We know many of you are skeptical of getting a government cell phone because of hidden charges or costs that may not be seen upfront. That’s not the case most of the time, provided that you pick the right provider. These free phones and plans are courtesy of the Lifeline Program which is federally funded and managed.
So, the quickest answer is yes, government cell phones are really free, and it’s a way to help needy Americans improve their lives. However, there are some companies that only offer discounts on their plans and devices. Don’t think of them as a bad option since these big-name companies like AT&T will most likely offer better devices and services than the completely free providers.
What Is the Lifeline Program?
The Lifeline Program has been around for a while since the time of President Reagan for the purpose of providing a means of communication for those who can’t afford it. The Federal Communications Commission or FCC has set up a service that allows companies to provide phones and sim cards free of charge. The FCC funds the assistance with the help of our taxes, so anyone that qualifies can grab this opportunity.
You simply need to prove your eligibility and apply to a specific provider to get started. You qualify if you already have other Federal Assistance Program benefits like those listed below or if your income falls below your state’s poverty guidelines.
- Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- National School Lunch Program
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Head Start
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
You can also use this website to know accurately if you are qualified to avail free government cell phones. It’s a simple process and it will be faster if you apply online and wait for your phone to arrive at your designated address. You can choose from the providers listed by state in this link.
But What About the Non-Free Government Cell Phones?
As mentioned, there are several companies that only offer discounts on the available devices or the monthly fees. Big brands like AT&T and Verizon do not offer free phones and services, but they have offers for those who qualify to make things easier on them. Most discounts start at $10 a month, but it could be more depending on the plans that are offered.
You also have other alternatives like Boost Mobile which also require a monthly free. However, they are considerably cheaper since some offer plans for as low as $10 a month. Calls and text are usually unlimited, but data or internet browsing is limited to a monthly allowance. You can either bring your own phone or buy one from them at a discount. Their unlimited plans are also cheaper.
The only reason we see to go with a paid plan instead of the completely free option is better coverage and service. Some users have lodged complaints regarding common issues such as signal strength or call clarity. However, that depends on where you live and not the actual service, so choose wisely.