Have you heard of the term “Obama Phone”?  

This post will go into detail about this term and how you can qualify for this government benefit program. 

What is the Obama Phone? 

Actually, the Obama phone is another name for the Lifeline Program. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated the Lifeline Program to provide a monthly phone or broadband internet subsidy to low-income individuals or families. The program actually began in 1985 but experienced dramatic expansion under the Obama Administration (see graph below) and is therefore sometimes referred to as the “Obama Phone”. 

Lifeline Participants over year - AirTalk Wiless Blog

A brief history of the Obama Phone 

Let’s take a look back at the Obama Phone or the Lifeline Programs’ beginnings. You might be surprised to learn that it all started long before the invention of cell phones. 

In the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Universal Access Initiative. The goal was to “promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable and affordable rates for all consumers.” After years of research, they proposed what we now call the Obama Phone or the Lifeline Program. 

At first, the Lifeline Program, or what now many call the “Obama Phone” provided subsidized phone service to Americans who were living at or below the poverty level. Please keep in mind that this was in the early-to-mid-1980s, before cell phones were widely known and used so this subsidy covered landlines only. 

Later, in 1996, the FCC proposed the Universal Service Fund, which would require all telecommunications service providers to contribute to a fund that would be used to expand nationwide access to advanced telecommunications services. According to the FCC, the goal was to “advance the availability of such services to all consumers, including those in low income, rural, insular, and high-cost areas at rates that are reasonably comparable to those charged in urban areas.” 

In other words, the FCC recognized that landlines were becoming less important as cell phones became more popular. 

Obama Phone - AirTalk Wireless Blog

President Bill Clinton quickly signed the Telecommunications Act into law, and President George Bush continued the program. While in office, President Barack Obama followed in their footsteps to continue the promotion of the program, and during his presidency, the program took on the name “Obama Phone” due to the president’s wide support of this initiative. 

Who qualifies for an Obama Phone? 

who qualifies for an Obama Phone - AirTalk Wireless blog

Qualify Through Income 

If your income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you may qualify for a free Obama phone. 

Qualify through participation in federal or state assistance program 

Most individuals qualify for Lifeline Assistance or an Obama Phone through their participation in a government assistance program such as: 

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP) 
  • Medicaid 
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)  
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance  
  • Veterans Pension and Survivor’s Benefit  
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance 
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF) 
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)  
  • Tribal Head Start  

How to Sign Up for an Obama phone 

Step 1: Firstly, find an Obama phone or Lifeline service provider 

If you meet one of the eligibility requirements as mentioned above, you are eligible to sign up for an Obama phone which can be done through a service provider such as AirTalk Wireless. At AirTalk, qualifying customers can receive a free 4G/5G smartphone such as iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S8, and more plus unlimited high-speed data, talk, and text as part of the Lifeline & Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).. 

How to Sign Up for an Obama phone -AirTalk Wireless Blog

Step 2: Apply for a free Obama phone by signing up for the Lifeline & ACP Program. 

Next, visit the AirTalk Wireless website, find the “Apply” button or simply click here to navigate to the application form.  

Step 3: Complete the application form 

Fill in the online application form provided by AirTalk. You will need to provide your personal information and submit proof of qualification for the program.  

Step 4: Watch your mailbox! 

Once you have finished the application process, you will receive your free cell phone shipped directly to you for free after 7-10 business days. And with AirTalk Wireless, you never have to worry about monthly bills, credit checks, activation fees, or contracts ever again! 


Throughout the years, we have seen the Lifeline program or Obama Phone evolve into what it is today, but the goal has always been the same: To keep our communities connected. Eligible customers who join AirTalk Wireless’ free phone program will have a chance to own a free smartphone from iconic brands like Apple, Samsung, LG, and Motorola, plus free unlimited phone service. So what are you waiting for? Apply for a Free Obama phone today! 

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