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Tracfone brings SafeLink program to Georgia

During 2008 we saw Tracfone launch their SafeLink program in Florida and Tennessee. The aim of the program is to provide government-subsidized phones to low-income families A recent study showed that giving a low-income individual access to a cell phone can increase his or her earning power. Tracfone’s latest SafeLink launch is in Georgia, and it could provide cell phones to half a million households in the state.

“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.

Apparently, 13 counties in Georgia will not see benefits from this program, or at least not initially. In order for SafeLink to offer phones to residents, they must make sure that they are E911 compatible, which means the phones can be tracked by 911 attendants. The Public Safety Answering Point in 13 counties have not yet certified E911 compatibility. These include Bacon, Baker, Bleckley, Camden, Charlton, Echols, Emanuel, Hancock, Lowndes, McIntosh, Talbot, Terrell, and Twiggs counties. Tracfone claims that this makes 27,781 otherwise eligible households disqualified at the time for the service.

This is similar to what happened in Philadelphia. The city, though, blames Tracfone for the lack of compatibility with E911:

“We support the idea of giving lower-income Philadelphians better access to emergency services by providing free cell phones,” Oliver said. “However, TracFone has been unwilling to rigorously test their phones’ ability to access emergency services regardless of their activation status as required by the FCC to be eligible to receive a government subsidy.” Without those tests, “it would be irresponsible,” Oliver said.

That issue has been worked out, though, and the program can continue. Massachusetts, Florida, and New York have also approved the plan.