As we've written before, Safelink Wireless is providing free cell phones and free minutes to lower-income people who qualify for the federal Lifeline program. How many phones? According to data from the nonprofit that distributes federal funds to participating carriers, in September 2009, they received $23,285,172 in reimbursements for phones they've distributed. Assuming the maximum per-customer contribution is $10/customer, that means there are about 2.3 million people in the U.S. who are taking advantage of this option. This is a huge number, about 27% of the $87 million distributed via the Lifeline program in that month. (See the table below for state-by-state data).
A lot of people have posted about their experiences with Safelink, but here's a formal, open question for everyone who has a Safelink phone or has tried to get a phone from them: how do you like Safelink? Is it working for you? Was it easy to get? Have you had any problems with the phone or service? Do you find that you're routinely buying more minutes from Tracfone (Safelink's parent) when you run out of the free minutes?
Not a scientific sampling, but it would help to know what your experiences are as we think about recommendations to Community Voice Mail clients about these services. Please post your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!
Sales of Safelink phones through September 2009: