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Free Government Cell Phones and the USAC

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 set out an important vision, “consumers in all regions of the nation, including low income consumers . . . should have access to telecommunications and information services . . .” This is where the Universal Service Fund of the Universal Service Administrative Company or USAC began to with a government assistance program where low income people can get free government cell phones.

The program helps low income citizens to afford phones and telecommunication service at low rates or even providing the service with no cost. The USAC states such low income people will not get discounted service but good quality service from telecommunication carriers with this government assistance program.

The FTC uses the Universal Service Administration Company to administer the Free Government Cell Phones program. People who meet federal poverty guidelines can apply on line or by telephone or, they can also directly apply through their local telephone company or through a governmental office designed for such purpose. These people can learn the eligibility requirements and qualifications to enroll in the program.

In return for the qualified person’s free service, the government assistance program reimburses the telecommunication carrier or free cell phone provider. The telecommunication carrier has already to provide cell phone service with the government but at a discounted rate.

The payment process for the telecommunication carrier is for the carrier to monthly file for Lifeline reimbursement and Link Up Work sheet, Form 497 when they provide service to a low income people.

The USAC reviews the telecommunication carrier’s support claims to make sure that they comply with the rules of the Federal Communication Commission. In addition to the review of the Form 497 applications, the USAC also internally audits itself to make sure that only low income people receive assistance.

USAC disburses low income support payments once each month to the telecommunication carriers. The payment amount disbursed to these phone companies is a projection based on the company’s historical support claims for the past year.

Two months prior to the start of each quarter, the FCC requires the USAC to file projections for each support program. The low income government assistance program projection is calculated by applying a growth rate across all telecommunication carriers currently receiving low income support payments.

The Lifeline government assistance program as well as Linkup gained respect for providing quality telecommunication service for low income Americans and protecting against fraud. As expected many people made claims that they met the qualifications of the federal poverty guidelines but these people are really not low income people. As such, the FCC and USAC equipped their standards for the qualification with guarded requirements. Their system tracks those who made application but do not qualify to ensure they do not receive free cell phone service.

The FCC also prevented those people who qualify from applying for free cell phone service from multiple carriers to avoid double cell phone service. Receiving free phone service from more than one telecommunication carrier is a violation of the qualifications of the assistance program. But, the FCC found that some people broke the rules. Now, only one lifeline phone is allowed per household, either landline or mobile phone.

For 30 days, those qualified low income people with more than one Lifeline phone service account are made to choose one Lifeline phone service. Once chosen, the telecommunication carrier who was not chosen, must remove the customer from their program within five days. This practice helps eliminate fraud and give free government cell phones to those who truly meet the federal poverty guidelines.

The reason that the free government cell phone assistance program is so popular is because cell phones are both popular and expensive. The average cell phone bill is about fifty dollars per month. In the program, if participants choose to add more features like text messages then they have higher cell phone bills. The program really helps those people who need voice and now text services

The reason for Free Government Cell Phones is to help low income people get communication and help them in their work and personal lives. The program also helps seniors communicate. Most people who qualify either make minimum wage or are senior citizens. People benefit from the government assistance programs and free government cell phones.

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