Low-Income Telephone Assistance Programs

Authored By: Northwestern Legal Services

What kind of telephone assistance programs are offered?

  • Lifeline 135 service: is available to qualified low-income telephone consumers. Lifeline 135 helps to pay for line connection
    charges; one phone line and may also purchase optional services such as call waiting or caller ID at normal cost.
  • Lifeline service: is available to low-income Verizon PA telephone consumers who participate in certain government assistance programs. This program helps to pay for line connection charges and one phone line. In addition, Lifeline provides eligible consumers with a discount each month on basic local telephone service.
  • Link-up America: provides low-income consumers with 50% off the line connection charge ($30 maximum) and allows customers to spread remaining balance over 12 monthly payments. This service is available to qualified low-income consumers who apply for new telephone service or who transfer telephone services. Customers who qualify for Lifeline* or Lifeline 135 can receive Link -Up America.
  • Universal Telecommunications Assistance Program (UTAP): is a financial assistance program offered by Verizon PA. UTAP helps Verizon's existing Lifeline customers and qualified Lifeline applicants to pay their overdue bills, avoid shut offs and restore their basic telephone service. Contact Verizon toll free, 800-640-4155 for information.

Where do I start?

Start by contacting your telephone carrier to see if they offer these services, as not all telephone companies do.

If you do not currently have telephone service, you can contact the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) at 1-888-782-1110, or if you have access to the internet, go to to get a list of the local telephone companies in your area or find more information.

Before choosing a company research what services the different companies are offering. Rates and services do vary. For example:

  • Basic Local Service: includes dial tone, touch-tone, federal line cost charge, Pennsylvania relay charge, federal universal service fund surcharge, local number portability surcharge, 911 emergency service fee and a local calling plan to make and receive telephone calls in your local calling area. Your local calling area is listed in the front of your telephone directory under "local calling area." The local calling areas are based on where you live and your telephone number, which are defined by boundaries containing a city or town and its surrounding areas.
  • Local Toll Service (regional toll): includes calling plans for telephone calls that you make within your region, but outside of your local calling area. Check your telephone directory's "Regional Calling Pages" for this information.
  • Long-Distance Service: includes in-state calls outside of your region and state to state calls.

What do I do after I decided on a telephone provider that offers low income programs?

You should contact the company's customer service department and request to sign up for one of the services listed.

If you meet the criteria, they will send you an application/form to complete and return for verification.

If approved, your subsequent bill will reflect the discounts.

Important Note: Customers who receive discounts through these programs have the same rights and responsibilities as all other telephone customers.

If you are currently receiving a public benefit such as public assistance such as welfare, social security, or have children enrolled in the free school lunch program, you may qualify for telephone assistance.

It as easy as that!
Sign up today and begin realizing the benefits of a telephone assistance program.

We have attempted to insure the accuracy of the information in this pamphlet at the time it was created or revised. However, the law does change, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. Therefore, you should consult an attorney before taking or refraining from any action based on the information in this pamphlet.


Last Review and Update: Nov 12, 2008