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An 8 x 12 glossy promises cell phones for the indigent, along with free minutes! It s the kind of ad that captured the attention of Jessica Gomez.

Yeah, that would help out a lot, because we re kind of struggling now, said Gomez.

The mother of twins is on food stamps, and this month barely had enough money left over to keep her personal cell phone activated.

Gomez added, Either I got to push it off because I have to pay something else, or I have to get the girls medicine, or something like that.

But is this ad from USAFreeCell.com-- and others like it-- ringing true? The Texas Public Utility Commission says... yes.

Some 1,500 phone companies and major communications providers are allowed to help those on government assistance, SSI, food Stamps and Medicaid with discounts on their phone activations and cell phone bills. And in some cases, provide free phones and minutes, under a plan called Lifeline and Link-Up.

And who pays for it all? Officials with the Texas Public Utility Commission said you and that other guy with the $100+/month Everything Plan. These fees are passed along by your carriers and tacked on the end of your cell phone bill.

It has generated plenty of comments from angry consumers online.

But Gomez said a cell phone is a necessity in getting back on her feet. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission needs a number they can use to reach clients. Gomez husband and kids' day care need a number for her, too.

If you d like more information, the links below provide a partial state-by-state list of landline and wireless carriers authorized to provide Lifeline and Link-Up discounts under the Federal Universal Service Program.
www.universalservice.org/li/low-income/lifelinesupport/default.aspx

Contact your state s public utility commission or utility consumer advocate office for a more complete list of companies authorized to provide Lifeline and Link-Up discounts in your area.

The following links provide access to those offices:

Link to State Public Utility Commissions: www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm

Link to Certain State Utility Consumer Advocate Offices: www.nasuca.org/archive/about/membdir.php
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