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New York - Company Offers Free Cell Phone Service For Low-Income Families

Published on: February 14, 2009 10:03 PM
By: WGRZ TV
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New York - Safelink Wirless and Tracfone are rolling out a new offer in New York that could mean free cell phones for low-income families. The phones come with 68 minutes of airtime a month, along with voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, and text messaging.

The program is supported by the federal government, but it isn’t exactly tax dollars footing the bill. Instead, many cellular customers are paying for it.

Cell phone companies must contribute to the Federal Communication Commission’s Universal Service Fund. While they’re not required to do so, many carriers pass those contribution costs along to their customers.

Looking at an AT&T bill and the charge for one month was $2.58, which amounts to about $31 a year. Sprint and others also charge the fund to its customers.

Once that money is collected, the federal government subsidizes the Lifeline phones by paying $10 per phone/per month from the fund. Some carriers simply apply the ten dollars as a discount for low-income subscribers, but the Safelink program provides the phone and service completely for free because Tracfone kicks in another $3.50 per month. The combined $13.50 equates to the free 68 minutes of airtime each month.

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Safelink said the phones provide the people with a sense of security because they have access to help during an emergency.

When asked why all the other phone features were needed, spokesman Jose Fuentes said, “Those are standard on every phone. If you look at any phone that’s what they just come with already. It has that capability to do that and that’s just the same thing we use.”

Fuentes also added, “An emergency can be anything. You can drop your kids off at school and then you’re off to work or looking for a job and you don’t have a cell phone. Heaven forbid, something happens to your child. How’s someone going to get in contact with you?”

Erie County’s Social Services Commissioner said he did see some benefits to the program, but that it also concerned him that the families would spend money on additional minutes once their free time ended each month. He said he also feared some may grow accustomed to having a phone and sign a contract with the company once their one year of benefits ended.

If you would like to know more about the program visit the SafeLink Wireless web site  or call 1-800-977-3768.


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1

 Feb 14, 2009 at 09:18 PM hand outs Says:

ny has given more handouts to its residents then any socialist country in the world.

the next thing is going to be giving free cars.

cell phones is a luxary not a necessity and thinking it isn't tax payer money think again.

this co. is prob. a non for profit org. which automatically makes it eligible for hard earned tax payer money thru the federal programs.

what a farce

2

 Feb 14, 2009 at 09:52 PM Anonymous Says:

What's 68 minutes of free time gonna do for a New Yawke!

3

 Feb 14, 2009 at 09:45 PM Anonymous Says:

And what is the charge if you use more minutes which is nearly immpossable not to do

4

 Feb 14, 2009 at 10:15 PM tax money Says:

here goes some more of our hard earned tax money. We should do away with 75% of the goverment programs.

5

 Feb 14, 2009 at 10:10 PM Anonymous Says:

Why the chadishe guy in the picture?

6

 Feb 14, 2009 at 09:40 PM new mom Says:

This will definitly end up being abused. In addition, text messaging is certainly not included, it is an extra that I allow myself to indulge in because I pay for it. I do not understand why I am required to pay for your cleaning lady to text?! If you want to argue that a cell phone is not a luxury - fine, If you say that caller id, call waiting and voicemail is included - this is true, but not texting!!

7

 Feb 14, 2009 at 11:29 PM Government is not the solution to our problems, Government IS our problem Says:

give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give

and the other people are take take take take take take take take take take take take take.

They are just as bad!

8

 Feb 14, 2009 at 11:26 PM Doesn't add up Says:

For one "emergency" per day, EVERY DAY of the month, give them 30 quarters for a pay phone. It is still less than $10 or $13.50.

9

 Feb 15, 2009 at 12:30 AM Anonymous Says:

Other users are going to pay the b ill for the 68 minutes and the recipients who can't afford the bill will be whacked with a heavy charge for any minuyte of overage. Wait and see the abuse of a system.

10

 Feb 15, 2009 at 04:12 AM =) Says:

Reply to #1  
hand outs Says:

ny has given more handouts to its residents then any socialist country in the world.

the next thing is going to be giving free cars.

cell phones is a luxary not a necessity and thinking it isn't tax payer money think again.

this co. is prob. a non for profit org. which automatically makes it eligible for hard earned tax payer money thru the federal programs.

what a farce

Yeah, I'd like a new car, in addition to my new cheap phone. BTW NY should give out governmental back rubs too.

11

 Feb 15, 2009 at 01:42 AM Not just that Says:

They're getting a Tracfine, which is a cheap pre-paid wireless service. I fyou use up the 68 minutes, the phone stops working until the next recharge, either the following month through the subsidy, or by the recipient buying an airtime card by himself ($20 for 60 minutes, though they often have promotions). Text messaging is also built in, at 1/3 of a minute per message.

There are other phone companies that accept the subsidy. Most of them are landlines, which will give far more than 68 minutes a month.

