Coming Soon!
Free Government Internet Phones

free government internet phone

The upcoming government internet phone will help financially disadvantaged Americans navigate through the digital divide.

The Lifeline program has handed out free government cell phones to an estimated 15- 20 million needy Americans in the last five years. Unfortunately, they’ve been cheap phones with no internet capability, and being able to connect to the web is a practical necessity today. But this is about to change in a big way.

In the noble quest to bridge the digital divide and get all Americans online, the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) will be soon expanding the Lifeline program to provide internet-enabled smartphones that come with a mobile internet plan. According to the experts at, they could become available as soon as 2014. What is now called the Lifeline phone program will become the Lifeline Internet phone program.

The same people who qualify for free cell phones will qualify for the internet-enabled smartphones.

The same people who qualify for free cell phones will qualify for the internet-enabled smartphones. This includes households who earn less than between 135-150% of the U.S. poverty level and families participating in at least one government aid program such as Food Stamps (SNAP), Medicaid, SSI, housing assistance and others.

The FCC’s roadmap to free mobile Internet is very clear if you simply follow their own words and actions. They formally announced their intent early last year, and at this very moment some of the leading providers of Lifeline free cell phones are in a pilot program giving out smartphones and internet plans to a lucky few in test programs across the country.

From Free Phones to Free Internet

The Lifeline free cell phone program has grown from serving the one state (Tennessee) in 2008 to serving 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico today. Unfortunately, as with many ambitious government programs, waste and fraud plagued the program and calls were made for reforms. In January of 2012, the FCC enacted the Lifeline Reform Order which would crack down on abuses and save an estimated $2 billion over three years.

The FCC decided to use these projected savings to transition the Lifeline program to solving a more critical communications need — providing Internet to low-income Americans. Here’s the relevant statement from page 4 the order:

“Consistent with previous efforts, we act here to eliminate waste and inefficiency, increase accountability, and transition the Fund from supporting standalone telephone service to broadband.”

They clearly stated their mission to transform the Lifeline program to deliver broadband internet. The following on page 5 told us what was next:

“Using savings from the reforms, the Order establishes a Broadband Adoption Pilot Program to test and determine how Lifeline can best be used to increase broadband adoption among Lifeline-eligible consumers.”

So the projected $2 billion in savings from reducing inefficiency and fraud will be spent to expand the Lifeline program so that it provides internet to the same people who qualify for Lifeline phones today.

There is no word on cost, but in our expert opinion, as with the cell phone program’s model, there will be free internet with low-cost upgrades for higher speed and usage allowance. Worse case, we think they could charge $10 a month for service, but they’ll give you the phone for free.

It Begins with the Lifeline Broadband Pilot Program

free government internet statesHow does the FCC get from here to there — from dumb cell phones to internet phones? As with all government projects, it begins with a study. And that’s where we are now.

The FCC and Lifeline are nearing the end of a $13.8 million, nine-month pilot project called the Lifeline Broadband Pilot Program, ending on November 1, 2013. The program is testing the best way to give free or heavily discounted internet to low-income Americans. You’ll find more detail on the specifics on our Lifeline Internet page.

(This is separate from the FCC-enabled, non-governmental programs Internet Essentials from Comcast and Internet Basics from CenturyLink, which provide $9.95 cable and DSL Internet to eligible low-income Americans.)

The pilot program is testing 14 projects in 21 states and Puerto Rico. The participating companies are testing both wireline and wireless internet plans. In the wireline area, only one project is testing cable internet and the others are testing DSL. That makes sense, considering the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), the organization which handles the Lifeline program, has a decades-old history of working with landline telephone companies, not cable companies.

And the Winner is (will be): the Free Government Internet Phone

After analyzing the details of the pilot program, here’s what we think is the really big news: Mobile Internet plans are being tested in twelve states by two of the biggest names in the Lifeline free phone program — Tracfone (Safelink Wireless) and Nexus (ReachOut Wireless). This is very telling because the most efficient way to bring internet to Lifeline-qualified Americans is to have the very same companies that are already giving out free cell phones replace those phones with internet-enabled smartphones.

We see government-subsidized internet via the Lifeline program primarily being given to people through smartphones such as Android phones, with mobile internet service included.

