What is the Lifeline Program and How Does it Work?
Lifeline is a government assistance program by the FCC. It was established in the 1980s when communication services became a basic necessity rather than a luxury. The program is designed to help make communication services more affordable for low-income households. It provides eligible subscribers a discount on qualifying monthly telephone service, internet service, or bundled voice-broadband packages, which can be obtained from participating wireless or wireline providers. Therefore, the program offers access to services that enable subscribers to stay in touch with work, educational resources, healthcare, emergency services, and more.
Lifeline provides a monthly discount of up to $9.25 for eligible non-Tribal families or $34.25 for eligible households on qualifying Tribal lands on either wireless or wireline service. Some participating Lifeline providers also offer a free or discounted cellular phone.
The Lifeline program is limited to one person per eligible household and the benefit cannot be transferred to another household member or household, even if eligible.
What are the Ways to Get Free Tablets?
Get Free Tablets Under the Lifeline Program
Generally, Lifeline providers only offer discounts on services and phones. Currently, there are no Lifeline providers that offer free tablets directly through the Lifeline program.
However, there are certain providers that offer free tablets to Lifeline subscribers indirectly. How? Well, all Lifeline subscribers and Lifeline-eligible citizens also automatically qualify for another government assistance program – one that does offer free tablets – the Affordable Connectivity Program or ACP. Indeed – if you are Lifeline-eligible, you can automatically enroll in an ACP program and receive a free tablet or another connected device.
Get Free Tablets Under the ACP Benefit
The Affordable Connectivity Program is a new, long-term government assistance program by the FCC, designed to help low-income households pay for broadband services and connected devices.
The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 a month toward internet service for eligible non-Tribal households and up to $75 for eligible Tribal households. Some (but not all) ACP participating providers also offer a discount of up to $100 to purchase a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. However, according to the FCC rules, the connected device is not completely free of charge. Instead, eligible customers must pay a co-pay of more than $10 and less than $50 in order to receive the device.
Who is Eligible for the Lifeline Free Tablet or Phone?
As mentioned before, Lifeline providers offer free phones, but they do not offer free tablets. However, Lifeline subscribers can receive a free tablet through the Affordable Connectivity Program, for which all Lifeline subscribers automatically qualify.
To become a Lifeline subscriber and receive a free phone (through Lifeline) or a free tablet (through the ACP), you must be Lifeline-eligible. To qualify, a household (or a member of the household) must meet at least one of the following eligibility criteria:
Income-based Lifeline Eligibility
You are Lifeline-eligible if your annual household income is 135% or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The guideline depends on the state and the household size.
Program-based Lifeline Eligibility
You are Lifeline-eligible if you or any of your household members participate in one of the following qualifying government assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – also known as Food Stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
In addition, you are Lifeline-eligible if you or any of your household members participate in one of the following Tribal assistance programs:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Head Start (only households meeting the income qualifying standard)
Being Lifeline-eligible automatically makes you eligible to participate in the ACP. However, there are some other criteria that make a household ACP eligible and thus receive a free tablet.
Income-based ACP Eligibility
You are ACP-eligible if your annual household income is 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The guideline depends on the state and the household size.
Program-based ACP Eligibility
You are ACP-eligible if you or any of your household members participate in Lifeline or any of the qualifying government/Tribal assistance programs listed under the Lifeline program eligibility. In addition, a household is also ACP-eligible if it (or any of its members):
- Participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Participate in the Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, including at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision schools
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
What Documents are Needed to Apply for a Lifeline Free Tablet?
To become a Lifeline (and thus automatically an ACP) subscriber, you will be required to prove that you qualify. You can do so by providing some unexpired, official documents that prove your eligibility.
Depending on your Lifeline/ACP-eligibility criteria, you may be asked to provide:
- An official document that proves that your household income is at or below 135% (or 200%) of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The document must include your first and last name and your annual income. Acceptable documents include a current income statement from your employer or a paycheck stub, a prior year’s state, federal, or Tribal tax return, Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation statement of benefits, divorce decree, child support award, etc.
- An official document that proves your participation in a government/Tribal assistance program. The document must include your first and last name, the name of the program, the name of the establishment that issued the document, and an issue date within the last 12 months or a future expiration date. Acceptable documents include an approval letter, benefit verification letter, benefit award letter, and statement of benefits.
You may also be asked to provide certain documents that verify your identity, date of birth, address, or other personal information.
- To verify your identity or age, you may be asked to provide an official document containing your first and last name and date of birth, such as a birth certificate, a government, military, state, or Tribal ID, driver’s license, passport, etc.
- To verify your address, you may be asked to provide an official document containing your first and last name and current physical address, such as a government, state, or Tribal ID, driver’s license, most recent W-2 or tax return, utility bill, mortgage or lease statement, etc.
- Moreover, as only U.S. citizens who are 18 years old or more and emancipated minors can participate in Lifeline/ACP, emancipated minors will also be asked to provide an official document that proves their status, such as a court document or a certificate of emancipation.
