Those in need of a free or discounted cell phone and minutes should check with their state of residence for rules regarding phone assistance programs. Eligibility for a free or discounted phone or services is usually determined by eligibility to receive other benefits due to low income, such as food stamps or Section 8 housing vouchers. Applicants can check with the human services department of their local county or city to find out what phone programs are available.
Lifeline is managed by the Federal Communications Commission and drawn from the federal Universal Service Fund, but it only provides a discount on phone service. The FCC authorizes certain private companies to apply these discounts. Some of these companies, such as SafeLink Wireless, provide a free cellular phone and some amount of free minutes each month. These programs have popularly become known as the "Obama Phone," as they expanded greatly during the Obama administration, but they are not a specific initiative of President Obama's administration.
Some private providers of phones, such as SafeLink Wireless, Assurance Wireless and ReachOut Wireless, can also assist with determining eligibility through their websites.