Did you know that you could get free internet from the government through assistance programs? These programs play a crucial role in helping millions of Americans to stay connected despite their financial status.
Home internet has become an indispensable asset, clearly highlighted during the pandemic. This is because it is used for various reasons, including studying remotely, carrying out online businesses and job applications, communicating with friends and family, and keeping up with current affairs.
However, the high cost of internet services has made them inaccessible to Americans from low-income backgrounds, especially those residing in rural or sidelined areas. This has created a digital gap that is slowly expanding.
How has the government addressed the digital divide? Funding assistance programs and partnering with service providers who distribute free internet services to low-income Americans. If your main concern is “How do I get free government internet,” continue reading this article.
Improving Internet Access
The Biden-Harris administration signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill in November 2021. This bill was meant to curb the digital divide arising due to unequal access to internet services by certain sections of the population.
To promote digital literacy among people despite their age, race, or skill, the bill set aside $2.75 billion. The bill also set aside $42.5 billion to set up the necessary internet infrastructure in areas that previously had insufficient or none.
Additionally, the bill allocated funds for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which would help provide high-speed internet access to low-income families for free or at significantly subsidized costs. The Biden administration then got 20 service providers to commit to offering free high-speed internet to eligible households through the ACP.
Which Programs Offer Free Government Internet
Two government-funded programs can enable you to get free internet from the government:
Affordable Connectivity Program
The ACP is an assistance program initiated by the Federal Government that provides financial help to low-income families to cater to their internet service costs. The program offers $30 discounts to eligible households each month and $75 monthly discounts to households living on tribal land.
In addition, the program also gives qualified members a $100 discount which they can use to buy computers, tablets, desktops, and other digital gadgets. The Affordable Connectivity Program was initiated shortly after the completion of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which also provided internet assistance during the COVID pandemic.
This Federal Communication Commission program offers communications services to financially incapacitated Americans at highly discounted prices or for free. A Federal Law mandates all telecommunication companies to contribute to a national fund to ensure the program runs smoothly.
The Lifeline avails a $9.25 monthly discount which you can apply to your phone or internet bill. It also provides a $34.25 monthly discount to people who reside in Tribal lands for the same purpose. Unfortunately, every household can only get one discount through this program.
How to Qualify for Free Government Internet
To get free internet service from the government, you or a member of your household need to fulfill one of the following guidelines:
- Your household income does not exceed 200% of the poverty guideline set by the Federal Government.
- A child in your household benefits from the National School Lunch Program.
- College students who receive Federal Pell Grant from the government.
- Your household already receives a discount on internet bills through a service provider’s low-income program.
- One member of your household participates in assistance programs that the Federal government offers, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/SNAP, Federal Public Housing Assistance/FPHA, Supplemental Security Income/SSI, Women, Infants, and Children/WIC, Medicaid, and Lifeline.
- A member of your household benefits from Tribal-specific programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Distribution on Indian Reservations, and Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance/BIA.
Application Process for Free Government Internet
Applying for free internet from the government is very straightforward. It involves the following procedure:
- Visit the National Verifier to see if you qualify to receive discounts from the Affordable Connectivity Program or Lifeline.
- Find the official pages of either Lifeline or Affordable Connectivity Program and complete an application.
- Alternatively, you can search for a service provider that offers free government internet within your locality. Contact them to know their application procedure.
- Pick a suitable plan from them and contact them so they can apply the ACP discount.
Free Internet Service Providers
The following companies provide free internet service to customers who have signed up for the ACP and Lifeline. If you pick their cheapest internet plans and apply the $30 monthly discount, you will not have to pay any extra costs.
1. Cox Communications
Cox provides cheap internet services to eligible applicants. Their ConnectAssist plan costs $30 but will not cost you anything if you apply the $30 Affordable Connectivity Program discount. This plan features unlimited data for one year, download speeds of up to 100Mbps, and a free Wi-Fi modem rental.
However, to get free government internet from Cox, you must be a member of at least one government-aided program. Additionally, you have to provide documentation to enable them to verify your eligibility.
Mediacom participates in the Connect2Compete program, which enables it to provide a 25Mbps internet package for just $9.95 monthly. Like the previous provider, the ACP discount can cater to the entire cost of this package.
