Open Access continues to be a chief voice about Lifeline telecom issues for low-income and homeless persons at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Open Access has been focusing on consumer education now that more companies are in service. OAC has put out a series of broadcast messages to voice mail users with information regarding how to get a phone, what each company offers, and has provided written materials about each company with contact info. With the first telecom companies being approved to provide the federally-funded Lifeline cell phones, Open Access has been key in providing comments to the commission regarding the needs of individuals who would use the program. Thanks to comments provided by Open Access and other partners, the quality of those proposals has improved—offering more minutes per month, free customer service and 911 calls, and more reasonable fees for people to buy additional minutes. As more companies are approved to offer Lifeline service in Minnesota, Open Access has been a watchdog for the quality of service and handsets, minutes provided, and customer service for the low-income and homeless people that rely on them. Three companies are currently in operation, offering varying plans and services. Customers can research which service would best fit their needs and choose which company to use.
This is some basic information about the three companies that are currently offering Lifeline phones:
Assurance Wireless: 250 phone minutes plus 250 text messages; www.assurancewireless.com; customer service 1-800-378-7316
Life Wireless: 250 minutes which can be used for the phone or the customer can send three text messages per minute www.lifewireless.com; customer service 1-888-543-3620
TerraCom: 250 minutes which can be used for the phone or the customer can send one text message per minute; www.terracomwireless.com; customer service 1-877-351-4747
There will be additional companies distributing Lifeline phones in the future. Open Access will continue to keep all of the Lifeline companies honest with our comments and advocacy to best serve Lifeline users. Cell phones have become an essential communication tool, and we see them as a critical partner to our voice mail numbers, as people can rely on Open Access voice mail as their “business number,” which is always active even if they’ve run out of cell phone minutes. Contact Open Access at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on Lifeline.