Thanks to a twist in history, almost every resident of Oklahoma qualifies for special cell phone and home telephone discounts that are unavailable to most residents of other states. These special discounts can add up to $100 or more.
The programs are called Tribal Lifeline and Tribal Link-Up and they are very narrow niches within the Lifeline Assistance program.
As this website’s name makes clear, we concentrate on the free government cell phone aspect of the Lifeline Program. Tribal Link-Up, on the other hand, provides special, additional discounts on home phones. But the discounts for Oklahoma residents are so substantial that we feel compelled to offer this information.
Why is Oklahoma different?
The Tribal Lands Lifeline program discounts usually apply only to residents of current or former Native American Tribal Lands. In most states those lands (also known by the politically-incorrect term “Indian reservations”) cover relatively small geographic areas and have relatively few residents. But Oklahoma has a special status because the entire state was, at one time, a reservation.
Whoever wrote the law was clearly unaware that virtually all of Oklahoma was once an “Indian reservation”. That quirk means that almost every Oklahoma resident may legally qualify for special discounts that were intended only for Native Americans — if they meet the program’s other standard requirements.
For example, even if Tulsa resident Joe Blow’s mother was 100% Irish and his father was 100% German, he qualifies for special home phone discounts that in other states are reserved for Native Americans living on traditional tribal lands.
Who qualifies? And who doesn’t?
To qualify for Oklahoma’s Tribal Lifeline or Tribal Link-Up, you must reside on Tribal Land, which is defined as any federally recognized Indian Tribe’s Reservation (The Osage Nation) or former reservations in Oklahoma or an Indian Allotment.
That includes 64 of the Oklahoma’s 77 counties and all of its most populous towns, cities and metropolitan areas — all except thinly-populated Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Harper, Woods, and Alfalfa counties, plus the western half of Ellis County, and Beckham County south of the North Fork of the Red River.
In other words, approximately 97% of Oklahoma residents are eligible for these special discounts IF they meet the program’s other requirements.
This eligible counties are shown in red on this map:
What is Tribal Lands Lifeline? What is Tribal Link-Up? And what are the special discounts?
Oklahoma cell phone companies typically charge each Lifeline participant $1 per month for a free cell phone, 1000 voice minutes and 1000 texts.
Here’s how Tribal Lands Lifeline described on the Federal Communication Commission’s website:
Tribal Lands Lifeline provides a monthly discount of up to $34.25 off of the cost of telephone service, either wireline or wireless. This discount is currently $9.25 (which is available to all eligible low-income subscribers across the United States) plus up to an additional $25 (which is available only to eligible low-income subscribers living on Tribal lands.)
Let’s explain what that means to Joe Blow, the hypothetical Oklahoma resident we described earlier.
In Scenario #1, Joe lives in an area served by a Lifeline Assistance cell phone company. He meets all the program’s other eligibility requirements, so he will get a free government cell phone plus 100 monthly voice minutes and 1000 monthly texts for just $1 per month.
In Scenario #2, Joe meets all the eligibility requirements to get a free government cell phone, but lives in an area that’s not served by one of the companies that offers $1 per month Lifeline Assistance. Whatever cell phone company he signs up with will discount his cell phone bill by $34.25 per month.
Now let’s take a look at home the FCC describes the Tribal Link-Up discounts, which apply to home phones only.
Please keep in mind that the rules of the Lifeline Assistance program dictate that an individual or household can only benefit from one Lifeline discount at a time. That means you will not be eligible for a Link-Up discount on your home phone if you are currently receiving a Lifeline free government cell phone discount):
Tribal Lands Link Up provides qualified subscribers living on Tribal lands with a one-time discount of up to $100 on the initial installation or activation of a wireline or wireless telephone for the primary residence. Tribal Lands Link Up also enables subscribers to pay the remaining amount that they owe on a deferred schedule, interest-free. Qualifying subscribers may be eligible for Link Up again only after moving to a new primary residence. Tribal Link Up support is only offered to carriers who are building out infrastructure on Tribal lands, so not all carriers may be discounting their activation fee.
If Joe Blow wants a home phone instead of a cell phone, Tribal Link-Up will save him up to $100 or more. And if the installation of his home phone comes to more than $100, he can pay the difference (up to $200) over an extended period of time with ZERO interest charges.
And as a reminder, please allow us to repeat that these discounts are available to virtually every Oklahoma resident who meets all the other Lifeline/Link-Up qualifications.
The other eligibility rules
The fact that you live in one of the qualifying Oklahoma counties is not enough to earn you these bonus discounts.
Just as in every other state, you must also currently participate in another state or federal government assistance program such as Aid to Families, Federal Public Housing Assistance/Section 8, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LHEAP), Supplemental Security (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), OK Sales Tax Relief, Vocational Rehabilitation (Including hearing impaired), Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, and Tribally Administered TANF, Head Start (income qualifying/ residents of Tribal Lands only).
Those lucky, lucky Oklahomans
To review, virtually every Oklahoman lives on land that was once or is now defined as Tribal Lands. And that means you can get discounts on your cell phone or your home phone that residents of other states cannot get.
It’s a quirk of history, but one that was unforeseen by the framers of the Lifeline Assistance program.
And quirk or not, there’s no reason you shouldn’t begin saving big money thanks to the unintended generosity of the government.