Everyday people everywhere want to know what’s the catch with government cell phones for people who can’t typically afford a wireless phone and the costly monthly service associated to it.

Life Line Phones have become like mythical unicorns in most people’s minds. Many people truly believe that nothing on this earth (or in the US) is free. But you’d be wrong if you thought that there is no such program.

In fact, there are many companies out here today including Assurance Wireless, Budget Mobile and Safelink Wireless, which offer free wireless service to poor people, the disabled and the elderly. I’ve put together an FAQ to help distill some of the myths.

Is It True that Barack Obama came up with the Government Cell Phone Program? Nope. There really is no such thing as an "Obama Phone".

Many people would be surprised that the Life Line Phones, whereby people were able to get free telephone service, was Ronald Reagan’s brain child. Telephone service was seen as the digital divide of the 1980s. And so having equal access to telephony was so important the government required telephone companies to collect universal access fees from all of their subscribers to help fund a government phone program. And the wireline version still exists today. But the life line wireline phone program isn’t as popular as its cellular version.

Am I still able to get a free wireline phone under Life Line? Yes, the life line land line phone program started over 30 years ago still exists. Should you qualify, you can still get a free landline (or wireline phone). But with the added convenience of mobility, mobile phones are what most people want today. It’s also important to note that under the Life Line Phone program you aren’t able to get a free landline and a free wireless phone; unfortunately you must pick which one you’d like.

How do you get a free government phone with free minutes? This is actually the easy part. You can visit the website of Safelink, Assurance, Budget Mobile or Tag Mobile. Go to the section where it requires you to enter your state. Your state is important because, local states are responsible to come up with the eligibility requirements. And though the requirements vary state to state generally you can apply and get a free wireless phone if you are on just ONE government program. This program could include: Social Security, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Section 8 or you can even have low income typically around 120% of the poverty level.

Can I get a cool phone like an IPhone under the government phone program? No. Sorry. The phone you get will not be a smart one.  The phone will typically be new, but it won’t allow for free data.

What exactly do I get on this program besides a free phone and free minutes? Well, you’ll likely get around 250 free minutes. In some programs your minutes may even roll over, you’ll get other free options too, like text messaging, voicemail, 411 calls and 911 calls.

Ok. So tell me what’s not included in the free phone program? Well like previously mentioned data is not included. In most cases, international calls are also not free.

What Other Catches Should I know About? You should probably know that these free phones aren’t phones that you get for the rest of your life. And that you’ll need to re-apply to the program every year.

Which Is the Best Free Cell Phone Company? There really isn’t a BEST, in my opinion. There are three really popular companies: Safelink, Assurance and Budget Mobile. Go to the BBB and check out the reputation scores if you have any doubts. All the companies are likely to have some complaints. There was even a rumor going around a few years ago regarding the “Safelink Wireless Scam”. But, Safelink remains to be a reputable company, which still operates and serves the public. Because of its size, sometimes large companies don’t do a good job of managing one or two very public bad reviews. But there are thousands of people out and about with free Safelink Wireless phones.

There you have it. The truth about government assisted phone service. You can leave your questions below with any other questions and I’ll come back to answer.