Low Income Households In North Carolina To Get Free Cell Phones

4:39 PM, Apr 1, 2009   |    comments
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Raleigh, NC-- TracFone Wireless, Inc., America's leading prepaid cell phone provider announced its launch of SafeLink Wireles in 47 North Carolina counties. SafeLink Wireless will serve as the company's distribution of Lifeline - a U.S. government supported program for income eligible households that ensures telephone service is available and affordable for eligible low income households.

The program will provide eligible low-income households a free cell phone, mobile access to emergency services and free 68 minutes of air time, monthly, for one year. The cell phone offers in-demand features: voicemail, text, call waiting, international calling to over 60 destinations and caller ID. "More than 448,000 households in North Carolina qualify for the Lifeline services - offering these participants the opportunity to have the same access and privileges many individuals take for granted when it comes to using cell phones," said Jose Fuentes, Director of Government Relations for TracFone. "The SafeLink Wireless service is truly unique because we are providing a service that no other company has made available before - a free cell phone and free monthly minutes to qualifying low income families," added Fuentes. SafeLink Wireless offers low income families accessibility, freedom and the security in knowing that should an emergency occur - wherever they are, they will stay safe and stay connected.

WFMY News 2 first reported this story in February after hearing about it from our sister station WGRZ in Buffalo, click here to see the story.

The Funding of Lifeline
Lifeline is part of the Low Income Program of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and is designed to ensure that quality telecommunications services are available to low-income customers at just, reasonable, and affordable rates. 1700 carriers are eligible to provide the program but TracFone is the first pre-paid company to have elevated the program to modern day communications.

The Lifeline program is not funded from federal taxpayer dollars, but rather from contributions to the USF by telecommunications carriers collected in part from the Universal Service Charge billed to cell phone users. Instead of a discount on the user's monthly bill, SafeLink applies the USF subsidy to free wireless minutes. Although a common misconception, TracFone provides the free wireless cell phone to the SafeLink program at the company's expense, in order to make the program viable and attractive.

Triad Counties who are participating and number of households that qualify are:

  • Davidson     16,663
  • Forsyth     21,872
  • Guilford     43,370
  • Montgomery     2,122
  • Randolph     7,618
  • Stokes     573
  • Surry     3,106
  • Yadkin     1,219

 To qualify in North Carolina consists of one of the following:

  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Section 8
  • Food Stamps
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Medicaid Crisis Intervention Program Work First

How does it work?
The SafeLink Wireless service will be provided to low-income families for up to one year. Participants may renew service and will be required to re-submit eligibility documentation upon their year completion. If the participant no longer qualifies for this free service, they will be notified and will be able to keep the cell phone to continue enjoying the benefits as a regular TracFone customer. Unused minutes will never expire and will automatically rollover.

When recipients surpass their allocated 68 airtime minutes, they will be able to purchase prepaid SafeLink Wireless airtime cards or TracFone airtime cards, including double minute cards. Existing TracFone customers qualifying for the SafeLink Wireless service may keep their current cell phone, and receive bonus minutes (one-time bonus only) for choosing to keep their current cell phone.

WFMY News 2/WGRZ/Safelink

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