Sunday, February 20, 2022

Obamaphone versus Bidenphone

If your income is low enough, you may qualify for free or subsidized phone service.

I keep getting text messages from AT&T exhorting me to apply for "ACP" which stands for "Affordable Connectivity Benefit" which is different than the "Lifeline" (Obamaphone) service offered in the past (which continues today as well).  Lifeline offers free phones or tablets and free service and is available to people making less than 135% of the poverty line or about $23,000 for a family of two.  ACP provides discounts for prepaid wireless phone service and internet broadband service, and is available for people making less than 200% of the poverty line, or about $34,000 for a family of two.

ACP which started December 31, 2021, replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which was enacted during the pandemic to help people stay connected.  Just to remind those late for class, this nonsense all started back during the Reagan era, when people were literally dying because they could not afford a basic dial phone to call 911 with.  Phone service was like $30 a month back then (which was a lot of money in the 1980's!), so they created a poverty base rate of $10 a month, which allowed you to make limited local calls (in your own county - long distance meant something different back then!) and of course to 911.  Over the years, it morphed into a cell phone service (as landlines died off) and conservatves derisively referred to it as the "Obamaphone" which I talked about before.

So, no doubt, the Rush Limbaugh types will call ACP the "Bidenphone" plan.  Just wait for it.

The discounts are pretty decent, but you can only get one discount per household.  More information can be found at   One trick to applying is to apply only for the program you want - Lifeline or ACP.  I mistakenly clicked on "Lifeline" not knowing the difference between the two programs, and it locked me out of the ACP program (I did not qualify for Lifeline, based on income).

I had to call their help number (1-833-511-0311) to get the Lifeline application "closed" so I could apply to ACP.  I filled out the ACP form, uploaded my 2020 tax return and we'll see where it goes. They said they'd get back to me with results.  My 2020 income should qualify me.  I am not sure about 2021 income, but I have not filed that return yet.

I will update and see what they say.  (UPDATE: They approved the application in less than an hour!)  It is interesting, but the less money I make, the less money I need.  I am sure some economists would point out that this actually discourages people from making money and rewards poverty.  And like so many other government programs, it is based on income, not on overall wealth.  Yes, in theory, millionaires could collect food stamps - but they are closing that loophole, State by State.

UPDATE:  I went on the AT&T website ( and one of the options is for a 100GB hotspot for $25 a month with the $30 subsidy (!!!).  Me likey!  I will dump the hotspot coverage from our phones and use a dedicated hotspot device instead.  This may mean I have to buy a 5G hotspot device, of course.

I filled out the form and AT&T will supposedly call or text me in 48 hours....

Here is some more information from the ACP website:

What is the Affordable Connectivity Program?

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program) to help low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices.

If your household is eligible, you can receive:

  • Up to a $30/month discount on your internet service
  • Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)

Only one monthly service discount and one device discount is allowed per household. To receive the connected device discount, consumers need to enroll in the ACP with a participating provider that offers connected devices (Note: not all internet company offer device discounts.) The internet company will provide the discount to the consumer.

The table below reflects 200% of the 2021 Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Household Size48 Contiguous States, D.C., and TerritoriesAlaskaHawaii
For each additional person, add:$9,080$11,360$10,440