SafeLink Wireless is one of the eligible telecommunication carriers (ETC) you can get free phone service from the government. It has been operating since 2008, when there was only lifeline phone program. And when the pandemic came to the streets, the SafeLink Wireless EBB program kicked in, bringing more monthly allowance of talk minutes and data.
In particular, the SafeLink EBB plan would give you up to unlimited high-speed data- or about a 2.1TB cap on the app. As we shall see later in the article, the carrier wasn’t consistent in data allotment shortly after. But in either case, the allotment was better than you would get on the regular lifeline service.
SafeLink Wireless Mini-Review
In my opinion, SafeLink Wirelessis a great free phone service. It’s still available on all three Major Carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Thus, ensuring nationwide coverage as you get to join with the network that works best in your location or lifestyle.
Another reason SafeLink is great this year is that it currently has the best free phone service per month. You can get up to unlimited high-speed data, albeit you’ll notice in the app it shows a 2.1TB cap- still better than others. The data includes up to 400+Mbps of data speed on a 5G smartphone with a Verizon-compatible SIM. Then you can also use the personal hotspot feature to share your data with other internet-enabled devices.
Furthermore, the monthly talk minutes you get with your SafeLink service aren’t just for domestic use. You can also make calls outside the country to Canada and Mexico.
Ps. You’ll notice most of the features I’ve noted SafeLink to have here are not available with AirTalk Wireless free phone. However, AirTalk offers much better free devices, including high-end iPhones, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, LG, et cetera. SafeLink gives only entry-level brands, including Motorola, TCL (Alcatel), and BLU.
But now we’ve covered that…
What’s SafeLink Wireless EBB Program?
First, EBB, or emergency broadband benefit, was a temporary program that launched in (May) 2021 to bring affordable internet to low-income families. The main target under the “low-income families” was individuals who had affected financially. Hence, the reason you could even qualify with a “substantial loss of income” and “existing program”.
As a matter of fact, the government formulated the idea of EBB back in 2020- the year became a Public health emergency of international concern.
To be exact, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, of 2021 created a $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund in the country’s Treasury. The Act then had the federal communications commission (FCC) create the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t until February 2021 that the FCC adopted the rules and laws that would govern the EBB. Then in May, the program officially launched, and the providers began taking enrollments.
SafeLink is one of the providers you would enroll for the new broadband benefit. And as mentioned earlier, the benefit increased the service allowances by more than 400 times (44000+%).
Save More on Safelink Wireless EBB Program
In the rules and policies the FCC drafted for the EBB program, eligible consumers would get discounts of up to $50/ month. If on the federally recognized Tribal areas, the benefit was slightly better, as you’d get a $75 discount off your broadband service.
In addition to the service subsidy, the EBB program would also offer a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a connected device. The “connected device” could be a tablet PC, laptop, or desktop computer. But to be eligible, the FCC policies required the applicants to co-pay more than $10 but less than $50.
As I’ve already mentioned, the monthly service was better than Lifeline if you would get the EBB program with SafeLink Wireless. I mean, the regular lifeline (only) plan would give you 350 minutes of talk minutes and 4.5GB of data in most states. But with the EBB program, the talk minutes increased to an unlimited allotment, and so was the high-speed data (2.1TB cap).
Sadly, as the EBB program began to gain more enrollers, SafeLink somehow began to play dirty. Complaints started on community forums like the Howard Forums and Reddit about users getting reverted to regular lifeline plans.
Will I Get a Free Tablet When I Join Safelink EBB Program?
Again, besides the monthly service, the emergency broadband benefit would also give you a discount on an internet-enabled device. However, the “internet-enabled device” most EBB providers offered was a tablet (not a laptop/ computer).
At the time, the companies on the EBB program weren’t very clear on the tablet offer. It was the time the carriers received a lot of criticism for advertising the tablets as “FREE”, yet they send a $10.01 invoice later.
Sadly, you would not get a free Tablet with the SafeLink Wireless EBB program. The TracFone brand only included the monthly service discount- you’d still get a free smartphone when applying for the first time.
To make it worse, it has been over a year since the launch of the “EBB Upgrade”. But even then, SafeLink has not yet started to offer the discounted tablet.
How to Get Safelink Wireless EBB Program?
