Qualified West Virginia residents have the option of signing up for free government cell phones or discounted landline services. Because the free service carriers are approved to provide service in West Virginia, residents can opt to receive free wireless phones and free talk time as offered through ReachOut Wireless, Assurance Wireless and SafeLink Wireless.
As an alternative, residents have the option to choose discounted home landline services instead. Not everyone embraces the new wireless technology. For those individuals who prefer the old-fashioned home landline, they can sign up for discounted home phone service through their current telephone service provider.
West Virginia Link Up/Lifeline Program
These options are made possible via the Lifeline/Link Up programs. The Link Up program saves residents up to 50% off the cost to install the telephone. The savings max out at $30. In addition to saving on the installation cost, qualified residents can save money on their basic monthly service. The amount of savings depends on the telephone company. For example, West Side Telecommunications charges $4.25 for basic monthly service and Verizon gives a discount of $8.25 off of your basic phone service.
Participating Phone Companies and Discounts Offered
To find out what your phone company offers in terms of rates and discounts, go to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website and click on West Virginia on their US map. Currently, as of April 2011, USAC lists 10 phone service providers as follows:
- Armstrong Telephone Company
- Cellular One – Dobson
- Cellular One – Easterbrooke
- Spring Nextel
- Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks Telephone, Inc.
- Verizon Wireless
- War Telecommunications
- West Side Communications
Don’t worry if your telephone company isn’t listed on the USAC website. If they’re not listed, call your phone company and ask about their Lifeline/Link Up discounts.
West Virginia Program Eligibility
The Lifeline/Link Up program is designed to help low-income families and individuals receive and pay for phone service. In order to qualify, you must participate in one or more of the following government assistance programs.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance/Section 8
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- National School Lunch (free program only)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Check with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia for additional programs that fit the qualification criterion for the Lifeline/Link Up programs.
Applying for West Virginia Lifeline/Link Up Services
If your telephone service provider is listed on the USAC website, you can download their application from the USAC site, complete it and submit it along with the necessary documentation. If not, call your phone service provider and request an application.
If you opt for the free government phones as provided by Assurance Wireless, ReachOut Wireless or SafeLink Wireless. Visit their website and either complete their application online or download the application and mail/fax it back to them.
The application review and acceptance process may take several weeks. Please continue to pay your current phone bills until your discounts are processed.
Words of Caution: You can only participate in one Lifeline/Link Up program. This means if you’re currently receiving discounted phone service as a result of the Lifeline program, you may not enroll in the free government cell phone program. In order to do so, you must first cancel your existing enrollment before applying for the free phone program.