free plans

1st ill start with the general question. which mvno has a free plan? and when i say free i mean free 100% no fees. ive looked but there are so many mvno out there that im getting lost.

now the backstory. i am back helping at the domestic abuse shelter and theyve run into the issue again where the "obama phone" cant be activated because too many have used the shelters address so the govt has blocked all new residents from getting a phone. many of the residents are short term 6-8 months. theyve run into this problem a few times. they do keep checking as many of the previous residents dont renew their service as their situation has changed. however many current residents have had to give up phone service because it lead to danger, they couldnt afford it, or was cut off by the partner. and yet many need the service for jobs for their childrens school and to keep in touch with their caseworkers.

in the past this is how i would help.

  • gather phones from the community friends churches the shelter itself . many used. some 4g capable many just basic flips/sliders/ older tech
    -clear all old data off
  • clear them with a byod look up tool
  • register a throw away email
    -use ring+ for their free plan
  • set up phone including passcode and voicemail
  • log all phone info including new phone number , passcode, voicemail pw , email, alotted mins/text/data so forth then rubber band that info page to the phone
    -repeat on the next phone
    when i had all of them completed or enough completed i turn them into the shelter to distribute. once dropped at the shelter i wash my hands of it completely and its the responsibility of the receiver to keep safe/charge/use/fix the phone.

in my perfect paradise this is what im looking for: a mvno who has a free plan ( allotted mins/text/data is fine) every month with a very lax degree of making the user check their account. in my perfect world id wish for the recipient of the phone to check their account but realistically i know this isnt going to happen all the time. data isnt a top priority its more the texting/call features.

i have limited use with the 4g/smart phones as they are the most popular people hang onto most of the phones used for this are the older tech.

I can not imagine that recipients of your phones will swipe ads for credit to keep their phone services alive, and they will not remember to click "renewal" button every month to keep FreeUp plan alive. The only thing I can think of is getting a TextNow account for everyone with a smart phone and have good WiFi coverage at the shelter. They can have unlimited calls and texts and access Internet when they are at the shelter.

Yes you are not going to find a free service that doesn't require you to jump through hoops. Freeup is as good as it gets and requires a monthly check in. Some users report that theirs auto renew but I doubt you want to take that chance with vulnerable people. Zubrin's idea is the only kind of free plan that could work. They can also hop onto wifi at the library and places like that for free as well.

If you can afford it or can get enough donations then something like this is a good buy and wash you hands with it bundle:

I don't know the volume of phones you need though so it could get expensive quickly.

What a lovely project! I wish I had a workable suggestion.

Do I recall that the basic (free) Text Now plan has a habit of randomly changing the phone number?

TN is loads less than stable & dependable based upon my uses of it & does tend to quit & make changes sort of randomly - but it IS free and works well enough with decent wifi as has been mentioned here already as long as one is willing to goof around with it a bit.

Yes they do expire quickly without use. A google voice number should work. Just set up with a new gmail.

To complete setup and start using Google Voice, you need to verify your existing phone number

oh yes forgot about that.

Yes TextNow much easier

Text now you lose your number if you don't call or text every 20 days or so. They will give you a 4 day warning. After 4 days you can choose another number. Other that that it works great as a wifi phone.

the shelter currently has 150 beds, and that doesnt count children . it just got a grant to move forward with construction so its looking to add 60 more beds with added mess/rec area (currently there is only 2) and updating/adding closing shower doors currently they have a bathroom/shower facilities like your ymca, community dorms, or public pool and some are not honest and suddenly you show up and all the shower curtains are missing. they are the only DA shelter that takes in emergency occupants in the county. so they could be sitting at 149 people and suddenly be in the situation to take on 5 more people. so really its not in their budget to spend $40 on a tracfone that the recipient may or may not keep. they do have open/resident wifi. but i dont have an extra 150 phone numbers laying around. i will have to look into text now and see if thats viable. not everyone of the 150 need a phone , the majority do. some do still get the "obama phone" by using a relatives, work or friends address. but those that have no where and nothing to their names cant get one due to the govt block. ( which i get, at some point youve got to say hey stop this looks like abuse of a service). and the mvno's i think are perfect for this because they work now but might not in a year or 2 ( if that long) so if the resident stops using the phone theres not an account left open for that long of a time.

I am happy you are helping those in need.
Here is a path forward:
Use Google Voice by using one number that you control.
What I mean is, create a gmail account for an individual, then create a Google Voice number using that one number that you control that is NOT on GV as a linked or forwarded number. After verification using that number, manually remove it from that GV account as a linked or forwarded number.
Repeat for each new individual.
They will "own" both the email address and the GV indefinitely, the benefits of a consistent or "permanent" contact info for employment, family, friends, support system etc. will be immeasurable.
So any WiFi capable phone or device will become an access point for calls, texts and emails.
Good Luck!

Thanks, johnsmith. I hadn't realized it was possible to cycle through using the same real number over and over.
Do I remember that you have some experience doing a similar project?

With either Google Voice or Text Now, a smartphone is required.

Google won't let you use the same number over and over. You'll eventually get a message saying you've used the number too much.

You are welcome, KentE.
Have not done this specifically at scale but my Google Fu is stronger than most as I enjoy leveraging their platforms for maximum benefit as compensation for their data mining. Also big proponent of GV to facilitate bargain hunting for Cell service.
I do have to respectfully disagree with :

Both Google Voice and Text Now can be used through compatible browsers and by extension on Macs, PC's, MacBooks etc. (GV -with better voice quality/lag in general than "real" cell minutes). Texting using a full size keyboard is life altering: no painful autocorrect, cut and paste is easy, etc.

johnsmith writes: "Texting using a full size keyboard is life altering: no painful autocorrect, cut and paste is easy, etc."

I will have to give that a try, since you've mentioned a range of pain-inducing problems I have when texting!

My comment about a smartphone being required was intended to warn ferocious- that the older repurposed dumbphones aren't likely to be compatible with either VoIP solution for his application, since both require the use of an app. (I'm also aware that it is possible, to use Google Voice without the app, but it's not the low-maintenance solution ferocious- needs.)

ferocious_onyx, here's something you might suggest to the shelter, especially since you mentioned they're expanding. If they can add additional mailing addresses to their facility, they may be able to stretch the number of government-subsidized phones that the facility could support.

I read about this a little, and the process apparently starts (in most places) with local zoning boards. In some instances, a facility can be split between 'suites' that have distinct mailing addresses.

I am not surprised you knew that already :wink:
and you are right to make our comments/advice specific to ferocious and the good works he is up to.
Force of habit to talk about my use case scenarios :slight_smile: as an easy roadmap for others.

john thanks so much for the suggestion of add/remove the number. i hadnt thought of that. i have yet to get on the google voice train but have been looking hard at it this past week. i may try my hand at it with any newish phones i get. kent. you are right almost all of whats donated to me are dumbphones. i try and work with whatever i get. ive even taken it upon myself to collect chargers for when i get one that needs a charger, which is often. thanks also for the suggestion about addresses the shelter actually has 4 suite addresses that get used. it also uses the 2 building numbers of the office center and believe it or not the system takes the address of the maintenance dept's storage building ( which never gets mail as it all goes to the office center) so the shelter is using every available address. after a suggestion from another worker who worked in AZ suggested that a casework info the company the shelter contacted all 3 programs that serve my area well but only one has agreed to put a note on the address as multi person living facility. but it still is touch and go sometimes a caseworker can get through and get a phone for a resident. some days they are blocked.

Shelter's should have unlimited access. No limit. I wonder if somebody had called to inquire?