Friday, August 15, 2008

Lower income Tennessee residents to get free cell phones

The maker of a popular pre-paid cell phone today announced a program that will give low income Tennessee residents free cell phones and mobile service on a year-to-year basis.

Called SafeLink Wireless, the project is being led by the Tennessee Department of Safety, TracFone Wireless, and local nonprofit organizations. Eligible households will receive a free cellular handset with 60 or more minutes of airtime a month plus unlimited access to emergency services (911). Handsets will support standard cellular features such as voice mail, SMS, call waiting, as well as international calling.

As a mobile virtual network operator, TracFone uses AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Alltel, US Cellular and Claro's networks. Sending text messages is free with a number of TracFone handsets, and since talk time is measured in "units" instead of minutes, certain models deduct 30%-50% of a single unit per text. SafeLink Wireless has not disclosed which handset will be distributed to eligible families.

The inaugural "ribbon cutting" will take place on Friday morning on the State Capitol steps in Nashville, Tennessee.

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