The Ridgecrest Daily Independent newspaper ran a recent story that said, “Dawn Thompson came up from San Diego promoting the Lifeline Assistance Program offering free cellphones to low-income households on behalf of the company of Total Call … (She) set up temporary shop in the pocket park on the corner of Ridgecrest and China Lake boulevards promoting the Lifeline Assistance Program, which bears the ‘unofficial’ name of Obama Phone.”
According to bing.com maps, San Diego-to-Ridgecrest is a 225-mile drive that takes nearly four hours driving. And then Dawn still had to get home again. The drive took her through far more populated areas of north San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. So our question is, why? Why drive that far to get to a small town to sign up customers for Lifeline Assistance free government cell phones?
Of course, we have an answer. After all, our reputation as the nation’s leading experts on free government cell phones is well deserved. We know this business inside and out. And that’s why so many people visit this website every day.
If you’ll pardon the earthquake reference, California is now the epicenter for competition in the Lifeline business. All the big names are moving into the state and they are offering unlimited talk and unlimited text plans that are unmatched in any other state. In addition to the federal subsidy of $9.25 per month per customer, California is throwing in additional subsidies that make those unmatched plans possible.
So our analysis of the situation is that Total Call, whose California plans are not competitive, is being forced to scour for customers in outlying geographic regions that are of no interest to the major players.
Is Total Call finding it tough to compete?
The Daily Independent reported that “Currently they have unlimited talk and text but no data. Since many public establishments offer free WiFi people can tap into the Internet.”
Either the Daily Independent has reported the facts incorrectly or Total Call’s website in incorrect, because it spells out a series of plans, none of which offer “unlimited talk and text”.
For example, its “California LifeLine Unlimited Talk” plan offers unlimited talk minutes for free, but charges $0.05 per text. It’s “California LifeLine 1000 Talk & 1000 Text” offers 1000 domestic voice minutes and 1000 texts worldwide for free, but charges $0.033 per additional minute of talk and $0.05 per additional text. They also offer a couple other plans that aren’t free.
Unfortunately for Total Call, its California competitors offer far better plans in California.
Access Wireless offers a free California plan that gives you an Android smartphone, 1000 minutes or texts, plus 200MB data usage each month. Assurance Wireless and Budget Mobile offer a free cell phone with unlimited voice and unlimited text. Feel Safe Wireless offers a free phone, unlimited talk, unlimited text, 100MB data and 100 free international texts. Life Wireless offers a free cell phone plus anywhere from 1250 monthly minutes to unlimited voice, depending upon the plan you select. SafetyNet Wireless and Tag Mobile will give you a cell phone, unlimited voice calls and unlimited texting plus 100MB of data per month.
Even worse, Total Call charges an activation fee that the big names do not charge. Here’s how the the company spells it out on its website:
Is there an activation fee included?
Yes, by applying for the California Lifeline Program, you acknowledge and agree that your account is being charged a $39 activation fee. However, if your California Lifeline Program application is approved within 30 days, you understand that $39 will be credited to your account. In the event your California Lifeline Program application is denied or is not approved within 30 days, you understand that you must pay the $39 activation fee and that your account will be converted to a Total Call Mobile retail plan of your choice or your phone will be deactivated.
We love seeing battles in which David defeats Goliath. In other words, nothing would make us happier than seeing a scrappy little company like Total Call win against big names like Assurance and Safelink.
But that’s not going to happen unless they can up the ante and offer programs equal to or better than the big boys offer.
C’mon, Total Call, We’re rooting for you.