Just as we predicted, more competition has brought about better service in the Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program.
Assurance Wireless leapfrogged ahead of the competition when it introduced an unlimited talk and unlimited text Lifeline Assistance plan in California a few months ago. Now Budget Mobile (click here) has stepped up to match that plan.
The company has also added another wrinkle and upped the Lifeline ante a little more with a very inexpensive pre-paid plan that also includes data.
Spokesman Matt LaCasse told us, “We are now offering unlimited talk + text in California for our free California LifeLine service … The prepaid option in California is now $27.60 with unlimited talk/text and 3K MB [3GB] of data.”
If you qualify for Budget’s basic Lifeline Assistance plan, you’ll get a free cell phone, unlimited free minutes each month, and unlimited free texts each month. And unlike typical, expensive cell phone plans, you won’t need to sign an oppressive long term contract. You’ll also get nationwide coverage, caller ID, call waiting and voicemail.
According to their website, “Once you enroll, you will receive your FREE government assisted cell phone service for 12 months. You will need to re-qualify once a year. We will contact you annually to verify that you still qualify for Budget Mobile. However, should your participation in an eligible LifeLine Program cease, you are required to notify Budget PrePay, Inc. within 30 days, to de-enroll from the LifeLine cell phone program.”
A few restrictions apply
The unlimited talk/unlimited text offer is free for qualifying California residents, but there are a few restrictions of which you should be aware.
- LifeLine Service is only available to individuals who participate in a qualifying government program or are income eligible.
- Only one wireless or landline LifeLine account is allowed per household.
- The address you provide for your phone service must be your place of residence.
- Your LifeLine service must be in the name of the qualified customer and is non-transferable.
Budget makes it easier to sign up with its own stores and kiosks
One of the complaints we hear most frequently about the free government cell phone program is that signing up online is confusing and difficult. It looks like Budget has taken a major step toward solving that issue by opening its own stores and kiosks in major population centers across California.
California Store and Kiosk Locations: Bakersfield, El Cajon, Fresno (coming soon), Los Angeles area (Arleta, Commerce, Covina, Los Angeles, Huntington Park, Inglewood, Moreno Valley, North Hollywood, Rialto, San Bernardino, Santa Ana), Oakland (two locations), Sacramento (two locations), Salinas, San Diego, National City, and Stockton (coming soon).
Just one comment for the folks at Budget: It looks like this list shown on the company’s website was put together by a non-Californian. No Southern Californian would ever list Moreno Valley, Rialto, San Bernardino and Santa Ana as “Los Angeles” area. The first three are in the separate Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area, and while Santa Ana is part of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metro area, you probably couldn’t find five people in that city who would look for their city under a “Los Angeles” listing. We’d suggest that they lump the first three under “Inland Empire” and the last one under “Orange County”.
This new unlimited offer is a wonderful thing for low-income Californians. The state leads the nation in the number of residents living in poverty, and Budget is making if far easier for them to cope and succeed in today’s world.
We certainly hope their new unlimited plan inspires ReachOut Wireless and Telscape, two other Lifeline Assistance companies operating in California, to begin offering unlimited plans to their customers.
If not, they’re going to get left behind as Budget and Assurance take advantage of “unlimited” futures in the Golden State.
To learn how to enroll in Budget Mobile, in California or dozens of other states, Click Here.