First thing you need to know is that the U.S. government wants to give the opportunity for those who cannot afford a cell phone to be able to have one for free. This is possible through the Universal Service Fund. This program is called Assurance Wireless. The Assurance Wireless program gives a free cell phone that includes free minutes and free text.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) was created by the United States Federal Communication commission (FCC), to ensure that all companies of telecommunications "should contribute in some equitable and nondiscriminatory manner" to the federal universal service.
To be eligible to this program it is required for you to have a low-income. You also need to be enrolled or participate in one of the following assistance programs: Medicaid, SNAP or Food Stamps, SSI, Federal Public House Assistance, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, National School Lunch Program's Free Lunch Program, Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance Tribally-Administered, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or State Assistance Programs (if applicable).
With a phone the government hopes that low income individuals will be able to find jobs easier. Also this service will help individuals get in touch with their family and emergency services. This service includes 250 minutes free for calls and 250 texts every month. This service is offered by Virgin Mobile USA, that offers different options and plans that users can choose to pay to upgrade the service.
You do not need a long term contract. You don't have to pay any bills, once your application is approved you will receive the cell phone. You have to activate the cell, once it is activated you will receive the first minutes and texts, and will continue receiving the same amount every month.
Assurance Wireless is now available in 32 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. This list of states continues to expand and can be found on the Assurance Wireless website.
A study reveals that "If all 28.5 million adults eligible for Lifeline Assistance were to take advantage of the program and earn at the same rate and level as [the study] sample, it would result in $3.7 billion in fresh income for the poor and near poor."
I am sure that Assurance Wireless is a great tool for those that have income less than $25,000. Research demonstrates that people who have filed for government assistance more than tripled their incomes between 2007 and 2010.
Jorge Cruz writes special articles discussing assurance wireless and how to get a free phone from the government.