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Culture

Free Phone Service Extended for Struggling Missourians

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/missouri-public-service-commission-extends-free-phone-service-struggling-missourians_57011.mp3

One mission of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission is to ensure that, “All Americans enjoy the opportunities and security that phone service brings.” Another company in Missouri is now helping to carry out that mission. KSMU’s Shane Franklin has the story.

Assurance Wireless, a prepaid Sprint brand, is now providing a free phone, charger, 250 minutes, and 250 text messages each month, to certain low income people throughout Missouri.  Jack Pflanz is a company representative.

“Assurance Wireless provides an easy way for low income Missouri residents who are having a real hard time making ends meet in the current economy to stay connected to jobs, to medical services, to emergency service, to schools, to things that they just need to communicate with in their daily lives to be able to survive,” says Pflanz. 

This service, called the Lifeline program, is administered by the Federal Communications Commission and financed using the federal Universal Service Fund. All phone companies in the U.S. must pay into the Universal Service Fund, which in addition to the Lifeline program also promotes telecommunications for all schools and libraries, and offsetting the high costs of telecommunications in rural areas of the country.

According to FCC qualifications, to participate in the program you must make less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines. For example, a Missouri household of four would have to make less than $32,000/year to qualify for the program. You also qualify if you are already participating in federal assistance programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and SSI. 

There can be only one Lifeline per household, but many companies offering the service allow you to choose between a cell phone and a traditional landline. Still though, there can only be one Lifeline phone per qualifying household.

A qualifying person can even keep their old number when switching to a Lifeline phone.

And how do companies that help provide this service benefit?

“We hope that when a Missouri resident applies for Assurance Wireless, because they’re in a tough financial situation, and they use the service to improve their quality of life and improve their situation. Once they’re back on their feet and they can afford a cell phone service that they keep us in mind,” says Planz.

Assurance Wireless can be contacted at 1-800-395-2171.

For a complete list of phone providers offering the Lifeline service in Missouri, go to our website, KSMU.org

For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.