The Lifeline program helps low-income households get telephone service by providing discounts up to $10.00 a month on one basic monthly phone service (landline or wireless).
Currently, more than 17 million households are subscribed to Lifeline. In order to enroll in Lifeline, potential subscribers must demonstrate their eligibility by showing proof of income or participation in a qualifying program.
The Lifeline program is paid for by the Universal Service Fund (USF). According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “All telecommunications service providers and certain other providers of telecommunications must contribute to the federal USF based on a percentage of their end-user telecommunications revenues. These companies include wireline telephone companies, wireless telephone companies, and certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers.”
Some consumers may notice a “Universal Service” line item on their telephone bills. This line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from its customers by billing them this charge. The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs.