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T-Mobile to Discontinue Lifeline Support, Effective December 31, 2014

September 25, 2014 - Written By Phil Bourget

Most teenagers will make silly comments and joke about the ‘help I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up’ type of Lifeline commercials that pepper modern television broadcasts.  But the service does do much good, and it’s not just for gravitationally- or vertically-challenged.  Now, Life Alert is the company famous for the line about falling over and needing assistance, but Lifeline really is a great service.  It is a service that the government provides through carriers in the United States to get lower-income Americans cellphones so they can stay connected and be reached, even if they can’t afford the sometimes ridiculous prices for service.

T-Mobile has been a designated ETC (eligible telecommunications carrier) since mid-August of 2012, when the FCC designated them as such.  T-Mobile is one of many carriers that has been designated as eligible to offer the subsidized service, and it is officially dropping its support for the service.

The news comes in the form of an announcement and a little bit of reasoning behind it.  The reasoning is that it didn’t fit into the company’s ongoing business plans, and would therefore drop support and lose the status of Lifeline ETC.  The loss of T-Mobile as a service provider, though, is not a hugely detrimental one, seeing as the company only had 400 subscribers to Lifeline.  To compare to a service provider like Cricket Wireless, a branch of AT&T, Cricket has over 600,000 subscribers to Lifeline.

T-Mobile said that the move will affect Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. but the majority of customers will be unaffected.  The filing with the FCC means that the plan is officially in motion, and the move will go into effect on December 31, 2014.  The change should only affect the around 400 subscribers that T-Mobile currently has for its Lifeline service, and there will still be other GSM carriers to switch your service to/receive it from.  Should more carriers sign on to be Lifeline ETCs?  Or should it be left to a single carrier or company, like Cricket or otherwise, so the experience is unified and the government only has to deal with one company or business entity?  Let us know your thoughts.