September 10, 2012 - 4:53 pm
By Kris Monteith | Acting Bureau Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

Imagine for a moment what your life would be like without a phone, corded or wireless. How would you contact emergency services if there was a fire or a serious injury? How would you contact a potential new employer, or keep in touch with a current one? How would you contact your utility company about a power outage, or a doctor about your sick child? How would you keep in touch with your loved ones and your community?; In this day and age, telecommunications services are a real necessity, and not being able to afford them is a real liability.

Since the creation of the Lifeline benefit program in 1984, millions of low-income Americans have depended on it to make basic telecommunications services affordable to them. Without this program, countless households would be deprived of contact with health care providers and government services, access to work opportunities, and communications with family and their communities.; As more and more essential functions and services of our economy and our public sectors shift to wireless and online formats, the Lifeline program has been reformed to help low-income Americans overcome obstacles to Internet access and wireless communications. As part of this effort, the FCC has adopted an express goal for the program of ensuring availability of broadband for all low-income Americans, allowing Lifeline support for bundled services plans combining voice and broadband or packages including optional calling features.

September 10-14 is Lifeline Awareness Week 2012, an outreach effort to inform low-income Americans about Lifeline, as well as notify current Lifeline subscribers about changes to the program’s rules that may affect them. For example, in January, the FCC completely overhauled and reformed Lifeline for today’s communications marketplace. These reforms included eliminating unnecessary subsidies, cutting off duplicative subscriptions, and requiring better proof of eligibility. The FCC has a wide variety of materials and information about Lifeline available at, including:

To find more information about eligibility and how to apply for Lifeline and Link Up benefits, visit the Universal Service Administrative Company's website, call USAC's toll-free number (1-888-641-8722), call the FCC's toll-free customer service number (1-888-CALL-FCC), or contact your local telephone company.