Maryland residents can sign up for free government cell phones through either SafeLink Wireless or Assurance Wireless. Each company ships free cell phones along with free air time to qualified low-income residents. The free cell phone program is made possible by the Lifeline/Link-Up government program.
If you’d prefer not to sign up for free cell phones, you can opt to enjoy discounted home phone service through Maryland’s Tel-Life program. Tel-Life is Maryland’s version of the Lifeline program.
Discounted Phone Service
Tel-Life phone program assists low income individuals with their phone service. Additionally, it also helps offset the cost of initial installation through the Link-Up section of the program.
Monthly discounts vary by phone company. For example, Verizon home phone service has a program whereby qualified individuals pay $.66 per month for basic service. This plan includes 30 phone calls per month (the individual is responsible for federal, state and local taxes).
In addition to the basic program, Verizon offers qualified Maryland residents an enhanced service for $10 per month. This plan comes with unlimited calls. You may purchase two additional services and must also pay the applicable taxes.
Armstrong Telephone Company offers a discount of $9.50 off of the basic monthly service while NationsLine offers a larger discount of $26.49. To see what type of discount your phone company offers go to the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) website. The USAC along with the FCC administers the Lifeline/Link-Up program.
If your phone company isn’t listed on the USAC website, call your company and ask them about their Lifeline/Link-Up discounts. You can find a comprehensive listing of local Maryland phone companies by visiting the Maryland Public Service Commission website. Once there, select “C1 Telephone Facilities Based Local” in the Select Type of Utility search box and click Get List. It will display a listing of over 130 companies. You will note, however, that some of the companies are not located in Maryland (even though it’s a ‘local’ list).
Maryland Tel-Life (Lifeline) Eligibility Requirements
Since these programs were created to help low-income individuals, you must participate in at least one of the following government assistance programs to be eligible for Tel-Life phone service:
- Electrical Universal Service Program (EUSP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP)
- Medical Assistance (MA)
- Public Assistance to Adults (PAA)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Disability Assistance Program (TDAP)
- Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA)
For more information regarding eligible programs, visit the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
Applying for Lifeline Phone Services
To apply for the free government cell phone program as offered through Assurance and SafeLink Wireless, visit the appropriate website and complete their online application. Before signing up, make sure you read this information regarding free cell phones. Additionally, have your backup documentation in order. You will need to provide proof of eligibility.
To apply for discounted home phone service, call your phone company and request the Lifeline or Tel-Life application. Complete and return the application along with the necessary documentation as quickly as possible. Processing your application can take as many as 30 days so the sooner you get started the better.
Keep in mind that you may only participate in one of the discounted/free phone services. Therefore you must choose between the free cell phone or discounted landline services. You may not participate in both simultaneously.