The answer used to be, “Absolutely not. The free government cell phone is yours to keep.” But this answer has fallen victim to the rapidly evolving nature of the Lifeline/ACP program.
Rest assured that it can be used until all your remaining minutes run out or expire (although you may have to use your remaining minutes within a set time frame, so use them up). In fact, you can continue using your LifeLine phone indefinitely as long as you continue buying additional minutes.
But the right to keep your free government cell phone now depends on your service provider’s Terms & Conditions. Some Lifeline Assistance service providers may allow you to keep your free government cell phone even after you leave the program. But others may require you to return the phone or even pay for it if you cancel your account.
So we urge you to read your service provider’s Terms & conditions before you cancel your account. Contact your service provider’s customer service team to discuss your options and to find out if you will suffer any potential negative consequences as a result of of canceling your Lifeline Assistance/Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) account.
Here’s an added fact very few people know: If you are allowed to keep your free government cell phone after you cancel your Lifeline/ACP account, it can still be used to call 9-1-1 even if it is not connected to any free or paid account. Sounds impossible, we know, but it’s true. So let us repeat this surprising fact: Any cell phone with a working battery and in working condition, can call 9-1-1. So think about keeping your former free government cell phone in your purse, or in your glove compartment, or in your pocket. Because you never know when an emergency will pop up.