PULP Launches Lifeline Discount Telephone Service Comparison Chart

A chart which compares the major providers of Lifeline discount telephone service in New York is now available on the PULP website. The chart includes data we have assembled from websites of Verizon, Frontier/Citizens, Windstream Communications (formerly ALLTEL), Sprint PCS, and TracFone SafeLink.

It compares the monthly cost of each provider’s service, how many minutes are included, applicable taxes and surcharges, whether there are activation fees, the cost of additional minutes (overages), whether a new phone must be purchased, and whether a contract is required. The chart also illustrates the eligibility criteria published by each company for its version of Lifeline service. In addition, the rates for a basic Verizon Wireless service contract are included for comparison with the Lifeline rates offered by other providers.

PULP plans to update this chart on a regular basis, as it is subject to change. We would appreciate any feedback as to the accuracy of the information we have gathered.

The number of Lifeline customers in New York has dropped by more than 440,000 over the past 12 years, since its 1996 peak of 756,000, even though the number of eligible customers has increased dramatically.

For example, in 2008, there are more than one million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”, formerly called Food Stamps) households in New York, an easily identifiable subset of the population eligible for Lifeline. While the New York Lifeline data for 2008 are not yet available, we estimate only about 300,000 customers currently receive Lifeline assistance.

In contrast, California has fewer SNAP households than New York. See SNAP Household Participation data by state. Yet the January 2009 California Public Utilities Commission Lifeline report Efforts to Improve California LifeLine Program Accessibility shows that California enrolls more than 2.1 million low income telephone customers in its Lifeline assistance program. In addition, 3.6 million low-income California energy customers have reduced rates under the California CARE program.

If New York Lifeline assistance simply reached the subset of SNAP recipients, their purchasing power would increase by at least $100 million per year.

Lou Manuta

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