The price of maintaining a home phone has been creeping up in recent years, and the people affected most are those who can least afford it. To make phones more accessible to all Americans, the FCC established the Universal Service Fund in 1997, with the goal of making telephone service available to everyone in America, regardless of social or economic status. The Universal Service Fund contains four programs that ensure that schools, rural health care, people in remote areas and low-income Americans all have access to affordable phone service.
For low-income Americans, the FCC established the Lifeline and Link Up programs to provide discounts on telephone installation, as well as reduced monthly rates for income-eligible customers [source: Lifeline Across America]. The Lifeline program provides qualifying customers with discounts of up to $10 per month on their monthly phone bill. The program also includes Toll Limitation, which is an optional service that enables customers to place a limit on long-distance calls in order to prevent them from racking up heavy fees.
Getting phone service is easier in some places than others. If you live in a home that recently had phone service and is already wired for it, setting up a phone line can be as simple as calling the local phone company and asking them to assign a number and turn it on (for a fee, of course). However, if you live in either a new home or a very old home that has never had phone service, the phone company will probably have to send out a technician to extend a new phone line and jack to your home. Installation of a new phone line typically costs about $50 to $75, but it can cost more if you need the technician to draw cords through the wall to a specific room [source: Truini].
To defray those costs, the Link Up program provides a discount of up to $30 on the initial installation fee for income-eligible Americans. The Link Up discount is a one-time deal, but qualifying applicants are eligible for a second discount if they move to a new home.