Lifeline Telephone Assistance
Lifeline is a federally funded program that is administered by local telephone companies. It provides a monthly discount on telecommunications services for eligible consumers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started allowing consumers to apply the Lifeline discount to broadband (high-speed internet) service in December 2016.
Major changes are being made to the Lifeline program under a 2016 FCC order, including phasing out the current $9.25 discount for basic local phone service by December 2021. Key changes are noted below and are subject to further modification. For more information, consumers are encouraged to visit the FCC and Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) websites.
There are two ways to qualify:
1. Have a household income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines, or.
2. Be enrolled in one or more of the following programs:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Food Stamps
- Federal Public Housing Assistance or Section 8
- Veterans Pensions and Survivors Benefit Programs
Enhanced Lifeline benefits are available for consumers who live on Tribal lands.
Key changes under the 2016 FCC order:
- As of December 2016, LIHEAP, TANF, and National School Free Lunches no longer qualify a household for Lifeline. If you have qualified for Lifeline through one of these programs, you will need to prove eligibility when you are recertified in 2017 either by meeting the income guidelines or by participating in a different qualifying program.
- As of December 2016, Veterans Pensions and Survivors Benefit Programs are being added to the programs that will qualify a consumer for Lifeline.
- Starting in December 2016, participating customers can apply the monthly $9.25 Lifeline discount to either wireless phone service, landline phone service, broadband, or a combination of phone and broadband services.
- In December 2019, the Lifeline discount for telephone service (both landline and wireless) will drop to $7.25. The discount will then decrease to $5.25 in December 2020.
- Starting in December 2021, consumers will be able to apply the $9.25 Lifeline discount to broadband (high-speed internet) services but not to telephone services.
Things to know:
- To enroll, you must send an application directly to the telephone company. Before applying, call the company to make sure you are mailing the application to the appropriate address.
- When applying, you must include a copy of a document showing proof of income or proof of participation in one of the qualifying programs.
- Only one Lifeline discount is available per household. It may be applied to either a landline or wireless telephone, but not both.
- If your household receives more than one Lifeline discount, you must select a single provider immediately. Penalties may apply if you don't.
- Telephone service must be listed in your name. You cannot be listed as a dependent on another person’s tax return.
- All Lifeline subscribers must re-certify eligibility each year. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required this annual recertification since 2012.
Efforts to combat fraud, waste and abuse in the Lifeline program have been underway at the state and federal levels for some time. If you are aware of fraud in the program, please contact the FCC toll-free at 1-855-4LL-TIPS (or 1-855-455-8477) or at email@example.com.
How to apply
Applications are available from participating telephone companies, which are listed with phone numbers and website links on the Universal Service Administrative Company's (USAC's) website.
Read the application carefully and contact the phone company with any questions. Return the completed application directly to the phone company.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC’s mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving.
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204