http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/ho ... 22012.html
Lifeline took off in the last decade, as prepaid cell phones became popular. In 2008 there were 7.1 million accounts nationwide. Today there are 12.5 million, about half of which are mobiles sold by Miami-based TracFone (AMX), Sprint (S), and hundreds of small regional companies. The government pays the carriers up to $10 a month for each Lifeline subscriber. Customers get free phones and 250 minutes of monthly airtime. It’s a good deal for them and a potential moneymaker for the mobile-phone providers, who can sell extra minutes once customers max out on their free ones. Both TracFone, which had 3.8 million Lifeline subscribers as of late last year, and Sprint, which declines to release figures, say revenue from selling consumers additional minutes is low.