Switching Mobile Providers While Utilizing Lifeline and ACP

The Lifeline program and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) are federally funded programs designed to make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. Lifeline provides a discount on monthly phone or internet service, while ACP provides a discount on internet service and connected devices. Consumers who qualify for Lifeline are also eligible for ACP benefits.

Importantly, Lifeline and ACP participants have the ability to switch service providers while remaining enrolled in the programs. By researching new providers and carefully managing the transition, low-income individuals can change mobile carriers and continue receiving discounted service through Lifeline and ACP. This guide will outline the step-by-step process for smoothly switching mobile providers while utilizing the Lifeline and ACP programs.

Confirm Eligibility

Before switching mobile providers, it’s important to confirm your current eligibility status for the Lifeline and ACP programs. According to the FCC, if you currently receive ACP benefits, you may still qualify for the Lifeline Program to save on internet service (FCC source). The Lifeline Program provides discounts on phone and internet service for low-income consumers.

To confirm your eligibility, first contact your current mobile provider. They will be able to look up your account and verify if you are actively enrolled in the Lifeline and/or ACP programs. You can call customer service or visit a local store to speak with a representative. They should be able to provide documentation that shows your eligibility and discount amount.

You can also check your eligibility status online. Visit the websites for the Universal Service Administrative Company or Affordable Connectivity Program and look up your information. These sites allow you to view eligibility length and review qualification requirements.

Having eligibility confirmation from your current provider or government program will make the switching process smoother when you enroll with a new mobile company.

Research New Providers

The first step in switching mobile providers while utilizing Lifeline and ACP is to research new providers that accept these programs in your area. Some top providers to consider include Assurance Wireless, Q Link Wireless, EnTouch Wireless, and TAG Mobile (source). You can visit the websites for these providers to check if they offer service in your state and zip code.

When comparing new Lifeline/ACP providers, some key factors to look at are:

  • Available plans, minutes, texts, and data
  • Coverage area and network strength
  • Selection of free or discounted phones
  • Customer service reputation

Most Lifeline plans include unlimited talk and text, with options for limited data. Try to find a provider that offers adequate minutes, texts, and data to suit your needs. Also verify they have strong coverage for your area before switching. Comparing product offerings and coverage maps on provider websites is the best way to find the right fit.

Enroll with New Provider

After selecting a new provider for the Lifeline and ACP benefit programs, you’ll need to enroll with them. The signup process may vary but here are some things to expect:

First, contact the new provider of choice and let them know you’d like to enroll for Lifeline and ACP. They should provide instructions on how to submit an application to their service. Typically this involves visiting their website, calling their enrollment line, or visiting an authorized retail store location. Be prepared to provide your name, date of birth, and address.

As part of the enrollment process, you’ll also need to submit documentation proving your eligibility for Lifeline and ACP. According to FCC guidelines, acceptable forms of documentation include things like:

  • Prior year’s tax return
  • Current income statement or pay stub
  • Social security statement
  • Veterans pension or survivor’s benefit statement
  • Unemployment or worker’s compensation statement
  • Federal or Tribal notice letter of enrollment for assistance programs

Make sure to have documentation ready so the new provider can verify your eligibility. Keep in mind the enrollment process may take a few days or weeks depending on their verification process and volume. If approved, you’ll receive instructions on selecting a plan and activating your new Lifeline and ACP supported service.

Transfer Process

When transferring your Lifeline and ACP service to a new provider, it’s important to understand the timeline for completing the transfer so you avoid any disruption in service.

According to the Lifeline Support website, https://www.lifelinesupport.org/change-my-company/, the transfer process can take 10 business days to complete after starting the process with your new provider. During this time, both your old and new providers will communicate to finalize the transfer.

The Affordable Connectivity Program website also states it can take up to 10 business days to transfer ACP benefits when switching providers, according to https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/manage-my-benefit/. So it’s best to expect an overlap where both services may be active as the transfer completes.

In most cases, you can keep your current phone number when switching Lifeline or ACP providers. The new provider will port your number from the old provider as part of the transfer process. Be sure to check with the new provider to confirm number porting is included, as this makes the transition much smoother.