Lifeline already has a relationship with free phone providers such as pilot program participants Safelink Wireless and Reachout Wireless. The mechanisms for billing and reimbursements are already in place. And those companies already have a relationship with qualified customers clamoring for internet — the very people the FCC wants to get online.

Granted, this is also the case with landline Lifeline phone customers and their telephone companies. Lifeline will likely add some sort of Lifeline DSL plan that landline telephone companies can offer. But as with landline Lifeline telephones now, the service won’t be free, but will be steeply discounted. In our view, this cost structure is justified, because getting DSL and the required router installed and up and running is more costly and complex than is getting a smartphone in the mail and turning it on.

We see government-subsidized internet via the Lifeline program primarily being given to people through smartphones such as Android phones, with mobile internet service included. It’s a natural and cost-effective extension of the existing program.

There is no way to know exactly what the final details of the Lifeline Internet phone plans will be, but we believe we will see a free mobile internet plan which would include a smartphone such as an Android, with unlimited talk and text, and a 1-2 GB data usage limit. Higher usage plans would be available at a low cost of between $10 – 20.

When and From Whom?

The same companies provide free cell phones to millions of Americans will continue to dominate as the suppliers of these new smartphones. You’ll get your mobile internet phone from companies like Tracfone, Nexus and Virgin. It remains to be seen if they keep their current free cell phone company names of, respectively, Safelink Wireless, Reachout Wireless and Assurance Wireless. They may wish to rebrand their internet service with new names given the negative press and customer service reviews those companies have received.

We’re confident that 2014 will be the year in which Lifeline Internet become available to the large number of needy, unconnected Americans who simply require what has become a necessity in the modern world.

Keep tuned to for more details as they come out.


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  1. polee says

    @ rattrap; These phones are not welfare. Started by Reagan in 1984, the Lifeline program is funded by the Universal Service Fee, a fee assessed against telecommunications service providers. Also, the word “lose” has only one “o.” And where are these “pay-phones” of which you speak, covering the streets? In your deluded memories of 1980? Finally, I’m guessing you are a racist. You are 0 for 3.

  2. rattrap22 says

    the phone deal was started for poor people living in the most remote of places without access to payphones and public access to phone services it was taken and given out as so much unearned welfare to voting blocs in communities where streets are covered with pay phones and cheap fax services so much so to where you cant walk Chicago without seeing people with multiple phones bragging about multiple accounts under fake names and the dealers talking about the thousands of hours they rack up for a few dollars of crack rock. You dont work we can find you a job you dont wanna work you should loose all your benefits at two years you are sucking off all those who get up every morning and break their back to maintain their home.The problem with socialism is sooner or later you kill the middle class thats carrying your bloated butt and run out of other peoples money

  3. Sabra says

    This is a great program, but I am skeptical about the functionality of using a phone for internet. What if you need to fill out applications or print out applications for a job? Let’s be realistic, using a phone to fill out any application would take forever to complete because the screen size is so small. Also how would you print out any forms or copies that you would need? I feel that a tablet or smaller size computer would best serve these needs especially if the goal is to help the underprivileged find employment. I would like some feedback on my comments. Thank you.

    • Cary L. Bruce Je. says

      Sabra, a person can do just about anything on a smartphone as on a home computer or a laptop. There are apps that will allow you to print onto a home printer…However, if you do not have a printer then you would need to use a library or possibly a friend or neighbors computer. Also, most internet browsers on Android phones allow you to set up automatic form filling. This will let you input common information such as name, address, phone number…etc.It is a great time saver. I am not a apple phone user so I cannot say if iphones allow these options that Android phones so, but they probably do. Smartphones are smaller and can be a little harder to read but you can zoom in on the text to make it easier to read.
      I hope that eases your concern about smartphones a bit….I use my smartphone all the time for common internet uses and I enjoy its functionality!!

      • Tiffany says

        I just registered for the pilot program through Safelink. I had to purchase the refurbished Android phone from them for $29.99 and pay $10.00 for my first month of service in order to get into the pilot program. This is supposed to include UNLIMITED talk, text, and internet. I have not received my phone yet, as I just paid today, however, I don’t like that you have to use Moneygram to pay. They should give the option to make payments online.