Lifeline Telecommunications Program

Updated September 23, 2021: 

On September 22, 2021, the FCC released a waiver to ensure low-income consumers continue to have access to affordable communications services needed for telemedicine, telework, and online learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This waiver extends the previous Lifeline waivers set to expire on September 30, 2021, through December 31, 2021. This means that from now through December 31, 2021:

  • Recertification requirements are on hold for all subscribers with anniversary dates between April 14, 2020 and March 31, 2022. Affected subscribers will only need to recertify once in calendar year 2022. 
  • Reverification requirements are on hold.
  • Consumers will continue to have flexibility related to the documentation they can use to demonstrate income eligibility.
  • USAC will continue to temporarily accept driver’s licenses or state identification cards that have expired on or after March 1, 2020, when needed to complete any Lifeline applications.
     

On June 28, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a waiver regarding the Lifeline program for low-income consumers. The waiver extends the previous Lifeline waivers -- which were due to expire on June 30, 2021 -- through September30, 2021. This means that from now until September 30, 2021: 

  • Recertification requirements are on hold. USAC will provide more information about the recertification process after the waivers lift.
  • Reverification requirements are on hold. After the waivers lift, USAC will provide outreach to any affected service providers about next steps for reverification. 
  • Consumers will continue to have flexibility related to the documentation they can use to demonstrate income eligibility. Beginning October 1, 2021, however, documentation submitted to resolve application errors related to a consumer’s eligibility through income must meet Lifeline’s documentation requirements.
  • USAC (Universal Service Administrative Company) will continue to temporarily accept driver’s licenses or state identification cards that have expired on or after March 1, 2020, when needed to complete any Lifeline applications

Minumum Service Standards (effective December 1, 2021)

  • Mobile Voice
    • 1,000 minutes/month (unchanged)
  • Mobile Broadband
    • Speed: 3G or better (unchanged)
    • Usage allowance: 18 GB/month 
  • Fixed Broadband
    • Speed: 25/3 Mbs (unchanged)
    • Usage allowance: 1,229 GB/month 

There are no minimum service standards for fixed voice-only service.

Service Types and Monthly Benefit Amount

  • Voice (voice-only service that meets minimum service standards): $5.25. 
    Note: On December 1, 2021, no support generally shall be provided for voice-only Lifeline service, except for those cases when a provider is the only Lifeline provider in a Census block
  • Broadband (broadband-only service that meets minimum service standards): $9.25
  • Bundled voice (voice and broadband service that meets the voice minimum service standards only): $5.25
  • Bundled broadband (voice and broadband service that meets the broadband minimum service standards only): $9.25
  • Bundled voice and broadband (voice and broadband service that meets both the voice and broadband mininum service standards): $9.25

Updated March 4, 2021:

On February 24, 2021, the FCC released a waiver to ensure low-income consumers continue to have access to affordable communications services needed for telemedicine, telework, and online learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver extends most of the previous waivers the FCC released to provide Lifeline consumers reiief during the pandemic through June 30, 2021, including recertification and reverification, but does not extend the full waiver time frame to the FCC's Lifeline non-usage rule, which expires on May 1, 2021

Updated November 23, 2020:

On November 16, 2020, the FCC released two orders pertaining to Lifeline service:

  • An order extending the Lifeline rules waivers cited below that were set to expire on November 30, 2020. The order extends the waivers through February 28, 2021
  • An order addressing minimum service standards for fixed and mobile broadband. Effective December 1, 2020, the mobile voice usage minimum is 1,000 minutes; the mobile broadband mininum service level is 3G or better, with a usage allowance of at least 4.5 GB; and the fixed broadband minumum speed is 25/3 Mbs (upload/download), with a usage allowance of 1,244 GB. Additionally, effective December 1, 2020, the order decreases the monthly benefit for Lifeline voice-only service, and for broadband service that doesn't meet the broadband minimum standard, from $7.25 to $5.25.

Updated September 14, 2020:

On August 17, 2020, the FCC released an order that extends through Monday, November 30, 2020, the waivers of certain rules governing recertification, reverification, general de-enrollment, subscriber usage, income documentation, and documentation requirements for subscribers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands.

Updated June 8, 2020: 

On June 1, 2020, the FCC released an order extending through August 31, 2020 its April 29 order allowing consumers recently unemployed because of COVID-19 to more easily complete their Lifeline application. In addition, the order extends through August 31, 2020 Lifeline usage, recertification, reverification, and general de-enrollment  requirements, to ensure consumers are not involuntarily de-enrolled from the Lifeline program during the pandemic. More information about the COVID-19 Lifeline program changes can be found on USAC's COVID-19 Response webpage.

Updated April 30, 2020:

On April 29, 2020, the FCC released an Order that requires the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to temporarily adjust the guidelines for acceptable documentation. This documentation is used to prove that a consumer’s income meets the Lifeline income-based eligibility standards. Changes to these guidelines will ease the documentation burden on those who are recently unemployed due to the pandemic.

For more information, please see the USAC Announcements page. 

Updated March 30, 2020:

FCC Acts to Keep Lifeline Customers Connected during COVID-19 Pandemic


Effective October 23, 2019, there are changes in the way Vermonters sign up—or recertify their eligibility—for Lifeline. Program changes include:

     OR

  • Apply on a uniform paper application directly regardless of which provider you get phone or internet service from

You can find out more details at the Lifeline Program's Get Connected webpage.

Lifeline is a federal program that provides a monthly discount on phone or internet service to eligible households. Your “household” includes everyone who lives with you and shares in the household income and expenses. This includes children, adults, relatives and people not related to you.

Only one Lifeline benefit—either wireless or landline phone, home internet or cell phone data plan—is allowed per household. Not all internet services will qualify for the discount. Only those internet offerings at speeds of 10/1 Mbps and above will qualify, with certain exceptions. 

Participating companies 

*Not currently offering Lifeline service in Vermont 

Vermont’s Universal Service Fund (VUSF) provides an additional discount on telephone service only, and the amount varies between companies depending upon the provider and the cost of service, but may not exceed $4.25 per month or the amount of the VUSF credit you received as of November 1, 2017. For more details please see the Department's Vermont Universal Service Fund webpage

Other carriers may offer a discount for low-income consumers, but they are not required to do so, and they do not get reimbursed for their costs from the VUSF.

 

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