireless phones as a government assistance program to eligible low-income households. The monthly discount varies by state but is usually at least $9.25. It can be applied to one home landline, wireless phone, or a bundled plan. In some states, qualifying participants can access broadband internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

You may qualify for Lifeline if you or members of your household participate in a federally recognized government assistance program such as Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefits, or Tribal programs. In addition, your total household income must be at or below 135% of the poverty guidelines set by your state and the federal government.

Each provider must go through a centralized verification system, the National Eligibility Verifier, managed by USAC to verify your eligibility. To verify your identification and look for duplication, the system utilizes your name, birthdate, and the final four digits of your Social Security number. It takes a few days to receive a decision, but some providers can process applications more quickly. You can apply online via the National Verifier or print an application to mail to your service provider.

Usually, applications need to include supporting paperwork to demonstrate their eligibility. This could include evidence of income, enrollment in approved programs, or tribal status paperwork.

To apply for Lifeline, individuals can contact a participating service provider or apply through the National Verifier website. Additionally, applicants can contact the Lifeline Support Center at 1-800-234-9473 for assistance. Different application procedures and requirements may apply depending on the state and service provider.

Device Requirements

If you qualify for Lifeline, you can receive a free mobile phone from one of the participating providers. The device will be a basic model with limited features. However, some companies also offer smartphones for qualified customers who pay a monthly service fee. You can use the smartphone for calls, texting, and data services. Check for compatibility with your provider’s network to ensure you receive the best device.

You can find out if you are eligible for Lifeline by using the Lifeline National Verifier or completing a paper application. You may be asked to provide proof of eligibility, such as pay stubs or an official government benefit card. If you cannot verify your identity with the National Verifier, you can provide a letter from your state agency confirming your Lifeline phone eligibility.

The program is funded by contributions from telecommunication companies to the Universal Service Fund and administered by USAC. The fund is then used to give low-income households free or discounted communication services. The discount can be applied to a landline home telephone, a wireless phone, or a voice-broadband bundled plan. Only one discount is permitted per household. Households can only receive a discount from one of the participating providers.

Service Areas

To qualify for Lifeline, your household must be considered low-income. This is determined by whether any member of your household receives governmental assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance.

The FCC created Lifeline to help eligible households afford telecommunications services like landline phones, wireless smartphones, and broadband internet access. The Lifeline program has undergone several upgrades and modernizations to keep up with changing technology and the evolving needs of low-income families.


To qualify for Lifeline service, you must be enrolled in one or more State and Federal assistance programs such as Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid. You or members of your household must also have a total household income of 135% or below the poverty guidelines set by the State and Federal governments. If you have already received a wireless phone discount through another provider, you cannot be eligible for Lifeline in addition to that program.

If you are eligible for Lifeline, you can select the plan that works best for your household. The plans include free talk, text and data, and nationwide long-distance calling.

It is important to note that only one Lifeline telephone or bundled voice/broadband services discount is allowed per household. This includes children and adults living in the same home who share household income and expenses. In addition, the program is not transferable between households. In cases where more than one device or service is selected, the program will verify the identity of all individuals residing in the household and require documentation.

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