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TMCNet:  TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless® to Aid Nearly 500,000 Low-Income Households in Georgia

[February 05, 2009]

TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless® to Aid Nearly 500,000 Low-Income Households in Georgia

ATLANTA --(Business Wire)--

Today, TracFone Wireless, Inc., America's leading prepaid cell phone provider announced its launch of SafeLink Wireless® in most of Georgia. SafeLink Wireless will serve as the company's distribution of Lifeline - a U.S. government supported program for income eligible households that ensures telephone service is available and affordable for eligible low-income households.

The SafeLink Wireless service will provide eligible low-income households a free cell phone, mobile access to emergency services and free 68 minutes of air time, monthly, for one year. The cell phone offers in-demand features: voicemail, text, call waiting, international calling to over 60 destinations and caller ID.

"Nearly half a million households in Georgia qualify for the Lifeline services - offering these participants the opportunity to have the same access and privileges many individuals take for granted when it comes to using cell phones," said Jose Fuentes, Director of Government Relations for TracFone. "The SafeLink Wireless service is truly unique because we are providing a service that no other company has made available before - a free cell phone and free monthly minutes to qualifying low-income families," added Fuentes. SafeLink Wireless offers low-income families accessibility, freedom and the security in knowing that should an emergency occur - wherever they are, they will stay safe and stay connected.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Lifeline program in 1984 and worked to update the service after the crises of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, as well as the tragedy of September 11th. At the dawn of the 21st century, modern universal telephone service is necessary not only to ensure that the U.S. maintains a rapid, efficient, nationwide communications network, it is important for the purpose of national defense and to promote safety of life and property. By approving the SafeLink Wireless program, the FCC took action to enhance its Lifeline program and keep the right to communicate in pace with technology.

The Funding of Lifeline

Lifeline is part of the Low Income Program of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and is designed to ensure that quality telecommunications services are available to low-income customers at just, reasonable, and affordable rates. 1700 carriers are eligible to provide the program but TracFone is the first pre-paid company to have elevated the program to modern day communications.

The Lifeline program is not funded from federal taxpayer dollars, but rather from contributions to the USF by telecommunications carriers collected in part from the Universal Service Charge billed to cell phone users. Instead of a discount on the user's monthly bill, SafeLink applies the USF subsidy to free wireless minutes. Although a common misconception, TracFone provides the free wireless cell phone to the SafeLink program at the company's expense, in order to make the program viable and attractive.

13 Georgia counties will not immediately benefit

As a condition to participate in the offering of Lifeline, the FCC mandated that SafeLink be certified E9-1-1 compliant by each 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) within the state of Georgia. Of the 164 PSAPs in Georgia, PSAPs in the following 13 counties have not responded to repeated requests for certification: Bacon, Baker, Bleckley, Camden, Charlton, Echols, Emanuel, Hancock, Lowndes, McIntosh, Talbot, Terrell, and Twiggs counties.

Due to the lack of certification, 27,781 qualified households in the 13 Georgia counties will not immediately benefit until their corresponding PSAPs certify. To date, SafeLink efforts to secure statewide certification has included reaching out to Governor Sonny Purdue and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), the agency that oversees emergency communications throughout the state. Both offices declined to assist stating that PSAP certifications were a local issue.

"The citizens of the 13 Georgia counties where SafeLink Wireless is not yet present is an unacceptable situation, as it is denying hard working, struggling families the basic right to communicate," said Fuentes. "The Lifeline program at its core was created to benefit the very rural families that are being denied that service, which makes the refusal to provide E911 certification fundamentally wrong and irresponsible from an entity that is truly supposed to be a lifeline for all people in times of emergency and crisis."

SAFELINK WIRELESS® SERVICE ELIGIBILITY OVERVIEW BY CITY

Top 9 Georgia state counties with the most eligible Lifeline participants:

CITY

 

LOW-INCOME POPULATION

Atlanta Metro Area

 

449,983

Macon

70,323

Savannah

68,037

Albany

48,796

Augusta

44,912

Columbus

37,221

Chattooga

25,166

Jacksonville/Brunswick

19,740

Greenville/Spartan./Ashville

10,494

Program Eligibility

Lifeline program eligibility in the state of Georgia consists of the following:

Medicaid

Food Stamps

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Federal Public Housing/Section 8

Senior Citizen Energy Low Income Discount Plan offered by the local gas or power company

The SafeLink Wireless service will be provided to low-income families for up to one year. Participants may renew service and will be required to re-submit eligibility documentation upon their year completion. If the participant no longer qualifies for this free service, they will be notified and will be able to keep the cell phone to continue enjoying the benefits as a regular TracFone customer. Unused minutes will never expire and will automatically rollover. When recipients surpass their allocated 68 airtime minutes, they will be able to purchase prepaid SafeLink Wireless airtime cards or TracFone airtime cards, including double minute cards. Existing TracFone customers qualifying for the SafeLink Wireless service may keep their current cell phone, and receive bonus minutes (one-time bonus only) for choosing to keep their current cell phone.

To learn more about the SafeLink Wireless service, including eligibility requirements, please call 1-800-977-3768, or visit www.safelinkwireless.com.

ABOUT TRACFONE WIRELESS, INC.

TracFone Wireless, Inc. is America's number one prepaid wireless service in the U.S. with more than 10 million cell phone subscribers. TracFone is a subsidiary of América Móvil, S.A.B. de C.V. ("AMX") (BMV: AMX; NYSE: AMX; Nasdaq: AMOV; LATIBEX: XAMXL), the leading provider of wireless services in Latin America with more than 153 million cell phone subscribers. For more information, please visit: www.tracfone.com.

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