Note: Most Lifeline/ACP providers allow you to submit your digital proof copies during the application process. However, you can also submit the documentation via mail. Make sure to never submit originals, but a copy made with a copy machine, scanner, camera, or smartphone instead.
How to Apply for a Lifeline Free Tablet or Phone?
Most Lifeline free tablet providers, all of which also participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, offer a simple online application process. Applying for a Lifeline free tablet through an ACP program is simple. All you have to do is to follow these easy steps:
- Step 1: Make sure you are Lifeline-eligible. Being Lifeline-eligible also makes you ACP-eligible, therefore you can apply for a free tablet.
- Step 2: Find an ACP provider that offers a Lifeline free tablet for Lifeline subscribers in your state of residence. ACP providers can only offer benefits to residents of the states where they operate. You can find the full list of all ACP providers by the state at fcc.gov/affordable-connectivity-program-providers. Only the ones that have a tick under ‘Offering free devices’ are the ones that provide one-time device discounts.
Note: Not all ACP providers that offer connected devices offer tablets – some offer laptops, desktops, or even smartphones (through the Lifeline program) instead.
- Step 3: Collect the documents that prove your eligibility and verify your identity, age, and address, as you may need to provide them during the application process.
- Step 4: Visit the selected provider’s official website and find their online application form. Fill it out by providing all the required personal information and documentation. Submit the application.
- Step 5: If approved, you will receive a confirmation email within a couple of days. Your service discount will probably be applied to your next bill and you can expect to receive your ACP/Lifeline free tablet, phone, or another connected device within 7 to 10 days, depending on the location and availability.
Which Tablets and Phones are Available Free of Cost Under the Lifeline Program?
Certain Lifeline providers offer free phones. Most of them provide eligible customers with entry-level to mid-range Android smartphones, however, some also offer older iPhone models. Lifeline providers usually do not reveal exactly which smartphone brand and model you may receive in advance, as it depends on the state and availability.
Lifeline Free Phone Models
Nevertheless, according to customers and subtle hints from Lifeline providers, you can expect to receive one of the following phone models:
- Alcatel Dawn
- Apple iPhone 6 (CDMA or GSM)
- Apple iPhone 6S GSM
- Apple iPhone 7
- Apple iPhone 8
- Blu Advance
- Kyocera Hydro Reach
- LG K30
- LG M150
- LG Stylo 4
- Motorola E5
- Motorola G Power
- NUU Mobile A3
- NUU Mobile A5L
- Samsung Galaxy A10
- Samsung Galaxy J3
- Samsung Galaxy S7
- Samsung Galaxy S9+
- ZTE Prestige 2
- ZTE Wrap Elite N9518
Lifeline Free Tablet Models
Just like Lifeline providers tend to not reveal the smartphone brand and model in advance, ACP providers generally do not reveal the tablet (or desktop/laptop) brands and models in advance, as this too, depends on several factors. Nevertheless, most providers offer new or refurbished mid-range tablets with 4G connectivity and all the basic features. According to customers and certain providers, you may expect to receive one of the following tablet models:
- Alcatel Joy Tab
- Lenovo Tab 5
- Lenovo Tab M10 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
- Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2
- LG G Pad 5
- New Microsoft Surface Go 2
- Google Chromebook
- Fire HD 10 Tablet
- Apple iPad 2020
What Other Benefits Does the Lifeline Program Provide?
In addition to the fact that Lifeline eligibility automatically qualifies you for the ACP program, through which you may receive a free tablet, there are some other great benefits of the Lifeline program. The exact list of benefits depends on the provider and the state, however, generally, Lifeline providers offer the following benefits:
- Free monthly telephone service, internet service, or bundled voice-broadband packages.
- Most Lifeline providers offer free phone service with:
- Free unlimited monthly texts
- Free limited or unlimited monthly minutes
- Free limited or unlimited monthly data (most providers only offer unlimited data through both Lifeline and ACP)
- A free Android (or in rare cases iOS) smartphone
Which Broadband Providers Offer Free Tablets Under the Lifeline Program?
As mentioned before, Lifeline providers offer discounts on smartphones, while ACP providers offer discounts on tablets, laptops, and desktops. As such, currently, no wireless provider offers Lifeline free tablets through their Lifeline program, but they do offer free tablets through their ACP program instead. As all Lifeline subscribers automatically qualify for ACP benefits as well, you can actually talk about Lifeline free tablets, even though they are funded by the ACP program.
ACP providers generally change their offers and benefits on a regular basis, as their offers depend on availability. However, at the moment, the following wireless providers offer ACP/Lifeline free tablets to eligible households and individuals:
Cintex Wireless is a Lifeline and ACP provider that offers ACP/Lifeline free tablets. In addition, it is one of the very few Lifeline providers that not only provides free Android smartphones but free iPhones as well. To apply, follow the simple steps below:
- Make sure you are Lifeline and ACP-eligible. In addition, make sure that you are a resident of one of the states where the company offers its services and government assistance program.
