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The Lifeline Program allows eligible consumers to receive a reduced rate on their cell phone bill. Lifeline Program support is provided to eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) from the federal universal service fund.
ETCs may allow eligible consumers to apply for discounts to any service plan, including bundled packages of voice and data services, and plans that include optional calling features such as, but not limited to, caller identification, call waiting, voicemail, and three-way calling. ETCs may also allow eligible consumers to apply their Lifeline Program discount to family-shared calling plans.
If an ETC charges subscribers a fee for toll (long distance) calls that is in addition to the per-month or per-billing cycle of the subscriber's service, the carrier must offer toll limitation service at no charge to its subscribers as part of its service offering. An ETC can only collect a service deposit from a subscriber if the ETC charges a fee for toll (long distance) calls and the subscriber does not voluntarily elect toll limitation service.
The Lifeline Program's support amount for all ETCs is $9.25 per month per eligible consumer for which the ETC provided service during the month. Additional support of up to $25 per month is available to an ETC providing service to an eligible consumer residing on Tribal lands.
To obtain program support, an ETC must submit its monthly support claims through the FCC Form 497, which includes a certification that the ETC will pass through the full amount of support to the eligible consumer and that it has received any non-federal regulatory approvals necessary to implement the rate reduction. The ETC must also certify that it is in compliance with the rules of the Lifeline Program.