Are you looking for free internet for low-income families? The Federal government, internet service providers (ISP), and non-profit organizations have initiated various programs to provide free internet to that segment of society.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a monthly subsidy, which ISPs use to provide free or affordable internet services. But benefitting from the subsidy is not automatic. Applicants must meet stringent eligibility criteria to get free internet.
This article describes the different ways in which low-income families can get free internet – from the government, ISPs, or non-profit organizations.
- Free internet for low-income families is mainly available via Lifeline Assistance and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
- Most ISPs have affordable internet service plans that provide high-speed connectivity to low-income families
- Some non-profit organizations offer free internet for low-income families that participate in particular government assistance programs
Free Internet for Low Income Families from the Government
In a bid to meet the internet needs of low-income families, the federal government has established several programs. Through the FCC, it works with state governments and ISPs to provide free internet to low-income households for school, work, and entertainment needs.
The two federal programs providing free internet are Lifeline Assistance and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Each of these programs has a distinctive eligibility criterion, which appears below in greater detail:
1. Lifeline Assistance
Lifeline Assistance is a program that supports low-income families with a discount for internet or phone services. The FCC-initiated program offers $9.25 towards a household’s monthly internet costs. If you reside on Tribal Lands, you may get a $34.25 discount. If the discounts cover an entire household’s bill, it will enjoy free internet.
The decades-old program also avails free feature phones to qualifying low-income households. It is available in most states. Low-income families can qualify for the program if their annual incomes are lower than 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines. Other qualification criteria include participation in any of the following programs:
- Benefit from Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Participation in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Participation in Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pensions or Survivors Pension Plan
A select few cable companies, phone companies, and telecommunication providers offer Lifeline Assistance discounts. Once you identify a Lifeline provider, you can contact them to apply for the subsidy. If none of the companies is willing to enroll you, dial the FCC Help Center at 1-888-225-5322 for further directions. You may also apply for Lifeline Assistance via the National Verifier.
2. Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
The Affordable Connectivity Program is the latest in the FCC stable. It came into existence on December 31, 2022, replacing the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which cushioned people who had lost incomes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the ACP, low-income families get discounts on monthly internet bills or direct financial help for a device. The discount is worth $30 monthly or $75 for those residing on Tribal Lands. It supports the purchase of tablets, laptops, and desktop computers with a $100 one-off discount. Low-income families may use the discount to pay for wireless, satellite, or cable internet connection.
To qualify for the ACP, your income should be below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The actual income limits may vary with time, depending on where in the United States you reside. Besides, you may qualify for the ACP by participating in any of the following government assistance programs:
- Lifeline Assistance
- Lifeline-eligible programs like SSI, SNAP, Medicaid, and Federal Public Housing
- Tribal assistance programs like Tribal TANF and Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Plan
Besides, a low-income family may get free internet if they meet the ISP’s eligibility criteria. application for the ACP is either online or via mail. Online applications happen on the ACP or the National Verifier websites.
If you opt for mail-in application, then you must print out the application form before filling it out. After attaching all relevant documents, you can send it to the ACP via the following address:
ACP Support Center, P.O Box 7081, London, KY, 40742
Low-Cost or Free Internet Plans for Low Income Families from ISPs
Apart from the government, there are several ISPs that offer low-cost of free internet to low-income families. These companies have tailor-made internet plans that provide basic connectivity to those in need. The following are some of the ISPs with internet plans targeted specifically at low-income families:
1. Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials
Comcast is one of the largest telecommunication companies in the United States. Through Xfinity Internet Essentials, it provides a no-contract, no-credit check, and installation-fee-free internet plan to low-income families for $9.95 per month. Thus, instead of paying for the full cost, you pay only a little to access the internet. There’s also the option to purchase a low-cost desktop computer or laptop for just $149.
Qualifying low-income families must have at least one child participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The internet plan is also available to low-income seniors, those receiving HUD housing assistance, and community college students in Illinois and Colorado. Alternatively, you must verify that your household income is below the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Application for the Xfinity Internet Essentials program is either online of via the mobile phone. Each qualifying low-income household gets a text or email notification about their approval for the program. After that, you’ll get connected to the internet in less than seven days.
Xfinity Internet Essentials comes with several advantages, including the following:
- Zero equipment rental fees
- No credit checks
- Zero activation fees
- No long-term contracts
- Affordable in-home internet
- Nationwide affinity hotspots
- Free computer classes
It is suitable for all low-income households, regardless of whether or not that have tech-savvy members. With the training program, anyone can use a computer. However, hot all applicants may get approved for the internet plan. These households can sign up for other Xfinity internet plans staring at $19.99 per month.
2. AT&T Access
With over 45 years of industry experience, AT&T has a lot to offer to users in 21 states. It currently has millions of customers in its stable and keeps finding ways to help low-income families. One such program is AT&T Access, which targets low-income families with free or affordable internet.
