A program available through the Federal Communications Commission is ensuring eligible low-income Native Americans across the country access to the  nation’s communications networks. Whether it is used to contact emergency services, connect with a future employer or stay in touch with home-bound loved ones, the Lifeline program through the federal Universal Service Fund is there to help.

On tribal lands across the U.S., telephone subscribership is lowest in the country. Link Up, another federal benefit program, reduces the initial installation or activation fees of certain telephone providers offering service on tribal lands.

Tribal Lands Lifeline provides a monthly discount of up to $34.25 off of the cost of telephone service, either wireline or wireless. This discount is currently $9.25 (which is available to all eligible low-income subscribers across the United States) plus up to an additional $25 (which is available only to eligible low-income subscribers living on Tribal lands.)

This discount may vary somewhat from state to state. Tribal Lands Link Up provides qualified subscribers living on tribal lands with a one-time discount of up
to $100 on the initial installation or activation of a wireline or wireless telephone for the primary residence. Tribal Lands Link Up also enables subscribers to pay the remaining amount that they owe on a deferred schedule, interest-free.

Federal rules prohibit qualifying low-income consumers from receiving more than one Tribal Lands Lifeline service at the same time. Low-income subscribers who qualify may receive a Tribal Lands Lifeline discount on either a home telephone or a wireless telephone service, but may not receive a Lifeline discount on both services at the same time.

Additionally, only one Tribal Lands Lifeline service may be obtained per household. Similarly, federal rules prohibit qualifying low-income consumers from receiving more than one Tribal Lands Link Up discount at a primary residence. Low-income consumers who qualify may receive a Tribal Lands Link Up discount on installation or activation charges associated with either wireline or wireless telephone service, but may not receive a Link Up discount on both services at the same time.

Do I Qualify for Lifeline Discounts? The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income subscribers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on tribal lands. To participate in the program,
subscribers must either have an income that is at or below 135 percent of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in one of the following assistance programs:

  • Medicaid;
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP);
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8);
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
  • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program;
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance;
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF);
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR);
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met); or
  • State assistance programs (if applicable).

How Do I Enroll? Apply for Lifeline through a Lifeline Program provider in your state or designated state agency. To locate a Lifeline provider in your state go to www.lifelinesupport.org.

How Do I Verify My Eligibility? Subscribers may be required to certify and provide documentation to prove that the subscriber, or a member of the subscriber’s household, including dependents, participates in a qualifying program OR meets the income qualifications for Lifeline eligibility.

Do I Need to Reconfirm My Eligibility Every Year? Yes, every year. Once you are enrolled in Lifeline, you must recertify your continued eligibility on an annual basis. You will be contacted by your service provider to reconfirm that you remain eligible.

How is Household Defined for Purposes of the Lifeline Program? A “household” is defined as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address and share income and expenses.

Can I report Lifeline fraud? Yes. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau maintains a dedicated Lifeline Fraud Tip Line –1-855-4LL-TIPS (or 1-855-455-8477), and an email address, Lifelinetips@fcc.gov – to facilitate reporting of possible fraud in the program.

What if I need to know more? To find more information about eligibility and how to apply for Lifeline and Link Up benefits, visit www.lifelinesupport.org, call USAC’s tollfree number (1-888-641-8722), call the FCC’s toll-free customer service number at (1-888-CALL-FCC), or contact a Lifeline Program provider
in your state.