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Low-Income Telephone Assistance Programs

Yes, you can afford telephone service...

Every person in America should have access to quality, affordable telecommunications service. This principal of "Universal Service" has been the goal of the telecommunications industry for decades. In 1934, the federal government codified the goal and reaffirmed it in 1996 by establishing policies for the "preservation and advancement of Universal Service".

To achieve the Universal Service goal, carriers have access to a fund that is generated by contributions from the telecommunications providers in the United States. Telecommunications companies draw from the fund to provide four programs that support telecommunications services nationwide. Lifeline Assistance Program (Lifeline) are part of the fund's Low-Income Program and are described in detail below. Toll Limitation Service (TLS) is another program available to low-income subscribers to help them control what they spend on telephone service.

Lifeline and TLS provide discounts to eligible low-income consumers to help them establish and maintain telephone service.

What type of discount is available?

Lifeline assistance lowers the cost of basic monthly local telephone service. Eligible consumers can receive up to $10 per month in discounts. Additional state support also may be available.

TLS support allows eligible consumers who wish to avoid incurring large long distance fees to choose toll blocking at no cost.

How do I know whether I am eligible?

Eligibility for Lifeline and TLS support varies by state. Individuals who reside in states that have their own discount programs qualify for federal Lifeline and TLS support if they meet the eligibility criteria established by their state. In states that do no provide state support, an individual is eligible if he or she participates in one o the following programs:

  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance or Section 8
  • Medicaid
  • Food Stamps
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • National School Lunch free lunch program

In addition, a consumer may be eligible if his or her household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines:

Federal Poverty Guidelines
Monday, December 9, 2013 at 2:10 PM
Family Size States & DC Alaska Hawaii
1 $15,512 $19,373 $17,861
2 $20,939 $26,163 $24,098
3 $26,366 $32,954 $30,335
4 $31,793 $39,744 $36,572
5 $37,220 $46,535 $42,809
6 $42,647 $53,325 $49,046
7 $48,074 $60,116 $55,283
8 $53,501 $66,906 $61,520
For each additional person, add: $5,427 $6,791 $6,237

How do I apply to receive Lifeline and TLS support discounts?

Consumers must apply through their local telephone company - please let us know if you are interested in any of these programs. Visit the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) web site at for more information about eligibility requirements. You may also call USAC toll free at 1-888-641-8722, with any questions about Lifeline and TLS discounts.

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