12

 Feb 15, 2009 at 01:39 AM Anonymous Says:

#5. Its 13

13

 Feb 15, 2009 at 01:01 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
new mom Says:

This will definitly end up being abused. In addition, text messaging is certainly not included, it is an extra that I allow myself to indulge in because I pay for it. I do not understand why I am required to pay for your cleaning lady to text?! If you want to argue that a cell phone is not a luxury - fine, If you say that caller id, call waiting and voicemail is included - this is true, but not texting!!

You guys don't get it! Its a simple way of making BIG bucks, rest assures the people will go above the 68 inutes limit, they will text even if there is a small fee per text, and at the end of the year they won't know "how can you live without a cell phone" and they will subscribe for another year. Its a great way to attract new customers, and that's all it is.

14

 Feb 15, 2009 at 07:20 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Doesn't add up Says:

For one "emergency" per day, EVERY DAY of the month, give them 30 quarters for a pay phone. It is still less than $10 or $13.50.

You don't need a quater to make an emergency call from a payphone, never the less , u have a point they could have cell phones for emergncy calls only, with no min. As these are free calls

15

 Feb 15, 2009 at 10:36 AM Anonymous Says:

I am getting tired of this. How do I become a low-income family, rather than a struggling middle income family. WHere do apply for this lower status?

16

 Feb 15, 2009 at 01:48 PM Anonymous Says:

#12 who is 13?

17

 Feb 17, 2009 at 10:11 AM Jimmy37 Says:

Theft, pure and simple. What did people do before cell phone service?? What is wrong with basic phone service? I still have that. A cell phone is a convenience. Why are they given minutes if it is supposed to be used for emergencies? Voice mail? Text messaging? Caller ID?

18

 Mar 05, 2009 at 11:56 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

Why the chadishe guy in the picture?

Because that's who this program is primarily for.

20

 Mar 28, 2009 at 09:17 PM Senior Says:

If you were over 65 and do not have a pension you would see the advantage of this program

21

 Mar 29, 2009 at 08:58 AM Teacher Says:

This is a great idea, but let's pre program certain phone numbers that can be dialed. As a teacher that is unable to contact a parent when a child is ill or misbehaving it would be great. There are so many time we can not contact a parent/ guardian due to no minutes on a cell phone or disconnected land lines. I could think of a whole list of numbers to put on a phone that are necessary for the well being of children. Before you judge that cell phones are unnecessary, please think of the parents of children that need to be called in an emergency.

22

 Apr 01, 2009 at 10:18 AM AngelsMom Says:

Reply to #8  
Doesn't add up Says:

For one "emergency" per day, EVERY DAY of the month, give them 30 quarters for a pay phone. It is still less than $10 or $13.50.

have you tried to look for a pay phone lately? They are non existent in NY now!!!

23

 Apr 29, 2009 at 07:41 PM Anonymous Says:

Give someone this, Give someone that... Pay this tax, Pay that tax... They sit around every year, year in and year out passing new taxes and new laws. Eventually we will all be so taxed and mandatory donated to death.... to the point you will be happy if you get to keep 25% of your income at the end of the year.. Oh thats ok then we can all get bailed out and get low income housing and free cell phones with discounted electric bills and some little magic cards that show up every month to buy our groceries... oh and then your children can get free insurance and go to college for free... wow... Obamanomics... its gonna be great.!!!!!!!

24

 Sep 05, 2009 at 11:44 PM Anonymous Says:

You know you all have a lot about the low income why not complain about all the people who work for the government and spend our tax dollars for pleasure if they were not going on trips and plane rides with the peoples money there would be more to go around for legitimate things. A lot of families did not ask to become low income families, and if you read again the phone companies do not have to charge this fee it is their option to do so that is how the phone service works. Stop putting down people who have a run of bad luck and put down the ones who take the money out of your pocket for no reason

25

 Sep 17, 2009 at 09:33 PM Anonymous Says:

As a wife and mother I think this is a great program. A good friend of ours has a husband who has become disabled and has 5 childern. One of those has Autism and the school is always needing to contact her. She has a hard time leaving her house for fear of missing a school call. This will let her do the things she needs throught the day without the worry of not being reachable. A cell phone was not affordable for them. I can't wait to tell her about the program. As a woman and mother I would not want to break down in my car and have to walk with or without children to pay phone for help either. As for a pay phone I have not seen one in years where the call was only a quarter!! I know some people will take advantage of this but think of the people this will help. I think it's great and glad it will help those who need it!!!!

26

 Jun 18, 2010 at 06:04 PM hardworking Says:

First, I do think that the goverment should be there for those in need....food, clothing, shelter.
Many people that have had a phone for years, are now taking advantage of this Free Cell Phone Service.....because they qualify. I strongly object to the fact that taxes are paying for an additional extra for those that don't need it. We need to put in place better screening of applicants to help weed out more waste of tax dollars.
Many hardworking people that can't afford a phone will hopefully apply and have this in case of an emergency....it's a shame that as many others will just take, take, and take....because they can.
Pride needs to be instilled in our young.....
I don't think that everyone is entitled to a phone...cell or otherwise.

27

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