Do you know someone who could use a discount on their wireless phone bill?
Thanks to Derrick Jackson of Cricket Communications for reaching out to me about the Lifeline program. Lifeline is a federal assistance program offered in some states by some carriers that gives low-income people a discount on their phone services. Since June, Cricket has been trying to get the word out about the discount — a nice $13.50 credit — because it says it’s the only carrier that does not limit this discount to a phone plan with a limited number of minutes.
With Cricket, you get the discount on unlimited minutes. Learn more about Cricket’s Lifeline Credit program here.
How it works
Customers have to apply to participate and only one person per household can receive the benefit. There are two ways to qualify, program based and income based.
If you’re enrolled in a program like CHIP, Medicaid Medical Assistance, SNAP, Section 8, TANF or a few others, you may qualify. You may also qualify if your income is at or less than 150% of the poverty line, which varies depending on how many people are in your household. (See HHS Poverty Guidelines)
Once you’re approved and you have a plan with Cricket, Cricket will apply the discount to your phone bill. By the way, not to make a commercial for Cricket, but Derrick told me that unlike other carriers, Cricket lets you choose from any of its phones with this discount and plans start at $35 a month. Cricket’s services are geared toward people who might have trouble paying their bill once in a while, which is why it also offers a “bridgepay” program that lets you pay $20 toward your bill and gives you a 7-10 day grace period to pay your bill in full.
(By the way, you might choose to use the Lifeline discount on a landline instead, but remember you can only use one per household.)
Can eligible users get the credit if they’re with ATT&T, Verizon, Sprint or another carrier?
Well, not all plans accept it in Texas. See a list of phone carriers that will let you use the Lifeline program.
Who pays for Lifeline? Probably all of us.
Lifeline is supported by the federal Universal Service Fund or USF. All telecommunications service providers and certain other providers of telecommunications must contribute to the federal USF based on a percentage of their end-user telecommunications revenues. These companies include wireline telephone companies, wireless telephone companies, and certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers.
That’s why you may notice a “Universal Service” line item on your telephone bills. This line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from you. The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs.
Derrick told me he would be happy to tell you more about it. Here’s how to reach him: