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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Have You Heard of the Obama Phone?

“Have you heard of the Obama phone? It’s a program to give free phones to people who cannot afford them.” The Newton Falls Public Library staff had not heard of this program. We began looking online as this is a question that requires current information.

Our search brought us first to the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau []. The background section states that “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress recognize that telephone service provides a vital link to emergency services, government services, and surrounding communities.” There are two programs here:
• “Link-Up America helps income-eligible consumers initiate telephone service.
• Lifeline Assistance provides discounts on basic monthly telephone service at the primary residence for qualified telephone subscribers.”

There was no application form at this site, so we kept looking. From the FCC site, we were directed to Lifelines Support deals primarily with landlines and our patron was looking for cell phone assistance. If she had been interested in a phone for her home, she could have completed the application process here.

We continued the search to the website of SafeLink Wireless []. There is a great deal of information at this site, giving the history of the Lifeline program. It is inaccurate to call it the Obama phone, since the program actually began in 1984, during the Reagan Administration. SafeLink has now made this program available for cell phones. “SafeLink Wireless was created by TracFone Wireless, Inc. when the . . . FCC . . . approved the company to offer Lifeline . . . SafeLink Wireless applies the Universal Service Fund subsidy to an allotment of free airtime minutes and TracFone provides the wireless handset at the company’s expense.” Ohio residents who meet the qualifications receive a free wireless phone and a plan which gives them 68 minutes every month. Our patron looked at the application and found it to be simple to complete. Since it required personal information, we checked the Better Business Bureau’s website [] and confirmed that it is legitimate.

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