HARRISBURG – In conjunction with a national initiative to promote Lifeline and Link-Up discount program awareness, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today joined other state agencies and industry representatives to help residents “stay connected” at a consumer event at the Community Action Commission in Harrisburg.
“No one should be without telephone service because they can’t afford it. Access to a telephone provides a direct line to vital emergency services and community resources,” said PUC Commissioner Kim Pizzingrilli. “If you need assistance paying for your telephone services, there is help. You may qualify for Pennsylvania’s Link-Up and Lifeline programs if you receive benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, or other similar programs.” To hear an audio clip from Commissioner Pizzingrilli, click here.
Gov. Ed Rendell signed a proclamation designating this week, Sept. 14-20, as Pennsylvania Lifeline Awareness Week, and the state’s Senate passed a similar resolution. The state’s Office of Consumer Advocate, the Pennsylvania Telephone Association and Verizon joined the PUC at today’s event to promote the Lifeline and Link-Up Assistance Programs, which offer discounts to help residents gain access to basic local telephone service.
“The Lifeline program provides discounts that can amount to nearly $100 per year or more for basic telephone service to consumers with limited incomes across Pennsylvania,” said Sonny Popowsky, the state’s Consumer Advocate. “I believe that there are literally hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania households who qualify for the Lifeline discount but are not receiving it. Through these Lifeline Awareness events, I hope that many more Pennsylvania consumers will learn about, and benefit from, this valuable program.”
“Pennsylvania’s rural local exchange carriers are equally proud of the network which they have constructed in the Commonwealth and that our state is consistently near the top in national rankings on penetration rates. Telecommunications companies, regulators, and legislators all realize that the more individuals using the telephone network, the more valuable that network becomes,” said Steve Samara, President of the Pennsylvania Telephone Association. “The Lifeline programs are excellent tools to keep folks on the network and give them access to the beneficial services which Pennsylvania’s carriers are providing.”
Mary Segrave-Primus, a senior Government Relations staff consultant with Verizon said, “Verizon is committed to offering Lifeline, which provides our eligible, low-income Pennsylvania customers a monthly discount to help them afford their basic local telephone service. Through the efforts of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission during Lifeline Awareness Week, more low-income residents will hear about this worthwhile program.”
The Lifeline 135 program is available for customers of all qualified telephone service providers. Under the program, customers who participate in certain public assistance programs, or who have income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (currently $30,000 for a family of four) can receive a discount on their monthly local phone service for one telephone line. The discounts are paid out of the federal Universal Service Fund, which is subsidized by contributions from all telephone customers. Link-Up provides a 50 percent reduction off the telephone installation charge, up to a maximum of $30, for qualifying households that do not currently have telephone service.
In an effort to increase awareness about the program, the PUC developed an informational brochure, “Follow the PATH to PA Telephone Help” to provide information about Lifeline and other available programs for limited-income consumers. Copies of the brochure can be obtained by calling the PUC at 1-800-692-7380 or on the PUC website. Consumers also are encouraged to reach out to their local telephone company to see if they qualify for Lifeline and other available programs for limited-income telephone customers.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities to ensure safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protect the public interest; educate consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; further economic development; and foster new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
For recent news releases, audio of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.state.pa.us.
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