The Universal Service Fund (USF) was created by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1997 to provide communities across America with affordable telecommunications services. The USF supports Lifeline Assistance, a program that provides discounts on telephone service to eligible low-income customers. TracFone Wireless, Inc., America's leading prepaid cell phone provider, launched SafeLink Wireless to provide free phone service through Lifeline. Historically, Lifeline provides a discount to customers on their landline or contract cell phone bills, but through SafeLink, TracFone was the first company to use the program to offer completely free wireless phone service.

The introduction of prepaid service in Lifeline has caused the program to grow rapidly and thus drawn recent attention to how it is administered. Increasingly, we have seen misinformation spread about the program through the blogosphere and in the media. SafeLink is concerned about the adverse effects these inaccuracies could have on the program and so therefore would like to clarify any misconceptions. Below are several common myths and facts about Lifeline.

MYTH: U.S. taxpayers are paying for free cell phone service for low income individuals.

FACT: Lifeline wireless does not use any tax dollars, is not a part of the federal budget and it adds nothing to the federal deficit. Instead, this program is funded by contributions from telecommunications companies and fees assessed to their users' bills.

MYTH: There is no need for Lifeline wireless.

FACT: Only about one-third of eligible low-income Americans are currently using Lifeline wireless. In 2010, only six states had participation rates exceeding 50 percent of eligible households. That leaves out millions of Americans who could benefit from the program, either in terms of keeping a job or finding a new job in order to migrate off public assistance. Research shows that Lifeline wireless helps people who have jobs keep them and those who need jobs to find them.

MYTH: There is widespread waste and abuse in Lifeline wireless.

FACT: Reports of abuse in Lifeline are far lower than in other social service programs. There is a strict prohibition against beneficiaries receiving Lifeline benefits for more than one phone service. The FCC recently passed an order requiring all companies providing Lifeline wireless services to maintain a full list of customers to ensure that individuals are not receiving Lifeline benefits from multiple companies.

MYTH: There is no way around the one per household rule.

FACT: Applicants who share expenses in the same household where an existing Lifeline benefit is available will need to complete the USAC Worksheet in order to prove that they are a separate household from the existing Lifeline recipient. The same process is observed for residents in a Home, Shelter or Transitional Housing facility.