- Visit apply.cintexwireless.com and enter your ZIP code and email address in the provided boxes. Press ‘Apply Now’.
- You will be redirected to the company’s online application form. Fill it out by providing all the required personal information and supporting documentation. Submit your online application.
- If approved, you will be notified in a matter of days. You will also receive your ACP/Lifeline free tablet within 7 to 10 days (depending on availability).
NewPhone Wireless is Cintex’s affiliate company that offers the same Lifeline and ACP benefits. To apply, follow these steps:
- Make sure you qualify and that you are a resident of one of the states where the provider operates.
- Visit apply.newphone.com and enter your ZIP code and email address in the provided boxes. Press ‘Apply Now’.
- Once redirected to the company’s online application form, complete it by providing all the required personal information and proof. Submit your online application.
- If approved, you will be notified via email. Expect to receive your free tablet within 7 to 10 days, depending on availability.
Q Link Wireless
Q Link Wireless is a popular, nationwide Lifeline and ACP provider. It offers free phone service with unlimited talk, text, and data, and a new tablet free of charge. To apply, follow the instructions:
- Before you apply, make sure you are eligible (Lifeline and ACP-eligible, as well as a resident of one of the states where the provider operates).
- Visit qlinkwireless.com and press ‘Get It Now’.
- You will be redirected to a sign-up page, where you will be required to enter your ZIP code and email address. Press ‘Get It Now’ once more.
- You will be redirected to the company’s online application. Fill it out by providing the necessary information and documentation. Submit your application.
- If your application gets approved, you will receive a notification email. Your ACP/Lifeline free tablet will arrive within a few days.
Another nationwide Lifeline and ACP provider that offers free tablets, as well as other attractive benefits is StandUp Wireless. Enroll by following these steps:
- Make sure you qualify for their government assistance program (check Lifeline/ACP eligibility and the states where the company operates).
- Go to standupwireless.com/apply-now and enter your ZIP code and email address. Press ‘Begin Application’.
- When redirected to the company’s online application, fill it out by providing the personal information and documentation.
- If approved, you will be notified via email. Expect to receive your free device within a few days.
Excess Telecom is a telecommunications company and a Lifeline and ACP provider. To enroll:
- Determine your eligibility with the National Verifier at usac.org/about/emergency-broadband-benefit-program/system-resources/national-verifier.
- Contact the company’s support system and tell them you wish to apply for their benefits.
- Visit excesstelecom.com and enter your ZIP code. Press ‘Learn More’. Follow the prompts to fill out the application form. Also, choose your plan or apply for a free tablet or service.
- If approved, you will be notified and you will receive the device shortly.
Maxsip Telecom is an ACP provider that offers free services and tablets. To receive the benefits make sure to:
- Check your eligibility.
- Go to maxsipconnects.com/apply.
- Fill out the company’s application form. Select the service you wish to apply for and provide your personal information and documentation. Submit your application.
- If approved, you will be notified. You will receive the benefits shortly.
Note: None of these devices is completely free of charge, as the FCC requires each eligible customer to pay a co-pay of more than $10 and less than $50 to receive the device. Most providers charge just above $10.
Which Broadband Providers Offer Free Tablets Under the ACP?
All of the providers listed above offer free tablets through their ACP program:
- Cintex Wireless
- NewPhone Wireless
- Q Link Wireless
- StandUp Wireless
- Excess Telecom
- Maxsip Telecom
Can I Get a Free Tablet or Laptop Other Than Lifeline and ACP?
In addition to receiving a free tablet (or laptop) through the government (Lifeline/ACP), there are some other ways to receive a free connected device. Many of them are only available for low-income households.
- You can receive a free tablet/laptop through a charity or non-profit, such as:
- Accelerated Schools Organization
- Computers For Learning
- Computer Technology Assistance Corps
- Komputers 4 Kids
- Microsoft Registered Refurbished
- On it Foundation
- Technology Assisting People In Need
- The Salvation Army
- World Computer Exchange
- Check carrier and retailer’s special deals and discounts
- Contact your local school, library, or church
- Become a reviewer or a marketing agent
- Enter an online giveaway (watch out for scams)
Lifeline Free Tablet Related FAQs
Are Lifeline Benefits Available in All States?
Yes, the Lifeline program is available to eligible households in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands.
Can I Choose a Lifeline Provider?
Yes. However, you musst choose one that offers Lifeline benefits in your state of residence.
Can Anyone Apply for Lifeline?
No, only Lifeline-eligible citizens can apply.
What to Do if You Are Not Eligible for a Lifeline Free Tablet?
If you are not eligible, there are still some alternative ways to receive a free tablet.
Will the War Have Any Effect on the Lifeline?
Why Is the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program Ending?
The EBB program has already ended because it was replaced with a new, long-term program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).