PUC Reminds Low-Income Consumers to Stay Connected Through Lifeline Telephone Discount Program
Authored By: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
What if you desperately needed to call someone, but didn’t have the telephone service to do it? The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) wants consumers to stay connected through the Lifeline telephone discount program.
“As the nation, and certainly the families and friends of those who gave their lives in Shanksville for the protection of our nation’s capital, prepares for the anniversary of 9/11 this week, it is even more important for everyone in today’s increasingly interconnected world to have a lifeline to emergency services, friends, and family,” said PUC Commissioner Pamela Witmer. “This week, we are calling upon government agencies, industry leaders and consumer advocates to educate residents about state and federal programs for telephone connectivity during National Lifeline Awareness Week and further initiate and promote outreach events.”
The PUC joined in a national initiative to promote Lifeline telephone discount program awareness. No Pennsylvanian should be left out simply because they can’t afford telephone services.
"Pennsylvania’s rural local exchange carriers are equally proud of the network which they have constructed in the Commonwealth and that our state is consistently near the top in national rankings on penetration rates. Telecommunications companies, regulators, and legislators all realize that the more individuals using the telephone network, the more valuable that network becomes,” said Steve Samara, President of the Pennsylvania Telephone Association. “The Lifeline programs are excellent tools to keep folks on the network and give them access to the beneficial services which Pennsylvania’s carriers are providing.”
“Thanks to federal support for the Lifeline program, eligible Pennsylvania households may better afford telephone service so that they can stay in touch with family, schools, doctors, and employers. The Lifeline program also promotes public safety by providing more households with telephone service and access to 911,” said Barrett Sheridan, Assistant Consumer Advocate for the Office of Consumer Advocate. “Eligible Pennsylvania households may benefit from the number and variety of service providers – wireline and wireless – approved to offer Lifeline telephone service. The Office of Consumer Advocate is pleased to join the Public Utility Commission in promoting public awareness of this important resource for eligible Pennsylvania households.”
Recently, the FCC changed its rules governing program eligibility and non-duplication of support to improve program efficiency and ensure those that need support can receive it. Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than one Lifeline discount per household.
The Lifeline 135 program is available for customers of all qualified telephone service providers. Under the program, customers who participate in certain public assistance programs, or who have income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (currently $32,198 for a family of four) can receive a discount on their monthly local phone service for one telephone line. The discounts are paid out of the federal Universal Service Fund, which is subsidized by contributions from all telephone customers.
In an effort to increase awareness about the program, the PUC developed an informational brochure, “Follow the PATH to PA Telephone Help” to provide information about Lifeline and other available programs for limited-income consumers. Copies of the brochure can be obtained by calling the PUC at 1-800-692-7380 or on the PUC website. Consumers also are encouraged to reach out to their local telephone company to see if they qualify for Lifeline and other available programs for limited-income telephone customers. The PUC also created a public service announcement to increase awareness.