FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel
Spotlights Lifeline Program
During Lifeline Awareness Week, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel addressed the range of Americans who can receive support from the FCC's Lifeline program.
Lifeline is an FCC program that helps make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. Lifeline provides subscribers a discount on qualifying monthly telephone service, broadband Internet service, or bundled voice-broadband packages purchased from participating wireline or wireless providers. The discount helps ensure that low-income consumers can afford 21st century broadband and the access it provides to jobs, healthcare, and educational resources.
Lifeline During Coronavirus Pandemic
To help keep Americans connected during the coronavirus pandemic, the FCC has temporarily waived recertification and reverification requirements for subscribers residing on Tribal lands, and has extended those waivers until January 31, 2023. The latest FCC waiver order was released September 30, 2022 (download PDF: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-22-1039A1.pdf) and it will help ensure that Lifeline subscribers are not involuntarily removed from the Lifeline program during this time of national crisis. All other Lifeline waivers previously in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have ended.
If you're looking for more information about the Affordable Connectivity Program go here.
How Lifeline Works
Lifeline is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, commonwealth, territory, and on Tribal lands. The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC is responsible for helping consumers apply for the program, understand eligibility requirements, and keep their benefit current through an annual recertification process. USAC's website provides additional information regarding the program, including program requirements.
To participate in the Lifeline program, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain federal assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain Tribal Programs. You can see if you are eligible by reviewing the information available at lifelinesupport.org (click "Do I Qualify?").
National Verifier for Lifeline Eligibility
To apply for Lifeline, a consumer must generally use the National Verifier application system. The National Verifier is a centralized system established by the FCC and operated by USAC that verifies Lifeline applicants' eligibility and recertifies subscriber eligibility annually. Consumers who would like assistance from a service provider when applying can use the "Companies Near Me" tool to locate a Lifeline program service provider in their area.
Please note that consumers in California (except broadband-only consumers), Texas, and Oregon will continue to apply for the federal Lifeline benefit through the state's existing application process as they do today. For broadband-only consumers in California, consumers will need to apply through the National Verifier application system and the National Verifier will check the consumer's eligibility. For specific directions on how to apply for Lifeline in all three states, visit the National Verifier and select the relevant state from the drop-down menu and press "Get Started."
If you have questions about your application, or would like an application mailed to you, contact Lifeline at (800) 234-9473 or LifelineSupport@usac.org.
Key rules include the following:
- Lifeline is available only to subscribers whose eligibility can be verified by checking a program eligibility database or by submitting documentation demonstrating their eligibility.
- Only one Lifeline benefit is permitted per household. Federal rules prohibit subscribers from receiving more than one Lifeline service. If a subscriber or his or her household currently has more than one Lifeline-discounted service, they must de-enroll from other Lifeline services immediately or be subject to penalties.
- Only low-income subscribers who have been found to be eligible are qualified to enroll.
- Subscribers must recertify their eligibility every year and should respond to any requests from the National Verifier's or state Lifeline administrator to recertify eligibility. Subscribers who fail to recertify their eligibility will be de-enrolled from the Lifeline program. Please note that, pursuant to a waiver approved by the FCC, recertification requirements for those subscribers living on Tribal lands has been suspended until January 31, 2023.
Enhanced Lifeline Benefits for Tribal Lands
Because telephone subscribership levels on Tribal lands are the lowest in the country, enhanced Lifeline benefits are available to low-income residents of Tribal lands. You can find out more about which areas are eligible Tribal lands by visiting this site: https://www.lifelinesupport.org/tribal-benefit/.
Link Up, another federal benefit program, is a one-time benefit, per address, that reduces the initial installation or activation fees of certain Lifeline providers offering telephone service on Tribal lands.
What benefits are available through the Lifeline program's support for Tribal lands?
For low-income consumers living on Tribal lands, Lifeline provides a monthly discount of up to $34.25 off the cost of telephone service, broadband Internet service, or bundled services (either wireline or wireless). This discount consists of up to $9.25 (which is available to all eligible low-income subscribers across the United States) plus up to an additional $25 in enhanced support (which is available only to eligible low-income subscribers living on Tribal lands). Some states offer additional monthly discounts through their own Lifeline programs.
