What is the Lifeline Program and What Benefits are Available?
Lifeline is a federal/state government benefit program that permits eligible low-income consumers to receive discounted telephone service to help ensure they can connect to the nation's communications networks, find jobs, access health care services, connect with family and their children's schools, and call for help in an emergency.
Lifeline Participants may choose to receive a monthly discount on one telephone service—either landline or wireless—per household. For landline telephone service, the discount ranges between $10.00 and $20.00 per month on basic calling plans. For wireless telephone service, participants receive one free wireless phone, with a monthly allotment of up to 350 free talking minutes.
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:
- Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC)
- Fuel Assistance (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP)
- MassHealth or Medicaid
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- National School Lunch Program (free meals program only)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
In addition, a household is eligible for Lifeline if the total household income is at or below certain levels, depending on the size of the household. Each year the income eligibility requirements for the Lifeline program offered in Massachusetts may change.
2016 Income Eligibility Guidelines
|Persons in Household||Annual Income|
|For each additional person in the household, add||$5,616|
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 TracFone Wireless)
(also known as Fairpoint Communications)
(also known as Global Connection)
You must directly contact an approved Massachusetts Lifeline telephone carrier to learn about their application process. You may be able to complete the application process online, by telephone or by mail.
Will I be required to recertify my 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 30 days. If you don’t recertify your eligibility, you will lose your Lifeline benefit. If your Lifeline provider determines that you are no longer eligible for Lifeline, 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
- Applicants must choose Lifeline service for either their landline or wireless service, but cannot obtain both services. 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 the carrier of their choice that certifies that they meet the eligibility requirements. This will also include submitting acceptable documentation, along with a completed application, to demonstrate proof of eligibility for the program.
- Applicants must recertify each year with their Lifeline provider to certify that they continue to meet eligibility requirements or they may lose their Lifeline discount. When your Lifeline provider or the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) notifies you to recertify your continued eligibility for Lifeline, you must respond promptly, as failing to respond will result in a removal of your benefit or suspension of service.
- Participating in the Lifeline Program does not protect you from being disconnected if you fail to pay your telephone bill.
- Depending on your location, some wireless carriers may provide a better signal than others. Contact each company to find out which provides the most coverage in your area prior to selecting a carrier.
- When submitting your Lifeline application to your service provider, be sure your answers are complete and legible and that you provide a photocopy of your proof of eligibility documents.
- Keep a copy of your completed application and all original eligibility documentation for your records.
- Starting February 17, 2016, federal rules require that all Lifeline service providers securely retain copies of consumer eligibility documentation received during program enrollment or dispute resolution purposes for as long as the Lifeline benefit is active.
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 2016