Lifeline helps low-income consumers connect to the nation’s communications network so they can find jobs, access health care services, connect with family and call for help in an emergency. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) oversees the Lifeline program across the country.
Lifeline is a federal program that provides a $9.25 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.
Changes were made in March 2018 to the Benefit Port Freeze Rule -- Federal rules that went into effect December 2, 2016, state that once you start getting Lifeline, you must stay with a provider of telephone services for 60 days or with a broadband (internet) provider for 12 months before you may change to a new provider. Effective March 19, 2018, the benefit port freeze rule was eliminated.
Find out if you are eligible for assistance by checking the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) webpage Do I Qualify?
As of November 1, 2017, to apply for the Lifeline credit you must request an application from your participating landline or cell phone company. A list of participating companies is provided below.
Fill out the Lifeline application form and return it with proof of eligibility or income—see the application form for more details or provide a copy of a card or award letter to prove participation in Medicaid, 3SquaresVT (SNAP*) or certain other programs. OR provide a pay stub or tax return to prove your income is at or below 135% of the federal proverty guidelines. See the USAC webpage for the 2017 Federal Poverty Guidelines to determine if you are eligible based on income.
* In Vermont, the SNAP program is called "3SquaresVT."
Please note: Not all phone companies participate in the Lifeline program. As of this writing, the only cell phone companies that offer the Lifeline credit are Life Wireless, QLink Wireless and SafeLink.
Here is the current list of participating companies:
- Burlington Telecom 1-866-304-8434
- Consolidated Communications 1-844-968-7224
- All consumers who live in Alburg, Cabot, Groton, Isle LaMotte, Marshfield, Montgomery, Peacham or West Newbury (within Consolidated Communications of Northland service territory), use the following form: former FairPoint - Telephone Operating Company of VT
- All others (within Consolidated Communications of Vermont service territory) use this form: former FairPoint - Northern New England
- Franklin Telephone 1-802-285-9911
- Life Wireless (Telrite) 1-888-543-3620
- OTT Communications (Shoreham) 1-866-746-3873
- QLink Wireless 1-855-754-6543
- SafeLink (TracFone) 1-800-Safelink (723-3546)
- TDS Telecom (Ludlow, Northfield, Perkinsville) 1-866-571-6662
- Topsham Telephone 1-802-439-5325
- Vermont Telephone (VTel) 1-800-279-4049
- Waitsfield/Champlain Valley Telecom 1-800-496-3391
For more information about the federal Lifeline program, see the USAC webpage Get Connected. For assistance with the federal Lifeline program, please call the USAC Lifeline consumer support phone number at 1-800-234-9473.
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.