Recent reports from Arkansas residents regarding direct mail solicitations offering “free” local phone service and “free” long distance have prompted Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to issue a consumer alert today warning of these deceptive advertisements and explaining that discounted, but not free, phone service is available to low-income Arkansas consumers.
“The advertisements we have seen purport to offer free local phone service and even free long distance service, but the reality is that the consumer will be billed for both of these services if the consumer responds to this ad,” McDaniel said. “There are legitimate discounted phone services available to low-income consumers, and these are available from all local service providers. An interested consumer should contact his local phone company rather than respond to a deceptive ad."
The federal Universal Services Fund supports the Lifeline Assistance and Link-up America programs. These programs provide discounts on basic monthly service and initial installation and activation fees for the primary residence of eligible consumers. Both land lines and cell phones are covered.
The Lifeline Assistance program provides a discount of $10 on basic monthly service and the Link-Up program helps with initial installation fees for land line service and activation fees for cell service. An eligible consumer may also qualify for an interest-free loan to acquire necessary phone equipment.
To qualify for the Lifeline and/or Link-Up programs, consumers must not have a household income above 135-percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or they must participate in one of the following programs:
- Food Stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- The National School Lunch Programs Free Lunch Program.
“ It is vital that all Arkansas residents have the opportunity to access telephone service ,” McDaniel said. “Parents need to be able to communicate with a child’s school, and everyone needs a phone in order to fully access law enforcement, public safety, and other public services. I urge low-income Arkansas consumers to take advantage of these discounted services.”
For information on applying for Lifeline and/or Link-Up, click here or call the Universal Service Administrative Company toll-free at (888) 641-8722.
More information on the programs can be obtained by clicking here or by calling the Public Protection Department of the Attorney General's Office at (501) 682-2341 or toll-free at (800) 482-8982.