If you’re a Lifeline free government cell phone customer, you can now switch service providers any time you want. That’s right, any time you want. Because the USAC, the organization that governs the free government cell phone program, has officially eliminated those annoying port freezes that left customers stuck in cell phone hell.
This is outstanding news for Lifeline free government cell phone customers, but Lifeline companies no doubt find it far less outstanding.
According to the USAC.org website:
The Lifeline Program’s port freeze rule was eliminated on March 19, 2018. On that date, port freezes were removed from the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD), and any customers that were in a port freeze had the restriction removed.
USAC will not implement an administrative port freeze. NLAD users should no longer encounter port freeze error messages.
The good folks at LifelineLaw.com explain exactly what that means for free government cell phone customers:
Effective March 19, the Lifeline port freeze rules will be eliminated. The rules, which originally took effect in December 2016, precluded customers from transferring to another provider:
- their Lifeline voice subsidy for 60 days, or
- their Lifeline broadband subsidy for 12 months.
Less than a year later, the FCC determined that the port freeze rules “limit[ed] Lifeline consumers’ ability to seek more competitive offerings and obtain those services that best meet their needs” nor did it promote competition. As part of the rule elimination, NLAD will be updated to remove the port freeze constraints and customers in port freeze status as of that date will have the restriction lifted.
Our readers have told us many tales in which the 60 day or 12-month port freeze left them stuck in some crazy situations.
In some cases, their Lifeline “service” provider didn’t even offer service in their area, leaving them with a free government cell phone, but no cell phone service whatsoever. In other cases, our readers desperately wanted to get away from a company whose service (and customer service) were absolutely horrible, but they were stuck in cell phone hell because of the port freeze.
Of course, the companies that provide free government cell phones will undoubtedly disagree that this is good news. And, in some ways, we understand their point of view. Consider this: They spend time and money enrolling new customers and then send each of them a free government cell phone, but now these new rules allow customers to switch to a different company the next day (an extreme example, perhaps, but not inaccurate).
But no matter what the companies may say, we know that Lifeline customers consider the elimination of the port freeze to be a reason to celebrate.