This internet package comes with no installation fees, no deposit, no contracts, no equipment rental fees, and a Wi-Fi modem that you can lease at no cost. The qualification criteria for this package include the following: one of your children is receiving the benefits of the National School Lunch Program, you’re not a Mediacom internet customer, you don’t have any Mediacom equipment in your possession, and your Mediacom account doesn’t have any debts.
Xfinity offers affordable connectivity through the Internet Essential program. This program provides internet speeds up to 50Mbps for $9.95 monthly. What benefits does it come with? There are no installation fees, contracts to tie you, and credit checks. In addition, you will get free home Wi-Fi
Your household’s total income must be equal to or less than two times the Federal Poverty guidelines to benefit from the program. Additionally, you have to be signed up for one Federal Government program. Examples include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Lifeline, Medicaid, and National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.
AT&T came up with the Access program to reduce the cost of internet services for low-income households. When you combine it with the Affordable Connectivity Program, you can get internet services for free.
Access from AT&T offers speeds of up to 100Mbps and other benefits such as contract and deposit-free plans, free installation, free Wi-Fi modem, and unlimited access to AT&T hotspot areas countrywide. Eligibility criteria for the program include participation in SNAP, SSI, or NSLP and an income level lower than 200% of the federal government’s poverty guidelines.
5. Optimum Advantage
New and existing customers can stay connected through the Optimum Advantage internet for only $14.99 monthly. This package comes with speeds of up to 50Mbps, free installation, free installation, and no data caps. The great thing about it is that it is risk-free, and you can cancel anytime you feel dissatisfied with their service.
If you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, you can get Optimum Advantage free since the $30 monthly ACP credit will pay for everything. Who qualifies for this program? Seniors aged 65 years and above receiving Supplemental Security Income, veterans receiving public assistance from the Federal Government or State, and households with students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program.
Verizon provides free home internet service through the Verizon Forward Program. The company avails this program to customers who have subscribed to the ACP. Like many other providers on our list, Verizon does not charge installation fees. On top of that, it has no contracts, equipment charges, or data caps and awards $500 to people who switch from other networks.
How can you qualify for this program? If any member of your household is currently benefitting from a government-aided program such as SNAP, SSI, School Breakfast Program, Medicaid, and WIC. You can also be eligible if your income is less than the Poverty Guidelines that the Federal Government created or are signed up for the Lifeline program
This company offers reliable internet access through the Spectrum Internet Assist program. The program comes with speeds of up to 30Mbps, no data caps, no contracts, and a free modem. It also provides in-home Wi-Fi at an additional cost of $5 every month. If you’re a member of the Affordable Connectivity Program, then you could get a discount of $30 on your monthly internet bill.
However, only members of the following government assistance programs can reap the benefits of Spectrum Internet Assist; National School Lunch Program, Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP, and Supplemental Security Income.
8. Astound Broadband
Astound Broadband has one of the fastest free internet packages with speeds of up to 150Mbps. This package is available to customers with a $30 monthly discount from the Affordable Connectivity Program. It also features no contracts and no early termination charges.
You can easily switch to a different provider without extra charges if you want to move to another area where their services are unavailable. Many government assistance programs make you eligible for free internet service from Astound, such as Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicaid.
Although Ideatek is not very prominent, it is one of the many service providers that will allow you to access high-speed internet without spending a single coin. The only catch is that you must actively participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program offered by the Federal Government. Additionally, the company has to be operating within your area.
Some perks accompanying IdeaTek’s free internet are free installation, impeccable customer service, no annual contracts, no data throttling, and internet speeds of up to 100Mbps.
The lowest-priced internet plan you can get at Frontier is the Frontier Essentials Internet which goes for $29.99 but costs $0 after applying the $30 monthly ACP discount. This discount might not reflect immediately on your internet bills as it could take 1-2 billing cycles to take effect. The Federal Communication Commission must verify your eligibility before receiving Frontier Essentials’ free internet.
‘How do I get free government internet’ is a question that has been on the minds of several low-income individuals in the country. Fortunately, this article has highlighted all the government programs that will help you get an internet connection and the service providers that offer them at no cost.
Leverage these programs as they will assist you to continue with your studies, work, communicate, or entertain yourself without putting a dent in your pockets.