What is the Lifeline Program?
The Lifeline Program is a federal and state government benefit program that permits eligible low-income consumers to receive a discounted telephone service to help stay connect to the nation's communications networks, find jobs, access health care services, and call for help in an emergency. Recognizing the need to stay connected in today’s technological climate, the Lifeline Program has expanded its service offerings to include, where available, broadband internet access. Internet access will be available in various forms, but we anticipate its inclusion in the Lifeline Program will further help connect low-income families to the internet, closing the "homework gap," and eliminating the distance to meaningful employment and reliable healthcare.
What Benefits are Available from the Lifeline Program?
The Lifeline Program provides a discount of $9.25 per month on one Lifeline service. Currently, Lifeline Program participants have the choice—where available—of applying their benefit discount to one of the following types of service offerings:
- Fixed or mobile internet service; or
- Landline or mobile voice service.
Some carriers may offer a bundled package of landline or mobile telephone service with internet service.
In addition, minimum service standards have been established to ensure that supported services keep pace with the ever-changing digital landscape. These service standards will be evaluated each year to ensure the continued support of robust and meaningful broadband connectivity.
The chart below outlines the current minimum service standards:
|Usage Allowance: 500 Minutes||Speed 3G Usage Allowance: 500 MB||Speed: 10/1 Mbps|
Usage Allowance: 150 GB
Who is Eligible for the Lifeline Program?
To participate in the Lifeline program, subscribers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in one of the following assistance programs:
- Medicaid (MassHealth)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Certain Federally-Recognized/State Tribal Assistance Programs
- NEW—Veteran's Pension or Survivor's Pension benefit
A household is eligible for Lifeline service if the total household income is at or below the following income levels, which vary depending on the size of the household. Each year the income eligibility requirements for the Lifeline Program may change.
2017 Income Eligibility Guidelines
|Persons in Household||Annual Income|
|For each additional person in the household, add||$5,643|
Which Service Providers Participate in the Lifeline Program?
(also known as Virgin Mobile/Sprint)
Granby Telephone Company
(also known as OTT Communications)
(also known as Magna 5)
(also known as TracFone Wireless)
(also known as Fairpoint Communications)
(also known as Global Connection)
Consumers must directly contact an approved Massachusetts Lifeline provider to learn about their application process and service offerings. Consumers may be able to complete the application process online, by telephone or by mail. Federal rules require that all Lifeline service providers securely retain copies of eligibility documentation received during program enrollment for dispute resolution purposes as long as your Lifeline benefit is active.
Will a Lifeline Program participant be required to recertify their eligibility?
Yes, once you are enrolled in the Lifeline Program, you must verify your continued eligibility on an annual basis.
You will be contacted by your Lifeline provider or the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) to recertify that you remain eligible. You must respond to this request within 60 days.
If you do not recertify your eligibility, you will lose your Lifeline benefit. If your Lifeline provider determines that you are no longer eligible to participate in the program, it will notify you via letter and your Lifeline service will be terminated 30 days after the date of such letter, unless you provide proof of eligibility. If you become ineligible for the Lifeline benefit for any reason, you must contact your provider immediately to de-enroll from the program or you may be subject to penalties.
For consumers who require an accessible device, there are options available.
To apply for financial assistance in obtaining a handset compatible with your landline telephone service provider, you may contact the Massachusetts Commission of the Deaf at Hard of Hearing Assistive Technology Fund at 617-740-1600 or contact Alexander Pooler, the Director of the Assistive Technology Program at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, by email at Alexander.Pooler@state.ma.us.
To request an accessible wireless device, contact your wireless carrier of choice to explore what models are available to suit your needs. Braille key, larger-screen and hearing aid compatible mobile phones may also be available upon request.
Important Consumer Tips and Recent Program Changes
- Prior to submitting a Lifeline application to a service provider, be sure all questions are completed and answers are legible. Provide a photocopy of proof of eligibility documents and keep a copy of the completed application.
- Applicants must recertify that they continue to meet the Lifeline Program’s eligibility requirements with their Lifeline provider each year or they may lose their Lifeline service. Failing to respond will result in a removal of Lifeline benefit discount or a suspension of service. A new application will need to be submitted in order to re-enroll.
- Participating in the Lifeline Program does not protect a subscriber from being disconnected if they fail to pay their telephone bill.
- Depending on a subscriber’s location, some wireless carriers may provide a better signal than others. Applicants should contact each company to find out which provides the most coverage in their area prior to selecting a provider.
- A subscriber must use their Lifeline service once every 30 days or their benefit will be removed. For Lifeline wireless subscribers, sending a text message qualifies as usage of service.
- Once enrolled, a subscriber must stay with the same Lifeline provider for 60 days for telephone service and 12 months for internet service before being able to switch provid
- Only one individual in a household may receive Lifeline Service. Federal law limits the Lifeline benefit to one service per household.
- Applicants will be required to complete an application for their service provider of choice that certifies they meet the program’s eligibility requirements. This will also include submitting acceptable proof of eligibility documentation.
- If an existing program participant is interested in switching their Lifeline service plan to a plan including mobile internet service, they may be required to purchase their own smartphone that is compatible with the Lifeline provider's network. Check with your provider for additional details.
We are here to Help!
For additional information regarding the Lifeline program, contact the Consumer Division of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable. The Consumer Division also accepts complaints concerning Lifeline service and works directly with service providers to resolve any issues that program participants may encounter.
Visit or Write: Consumer Division, Department of Telecommunications and Cable,1000 Washington Street, Suite 820, Boston, MA 02118
Call: 1-800-392-6066 (Our Consumer Hotline operates Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm)
Updated February 2017