TracFone Wireless launches SafeLink Wireless to aid low-income households
From press release
TracFone Wireless, Inc., America’s leading prepaid cell phone provider, announces it launch of SafeLink Wireless(R) in Illinois. SafeLink Wireless is the first and only completely free offering of Lifelinea U.S. government-supported program for income-eligible households that ensures telephone service is available and affordable for eligible low-income households.
The SafeLink Wireless service will provide eligible low-income households a free cell phone, mobile access to emergency services and free 60 minutes of airtime, monthly, for one year. The cell phone offers in-demand features: voicemail, text, call waiting, international calling to more than 60 destinations and caller ID.
Over 1 million households in Illinois qualify for the Lifeline servicesoffering these participants the opportunity to have the same access and privileges many individuals take for granted when it comes to using cell phones,
said Jose Fuentes, director of Government Relations for TracFone.
The SafeLink Wireless service is truly unique because we are providing a service that no other company has made available beforea free cell phone and free monthly minutes to qualifying low-income families,
added Fuentes. SafeLink Wireless offers low-income families accessibility, freedom and the security in knowing that should an emergency occurwherever they are, they will stay safe and stay connected.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Lifeline program in 1984 and worked to update the service after the crises of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as the tragedy of Sept. 11. At the dawn of the 21st century, modern universal telephone service is necessary not only to ensure that the U.S. maintains a rapid, efficient, nationwide communications network, it is important for the purpose of national defense and to promote safety of life and property. By approving the SafeLink Wireless program, the FCC took action to enhance its Lifeline program and keep the right to communicate in pace with technology.
The funding and delivery of Lifeline
Lifeline is part of the Low Income Program of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and is designed to ensure that quality telecommunications services are available to low-income customers at just, reasonable and affordable rates. More than 1,700 carriers are eligible to provide the program, but TracFone is the first prepaid company to have elevated the program to modern-day communications. The Lifeline program is not funded from federal taxpayer dollars, but rather from contributions to the USF by telecommunications carriers collected in part from the Universal Service Charge billed to cell phone users.
By FCC design, telephone carriers deliver Lifeline assistance to low-income communities and traditionally, Lifeline customers receive a simple discount on their monthly landline telephone bill. The SafeLink program reshapes the Lifeline model by applying the USF subsidy towards a wireless minute allocation that becomes free monthly air time for the customer. As TracFone provides the mobile handset at its own expense and does not require contracts or monthly bills, SafeLink customers now have access to a completely free offering of the Lifeline program.
If a customer wishes to use additional minutes beyond their monthly allotment, minutes can be added through prepaid SafeLink airtime cards and TracFone airtime cards that can be purchased at local retailers. The prepaid feature gives customers the freedom to control the cost of their monthly telephone expense. Unused minutes do not expire and automatically roll over.
Winnebago County is on the list of Top 10 Illinois state counties with the most eligible Lifeline participantsa low-income population of 28,287.
To qualify for Lifeline in the state of Illinois, a household must participate in one of the following:
υ Federal Public Housing Assistance/Section 8
υ Food Stamps
υ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
υ Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
υ National School Lunch (free program only)
υ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The SafeLink Wireless service will be provided to low-income families for up to one year, with one person per household receiving the free cell phone and benefits. Participants may renew service and will be required to reapply upon their year completion. If the participant no longer qualifies for this free service, they will be notified and will be able to keep the cell phone to continue enjoying the benefits as a regular TracFone customer. Existing TracFone customers qualifying for the SafeLink Wireless service may keep their current cell phone, and receive bonus minutes (one-time bonus only) for choosing to keep their current cell phone.
To learn more about the SafeLink Wireless service, including eligibility requirements, please call 1-800-SAFELINK (1-800-723-3546), or visit www.safelink.com.
From the October 28-November 3, 2009 issue
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