Qualified residents in South Carolina have the option to select from a few government phone programs. Just recently (January 2011) Assurance Wireless was approved to offer free government phones in the state. Prior to January 2011, the only free government phone program approved in South Carolina was the Safelink Wireless program. Now South Carolina residents can choose either a free phone from Safelink or Assurance Wireless or opt to take advantage of the discounted home phone service.
Qualifications for Both Programs
Both the free and discounted government phone programs offered as a result of Lifeline/Link Up programs have qualification criteria to meet. These programs are offered to low-income individuals/families and therefore to qualify you must participate in at least one of the following government assistance programs:
- Medicaid (Healthy Connections),
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or
- Food Stamps (SNAP)
Free Phone/Discounted Phone Benefits
Both Assurance Wireless and Safe Link Wireless offer free cell phones and a base amount of free talk time. The discounted government phone programs provide low monthly charges for basic telephone service. In addition to the reduced or discounted phone charges, the Link Up program helps to offset some of the initial installation or activation costs for telephone service (up to $30).
In general, South Carolina telephone service providers offer a discount of $13.50 per month off of the basic monthly service charge. There are a few companies that offer a different discount but in general, most of them offer $13.50.
For more information on the exact discount that your phone company offers, visit the Universal Service Administrative Company USAC website. Click on the state of South Carolina to locate a listing of telephone service providers. Locate your telephone service provider to find the discounts offered.
If your telephone service provider is not listed on the USAC website, that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer a Lifeline discount. Contact them to find out the type of discount they offer.
Applying for Discounted or Free Phone Service
To apply for discounted or free phone service, contact your telephone service provider and obtain an application. Complete the application and submit it with the necessary documentation that proves your eligibility.
If you’re applying for free telephone service as offered through Assurance Wireless and Safelink Wireless, you must go to their website and complete the appropriate application.
It may take several weeks for the application to be processed and approved. During that time, please continue to pay your monthly phone bills until the discounts take effect.