A reader recently left a detailed comment on our Washington state page.
If you’re a regular reader of FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net — or even an occasional one — you know that we do our best to respond to readers comments. We often answer readers by referring them to FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net articles that answer to their specific questions, in addition to offering other solutions to our readers’ problems.
In most cases, we don’t respond in depth to general comments left by readers. We’d rather build our community of readers by allowing them to get into detailed back-and-forth conversations to offer each other advice and opinions and to relate their personal experiences.
But in the case of this comment we feel obligated to correct the misleading and incorrect information she provided and to set the record straight. The comment was so wrong in so many ways that we considered deleting it. But since we regularly rail against fraud, waste and corruption in the Lifeline Assistance program, we felt it was more important to leave the comment alone, but to run this correction. Time after time we’ve told our readers to report any illegal activities they see occurring.
First, let’s review the comment:
for: Ihab, Michelle, Barbara and others:
There are several ways to get a phone if you do not have an address:
1. If you have a food bank near by they may offer free mail service.
2. Tell your problem to a church pastor and the church address may be used.
3. Find a friend who does not receive a free phone and use that address.
4. In some cities, like Seattle, there are locations where you can go and
apply and pick one up, as well as certain agencies that give them away
to the homeless on the streets.
5. Establish a paid mail drop(private mail box) as they are usually set
up as if they are a residential address.
6. Research the help line resources at your local city hall to see
what their directions are on free phones.
7. IF NONE OF THE ABOVE WORKS FOR YOU, I WOULD TRY THE FOLLOWING (MAYBE
YOU SHOULD TRY IT SECOND IF CITY HALL HAS NOTHING): write or email
asking for help to: Connectup@solid-ground.org
This is a Northwest area help organization which has all the info you
need to assist you in getting a free government phone.–Good Luck
We’re going to give our reader the benefit of the doubt. We assume she felt she was giving our readers good, honest advice. But in reality, almost everything she said is wrong.
You cannot, according to the rules and regulations of the Lifeline Assistance, sign up for the free government cell phone program using any address other than your home street address (unless you live in one of the types of temporary shelters described below). No food banks, no churches, no friend’s address, no rented mail drops.
We’re not saying it isn’t done, but it is illegal. Using any of those addresses will place you in violation of the programs rules and regulations. In other words, you will be guilty of fraud.
The Federal Communications Commission is very clear about this. It says, “… prior to providing service to a consumer, an ETC must obtain that consumer’s permanent residential address, unless they only have a temporary address.”
In this case, the FCC defines “temporary address” as homeless shelters, women’s shelters, halfway houses, or other temporary multi-family residence. It does not refer to the food banks, churches, friends’ homes, or rented mail drops.
The FCC also said, “… [W]e codify additional protections to be implemented by those ETCs that serve consumers without a permanent residential address, in order to assist ETCs in more easily verifying such consumers’ continued eligibility for the program.”
That means that residents of temporary shelters must re-verify their temporary residence address every 90 days.
And to repeat, a temporary address is NOT a food bank, a church, or a private rented mail box.
The reader did make one good point in her comment:
“Research the help line resources at your local city hall to see what their directions are on free phones.”
We agree. Go to city hall. Talk to homeless advocates. Find out what services and help your community offers and ask for their advice.
The Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program is a godsend for millions of Americans who live in poverty. It’s a wonderful program and we do not want to see it harmed by fraud, waste and abuse. Follow the rules. Do the right thing. Get your cell phone by doing everything the rules allow. And not by bending or breaking those rules.