"The Federal Lifeline Program, established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1985, is one of four programs supported under the Universal Service Fund. The Program was originally designed to assist eligible low-income households to subsidize the monthly service charges incurred for voice telephone usage and was limited to one fixed line per household. In 2005 the Program was modified to cover the choice between either a fixed line or a mobile/wireless option. Concern over the division between those who use and have access to broadband versus those who do not, known as the digital divide, prompted the FCC to once again modify the Lifeline program to cover access to broadband. On March 31, 2016, the FCC adopted an Order to expand the Lifeline Program to support mobile and fixed broadband Internet access services on a stand-alone basis, or with a bundled voice service. Households must meet a needs-based criteria for eligibility. The program provides assistance to only one line per household in the form of a monthly subsidy of, in most cases, $9.25. This subsidy solely covers costs associated with network access (minutes of use), not the costs associated with devices, and is given not to the subscriber, but to the household-selected service provider. This subsidy is then in turn passed on to the subscriber. The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on tribal lands."
CRS Report for Congress, R44487
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html