Virgin Mobile USA, now officially a part of Sprint Nextel's prepaid business, launched a new brand called Assurance Wireless aimed at providing free cell phone service to eligible low-income Americans. According to a Virgin Mobile spokeswoman, the service is now available in New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and is expected to take off in other states as well. There are currently more than 3 million eligible people in the four states, the spokeswoman said.
The service provides qualifying customers with a free Kyocera Jax phone and 200 minutes of local and long-distance airtime per month. The service comes with free voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, and access to 911. Customers also can pay for additional 20-cent-per-minute domestic calling, international calling, 15-cent text, email or instant messages, and for mobile Web access.
Assurance Wireless is supported by the Lifeline Assistance program, part of the Low Income Program of the federal Universal Service Fund (USF), which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company and designed to subsidize telecommunications services for low-income customers. Prepaid carrier TracFone also offers services under the Lifeline effort.
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