Communication has become something we take for granted especially since the rise of social media. We’ve become hooked on the need to know everything from what the Kardashians are doing to streaming missed episodes of cable news. (Kind of ironic since the news is 24/7.) Sadly, some of us might even struggle to name other hobbies. Such is life in the 21st century, right?

That’s not true for everyone. It’s hard to think that there are still people in our country whose only access to the to the outside world is through t.v. but it’s true for many baby boomers and older. Rumor has it that it’s no longer the case thanks to “Obama Phones.” The reason people say this is because of the huge increase was due to the 2008 recession. But, the start of discounted phone program, although disputed, actually is traced back to President Wilson with the creation the FFC to expand wire and radio communications as far as possible at a low cost so everyone could afford service, known as the Lifeline. The Lifeline program has undergone changes since then to keep up with technology. (This not the same as a lifeline emergency response service that can detect someone falling.)

Stretching our money often means doing away with certain luxuries. Our government feels that phone service, although still optional, is necessary for safety and employment. It’s limited to one phone line, either landline or cell per household. Since 2016, it’s been possible to have reduced cost for internet too. You can opt for by checking a box on the application. Each state regulates and names its own program so I’ll refrain from mentioning any. Chances are good that recipients of federal programs are automatically eligible, otherwise, people can qualify solely based on income. Program participation is validated yearly. For those wanting to keep their current GSM cell phone and number, they can do so here by simply applying online then installing the new sim card sent via the mail.

Puting policy into practice is often easier said than done. One thing that isn’t made clear is this: The program best applies to established services.   Landlines still work more reliably than cell phones for those needing emergency notification devices If you have a cell phone, don’t cancel it until the landline is installed… or make sure your cell provider differs.

I know of an instance where a senior consumer had her landline put in and was assigned a phone number. She had done as told but the program lost her paperwork twice and the phone provider charged her the regular fees instead of coordinating with each other. She refused to re-apply. In hindsight, I should have used my email tracker and scanner to verify activity on her behalf.