Changes to Lifeline and What It Means for You
On March 31, 2016, the Commission adopted a comprehensive reform and modernization of the Lifeline program. In the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order, the Commission included broadband as a support service in the Lifeline program. The Commission also set out minimum service standards for Lifeline-supported services to ensure maximum value for the universal service dollar, and established a National Eligibility Verifier to make independent subscriber eligibility determinations. On December 2, 2016, you may notice some changes to your Lifeline Program benefit. These changes – and what they mean for customers – are outlined below.
You can now apply your monthly discount to internet service
You will be able to apply your monthly Lifeline discount towards internet service. If you would like to switch to an internet plan, ask your telephone company or internet provider if a Lifeline Program cell phone data plan or home internet service is available in your area.
You can still choose phone service
You can continue to apply your monthly Lifeline discount to your home or cell phone, but you can only receive a discount on ONE option – phone or internet. Some companies may give you the option to apply the discount to a service bundle, such as home phone and home internet service.
How to qualify for a Lifeline discount
You must participate in at least one of the following programs to be eligible for a Lifeline Program discount:
· Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
· Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
· Federal Public Housing Assistance
· Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Program
· Income below the Federal Poverty guideline
· Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
· Tribally administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
· Food Distribution on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
· HEAD Start
If you signed up for a Lifeline discount through the National School Lunch Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), or any other state-run program, your phone or internet provider will ask you to confirm your enrollment in one of the above, eligible programs when they do your next eligibility confirmation.
If you have any questions about any of these changes, please contact your telephone or internet company.
Changes to your plan
Lifeline phone and internet services will have to provide certain minimum features. Lifeline-discounted services must offer at least:
· 500 minutes per month for cell phone voice plans
· 500 MB per month at 3G speeds for cell phone data plans
· 150 GB per month at 10/1 download/upload speeds for home internet plans
Exception: In those areas where the provider does not offer speeds at or above 10/1 download/upload speeds, they must provide the highest performing, generally available home internet plans, which must be at least 4/1 download/upload.
If you decide to apply your monthly Lifeline discount to either home internet service or a data plan for your cell phone, you must remain with the company that provides your service for at least 12 months. After that, you are free to switch to a different company. If you move to a different state or to an area where your company does not offer service, let your company know. They will guide you through the process of changing companies.
If you sign up for new home or cell phone service, you need to stay with your company for at least 2 months. If you choose to apply your discount to a bundle, ask the company which change policy applies.
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