Tribal Lands Link Up provides qualified subscribers living on Tribal lands with a one-time discount of up to $100 on the initial installation or activation of telephone service at their primary residence. For service initiation charges of up to $200, Link Up also provides a deferred, no-interest payment plan to the subscriber for up to one year. Subscribers can request Link Up once for each change of their primary residential (home) address. Tribal Link Up support is only offered to carriers who are building out infrastructure on Tribal lands, so not all carriers may be discounting their activation fee. Consumers can check with their Lifeline provider to see if they offer Link Up.
What limitations are there on Lifeline and Link Up?
Federal rules prohibit qualifying low-income consumers from receiving more than one Lifeline service at the same time. For instance, low-income subscribers who qualify may receive a Lifeline discount on either a home telephone or a wireless telephone service, but they may not receive a Lifeline discount on both services at the same time.
Additionally, only one Lifeline service may be obtained per household. "Household" is defined as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address as one economic unit. An "economic unit" is defined as "all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses of a household."
Lifeline support is available to eligible low-income subscribers living in group living facilities. Lifeline applicants may demonstrate when initially enrolling in the program that any other Lifeline recipients residing at their residential address are part of a separate household. Similarly, federal rules prohibit qualifying low-income consumers from receiving more than one Tribal Link Up discount at a primary residence.
What is the current benefit under the Lifeline Program?
The Lifeline discount for eligible subscribers is up to $9.25 per month for qualifying monthly broadband or bundled services that meet the broadband minimum service standards. The discount for eligible subscribers is up to $5.25 for monthly service that only qualifies for the voice minimum service standards. The discount may be applied to either wireline or wireless services.
What is the enhanced benefit amount for Tribal Lands?
Up to $25 in enhanced support, in addition to up to $9.25 for traditional Lifeline service, is available to eligible low-income subscribers living on Tribal lands.
How can I determine if I am eligible?
You can see if you are eligible for Lifeline service by reviewing the information available at lifelinesupport.org under "Do I Qualify?"
How do I apply?
There are several options to apply for Lifeline. You may apply directly through the Lifeline programs National Verifier online portal (https://nv.fcc.gov) or by mailing a paper application form (available at the National Verifier online portal after entering your state).
To find out more about how to apply on your own through the National Verifier, visit lifelinesupport.org (click "How to Use It" under "National Verifier").
You may also apply for the program by working with a Lifeline service provider either in-person at a store location or online via the service provider's website, if they support that option. To locate a Lifeline provider in your state, go to https://data.usac.org/publicreports/CompaniesNearMe/Download/Report.
For any questions regarding the Lifeline application process, call USAC's toll-free number for the Lifeline Support Center at 1 (800) 234-9473, or email LifelineSupport@usac.org.
What documentation do I need to provide when I apply for Lifeline service?
Consumers may need to provide documentation if their eligibility cannot be confirmed automatically by checking a program eligibility database (for example, SNAP, Medicaid, etc.).
Acceptable documentation to verify eligibility based on participation in a qualifying program includes a recent (dated within the past 12 months): statement of benefits from a qualifying program; notice letter of participation in qualifying program; program participation documents (or copy); or another official document of a qualifying program. More detailed information regarding acceptable documentation can be found at: https://www.lifelinesupport.org/documents-needed/.
Acceptable documentation for income eligibility verification includes: The prior year's state, federal or Tribal tax return; current income statement from an employer or paycheck stub; Social Security statement of benefits; Veterans Administration statement of benefits; retirement or pension statement of benefits; Unemployment or Workers' Compensation statement of benefits; federal or Tribal notice letter of participation in General Assistance; or divorce decree, child support award, or other official document containing income information. The subscriber must present the same type of documentation covering 3 consecutive months within the previous 12 months, if the documentation does not cover a full year of income. More detailed information regarding acceptable documentation can be found at: https://www.lifelinesupport.org/documents-needed/.
If your eligibility cannot be confirmed automatically or through any documentation you provide you will be unable to enroll or may be de-enrolled from the Lifeline program.
