HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today encouraged consumers across the state to understand the resources available through the Lifeline program, which is used by nearly 500,000 Pennsylvanians. Lifeline has now been expanded to include broadband internet service for low-income households, in addition to, or in combination with, landline or wireless voice telephone service.
“Lifeline is intended to help make communications more affordable and more accessible for low-income households, helping them stay connected to information about jobs, family, health care, schools and emergency services,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “It is essential that consumers understand the expanded options now available – including a variety of voice and internet services – and also make note of federal efforts to streamline the list of eligible assistance programs used to qualify for Lifeline.”
In an effort to increase awareness about the Lifeline program, the PUC developed a new informational brochure, “Stay Connected with the Lifeline Telephone Assistance Program.” Copies of the brochure can be obtained by calling the PUC at 1-800-692-7380 or downloading the information from the PUC website. Consumers also are encouraged to reach out to their local telephone, wireless or internet companies, to see if they qualify for Lifeline and other available programs for limited-income telephone customers.
Additionally, all five Commissioners have reached out to the CEOs of Pennsylvania telecommunications companies, requesting their assistance in educating consumers about federal changes to the Lifeline program and enhanced opportunities for low-income households to connect to voice and internet service. Responses from those companies have been published on the PUC website, including information about outreach and education plans; any focused efforts to reach current subscribers about program and eligibility changes; and details regarding any additional discounts or promotional programs.
Effective Dec. 1, 2016, consumers have several communications choices under the Lifeline program:
- Landline or wireless internet service only;
- A combination of landline or wireless telephone and internet service; or
- Landline or wireless telephone only (Lifeline support for voice-only telephone service will be phased out by the end of 2021).
Federal rules limit Lifeline participation to one discount per household, so it is important for consumers to carefully evaluate their options when applying for service. Lifeline provides a monthly $9.25 per household discount on telephone or internet service, from either landline or wireless providers. The discount appears in the form of a reduction to consumers’ monthly bills.
Lifeline services are available to consumers who are enrolled in the following eligible assistance programs: Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veteran’s Pension or Survivor’s Pension benefits, Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Additionally, Lifeline is available to households whose income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (currently $32,805 for a family of four).
Additional information about Lifeline and other communications assistance programs, along with contact information for various telephone companies that participate in the Lifeline program, is available on the PUC website.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.