If you live in North Carolina and meet the qualification requirements, you may participate in the Lifeline/Link-Up programs. What this means is that you can receive either a free cell phone or enjoy discounts on your home landline.
Qualifying for Lifeline/Link-Up
The Lifeline/Link-Up programs were created to help low-income households obtain and maintain home telephone service. Therefore, in order to qualify for either a free government phone or discounted phone service, North Carolina residents must participate in one of the following programs:
- Supplemental Security Income
- Food and Nutrition Services
- Section 8
- Housing Assistance, Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) or
- Work First Family Assistance
Discounted Phone Service
Eligible residents can save up to $13.50 per month off of their basic phone service. Although the savings can be up to $13.50 per month, some companies offer smaller discounts. To find out how much of a discount your phone company offers, visit LifelineSupport.org (run by the Universal Services Administration Company) and click NC on their state map. There you will find a listing of North Carolina phone companies that participate in the Lifeline program.
By browsing through a few of the different phone companies you’ll quickly find that companies like Randolph Telephone Company and Wilkes Telecommunications offer a $13.50 discount while T-Mobile USA, Inc offers a discount of $6.49.
In addition to the monthly discounts, qualified residents can receive a credit of up to 50% of the telephone installation/activation costs (subject to a maximum of $30).
To apply for the discounted phone service, contact your phone company and request an application. In addition to the application, you must download and complete the North Carolina Lifeline/Link-Up Self-Certification Letter . You must submit both forms to the phone company for processing. Processing will take several weeks (up to as much as 3 months) so submit your application as soon as possible.
If you have questions regarding the status of your application, contact the phone company to inquire.
Free Cell Phones
Because of technology advancement, the Lifeline Program also applies to free government cell phones. SafeLink Wireless and Assurance Wireless are approved to offer free cell phones and cell phone service to North Carolina residents.
The one caveat with the free cell phone program is that you must have a valid home address. SafeLink and Assurance Wireless will not send cell phones to temporary housing such as nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. They also will not ship cell phones to P.O. Boxes.
To apply for a free government cell phone, visit the SafeLink or Assurance Wireless site and complete their online application.
In addition to the above, Native Americans living on federally recognized tribal lands may receive Link-Up discounts up to $100 and a monthly phone discount of up to $25 per month. Native Americans who participate in the above programs or any of the following additional programs qualify:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs Assistance
- Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Head Start
- National School Lunch Program (Free Meals)
Things to Keep in Mind
You may only apply to one Lifeline program. You cannot participate in the home phone discounts and the free government cell phone programs simultaneously. Additionally, if you already have home phone service and wish to participate in the Lifeline program, the name on the phone bill and the name of the person participating in the qualifying government assistance program must be the same.