Before you could enjoy the free monthly service with the Safelink Wireless EBB program, you’d need to get it. The emergency broadband benefit was sure available for all, whereby about any US citizen could apply. Nonetheless, only those who apply and qualify would get the subsidy.
Meanwhile, the only way how to get Safelink Wireless EBB program was to have a low income. The “low income” policy that the FCC set required you to either have low income or participate in a federal assistance program.
Method 1: Get Safelink Wireless EBB Program with Low Income
If you opted to apply the EBB with a low income, the rule was for your total household amount to be at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
One thing to point out is that the Department of Health & Human Services updates the poverty guidelines periodically- in most cases annually.
The 2021 Poverty guidelines are what you’d use to enroll for SafeLink Wireless EBB Program. And at the time, the poverty guideline rates started at $14,820 for a single-person family/ household. (The 2022 federal poverty guidelines dropped to start at $13,590, but the 2023 rates have increased to start at $14,580).
Note: It was also possible to qualify for SafeLink Wireless in this category if you had a substantial loss of income from the pandemic. You’d qualify if you lost your job or your total household income was at or less than $99,000 for single filers in 2020.
Another crucial point to note is that when you applied for the EBB program, you’d need to provide proof of your household income. Some of the official documents that you could use as proof here included a current income statement, tax return, paycheck stub, statement of Social Security benefits, et cetera.
If applying for your emergency broadband benefit from SafeLink Wireless with a substantial loss of income, you would need two official documents. The first document was to show your income change (such as a layoff/furlough notice, unemployment application, approval letter, benefit statement, and official evidence of bankruptcy or business closure).
Then the second document would be to show your current income- some documents you can use here include a tax return, plus a statement of Social Security benefits, Veterans Administration benefits, Retirement, Unemployment or Worker’s Compensation, et cetera.
Method 2: Get Safelink Wireless EBB Program with Assistance Programs
In this category, you’d qualify for Safelink Wireless EBB Program if on a qualified government-funded assistance program. The said programs include the likes of:
- Medicaid medical program
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Student’s Pell Grant award in the 2020-21 year
- Veterans and Veteran’s Survivors Pension Benefit
- Free and reduced-price School Breakfast/ Lunch Program
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Head Start, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and other tribal programs.
Note: If you applied for the SafeLink Wireless EBB program with tribal-specific assistance programs like Head Start, you’d qualify for the enhanced monthly benefit. And this is where you would get up to a $75 discount on your monthly broadband service.
Similar to the “low income” eligibility requirement, you needed to convince SafeLink with a document proof when you apply for the EBB with an assistance program. Some of the official documents you could use as proof of participation in an assistance program include an approval/ verification letter or statements of benefit.
Key Takeaway: Don’t Forget Proof of Identity & Address
Besides the proof of income and participation in an assistance program, SafeLink also required documents to verify your identity and physical address. In the identity verification, a copy of State/ any other government-issued ID, driver’s license, or passport worked.
As for the proof of physical address, any official document with your full name and your current area of residence will work. A perfect example is a copy of a utility bill, lease statement, recent tax return address, valid government ID, et cetera.
Speaking of the government ID, you should know you needed to be at least 18 years to participate in the SafeLink Wireless EBB program. If you had applied with the Pell Grant or School Lunch/ Breakfast programs, the rule was to provide proof of emancipation. And the best official document to prove you’re an emancipated minor is either an official court letter or certificate that has your full name, plus emancipation status.
Welcome SafeLink Wireless EBB Upgrade
In a nutshell, that’s everything relevant there’s to know about the SafeLink Wireless EBB program. It was an excellent way to cut on the monthly bill as you’d get up to a $50 monthly broadband service subsidy (and a $75 discount if on tribal lands).
The general emergency broadband benefit also included a $100 discount to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet PC. But as we’ve just seen, SafeLink Wireless didn’t have this offer- not during the original EBB nor with the “EBB Upgrade”.
If you have a keen eye for grammar, you’ll notice I’ve used past tense to refer to the SafeLink Wireless EBB program throughout the article. And the reason for this is that EBB ended on 31 December 2021- the program was temporary, anyways.
The one I’m referring to as “EBB Upgrade “ is the new affordable connectivity program (ACP). The government created it at the end of 2021 as a longer-term replacement of the original EBB.
And, yes, ACP was a longer-term replacement for EBB as its allotted funds were about 400% more than the original EBB ($14.1 billion vs $3.2 billion).