There was a shocking development in the Lifeline Assistance business this week — Budget Mobile, which we rank as the fourth largest provider of free government cell phones, abruptly announced that it is exiting the program.
Google’s search cache shows that Budget was still enrolling customers just a few days ago, but then the following notice appeared on the company’s website this week:
Important notice regarding a change to your wireless service
Please be advised that Budget Mobile is seeking to relinquish its authority as an eligible telecommunication carrier (ETC) for Lifeline wireless service. Budget Mobile will no longer be providing wireless Lifeline service. If you are an existing customer with Budget Mobile, you will be required to seek wireless telephone service with another local provider.
In an effort to help with this transition of service, you may access the appropriate state specific page for links and information regarding your state’s Lifeline program. In addition, you may access the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) link to see a list of local telephone service providers in your area. This link will help you determine which telephone company is the best fit for your needs. For a list of companies in your state go to http://www.lifelinesupport.org/ls/companies/companies.aspx, or call USAC at 1-888-641-8722 and press 1 for additional assistance.
Budget Mobile would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the many years of being able to provide wireless phone services. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the change to your wireless telephone account, you can call Budget Mobile at 1-888-777-4007 and speak to a Customer Service Representative. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Wow. Just wow. What a shocking development.
In our 2016 List of Leaders article, we ranked Budget as the fourth largest Lifeline company with more than 800,000 customers (our estimates based on official USAC subsidy figures).
What happens to Budget’s customers?
And it appears that Budget is leaving its customers in the lurch in more ways than one. Not only is the company cutting off their free government cell phone service (at some as yet unspecified date), but they are doing virtually nothing to help those customers find replacement service providers. As you may have noticed over the years, we were never fans of ReachOut Wireless, but when it went out of business it had the decency to refer its customers to specific service providers.
Budget, on the other hand, is doing almost nothing to help its customers. As you can see in the above block quote, they are being told to visit the USAC website to find a list of Lifeline companies in their states. We know from long experience working with the USAC website that its listings are a hodgepodge in which large national companies that provide free phones are freely mixed with large national companies and tiny companies that provide discounts only. In our opinion, the USAC listings are so broad that they are virtually worthless.
Luckily, FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net is riding to the rescue. Budget customers who are unexpectedly losing their service can always check our “States” page to find a succinct list of all the Lifeline companies in their states.
We make it simple for you to find those companies, check all their plans to find the one that’s best for your needs (the most minutes, most texts, most data, best smartphones, etc) and all the contact info you need to enroll with a new company.
It’s what we’re here for.
A rough year in the free government cell phone business
Our 2016 List of Leaders article has been turned topsy turvy in the last twelve months, and the Budget story is just the latest upheaval.
- Number 5 ReachOut Wireless exited the business.
- The news that Assurance Wireless, number 2 on our List of Leaders, saw its income decline by 21% year-over-year and then announced that it was merging with Number 3 Access Wireless.
- Number 12 Care Wireless exited the business.
- Number 14 Alaska Communications exited the business.
- Number 11 and Number 15, TerraCom and YourTel, merged into a single entity.
- TotalCall Mobile, busted by the FCC and fined millions of dollars, closed up shop and sold its customer list to enTouch Wireless.
What does all this mean for free government cell phone customers? It means far less competition and far less choice.
And that’s never good for consumers.