Is the government’s free phone program expanding to include free internet access?

Until now, the Universal Service Fund has been collected to pay for free landlines and free cell phones and minutes for the needy. But that may change if the government approves reforms suggested by the Federal Communications Commission.

The bottom line: Free landlines could be phased out and free internet service added to the Lifeline Assistance program.

According to TMTLAwatch.com, “The new rules would transition nearly $4.5 billion in annual USF support to a “Connect American Fund,” which would subsidize wireless Internet access to homes, businesses, and public service organizations. The Connect America Fund would also dedicate resources intended to ensure the universal availability of affordable mobile broadband and provide a “shot-in-the-arm” to accelerate deployment of 4G networks in 2012.”

It appears that those who qualify for Lifeline Assistance, the government’s free cell phone program, would benefit greatly from these changes. Subsidies on traditional landline services would be gradually eliminated. Free cell phone providers would have to win the right to participate in the program by engaging in a competitive bidding process. This should reduce costs and help extend the program to more deserving people. (We say “should” because one is never quite sure if a government program will work as it was intended to work.)

Fraud will theoretically be reduced because the changes would eliminate “loopholes” that have allowed carriers to charge the government extra fees. In the future, they will have to prove they warrant the extra fees instead of getting automatic discount. FCC Chairman Julian Genachowski estimates that this could save hundreds of millions of dollars.



Details about the reforms are still a bit vague, but the National Association of Regulatory Commissions is worried that the changes may harm consumers by increasing the price of landlines.

We’ll keep an eye on future development and keep you informed.

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Comments

  1. Lisa says

    How do I find out the model of this free cell phone that was mailed to me so Ican download the users manual. Goverment did not sent me a manual the phone is to plain and I cant open the back to see who makes it.?

  2. Wurlitzer says

    Amazing there must be so many out of work that they are working for nothing to install “FREE” internet service.

    Ah, the gimmie, gimmie crowd knows no limit on how much it can steal from the producers to give to life’s losers.

    Soon everything will be supplied by the government and we will deal with DMV drones for everything we do. What a bunch of losers.

  3. Cindy says

    My cable service is very expensive as it is and I have to bundle in order to have phone and internet. (Landline phone)..I’m paying 98.00 per month and I only get $250. per month to live on and my rent is already more than what I make. Not sure how to manage..My city job cut my hours. I could really use lower cost on these items and still be able to use my government cell phone in case I get a job offer call to pay my bills. Internet is the fact of life now and it would help us people struggling to live day by day and get heath insurance. All I can afford is a $80. discount medical card that will cover me for 1 year in the USA. (Its not health insurance)..

    • cindy says

      Did you ever hear of a library? Usually offers free internet. How about your local food store? Same thing. If you can’t afford the $98, cancel cable and internet. What is more important – paying the rent or watching a show on cable? Get your priorities straight!

      • Michele says

        What is more important? To have a government that only takes from its citizens via your children sent to war, your money via taxation, your sanity via the IRS that you pay for always wanting more taxes and government paid employees that you may wonder what they do, and in return you get a free little tiny cell phone and free internet via maybe WiFi. . . . The United Sates of America and its government whom are for the people and by the people and not some clanish self-righteous club members who take your money from your pocket, take your children, take the resources of your land and then tell you “work harder” and by the way here’s a free cell phone and internet. For all that we the American people give we do not get nearly what we all have earned as a people United under one country. Have no shame in taking if it is available to you. The gift of “In God We Trust” that allows you to receive, And remember if you don’t qualify you won’t get it.

  4. dan says

    In most cases people are charged way to much for a high speed internet service, yet they pay it. And if some think that it is a “luxury” then they may be correct,,, IN SOME CASES, but there are circumstances that beg to differ. For instance… my son has severe Asthma and can not attend school for more than a few hours without needing a nebulizer treatment for breathing, I or my wife have had to go to the school to give him his treatments because of limited treatments alloud by the attending nurse, and in a number of instances we have had to remove him and either bring home for the day where all his needs are met, or even in many instances had to have him trasported to the hospital, therefor i have had to take him out and homeschool him. To add to this i am on a fixed income and cannot afford internet prices today and the internet is a MUST for his education. Therefor i DO believe that with the internet being in demand for his education that government assistance should be provided.

  5. Catherine says

    My Government assisted company current is offering lower cost broadband internet for lifeline customers but they didn’t tell me the prices. They say you can use this internet on a smart phone or you can get a card for your laptop. I asked how much and they said $24.99 for 250 mb a month. That doesn’t seem very cheap. My unlimited cell phone use is $26.00. So that would be over fifty dollars a month for both. How is this cheap? I can’t afford that anyway so….

  6. Joeanne Brown says

    I am handicapped, cant walk to where id love to be…I do all my bills, ordering online .if I lost this or the ability to pay the bill id be so screwed. my ssi as it stands, isn’t adequate but i’m not eligible for a free cell because I have a house phone.. have to pay for that where I believe the choice should be mine, not someone out there making choices for me.. without a clue. the so called gov. phone wont work where I live for lack of a signal so I am penalized but it will work in travel for dr. apts. and emergencies on the road so I have to pay for that to be medically safe. oh and my care giver was denied services because I had a landline and she often spent 1-2 night in my home if I wasn’t doing well….there is something not right with the so called offered services and except for finally getting enough time to do most people some good i’ve been told little else has changed…will it???

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