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Internet Options Available for Free or for Low-Income Families

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Editor’s Note: This story comes from CableTV.com.

How can you get low-income internet?

Your income bracket doesn’t have to limit your internet access. If your home needs a boost to cross the digital divide, take advantage of low-income internet options in your area.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can save you $30.00 to $75.00 monthly. And the Lifeline program can save you another $9.25 to $29.25 monthly. You can combine these programs with internet provider initiatives that start at $9.95 monthly for 100 Mbps download speeds.

Read on to learn more about how to get free internet service and other affordable internet plans.

Do you qualify for low-income internet?

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Each of the low-income options we’ll discuss has different standards to qualify. But you’re a good candidate for most if your household makes less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or you already qualify for one or more government assistance programs:

  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • Public Housing (HUD)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • And more

But if you’re not eligible for low-income internet, don’t worry — we have other articles with recommendations for cheap internet service for your home and current internet deals.

Where to start with low-income internet

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There are multiple options for affordable internet services.

The best low-income internet option is the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers qualifying households up to $30 per month off internet service (and up to $75 per month if you live on tribal lands).

Depending on where you live in the U.S., internet plans can start as low as $19.99 per month, so those savings may get you connected for free.

For more savings, we also recommend looking into two low-cost internet solutions that have been around a bit longer. You may be able to double up these programs with your ACP benefits.

Low-cost internet through ACP, Lifeline and internet providers

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Here’s a list of providers with the price of the cheapest regular plan with ACP and Lifeline, the price of low-income initiative, and the price of low-income initiative with ACP.

  • Xfinity: $0.00/month; $9.95/month; $0.00/month
  • Spectrum: $10.74/month; $17.99-$19.99/month; $0.00/month
  • Optimum: $0.00/month; $14.99/month; $0.00/month
  • AT&T: $15.75/month; $10.00/month; $0.00/month
  • Astound Broadband powered by RCN: $0.00/month; $9.95/month; $0.00/month
  • CenturyLink: $10.75/month; N/A; N/A
  • Cox: $0.00/month; $9.95/month; $0.00/month
  • Frontier: $10.74/month; $19.99/month; $0.00/month
  • Google Fiber: $30.75/month; N/A; N/A
  • Mediacom: $0.00/month; $9.95/month; $0.00/month
  • Verizon Fios: $10.74/month; $0.00-$49.99/month; $0.00-$49.99/month
  • Windstream: $0.74/month; N/A; N/A

ACP, Lifeline and internet providers

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The first option is a government assistance program called Lifeline, which offers $9.25 per month off either internet or phone services to low-income households.

Lifeline offers less savings than the ACP or most internet provider initiatives, but it’s better than nothing, and it can stack with ACP savings.

Second, there are a variety of internet provider initiatives with discounted monthly rates, with some as low as $9.95 per month.

Many are for low-income families with kids who qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), but the qualifications vary by provider.

At first glance, ISP low-income plans are a stellar deal, but not all homes qualify. Find out if you meet the requirements before you decide which option to go with.

Affordable Connectivity Program

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At the end of 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the new Affordable Connectivity Program (replacing the old Emergency Broadband Benefit program) to help low-income households afford internet for work, school, and health care needs.

It comes with up to $30 per month towards internet service for qualifying households (up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands).

Do I qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

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If you’re already participating in federal assistance programs or a low-income internet program, you’ll likely qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

For eligibility, the FCC requires that you or a member of your household meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Your household income is less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
  • You participate in federal assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline.
  • You participate in tribal specific programs like the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance or Tribal TANF.
  • You qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • You’ve received a Federal Pell Grant for the current award year.
  • You qualify for your participating internet provider’s existing low-income program.

How do I apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

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To get $30 per month off internet, head over to ACPBenefit.org. You can apply online or print, fill out, and mail in your application to ACP Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, KY 40742.

Once you’ve qualified, you’ll need to reach out to your participating provider to select an eligible internet plan and get your ACP discount applied.

Cheap Wi-Fi for low-income homes

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The following details provider low-income initiatives, price, download speeds, qualifying programs, and details.

Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity)

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Price: $9.95/month

Speed: 50 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • HUD
  • NSLP/Head Start
  • SNAP
  • SSI
  • TANF
  • Tribal assistance
  • VA Pension
  • WIC

Learn more.

Spectrum Internet Assist**

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Price: $17.99-$19.99/month

Speed: Up to 30 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • NSLP
  • SSI

Learn more.

**No contract required. Available in select areas only.

Access From AT&T

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Price: $10.00/month

Speed: Up to 25 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • SNAP
  • SSI

Learn more.

Cox Connect2Compete*

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Price: $9.95/month

Speed: Up to 100 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • HUD
  • NSLP
  • SNAP
  • TANF

Learn more.

*Home must have a student in K-12 to qualify.

Mediacom Connect-2-Compete*

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Price: $9.95/month

Speed: Up to 25 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • NSLP

Learn more.

*Home must have a student in K-12 to qualify.

Internet First (Astound Broadband)

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Price: $9.95/month

Speed: Up to 50 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • HUD
  • NSLP
  • Medicaid
  • SNAP
  • SSI
  • TANF
  • Tribal assistance
  • Unemployment
  • VA Pension
  • WIC

Learn more.

Optimum Advantage Internet

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Price: $14.99/month

Speed: Up to 50 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • NSLP
  • SSI

Learn more.

Frontier Fundamental Internet

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Price: $19.99/month

Speed: N/A

Qualifying programs:

  • CalFresh
  • Medi-Cal
  • SSI

Learn more.

Verizon Lifeline

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Price: $0.00-$49.99/month

Speed: Up to 200 Mbps-940/880 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • Lifeline

Learn more.

Cox ConnectAssist

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Price: $30.00/month

Speed: Up to 100 Mbps

Qualifying programs:

  • Certain public housing
  • Certain tribal programs
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Head Start
  • SNAP
  • SSI
  • TANF
  • VA Pension
  • WIC

Learn more.

Internet Essentials from Comcast

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If you live in an Xfinity area, you have access to the low-income program Internet Essentials from Comcast. Eligible households get 50 Mbps download speeds with free in-home Wi-Fi for $9.95 per month (plus tax).

You’ll also have access to Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots and get the option to purchase a low-cost computer.

To qualify for Internet Essentials, someone in your household must participate in one of the following programs: NSLP, HUD, veteran government assistance, senior government assistance, or Pell Grant.

Head over to InternetEssentials.com to apply.

Access From AT&T

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Access From AT&T combines its efforts with the Affordable Connectivity Program to offer up to 100 Mbps download speeds for free.

You can qualify for Access from AT&T with SNAP, SSI, or the National School Lunch program.

Also, AT&T accepts households within as much as 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. There’s a helpful chart on the application website if you’re not sure whether you qualify.

Spectrum Internet Assist

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While Spectrum’s low-income internet program is higher priced than most others on our list, it’s also one of the few that offers aid to homes without K–12 children. It brings a lot more to the table too.

Spectrum Internet Assist is solid, offering broadband speeds of 30 Mbps and a free internet modem with additional Wi-Fi service for $5 per month (internet providers normally charge $10 per month for Wi-Fi routers).

To top it off, you won’t have to worry about data caps or contracts.

So if one or more of the people in your household are recipients of Supplemental Security Income, National School Lunch Program (NSLP), or Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP, you can fill out the Spectrum Internet Assist application.

Astound Broadband’s Internet First

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Astound Broadband, which is powered by RCN, Wave, and Grande, offers Internet First for families and students in low-income households.

If your household takes part in Internet First’s long list of qualifying public assistance programs, you can get internet access for only $9.95 a month — and your first 60 days are free.

Go to the Internet First website to apply for service.

Optimum Advantage Internet

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Optimum offers their Optimum Advantage Internet plan, where eligible customers can get up to 50 Mbps internet speeds plus free installation, a free router, and no data caps for $14.99 per month.

To be eligible for the Optimum Advantage Internet plan, you or someone in your household must qualify or participate in NSLP, veteran government assistance, senior government assistance, or are a New York City resident attending a New York City public school.

Click here to apply.

Verizon Lifeline

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Rather than creating a new internet plan like many other companies, Verizon boosts the discount you’d normally get from the government-sponsored Lifeline Discount Program.

