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The FCC established the Lifeline program in 1985 to ensure that qualifying low-income consumers could afford phone service and the opportunities and security it provides. Congress supported and strengthened Lifeline in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, requiring that affordable service and advanced communications be available to low-income consumers across the country. In March of 2016, the FCC modernized Lifeline for advanced services by beginning a transition toward support of broadband service.
Lifeline Assistance is a government program to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. Currently, Lifeline provides subscribers a discount on monthly telephone service purchased from participating providers in the marketplace. On March 31, 2016, the FCC approved rules to modernize Lifeline so that subscribers can also purchase discounted broadband from participating providers. Discounts will apply to stand-alone broadband, bundled voice-broadband packages - either fixed or mobile - and stand-alone voice service. These modernizations will help ensure that low-income consumers can afford 21st-century broadband and the access it provides to jobs, education and opportunities.
The wireline, wireless and broadband companies that provide Lifeline and Link-Up are approved to participate in the low income program of the Universal Service Fund for the revenue they forgo by providing discounted service to eligible consumers.
Lifeline participation requirements vary by state, but generally to qualify for Lifeline, customers must either produce an income which is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines, or participate in one of the below government assistance programs:
MEDICAID - Government provided healthcare program for individuals and family
FOOD STAMPS - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP
SSI - Supplemental Security Income
SECTION 8 - Federal Public Housing Assistance
LIHEAP - Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
TANF - Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
CLICK HERE for more information about the Lifefine Program Rules.