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Free Cell Phones

Officially called Lifeline, the “free phone” or “Obama phone” program was started during the Reagan era to provide free landline service to low income people. It was expanded in 2008 to include cell phones. The federal government has partnered with a company called TracFone, who can provide the phones at a reduced fee because the federal government subsidizes the program. Obama supporters say it is a legitimate program providing a valuable service to low income people who may not otherwise be able to afford a phone. Detractors say the program started with good intentions, but since the appearance and popularity of “free phones” grew during Obama’s run for office, and the owners of TracFone supported Obama with millions of dollars in donations, the “:free phone” program has been misused for Obama’s political gain. This combined with a lady on television claiming that Obama gave her a free phone led to the adoption of the phrase “Obama phones”.

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What you will need

  • Proof of eligibility in your state
  • Mailing address
  • Social security number
  • Internet access – if you don’t have it a home, try the local library


Each state administers its own federal “free phone” or “Obama phone” program. The first step it determining if your state offers the program.

Once you determine that you meet the eligibility requirements, choose among the service providers available in your state and fill out the online application. The other option is to call your existing phone company and request an application for the Lifeline program

Whether you fill out an online application for your “free phone” or a paper application, you will be asked for name, address, social security number, and any government assistance programs you currently participate in.

4 You will be required to present documents that prove your eligibility to receive an “Obama phone”, so be sure to have them ready.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can only qualify for either a cell phone or a home under this “free phone” program, not both
  • Keep copies of all the records and paperwork involved in this process for your personal records

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