Can I get more than one discounted service?
No. Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income subscribers from receiving more than one Lifeline discount per household. An eligible subscriber may receive a discount on either a wireline or wireless voice service (but not both), or on broadband or bundled service. If you, or any person in your household, are currently receiving more than one monthly Lifeline service, you must select one provider to provide your Lifeline service and you must contact the other provider to de-enroll from their program. You may also contact USAC's Lifeline Support Center for assistance at 1-800-234-9473 or email@example.com. Please do not share any sensitive personal information via email. Subscribers found to be violating the one-discount-per-household rule may also be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties.
How is "household" defined for purposes of the Lifeline Program?
"Household" is defined as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address as one economic unit. An "economic unit" is defined as "all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses of a household." However, Lifeline support is available to eligible low-income subscribers living in group living facilities. Lifeline applicants may be asked to complete a one-per-household worksheet, which asks questions about your household to determine if there is more than one household at your address.
The Lifeline Eligibility Pre-Screening tool available at https://www.lifelinesupport.org (select "Do I Qualify?") can help you determine who is a member of your household.
How often do I need to verify my eligibility?
Once when you first enroll, and once every year that you have Lifeline-supported service.
You may become ineligible for Lifeline if your income has increased, you no longer participate in a qualifying federal benefit program, or someone else in your household gets Lifeline service. If you become ineligible, you must contact your provider immediately to de-enroll from the program. Otherwise, you may be subject to penalties. You may also contact USAC's Lifeline Support Center for assistance at 1-800-234-9473 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not share any sensitive personal information via email.
Please note that, due to the pandemic, the FCC has temporarily waived reverification requirements for subscribers residing on Tribal lands and has extended those waivers until January 31, 2023.
What if I have free Lifeline?
If you receive Lifeline service for free, the Lifeline program rules require you to use your service every 30 days to keep your benefit, in addition to complying with all other rules for the Lifeline program.
Who can I contact if I have an issue with a mobile phone or other hardware provided by my Lifeline service provider?
The FCC does not subsidize any hardware associated with the Lifeline program, which includes mobile phones provided by a service provider to a Lifeline customer. If you are having issues with your mobile phone or other hardware associated with your Lifeline service, please contact your service provider directly.
1111Who do I contact if I have a disability and want help applying for Lifeline?
If you are a person with a disability and need assistance with your Lifeline application, contact the Lifeline Support Center at lifelinesupport.org or call 800-234-9473.
If you have a question about whether your Lifeline service and equipment is accessible, contact the FCC's Disability Rights office at 202-418-2517 for a voice phone call, at 844-432-2275 by videophone, or by email at DRO@fcc.gov.
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau maintains a dedicated Lifeline Fraud Tip Line – 1-855-4LL-TIPS (or 1-855-455-8477) – and an email address – Lifelinetips@fcc.gov – to facilitate reporting of possible fraud in the program.
Please provide as much detail as possible, including the name and contact information of the individuals involved and the companies they are using to receive Lifeline-supported phone service.
Lifeline Across America Consumer Outreach
Lifeline Across America is a federal-state working group established in 2005 to review outreach efforts on the Lifeline program and provide state, local, and Tribal entities with information and resources to help ensure that low-income consumers are aware of the program and understand the requirements for participation. Its members include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA). The Lifeline Across America Working Group initiated a study and compiled a report in 2006 where it presented its observations and conclusions concerning best practices for outreach on the Lifeline program.
Lifeline Across America Media Contacts
NARUC: Regina Davis, email@example.com
NASUCA: Barrett C. Sheridan, (717) 783-5048, firstname.lastname@example.org
ASL Video: How Lifeline Works
If you are a person with a disability and need assistance with your Lifeline application, contact the Lifeline Support Center or call 800-243-9473.
If you have a question about whether your Lifeline service and equipment is accessible, contact the FCC's Disability Rights Office at 202-418-2517 (voice), at 844-432-2275 (videophone for American Sign Language (ASL) users), or DRO@fcc.gov.
Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications (pdf)
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