Qualifying low-income families get a high-speed internet connection for $5 to $10 per month. The program is available to low-income families with at least one member participating in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP).
Applications for AT&T Access happen on the Access Wireless website. Once approved, low-income households get SMS or email notification about their eligibility to get free internet. With this program, there are no contracts, no deposit, and no installation fee. What you see is what you get!
3. Spectrum Internet Assist
Do you still want to know how to get free internet for low-income families? Then you should try Spectrum, which is owned by Charter Communications. Spectrum is a national telecommunications company that provides broadband internet services to more than 32 million customers in 41 states. Households can get Spectrum internet services through any of the three available packages.
Spectrum Internet Assist provides low-cost high-speed internet to qualifying low-income families across the United States. Eligibility criteria for the package includes participation in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
For only $14.99 per month, low-income families get internet speeds of up to 30Mbps with no data caps. The package also includes a complementary modem and a security suite. Although it isn’t entirely free, it is affordable and reliable enough for users across the United States. Besides, households may opt to bundle their internet with other services, enabling substantial savings.
4. CenturyLink Internet Basics
CenturyLink is one of the largest fiber and DSL internet providers in the United States. It has operations in 36 states and reaches millions of customers. It has a variety of internet packages with different speeds for users of all kinds.
With CenturyLink, entire low-income families get high-speed internet connection for a small fee. The company’s Standard Federal Lifeline Program provides a $9.25 monthly discount for internet and $5.25 for phone services. Those living on Tribal Lands get a $34.25 discount. The discounts are application on any CenturyLink internet package and can result in massive savings.
Since CenturyLink is a Lifeline Assistance provider, you can apply for the discount through the Universal Services Administration Company (USAC) website. Alternatively, you may use the National Verifier website to check your eligibility and fill out the Lifeline Application form. Whichever way you choose to do it, you will have to pick CenturyLink as your provider.
5. Mediacom Connect2Compete
Mediacom is a cable and telecommunications provider that offers affordable and reliable internet services to homes across the United States. Through the Connect2Compete plan, users pay only $9.95 monthly for internet speeds of up to 10Mbps. Besides, the impressive internet speed, the program has no equipment fee and no deposit or installment.
A household can qualify for the Connect2Compete internet plan if it has a K-12 child on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). You must provide documents showing that, indeed, your child participates in the program.
6. Cox Connect2Compete
Cox has operations in 18 states and has reliable internet plans for customers from all income groups. Low-income families can get affordable internet from this company via the Connect2Compete program. the package costs only $9.95 monthly and is available to low-income families with K-12 students on the NSLP.
Since this is a no-contract package, you can cancel it any time you want and get another one or change providers. Users may also access other packages from Cox for affordable monthly costs. A good example is the Cox Internet Starter 10 package, which costs $29.99 monthly.
7. Eagle Communications Connect2Compete
You can also get the Connect2Compete program from Eagle Communications. Low-income families with at least one child in the NSLP qualify for this program. If you’re a student in New York, you do not need to meet any other criterion to qualify. Also, those on SSI assistance or senior citizens over 65 years old may also get this discount.
8. Altice Advantage Internet
With Altice Advantage Internet, low-income households get 30Mbps of internet speed for $14.95 per month. This package is suitable for those who cannot get free internet for some reason. It comes with a free modem and smart router. The program is available to low-income households with at least one child participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Free Internet for Low Income Families from Non-Profit Organizations
Some non-profit organizations have chosen to supplement the government’s efforts to reach low-income families with affordable internet services. These organizations work with ISPs to help low-income families stay connected. The following are two of the non-profit organizations providing free internet to U.S. residents:
EveryoneOn is one of the non-profit organizations offering free internet for low-income families with K-12 children. It works with ISPs to avail free or affordable internet to those who need it. The Company’s sole mission is to promote digital inclusion by reaching out to the unreached. They train people in digital and financial literacy too.
2. PCs for People
PCs for People is a non-profit organization that provides free or low-cost internet to low-income households. Eligible households also get low-cost computers to keep them connected with their families, friends, and work environments.
To qualify for free internet for low-income families from PCs for People, your income should be under 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines. You should also be currently enrolled in a government assistance program. Once you get approved, you will get high-speed internet for just $11.25 per month on a no-credit-check and no-contract arrangement. You will also get affordable laptop or PC repairs for only $25.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways to get free internet for low-income families. Enrolling for Lifeline Assistance and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) gives these families access to useful government subsidies. They can use the subsidies to get either free or discounted internet services.
Some ISPs also have elaborate programs for free or affordable internet services. Eligible families get high-speed internet at highly discounted prices. Getting free internet from ISPs is a good option for those who do not qualify for government assistance.