“Obama phone”: a mix of truth and lies

We’ve gotten a bunch of calls lately from people wanting to know how they can get a free “Obama phone.” The trouble is, they can’t—the “Obama phone” program doesn’t exist.

The truth
The FCC’s Lifeline government assistance program DOES offer a discount on telephone service (landline or cellular) to qualifying households.

Lifeline began almost 32 years ago while Ronald Reagan was in office. The goal was to ensure all Americans have the opportunities and security a phone connection brings. The program has evolved with technology and discounts now apply to phone service (landline or cellular), or broadband service. Lifeline is available to low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on tribal lands.

The lie
There is NOT an “Obama phone” program that provides free phones service/cell phones to welfare recipients.

The urban legend claims President Obama created a taxpayer-funded program to give free phones to low-income Americans. The name of this so-called program became known as “Obama phone,” certainly modeled after the popular nickname for the Affordable Care Act.

How to get help
Although free “Obama phones” aren’t real, if you need service but can’t afford it, you may qualify for assistance through Lifeline.

Who’s eligible?
Effective December 2, 2016, if you have a household income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if you participate in one of the following programs, call us today to discuss your options:

  • Medicaid
  • Food Stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP))
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veteran’s Pension and Survivor’s Pension Benefits

Lifeline is non-transferable and only eligible consumers may enroll in the program. There is a limit of one discount per household. Other criteria established on a state level may also qualify you for Lifeline assistance.

Please contact TDS for more information, to check on eligibility, or to request an application visit or 1-888-CALL-TDS.



About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids.


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