Every person in America should have access to quality, affordable telecommunications service. This principle of “Universal Service” has been the goal of the telecommunications industry for decades. In 1934, the federal government codified the goal and reaffirmed it in 1996 by establishing policies for the “preservation and advancement of Universal Service.”
To achieve the Universal Service goal, carriers have access to a fund that is generated by contributions from the telecommunications providers in the United States. Telecommunications companies draw from the fund to provide four programs that support telecommunications services nationwide. Lifeline Assistance Program (Lifeline) is part of the fund’s Low-Income Program and are described in detail below. Toll limitation service is another program available to low income subscribers to help them control what they spend on telephone service.
Lifeline and Toll Limitation Service support provide discounts to eligible low-income consumers to help them establish and maintain telephone service.
What type of discount is available?
Lifeline assistance lowers the cost of basic monthly telephone service, either landline or prepaid wireless service. Eligible consumers can receive up to $10 per month in discounts. Additional state support may be available.
Eligible residents of Indian reservations or tribal lands can receive up to an additional $25 in Lifeline support, but must pay at least $1 for basic monthly service.
Toll Limitation Service (TLS)
TLS support allows eligible consumers who wish to avoid incurring large long distance fees to choose toll blocking or toll control at no cost.
How do I know whether I am eligible?
Eligibility for Lifeline and TLS support varies by state. Individuals who reside in states that have their own discount programs qualify for federal Lifeline and TLS support if they meet the eligibility criteria established by their state. In states that do not provide state support, an individual is eligible if he or she participates in one of the following programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food stamps or SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public House Assistance
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- National School Lunch Program's Free Lunch Program
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
- Head Start (if income elibility criteria are met)
- State assistance programs, if applicable.
In addition, a consumer may be eligible if his or her household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
2012 Estimated Income Requirements for a Household at or Below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
|Family Size||48 Contiguous States & Washington, D.C.|
|For each additional person, add:||$5,346|
Residents of Indian reservations or tribal lands qualify if they participate in any of the programs listed above, have a household income that is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines, or participate in one of these programs:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) general assistance
- Head Start (income eligible)
- Tribal TANF
How do I apply to receive Lifeline and TLS support discounts?
Contact Long Lines at 712.271.4000. Consumers must apply for Lifeline and TLS discounts through their local phone company. Visit the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website www.lifelinesupport.org or call USAC toll free at 1.888.641.8722 with questions about Lifeline and TLS discounts.