skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Homeless, Poor Can Get Free Cell Phones

San Diego residents who earn less than $15,000 may be eligible to receive free cell phones, thanks to a new initiative from the Lifeline Assistance program. The program has been approved by the Public Utilities Commission and services are being offered through Assurance Wireless and Reach Out Wireless.

A spokesman from Assurance Wireless estimates that up to 245,000 San Diego County residents may be eligible based on their participation in public assistance programs. Services include a free phone as well as 250 talk minutes and 250 text messages a month, in addition to access to a voicemail account and caller ID.

Once an application is submitted, it will be reviewed and customers will receive their phone within 10 days. Customers will then need to get an application from the Public Utilities Commission to prove their eligibility. If eligible, they can begin their free services.

Customers will need to re-certify for the program on a yearly basis.

Here’s how to apply:

Call Assurance Wireless: (800) 395-2171, or visit;

Or call Reach Out Wireless: (877) 777-1914; or visit

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'cromacrona'

cromacrona | March 6, 2013 at 9:55 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Since retiring, I am well under the $14,702. limit to access this phone service. I have been paying for Verizon service contract, which I cannot Afford. It has been one of the major reasons for the decrease in the size of my modest savings account. I've managed to get the other leaks plugged up, but have not been able to get out of the Verizon account commitment until it expires next November. This would be a real life saver for me. How do I get into this plan?
Gwen Snyder

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Natalie Walsh'

Natalie Walsh, KPBS Staff | March 6, 2013 at 10 a.m. ― 4 years ago


We are looking into whether this program is currently being offered in San Diego. Our current determination is that it is not. But if we find more information about how people can access this program, we will post it here.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Natalie Walsh'

Natalie Walsh, KPBS Staff | March 6, 2013 at 12:31 p.m. ― 4 years ago


We have updated this story to include information about how you can apply for the free phones.

Call Assurance Wireless: (800) 395-2171, or visit;

Or call Reach Out Wireless: (877) 777-1914; or visit

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'News619'

News619 | March 15, 2013 at 10:26 p.m. ― 4 years ago

I've been a member of the ROW Lifeline wireless plan in San Diego since November of 2011, so yes it is here. It's unfortunate that programs like this aren't marketed better. I believe the problem to be that Lifeline is national and CA lifeline is too mired in the old bureaucracies which I see still plague many important programs (and companies).

Your heading says homeless can get this also, but my own research for a homeless friend found that an address is needed for Lifeline and assurancewireless. (I didn't check with ROW.) The Lifeline rule is only one discount per address. I spoke with one man at a homeless day center downtown today who said they could give an address, but I couldn't get any details, which the homeless desperately need to know about.

My current plan with ROW is 500min/250 text, (NO interenet) for $5/mo. On auto pay, this took six months and countless calls to get into place, but now runs smoothly. ROW uses Verizon towers so reception is excellent. The phones are refurbished, but adequate for calls. Thanks to My Uverse internet plan of 12MBs for $25/mo, I purchased a $50 Obi 110 phone router and (with Obi's great instructions) set up a FREE Google Voice number, with free nationwide calls and much more.

The GV number rings both my home and cell lines at the same time. If home I use the home line, if out I use the cell and never go over my 500 minutes. (extra minutes are easy to buy.) After the $50 Obi investment, I now have excellent internet for my shows, movies, music, PC, etc. and full phone service for $25 +$5 per month. More options are likely available by now.

I suppose I should make a video to detail how to set this all up so others could see similar savings. Maybe the good folks at KPBS could help me with that and post it. I hope this helps you and your interested readers, thanks!

( | suggest removal )