Update Account Info

After enrolling in the new mobile service, it’s important to update your account information with the old provider to avoid any billing issues. First, confirm with the old provider that your service has been canceled and your account closed. According to the Lifeline Support website, you may need to formally request that your Lifeline benefit be transferred to the new provider https://www.lifelinesupport.org/change-my-company/.

Next, if you had autopay or recurring billing set up with the old provider, be sure to cancel those payments. Log into your account online or call customer service to remove any credit card or bank account information to avoid unwanted charges. The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program FAQ page recommends confirming cancellation in writing for record https://www.fcc.gov/affordable-connectivity-program-consumer-faq.

Begin New Service

After enrolling in the new provider’s Lifeline and ACP programs, it will be time to begin service. This involves activating any new devices or equipment provided by the new carrier. Many Lifeline plans come with a free smartphone or wireless hotspot that will need to be activated on the network.

To activate new devices, follow the instructions provided by your carrier. This typically involves powering on the device and going through setup prompts to connect to the cellular or WiFi network. Providers may require you to call a support number or use an online portal to complete activation.

If you wish to transfer or “port” your existing phone number to the new provider, inform them during signup. Number porting can take a few hours up to a couple days. Your old service may be canceled once the number transfer takes place.https://www.lifelinesupport.org/

Make sure to test that your new Lifeline service is working properly once it has been activated. You can make test calls or use data to confirm you are connected. Pay attention to the service coverage in your area. Contact customer support right away if you experience any activation issues.

Compare Experience

According to Reddit user @jimmyz561 who recently switched from Assurance Wireless to SafeLink Wireless, the overall process was smooth but took almost 3 weeks from start to finish (Source). While happy to ditch Assurance due to poor coverage, they noted some downsides with SafeLink including slower data speeds and needing to get a new phone number. However, the coverage is better for their area.

Another review on AssistWireless.com indicated it took about 2 weeks to fully transfer their Lifeline benefit when switching from TAG Mobile to Assurance Wireless (Source). The user said Assurance Wireless provided much better customer service and network reliability compared to TAG, making the switch worthwhile despite some hassles during the transition period.


Switching mobile providers while utilizing Lifeline and ACP can lead to some common issues that require troubleshooting. Here are some of the most common problems and who to contact for help:

One issue that can occur is a delay in transferring your Lifeline or ACP benefits to the new provider. This can result in higher bills or service disruption. If this happens, contact your new provider’s customer support right away and explain the situation. They should be able to assist with getting your benefits transferred. You can also contact the Lifeline Support Center at 1-800-234-9473 for help.1

Another common problem is the new provider not having your eligibility documentation on file. This can prevent activation of Lifeline/ACP discounts. If you enrolled online or submitted documents but don’t see the discounts applied, contact the new provider. They may need to verify your documents or eligibility status again.2

Finally, you may experience service interruptions or phone number transfer issues when switching. Contact the new provider right away if you lose service or cannot port your number. Ask them to escalate the issue and provide status updates until it’s resolved. You can also file an FCC complaint for continued problems.3

Having patience and promptly communicating issues to your new provider and Lifeline/ACP administrators can help resolve most problems when switching mobile carriers with government benefit programs.

Key Takeaways

In summary, the process for switching Lifeline and ACP mobile providers involves:

First, confirm you are eligible for Lifeline and ACP through the National Verifier. Then thoroughly research new providers in your area that offer the services you need. Once you select a new provider, enroll with them directly and authorize the transfer of your Lifeline benefit. There may be some account setup required. The new provider will then initiate the transfer process which can take a few days. You may experience a brief service interruption. Finally, you will begin service with the new provider and can compare the experience to your previous carrier.

Here are some tips for a smooth transition when switching Lifeline and ACP providers:

  • Check transfer eligibility requirements – you may only be allowed to switch every 90 days (https://www.lifelinesupport.org/change-my-company/).
  • Contact your current provider to deactivate service at the appropriate time.
  • Set up autopay or ensure your payment method is ready for the new account.
  • Back up any data before switching services.
  • Keep your current phone active during the transition in case issues arise.
  • Verify service activation with the new provider.

Switching Lifeline and ACP providers takes coordination but following proper steps will ensure a smooth transition.

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