Lifeline, which we discuss in more detail soon, offers $9.25 off internet service each month. Verizon’s added discount brings that down even further, making its starting plan completely free.

Verizon’s deal offers the fastest speeds on our list. With speeds this fast, you can easily hold video calls while other family members are on the internet, which is a great help if you’re working from home.

Affordable internet for families, students and seniors

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If you don’t qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program — or you do and you want to stack discounts — look into these plans that may fit your needs.

Free internet for low-income families and households

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Many low-income internet programs focus on connecting students to valuable online resources, so they require that you have a school-age child at home.

If you don’t have any school-age children, there are other ways to qualify for low-income internet service.

Anyone with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can qualify for Spectrum Internet Assist and Internet Essentials from Comcast.

Free internet for K-12 students

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There are more internet-saving options available if you have kids at home and participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Public Housing (HUD).

Free internet for college students

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If you’re a college student, look into free public Wi-Fi hotspots and internet services with free intro periods. Read our article “Cheap and Free Internet for Students” for an in-depth look at these options.

And if you’re a community college student in Colorado and Illinois, you may be able to get Internet Essentials from Comcast with documentation from your financial aid office.

Free internet for senior citizens

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If you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you can get affordable internet with Access from AT&T, Optimum Advantage Internet, Spectrum Internet Assist, Verizon Lifeline, and Internet Essentials from Comcast.

Local internet service providers (ISPs) may also offer senior discounts, so it might be worth seeing if there are any locally owned ISPs operating in your area.

Our database doesn’t have many local ISPs, but our friends over at HighSpeedInternet.com can help you find them all.

Lifeline FCC internet subsidy

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Lifeline is a government-sponsored program from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It works directly with internet providers to create lower monthly rates for folks who are near or below the federal poverty guidelines, take part in federal assistance programs, or live on tribal lands.

If your household income is less than or equal to 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or you participate in federal assistance programs, you can get a $9.25 per month discount on internet or phone service. Check Lifeline’s qualification page for more details.

And if you live on tribal lands, you can save an additional $20.00 per month, bringing you to a total of $29.25 off internet.

If you live with other people but don’t share money, you can also take advantage of Lifeline multiple times on your internet subscription.

The people you live with also need to qualify based on poverty guidelines or federal assistance programs, but as long as they aren’t considered part of your household by Lifeline rules, you can stack up the discounts for every person who qualifies.

Wondering what the Lifeline discount looks like with different providers? Let’s take a look.

Lifeline internet discounts on cheapest internet packages

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Here’s a breakdown of providers with introductory price, introductory price with Lifeline assistance, and cheapest package speed.

  • Xfinity: $24.99/month; $15.74/month; 75 Mbps
  • Spectrum: $49.99/month; $40.74/month; 300 Mbps
  • AT&T: $55.00/month; $25.75/month; 100 Mbps
  • CenturyLink: $50.00/month; $40.75/month; 100 Mbps
  • Cox: $29.99/month; $10.74/month; 25 Mbps
  • Frontier: $39.99/month; $23.74/month; 25 Mbps
  • Mediacom: $19.99/month; $10.74/month; 100 Mbps
  • Optimum: $29.99/month; $20.74/month; 100 Mbps
  • Verizon Fios: $49.99/month; $19.99/month; 200 Mbps
  • Windstream: $39.99/month; $30.74/month; 50-400 Mbps

You’ve probably noticed the final prices after Lifeline assistance are higher than those from ISP low-income programs. But don’t write Lifeline off — it’s a big help when providers in your area don’t offer their own initiatives. Lifeline makes internet accessible across the country, so it’s always an option if you qualify.

FCC internet subsidy application

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If you’ve decided the Lifeline program is for you, you can apply online, by mail, or through a local internet company. You can find all the details on the Lifeline website.

Get free or cheap internet today

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The internet access plays a huge role in our daily life — from news to education to keeping in touch with your loved ones.

With help from the Affordable Connectivity Program, ISP initiatives, and the Lifeline program, we can all stay connected.

Take advantage of these programs to get high-speed internet service at a price that works for your family.

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