Eligible Virginia residents can participate in the Virginia Universal Service Plan. The Virginia Universal Service Plan is also known as the Lifeline/Link-Up program. The Virginia State Corporation Commission and the Federal Communications Commission administer this plan to help low-income individuals obtain affordable phone service.
Free Government Phones
Because of this program, some wireless cell phone carriers are able to offer Virginia residence free government cell phones. In addition to the cell phones, eligible residents also receive free airtime. The free phone service is offered through Assurance Wireless and SafeLink Wireless.
In order to apply for the free phone service, you must meet the qualification criterion as listed under the Qualifying for Lifeline heading below.
Discounted Phone Service
Phone companies operating in the state of Virginia also have the ability to offer discounted phone service. Through the Lifeline program phone companies can offer discount anywhere from $7.75 up to $13.50 per month off of the basic monthly service. In addition to the discounts, through the Link-Up program, qualified residents can cut up to 50% off of their initial phone installation cost. The maximum savings caps at $30.
Varying Phone Discounts
Because each phone company offers a different discount if you have more than one phone company servicing your area, check to see which one offers the best discount. To find out how much of a savings each company offers, visit the LifelineSupport.org website. On their state map click “Virginia” to search through the phone companies listed there.
You will see that AT&T Mobility offers a discount of $8.25 while Shenandoah Telephone Company offers a $10.88 savings.
Lifeline.org has an extensive listing of Virginia phone companies but it’s not a complete listing. If your phone company is not shown on the Lifeline site, it doesn’t mean they’re not participating in the program. Call your phone company to find out how much of a Lifeline discount they provide.
Qualifying for Lifeline
To qualify for either the free government phone or the discounted phone service you must participate in one of the following government assistance programs (remember Lifeline was implemented to assist low-income individuals):
- Food Stamps
(Contact your phone company as they may accept other qualifying government assistance programs)
After establishing eligibility, you may apply for the free government phones by visiting the appropriate website and completing the online application. To apply for the discounted phone service, call your phone company to request an application. Application processing may take several weeks. If you have questions about the status of your application, please call your phone company.
You should be aware that only one Lifeline phone service is permitted per economic unit. Therefore, if you choose to participate in the free government cell phone program, you may not also participate in the discounted landline service program.