Last night I saw the commercial below offering free telephone service, or so it appears.
While the commercial says “the government will pay for you to have free home phone service”, it’s not the whole story.
The government program behind this is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Lifeline and Link-Up Affordable Telephone Service for Income-Eligible Consumers. To find out if you qualify for service in your state, click here.
The FCC says:
“Telephone service is considered a necessity for daily modern life. Yet the cost of starting and maintaining such service may be too high for some consumers. Under Congressional mandate, the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) supports the Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up America programs. These programs provide discounts on basic monthly service and initial installation or activation fees for telephone service at the primary residence to income-eligible consumers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the help of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), administers the USF. Here are some frequently asked questions about the Lifeline and Link-Up programs.” – Source
If you are already eligible for any of the programs below then you are eligible for any of these programs.
- Food Stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or
- The National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program.
Lifeline Assistance provides discounts on basic monthly service at the primary residence for qualified telephone subscribers. These discounts can be up to $10.00 per month, depending on your state.
Link-Up America helps income-eligible consumers initiate telephone service. This program pays one-half (up to a maximum of $30) of the initial installation fee for a traditional, wireline telephone or activation fee for a wireless telephone for a primary residence. It also allows participants to pay the remaining amount they owe on a deferred schedule, interest-free.
What I found interesting about the television advertisement is that while it gives the impression that when you signup the phone service will be free, it’s not.
On the Angles Communications web site it says “After your FREE first month of service, you only pay $19.99 plus taxes and fees.” That’s a long way from the free telephone service advertised in the commercial. – Source
According to the BBB, Angles Communication has an F rating. As of the date of this article the company had 176 consumer complaints against them. – Source
And apparently the BBB caught the same issue I did. The BBB says:
Angles Communication’s advertising flyer states:
“Free phone service”
“Get Food Stamps? Get Free Phone Service!”
“Government pays for phone service”
Upon requesting the free service, consumers are told that only the first month of phone service is free. The flyer does not indicate that the free service is limited to one month. The BBB believes that the offer of free phone service should disclose that the free offer covers installation and first month of service, but that additional months of service will have a cost to the consumer. After the first month, consumers may receive reduced-rate (but not free) telephone service if they qualify for federal and state “lifeline assistance.”
The Better Business Bureau is concerned that this flyer will create a false impression that Food Stamp recipients may qualify for government-paid telephone service. The BBB’s concern is due to the absence of disclosures about limitations that apply to this offer and the broad statement on the flyer that “Government Pays for Home Phone Service!” Disclosures of limitations on the offer appear on the company website and may be made to consumers who call the company’s toll free telephone number to enroll by phone.
Based on BBB advertising standards, the Better Business Bureau does not believe disclosure of details later is sufficient to overcome an inaccurate impression created by the flyer itself.
On June 12, 2009 the BBB contacted Angles Communication and requested substantiation of the claim that the government pays for phone service and modification of the “free” phone service claim. The company failed to respond to these requests. – Source
Angles Communications Solutions
11121 Highway 70 Ste 202
Arlington, TN 38002-9230
Original Business Start Date: February 2001
Principal: Mr. Danny Michael, General Manager
Incorporated: February 2001, TN
BBB Accreditation: Angles Communication Solutions is not a BBB Accredited business.
Additional DBA Names: Global Communications, Dial Tone and More, Inc., BLC Management, LLC, Prepaidworx. Ren-Tel/DTM, SC TXLink, USA Free Phone
If You Shop Around You Can Find Better Deals
Instead of falling for just this one offer, if you review available offers from other providers you may find home telephone service available for $0 and cell phone service from $6.49 per month. The discounts and offers depend on which state you live in.
Use the USAC Lifeline Support site and if you think you are eligible for free or reduced cost telephone service, just look at all the plans available in your state before you signup with anyone.