Last updated: May 5, 2013 - 9:27pm
Two companies are now offering free cell phones and service to anyone in California who can prove that his or her annual income is less than $14,702.
The program is part of the federally funded Lifeline effort, which until now in California provided only landline phone service to the poor. The state Public Utilities Commission expanded Lifeline to cell phones, allowing those who qualify to receive free phones and monthly plans for 250 talk minutes and 250 text messages. Advocates for the homeless - including the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness and Bevan Dufty, the city's head of homeless initiatives - have been pushing the commission to approve the program for three years. They pointed out that, with landline usage plummeting and cell phones becoming more the norm, cell-phone Lifeline plans have already been approved in most other states.