Free Government Phones

One Per Household Requirement

On January 31, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission made a few changes to the Lifeline Free Government Phone program. One of the changes that may affect your family’s eligibility is the redefining of the one per household ruling.

Federal Lifeline Economic Unit

Prior to January 31, 2012, it was mandated that only one Lifeline free government phone service be allowed per household. They have since changed that ruling by redefining household to read “economic unit.” In other words, if two low-income families residing in the same household (as a cost savings measure), each of the families (now called economic unit) may participate in the Lifeline program. In an attempt to clarify things, below is the FCC’s definition of household and economic unit. Go here for the full definition

  • "Household" is defined as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address as one economic unit
  • "Economic unit" is defined as "all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses of a household."

According to the Federal Communications Commission:

“Only one Lifeline benefit is permitted per household. Federal rules prohibit subscribers from receiving more than one Lifeline service. If a subscriber or his or her household currently has more than one Lifeline discounted service, they must select a single provider immediately or be subject to penalties.”

Mailing Address Requirement

Upon approval of your free government phone application, the phone will be shipped to the address you provided. Although you may not use a P.O. Box as a residential address, it can be used as a billing address. In other words, you may have your phone bills sent to the P.O. Box, while the actual phone is sent to your residence.

Please note: Only individuals 18 or older (or an emancipated minor) may apply for the Lifeline free government phone.

Lifeline Recertification Requirement

FCC also provides clear language regarding annual recertification.

“Subscribers have an obligation to recertify their eligibility every year and should respond to their Lifeline Provider's attempts to recertify eligibility. Subscribers must verify that they remain eligible to participate in the Lifeline program once each calendar year. Subscribers who fail to recertify their eligibility will be de-enrolled from the Lifeline Program.”

Mandatory Notifications on Your Part

In addition to the above rules, the Federal Communications Commission clearly lists some of the responsibilities lifeline participants must adhere to.

  • It is mandatory to notify your Lifeline service provider within 30 days if you change your address.
  • If your situation changes and you no longer qualify for benefits, you must notify your provider within 30 days.

With the emergence of the National Verification program (CheckLifeline.org), It will become easier for phone providers and the governing agencies to manage and keep track of Lifeline participants and the information on their applications. As such, it’s best to heed the rules so you do not run the risk of being de-enrolled for not following the rules.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This site was created to help people find information about free government phones. We do not mail, activate or repair free government phones nor do we provide service. If you have questions about phone service we suggest you contact the phone service provider directly.

Last Modified: 17 May 2019

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