Verify Subscriber Eligibility

Please Note: We are currently updating the guidance on this page to reflect the rule changes in the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order. In the meantime, please visit the 2016 Lifeline Order page for relevant information.

Beginning June 1, 2012, all eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) are required to confirm an applicant's eligibility prior to enrolling the applicant in the Lifeline Program.

Carriers can use one of three methods to comply with the requirement to verify the eligibility of subscribers prior to enrollment.

  1. If available, carriers can access state or federal social services eligibility databases to determine an individual subscriber's eligibility for the Lifeline Program.
  2. If a state agency or administrator determines a subscriber's eligibility, carriers may rely on the determination of the agency or administrator.
  3. If a carrier has no access to an eligibility database and the carrier, rather than a state agency or administrator, is responsible for establishing subscriber eligibility, carriers must review documentation to determine eligibility for new subscribers.

As of February 17, 2016, carriers are required to retain documentation demonstrating subscriber eligibility. This documentation must be retained for as long as the subscriber receives Lifeline Program service from the carrier, but no less than three preceding calendar years. Prior to this date, carriers had an obligation to keep accurate records of the data sources used to verify eligibility, but were not permitted to retain copies of eligibility documentation.

Income Eligibility

A subscriber may be eligible for program-supported service if he or she has a household income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Read more about Income Eligibility, including income guidelines and acceptable forms of documentation.

Program Eligibility

Subscribers receiving benefits from one of the following qualifying programs generally receive either a benefit or program participation card or an award letter.

  • Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) or Section 8
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • National School Lunch Program's (NSLP) free lunch program
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid

Read more about Program Eligibility.

Eligibility for Subscribers Living on Tribal Lands

Subscribers residing on Tribal lands may be eligible for program-supported service if their household income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, if they participate in one of the seven federal programs listed above, or if they participate in one of the following programs:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance,
  • Tribally-administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF),
  • Head Start (only those households meeting its income qualifying standard), and
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

One Per Household Requirements

Carriers are required to take steps to ensure that they are not providing duplicate service to the same subscriber or household.

Carriers can use this worksheet to help subscribers determine whether more than one household resides at a single address. The worksheet must be completed any time more than one subscriber at a single residential address receives program-supported service, or when a new applicant applies for service at an address where there is already a subscriber.

Record-Keeping Requirements

The Lifeline Modernization Order requires carriers to follow certain procedures when verifying an applicant's eligibility.
Read the checklist and compilation of record-keeping requirements related to verifying eligibility.