Low-income North Dakota residents may qualify for discounted home phone service through the government-sponsored LifeLine/Link-Up program. Unlike several other states that can take advantage of free cell phones, North Dakota residents may only receive discounted rates on their home phone line.
What LifeLine Offers
Qualified North Dakota residents may waive part of the phone deposit and installation fee. Through the Link-Up program, low-income individuals may qualify for up to $30 off of the initial phone connection charges. And, according to the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, residents may also borrow up to $200 for one year (interest-free) to pay for the setup fees.
In addition to a discount on initial phone installation, eligible residents can receive monthly discounts on their phone service. The discounts vary depending on the phone service provider.
To find out how much of a discount your current phone company offers, visit the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website and click on North Dakota on their state map. Once on the North Dakota page, select your phone company and click “Go.” If your local phone company isn’t listed there, call them to see what they offer.
Just a few clicks on the USAC website confirms that not all phone companies are willing to offer the same discounts. For example, with Verizon, you will save up to $8.25 on your monthly phone service while Absaraka Cooperative Telephone Co., Inc charges $2.50 for basic phone service. If you throw West River Telecommunications Cooperative into the mix, you’ll see that they offer a savings of anywhere from $10 to $21.95 on basic monthly service. Therefore, the savings/payment all depends on the phone service carrier.
How to Qualify
Because the Lifeline/Link-Up program was created to help low-income individuals, only those individuals who are either at or below 135% of the federal poverty guideline or who participate in any of the following government assistance programs:
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (such as Section 8 )
- Food Stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- National School Lunch Program Free Lunch
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- Federally recognized tribal land residents have additional eligibility criteria
Applying for North Dakota Discounted Phone Service
Using the same link you used above to find out how much of a discount each phone company offers, you can also find the phone company’s application. If your phone company is not listed on the USAC website, call them and request an application.
It can take as long as two months for your application to be processed and the discounts applied to your phone line. Additionally, if accepted into the program, you may have to submit to an annual recertification to ensure you still qualify for the discounted program.
Future Phone Programs
Currently (as of April, 2011), there are programs that offer free government phones such as SafeLink Wireless, Assurance Wireless and ReachOut Wireless. As of this writing, the free government phone services are not currently offered in North Dakota. However, the three companies are expanding their territory and may eventually become available in North Dakota. Check with their websites for availability prior to applying to your local phone company for discounts.