One Cellular phone and 60
minutes per month of air time will be given to low income households by
Safelink Wireless. Funding came through the Lifeline government
program which was established in 1984 by the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) to assist low income families
and update communication services in areas affected by disasters.
On September 29, 2009,
the prepaid cell phone provider Tracfone Wireless, Inc., announced the
launch of SafeLink Wireless in Illinois. According to a September
29, 2009 Reuters article, SafeLink Wireless is the first and only
completely free offering of Lifeline -- a U.S. government supported
program for income eligible households that ensures telephone service is
available and affordable for eligible low-income households. The
TracFone Wireless company is a subsidiary of América Móvil S.A.B. de
C.V. based in Mexico City.
The eRumor jokingly
calls this an "Obama phone" but the Reuters article said that the
program was based on
a decision made by the FCC to "enhance its Lifeline program and keep the
right to communicate in pace with technology."
The concept of providing cellular phones to low income families actually
dates back before the Obama administration. According to a June 3,
2008 wirelessandmobilenews.com article,
Click for news release.
In order to qualify,
families must meet certain criteria and verify income annually.
This program is currently available in Alabama, Connecticut, District of
Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The company expects to offer the service nation wide soon.
Funding for the
Lifeline program is collected in the form of surcharges that are
included in telephone and cellular phone bills.