In 2007, Steve Jobs said that “the phone was not just a communication tool but a way of life”. A mobile phone is vital in navigating today’s world. It goes well beyond the need to make and receive calls, as an active mobile phone can be the difference between life and death when trying to get assistance in an emergency. In Houston Texas, 21.2% of the population for whom poverty is determined (473k out of 223M people), live below the poverty line. For these and other people going through tough economic times, the Houston free government phones are a light at the end of the tunnel.
While free and discounted phone services were introduced in 1996, it was not until 2008 that the first state certified companies to provide cell phones for free through the lifeline assistance program. This is a product of the Federal government of the United States trying to bridge the digital divide by giving low income Americans access to free cell phones and inexpensive cell phone plans.
Tens of millions of Americans are beneficiaries of a free government phone. With over 240 million users, the United States is one of the largest mobile communication markets in the world, and a free government phone may just be the tool to help you stay connected with friends and family. You must, however, meet the eligibility criteria before you can apply for and receive your phone.
The Complete Guide to Receive a Free Government Phone in Houston
STEP 1: Check Eligibility
In order to ensure that the beneficiaries of this service are those that need it, you must provide proof that you are eligible. You are eligible for a free government phone if;
- You are a beneficiary of federal assistance programs, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance and Veterans Pension/Survivors pension OR
- Your total household income is at or below the 135% mark of the federal poverty guidelines.
You only need to meet one of the criterions above and provide proof to the cellular company you are applying with such as payroll stubs, W-2 forms and documentation from the government program where you are receiving help.
STEP 2: Find a provider In Your State
You can easily Google to see which providers in your state is part of the lifeline program. Since the program is mandated by the federal government, there are basic features that each company must offer but the plans vary from company to company based on whether you have a feature phone or a smartphone and a variety of other factors.
Read about the plans each company offers and decide which plan you will benefit most from. Check the reviews of the company from different beneficiaries and decide which provider will work best for you.
STEP 3: Make The Application
After choosing a provider, you have to fill in the application form and submit it together with all relevant documents attached. The application can be done online and submitted by fax/email. Ensure though, that you are honest in your application and send all supporting documents as dishonesty may lead to disqualification.
STEP 5: Wait For Notice On The State Of Your Application
If your application is not accepted, you will receive notice via email, or mobile phone followed by a letter. If however, your application is successful, you will receive your phone within 7 to 10 business days though it might take a wee bit longer. After receiving your phone, choose and activate the plan you want as companies have different offers for call, text and internet services.
The Five Best Phone Providers In Houston
Different wireless companies offer different plans along with different types of phones. Some even offer extra plans for first time subscribers. Here is a list of the best phone providers available in Houston.
1) Assurance wireless
Assurance wireless is a brand of Sprint Nextel that operates in a number of states including Texas where Houston is located. It is the second largest provider in the country and is overseen by virgin mobile. Participants are provided with a free cell phone from Assurance wireless (usually an android depending on availability) up to 500 monthly minutes and unlimited texting.
2) Safelink wireless
Safelink wireless provides cell service to over 4 million Americans in 31 states. The company offers a free cell phone and up to 350 long distance minutes and unlimited text messages every month. It is the largest and oldest free cell phone provider.
3) Q- link
Q- link is also a leading provider of lifeline with good coverage in Houston. Eligible applicants receive free monthly data, minutes and unlimited texting. Q- link also has an app, QLIXAR which is exclusive to Q- link members where you can get unlimited rewards for using your phone; watching fun videos and taking surveys about your favorite topics. With Q-link you can also roll over unused bundles to the next month.
4) Access wireless
This program will provide you with a free cell phone, up to 750 minutes of free calls each month and unlimited texts. Like other providers, it is one of the best California lifeline cell phone providers with way better plans in California but also providing good phone plans in other states.
5) enTouch wireless
enTouch wireless helps you stay in touch with your community and family with 1000 minutes of talk time, unlimited texts and 100MG of 4G data every month.
Through the lifeline assistance program, you can easily reach your friends, family and keep abreast with your social circle with a free touch screen government phone. Unlike the Oklahoma lifeline unlimited plan which is not absolutely free and requires you to pay 1 dollar, lifeline assistance in all other states including Texas is almost always free. And the good news is that if you are eligible for lifeline assistance but you don’t get a free cell phone, you can always apply for free phone plans or substantial discounts off your phone plan.