Program offering free phones to millions of Americans

National and World

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — A new government program is offering free cell phones and mobile hotspot services to millions who qualify.

Wireless company TruConnect is partnering with a program called Lifeline to offer the service.

“Currently, there are roughly 30 to 40 million people who don’t have access to high-speed internet and that’s only increased recently with the issues due to COVID-19,” Matthew Johnson, co-founder, and co-CEO of TruConnect told NewsNation affiliate KTLA.

Johnson said the Lifeline program started in the 1980s by President Ronald Reagan, but the vast majority of Americans don’t know about it.

Lifeline started out as a way to offer low-income Americans a wired phone line at a steep discount, but in recent years, the focus has shifted to wireless service with phones and monthly free service.

Lifeline’s basic offering is an inexpensive Android phone along with talk and text minutes, plus 3 gigabytes of data each month. California is most generous with unlimited talk and text, while other states mostly give participants 1,000 talk and texts.

The one stipulation: you have to use the phone at least once a month to keep the service active.

There are other companies doing this, too. They go by names including Assurance WirelessQ Link Wireless, and SafeLink Wireless. TruConnect prides itself on differentiation by including extras and even manufacturing its own smartphones so they can better control the quality, performance and minimize bloatware.

“All of our products, including the hotspot, are 4G LTE network-compatible,” said Johnson, who explained they run on T-Mobile’s network.

Calls to other countries such as Mexico, Canada, China, Vietnam and Korea are also included in the plan.

“Across the U.S., the two basic programs that automatically qualify you are Medicaid and Snap, so if you’re on one of those two programs you automatically qualify,” said Johnson. There are also income levels that may qualify you. Additionally, emergency eligibility is being offered to many who are on unemployment due to the pandemic.

To apply, visit Qualified applicants have until Jan. 8, 2021 to sign up for service.

NewsNation affiliate KTLA contributed to this report.

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