According to a survey carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 adults in the United States live with some form of disability. Despite the prevalence of internet connectivity in most parts of America, the US Census Bureau reports that many people with disabilities still have no access to it.
This has resulted in an increase in the digital divide that is currently taking place. Additionally, it has negatively impacted the socioeconomic status of people with disabilities. The lack of internet makes it hard for the disabled to apply for jobs, educate themselves, communicate with their loved ones, or entertain themselves.
Fortunately, there are government programs, ISPs, and private organizations that offer free internet for disabled to ensure that you don’t miss out on opportunities. However, you have to meet some qualification criteria to be a beneficiary. This guide will take you through the whole process.
- Government Discount Programs Offering Free Internet for Disabled
- How to Get Free Government Internet for The Disabled
- Internet Service Providers Offering Low Cost or Free Internet for Disabled
- Organizations Providing Free Internet for Disabled
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- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Government Discount Programs Offering Free Internet for Disabled
The federal government offers various support programs to people from low-income families, seniors, and the disabled to help them live smoother lives. There are two main government programs that offer free internet for disabled: the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline.
Qualification for Free Internet for Disabled Through the ACP
People living with disabilities can apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program to get free internet. This program provides monthly discounts of up to $75 to financially strained individuals to help them settle their internet bills.
On top of that, the ACP also helps to empower the disabled technologically by offering $100 credits to people purchasing devices such as phones, computers, Chromebooks, and tablets. However, not every disabled person can qualify for such assistance. You have to satisfy one of the criteria outlined below:
- Your income has to be less than 200% of the threshold set by the federal government
- You’re a participant in a low-income program offered by a participating service provider
- You’re a participant in the Lifeline program offered by the federal government
- Have received a Federal Pell Grant within the year being considered
- Are receiving support from government-aided programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Federal Public Housing Assistance Program, Medicaid, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, and Supplemental Security Income.
- You’ve signed up for any of the following Tribal-support programs: Food Distribution on Indian Reservations, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tribal Head Start, and Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
- A member of your household has subscribed to the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program
- Have lost your source of income
Qualification for Free Internet for Disabled Through Lifeline
Lifeline is one of the most prominent government assistance programs that seeks to address the needs of the elderly, low-income individuals, and the disabled. This program provides eligible participants with monthly internet discounts of up to $9.25.
Lifeline also provides up to $34.25 to eligible participants living on tribal lands to help cover internet service costs. This program only provides one discount per household. It is mainly offered by wireless service providers, cable companies, and phone companies.
However, you can only be eligible for Lifeline if the total income of your household does not surpass 135% of the Federal Poverty Threshold. You can also be a beneficiary if one member of your household takes part in any of the following government-aided programs:
- Supplemental Security Income
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Veteran’s Pension or Survivor’s Pension Benefit
How to Get Free Government Internet for The Disabled
Below is the procedure you can follow to get free internet for disabled through Lifeline or ACP.
- Check if you’re eligible for the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program by visiting the National Verifier.
- Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, fill out an application form for either the Lifeline or Affordable Connectivity Program on their official sites.
- Alternatively, you can download an application form from the ACP or Lifeline pages and complete it. After that, you can send it by mail to this address: ACP Support Center, PO Box 7081, London, KY 40742
- Approach a Lifeline or ACP provider within your area and choose any low-cost plan that they offer. You should then contact them to have the monthly ACP or Lifeline discount applied to your bill.
Some of the details required during the application process include your full legal name, date of birth, home address, and identity verification (Social Security, Tribal ID, Passport, Military ID, Taxpayer Identification, or Driver’s License number).
You can contact the Federal Communication Commission at (888) 225-5322 for further assistance if your application is not successful.
Internet Service Providers Offering Low Cost or Free Internet for Disabled
Various internet service providers have come up with assistance programs that offer free internet for disabled persons. Most of them put more focus on these programs during the pandemic, when the disparity in access to technology between financially capable and low-income individuals was clearly highlighted.
1. Spectrum Internet Assist
The Spectrum Internet Assist Program is a special program specifically designed to make internet services affordable for low-income families, senior citizens, and the disabled. The lowest-priced plan under this program costs $19.99.
If you’re a member of the Affordable Connectivity Program, then the ACP discount can fully cover this cost. Some of the stand-out features of this program include:
- Favorable internet speeds of up to 30 Mbps
- No contract signing when you purchase a plan
- Data will not be throttled, and you will not incur extra charges
- Comes with a modem at no extra cost and WiFi service for only $5 monthly
- You will be given unrestricted access to Spectrum WiFi hotspots around the country
To benefit from the Spectrum Internet Assist program, you should not have any debts at Charter Communications, Time Warner, or Bright House Networks. Luckily, the company does not look at your credit score before determining your eligibility for the program.
