Having a smartphone in today’s world is practically a must-have. Depending on where you live in Oklahoma, you might find that you can only have a home phone if you bundle it with Internet and cable services. The cost of a home phone can be quite high, but you might think that it costs less than buying a smartphone would. A smartphone lets you stay connected to your friends and family. You can download apps that let you play games and watch movies and TV shows as well as use your favorite sites on the web. As long as you qualify, you can get a free smartphone from the government and use the Lifeline Phone Service.
Lifeline program has six general rules for its members. Keep in mind, however, that some of the rules, even though they’re rather simple, have a lot of detail, although you don’t necessarily need to memorize the rules. The best way to go about it is to read through the Lifeline rules one time and put the paper or file somewhere so you can look at it from time to time.
The advantage of reading through the Lifeline rules is to acquaint yourself with how the program works. Those who want free minutes, free text, free data, and free smartphones are getting a good value with the Lifeline program.
The following six rules apply to any Lifeline provider and member who signs up for a plan.
1. Fill out all application forms truthfully
When you sign up for the Lifeline plan and get the free services and free phone, you must not lie on the form. Any item that is later found to be untruthful can get you into a lot of trouble because lying on a Lifeline form is against the law.
You also need to fill out any questionnaires truthfully. This includes data sheets sent to you by your provider asking for basic information to verify that you still qualify to be in Lifeline. You must fill out the forms accurately and to the best of your knowledge. For example, if a questionnaire asks how many people live in your household, do not overstate or understate the number. Fill that line of the questionnaire in with the exact number of people who live in your household.
Finally, if you change providers during your time in the Lifeline program, you will need to do a bit of paperwork involving information forms. Fill out all these forms accurately and honestly. Whether the questions are about income, your physical address, the number of household members, or whatever, always provide complete, truthful answers to all questions.
2. Use the free phone service regularly
You don’t need to use your free or discounted phone every day, but you will need to use it at least one time per month. If you do not use it, your provider will send you a notice that acts as a sort of 15-day warning. Very few people lose their Lifeline service due to this rule, but it has happened. When you sign up for the program, and if you are accepted, be sure to use your phone at least once per month.
3. Only one free, or discounted, phone and service plan is allowed per household
What is a household? It’s any group of people who share expenses, income, and living quarters. So this rule is rather easy to understand. Only one discounted or free Lifeline phone plan and phone is allowed per household. It’s important to understand that you can let other people in your household use your phone. That is not against the Lifeline rules. The main point to remember is, “One phone per household.”
4. You must prove that you are eligible for the program
You need to prove that you are eligible to become a member of the Lifeline plan. To do so, you must qualify in one of two ways, by income or by the fact that you receive federal or state assistance. If you receive aid or assistance, you will be asked to provide written proof when you apply for Lifeline. If you do not receive any kind of assistance, then you’ll need to document the fact that your household income is below 135 percent of the federal national poverty level.
5. You need to re-certify for the Lifeline program every year
Once each year, your phone provider will send you a text, email, or letter informing you that you have 60 days to “re-certify” your eligibility. It’s a quick and routine process. In fact, some providers will do it for you. However, you need to make sure that it gets done. Otherwise, you can be removed from the Lifeline program and forced to start from scratch. This is one of the simplest rules of all, but some people do forget to renew their Lifeline membership.
6. Tell your provider if your information changes
You have 30 days to notify your phone provider if any of your basic information changes. The key things to remember with this rule are simple: If someone else in your household receives a Lifeline phone, notify your provider immediately. Likewise, if you stop receiving federal or state assistance, notify the provider. It’s possible that a change in your financial situation might cause you to lose membership in Lifeline. That’s why it’s vital to tell the provider if you:
- Stop receiving benefits
- Have an increase in household income
- Change your address
- Gain or lose members of your household (this affects the income calculation for program eligibility)
- Decide you no longer want to be in the Lifeline plan for any reason
- Decide that you want to change providers due to poor customer service or for any other reason
- Follow the Rules and Stay in Lifeline
If you want to remain in the Lifeline plan, simply follow the rules. As long as you are honest in the paperwork, only have one phone per household, use your phone each month, maintain your eligibility, reapply once per year, and notify the provider when important information, like your home address, changes, then you’ll be able to remain in the Lifeline program and enjoy the plan’s benefits.