Phone and broadband services are essential for living a meaningful life in today’s world. In addition to connecting with family and emergency services, broadband services give access to the internet, allowing people to work remotely, find jobs, do school work, access healthcare, and lots more.
Unfortunately, phone services can be quite expensive, which is not great news for many low-income families who cannot keep up with the monthly cost of broadband and phone bills.
Luckily, you can get free government phone services if you meet certain eligibility requirements. This guide explains everything you need to know about free or heavily discounted phone services.
Which Government Programs Offer Free or Affordable Phone Services?
To access free government phone services, you must participate in at least one federal government assistance program under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Typically, this means enrolling in the Lifeline or Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
Lifeline has existed since 1985, giving low-income American consumers access to free and discounted phone services. The program makes communications services very affordable for low-income individuals and families by providing huge discounts on qualifying monthly phone services.
Besides phone services like talk and text, Lifeline also provides subscribers with heavily discounted and free internet services through participating service providers.
ACP is a newer federal program launched on December 31, 2021, to provide more affordable broadband services for low-income households.
Can You Participate in Lifeline and ACP at the Same Time?
Eligible individuals can participate in both Lifeline and ACP. However, Lifeline rules permit only one subsidy per household.
Interestingly, you can combine benefits from both programs (Lifeline and ACP) and apply them to one or different services. Before you do that, be sure to verify from the service provider’s website.
How to Qualify for Lifeline and ACP
There are two major ways to qualify for Lifeline and ACP and get free government phone services:
1. Qualifying Through Income
You may be able to enroll in the Lifeline program if your household income is at or less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Qualifying through income means you may be required to provide proof of income when you apply for Lifeline. The required document could be your pay stub (usually for three consecutive income payments) or your tax return.
2. Qualifying Through a Lifeline-Qualifying Program
You can qualify for Lifeline if you participate in any of the following assistance programs:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Food Stamps, now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
- Tribal Head Start
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
How to Apply for Lifeline and ACP
If you think you meet the Lifeline eligibility requirements, you can apply for the program via the National Verifier system or by mail.
Even if you don’t qualify for Lifeline, you may qualify for ACP if your household income is at or less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. You may also qualify for ACP through Pell Grant, WIC, and the National School Free Lunch Program (NSLP).
To apply for ACP subsidy, complete an online application form or contact a participating internet company. Alternatively, you can print out an application, complete and send it through mail to:
ACP Support Center,
PO Box 7081
London, KY 40742
Keep in mind that you don’t have to apply for ACP afresh if you are already a Lifeline subscriber. Simply contact your phone or internet service provider to enroll you in ACP.
What to Consider When Choosing a Phone Service Provider
Numerous phone service providers participate in Lifeline, ACP, and Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) programs. Before you choose a provider, consider what’s included in their plan and if it suits your communication needs.
Here are a few questions to help you choose the best provider.
- How many voice minutes and text messages are included in the plan?
- Does the service plan include data, hotspot, or WiFi?
- How much internet service can I get per month?
- Can I buy additional data, voice minutes, or text messages if I exhaust these before the month’s end?
- Does the provider offer free cell phones/smartphones?
- Does the provider support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), or are customers required to use a company-provided device?
List of Lifeline Providers Offering Free Government Phone Services
Here is a list of 10 popular authorized Lifeline and ACP providers and the type of free phone services they offer.
Keep in mind that some Lifeline providers are unavailable in some states and territories, so check your preferred provider’s website to ensure their services cover your area.
1. Easy Wireless
Easy Wireless runs on the Sprint Network and offers free unlimited data, talk, text, and hotspot services. Qualifying customers can get free smartphones, and even if you don’t, the provider supports BYOD.
2. Assurance Wireless
This provider offers 250 free texts and 250 free voice minutes to all users each month. Eligible customers can get free cell phones, too. Assurance Wireless runs on the Sprint network and does not require activation fees or annual contracts. The provider does not support BYOD.
3. SafeLink Wireless
SafeLink Wireless offers 25GB of high-speed data, up to 5GB of hotspot data, and unlimited talk and texts to selected destinations. The provider supports BOYD and gives free smartphones to eligible customers.
4. enTouch Wireless
This provider offers unlimited talk and text services, including 10 GB of free data. It supports BOYD, and customers can purchase additional services as needed.
With TruConnect, customers get up to 14GB of free monthly data, free international calls to selected countries, and unlimited talk and text within the US. The ACP service provider supports BOYD and offers eligible individuals free WiFi hotspot or Android phones.
6. StandUp Wireless
StandUp Wireless participates in both Lifeline and ACP with nationwide coverage on Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon networks. Although the provider doesn’t support BOYD, it offers free phones to qualifying customers in addition to unlimited talk and text and 10GB of high-speed data.
7. Tag Mobile
Tag Mobile offers unlimited talk and text every month, including 8GB of free data for California residents. The company supports BOYD and runs on T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint networks.
8. Assist Wireless
This authorized Lifeline and ACP phone service provider gives eligible consumers access to unlimited talk, text, and data every month. Customers can use their personal devices and have the option of buying additional phone services.
9. Terracom Wireless
In addition to unlimited talk, text, and data for Lifeline participants, Terracom Wireless also offers non-Lifeline services. The provider supports BOYD and runs on Sprint and Verizon networks.
10. True Wireless
As an authorized ACP internet service provider, True Wireless provides free and reliable phone services on Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon networks. The provider does not support BOYD but offers unlimited talk and text services, as well as free monthly internet services.
To find out companies offering free government phone services in your state, visit this FCC page for a list of all internet service providers participating in Lifeline, EBB, and ACP.