Having a phone in the house can be a life or death matter in an emergency. So the state of Tennessee and the Federal government have a couple of programs to make phone service more affordable for folks in need.
The Linkup program pays half of the installation fees for new phone service and guarantees you won't have to pay a deposit. Once you get the phone service installed, the Lifeline program helps you save on the monthly bills. Both programs apply only to local service and won't pay for long distance calls or all the other bells and whistles the phone company sells these days.
You automatically qualify if you participate in one of several public assistance programs (food stamps, Medicaid, and others). If you don't participate in one of those programs you may still qualify if your monthly income is less than 135% of the Federal Poverty Income Level ($2,480 for a family of 4).
The Tennessee Regulatory Agency estimates that only about 20% of the people eligible for the programs actually participate, so if you know anyone who may be eligible please let them know. You can get additional information about Linkup and Lifeline by calling your local phone service provider or Tennessee Regulatory Agency (1-877-691-2969), or at the Tennessee Regulatory Agency's website.