How to apply:
- Visit the Spectrum Internet Assist official page and download an application form
- Complete the form with the required details and attach the relevant documents
- Choose an Internet package and submit the form
You can get in touch with Spectrum’s customer support staff at 1-800-866-8026 for the Lifeline or ACP discount to be applied during payout.
2. Xfinity Internet Essentials
Internet Essentials is an internet assistance program brought to you by Comcast, the parent company of Xfinity. If you are a Comcast customer and you have not offset some of your bills, then you can greatly benefit from Xfinity Essentials.
Additionally, people living with disabilities only have to pay $9.95 to sign up for the program. However, if you receive Lifeline or Affordable Connectivity Program discounts, you can get this service for free. The following are the benefits you can get from the program:
- No Contracts to tie you
- Zero installation costs are involved
- Your credit rating won’t be checked
How to Apply:
- Check if you qualify for the program either through having a low income or participating in government-aided programs like Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, NSLP, and the Federal Pell Grant.
- Once, you’ve determined your eligibility, sign up on the Internet Essentials page using your phone or computer.
- Wait for your application to be reviewed. You’ll be informed through SMS if approved
- Get your home Internet Connection
You can also contact Internet Essentials at 1-855-846-8376 to receive guidance on the application procedure.
3. AT&T Access
Access by AT&T is among the most popular internet assistance programs in the country. It offers reliable internet at a low cost of $10 a month. For you to qualify for the program, your annual earnings should not exceed 200% of the Poverty Threshold set by the Federal Government.
You also have to be a participant in one of the Federal Government Assistance programs mentioned earlier. However, being a member of the Affordable Connectivity Program automatically qualifies you for AT&T Access. The program comes with:
- Free installation
- Free in-home WiFi
- No annual contracts
- Speeds of up to 100 Mbps
How to Apply:
- Go to the National Verifier website and send your application for the ACP
- If your application is successful, you will be given an application ID
- You can apply for Access and contact AT&T for the ACP discount to be applied using the Application ID.
Reach the AT&T customer support staff at 1-855-220-5211 to help you enroll in the Access program.
4. Cox Connect2Compete
Cox offers a low-cost internet program known as Connect2Compete. This program comes for only $9.95 a month but allows you to access the internet at a maximum speed of 100 Mbps. Participation in one of the following programs will help you qualify for Connect2Compete:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- The NSLP(National School Lunch Program)
Additionally, you have to reside in an area where Cox offers their service, have no pending bills at Cox for the past 12 months, and have not used Cox service for the past 3 months.
How to apply:
- Head to the Cox Connect2Compete site.
- Input your details, e.g., name and contact details
- Verify your identity using your date of birth
- Gather your documents and upload them
- Submit your documents and wait for 2-3 business days to get a reply
If you have any further questions, please contact Cox Customer Service at 1-855-222-3252.
5. Mediacom Connect2Compete
Mediacom also takes part in the Connect2Compete internet assistance program. As a result, they can provide an internet package for only $9.95 per month. If you’re a recipient of the monthly ACP discounts, you can potentially get this package at no cost.
Some of the features that this package has are:
- Comes with no equipment rental charges
- A free WiFi modem that is leased to you at no cost
- No annual contracts, deposits, or installation charges
You can qualify for Connect2Compete if you meet these guidelines:
- Live in an area that Mediacom operates
- Have settled all your Mediacom bills
- Have not used Mediacom for more than three months
- Have returned any Mediacom equipment that you had
- Participate in the assistance program mentioned before
- Have a K 12 child that is in your household
How to Apply:
- Visit their website, complete an application form, and submit it. Alternatively, you can make a call to 1-855-904-2225 to speak to one of Mediacom agents.
Organizations Providing Free Internet for Disabled
Some non-governmental organizations also provide free internet for disabled, aside from ISPs. They include:
EveryoneOn is a non-profit outfit that aims to provide free internet for disabled so that they can improve their social and economic situation. When they started out, their main focus was to create awareness.
However, they have now expanded their scope of operation and now provide free internet to people from impoverished backgrounds and the disabled. They also provide digital literacy training and tools such as tablets, laptops, and computers.
2. PC’s for People
This organization was established to assist people living below the poverty level to access the internet at a low cost. It also provides refurbished or cheap computers to the disabled to help them improve their digital skills.
Their high-speed internet costs only $11.25 a month, while their refurbished PCs go for as little as $25. To be a recipient of their aid, you have to be a member of a government-support program or have an annual income that is lower than 200% of the Poverty Level set by the Federal Government.
Living with a disability can hamper your chances of getting a full-time job, furthering your education, getting new clients, or even socially interacting with people. This situation is worsened when you don’t have access to a fast and stable internet connection.
Thankfully, there are many ways you can get free internet for disabled as highlited above. Although living with a disability plays a role, you will still need to fulfill the required eligibility criteria to get internet assistance from the programs and organizations mentioned. However, don’t be afraid to try your luck.
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