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As the past year has taught us, it’s virtually impossible to get by in today’s world without an internet connection. And while access is still a major issue, high prices are often a bigger barrier to getting people connected.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, half of all people who don’t have a home internet subscription say one reason is that it’s too expensive — double the number who say they don’t have access. The FCC and internet service providers have made great efforts to help people stay online during the pandemic as part of their Keep America Connected pledge, but truly free internet access is still a rarity.
On this page, we’ll walk through all the free internet options that are currently available, along with some resources that can help you get your internet connection heavily discounted — if not entirely free.
Truly free (but slow) home internet options
If free internet sounds too good to be true, it mostly is. To get the type of internet connection most people are accustomed to in 2021, you’ll almost always have to pay some kind of monthly bill. That said, a couple providers do offer completely free, no-strings-attached internet plans, although speeds are unsurprisingly limited.
FreeNet from BuckeyeBroadband
- Cost: Free
- What you’ll get: 2 Mbps internet with ads
- Who’s eligible: Anyone in northern Ohio
In March 2021, Buckeye Broadband unveiled a first-of-its kind product: free, ad-supported internet. Just as streaming services like Peacock offer free tiers in exchange for some commercials, the internet service provider is giving customers free broadband access if they’ll watch a brief advertisement before every session.
The service, called FreeNet, is available to anyone in Buckeye Broadband’s service area — primarily northern Ohio — and gets you 2 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds. There’s a $19.95 activation fee, and if you want to use Wi-Fi with the service, you’ll have to provide your own router.
- Cost: Free
- What you’ll get: 10 hours of dial-up internet per month
- Who’s eligible: Anyone
If you’ve ever felt nostalgic for the sound of dial-up internet, NetZero has the free internet plan for you. The company offers 10 hours of free dial-up access each month with download speeds of 28.8 Kbps to 56 Kbps. To put that in perspective, it’s around 0.2% of the FCC definition of minimum broadband speed — enough to (slowly) check an email or load a web page, but not much else. You’ll also need a working phone jack and modem to take advantage of NetZero’s free internet offer.
- Cost: Free
- What you’ll get: 25MB of 4G LTE data each month
- Who’s eligible: Anyone with a compatible smartphone
FreedomPop is a cellphone carrier that offers a free tier of service. While the plan is actually free, there are a number of ways you can get pulled into paying for it, so you’ll have to be extra mindful of how much data you’re using each month.
The “Freemium” plan includes 10 minutes of calls, 10 texts and 25MB of data each month. (Calls and texts are both unlimited when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.) You’ll need to use a FreedomPop SIM card on a compatible phone, which costs $10 when you sign up. If you go over 25MB in a 30-day cycle, FreedomPop automatically adds 500MB to your account for $8. For context, you’d use up 25MB watching five minutes of Netflix in the lowest resolution, so you should only plan on using FreedomPop to load the occasional email or webpage.
If you really want a quality internet connection for free, your best bet is to utilize a government program. These are typically available to low-income households who qualify for other federal programs like SNAP or Medicaid.
Emergency Broadband Benefit
- What you’ll get: $50/mo. off your monthly internet bill
- Who’s eligible: Anyone with income below 135% of federal poverty guidelines, who’s lost income since Feb. 29, 2020, lives on Tribal lands
In May 2021, the FCC launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), one of its most ambitious efforts to close the digital divide in history. This temporary program allocates $3.2 billion in funds directly to internet users, who receive a $50/mo. discount off their monthly internet bill ($75/mo. for households on Tribal lands). In most areas, this is enough to get free internet with speeds up to 100 Mbps — plenty for families who are working and learning from home during the pandemic.Learn more about the Emergency Broadband Benefit
- What you’ll get: $9.25/mo. off phone or internet bill
- Who’s eligible: Anyone with income below 135% of federal poverty guidelines, qualifies for SNAP, Medicaid, SSI or other federal assistance programs
Unlike the EBB, Lifeline is a permanent federal program, but its benefit is also far smaller. Qualifying households can get $9.25/mo. off either their phone or internet bill, and the benefit is increased to $34.25/mo. for households on Tribal lands. It’s not quite free internet, but it can take out a significant chunk of your monthly bills.Learn more about Lifeline
EveryoneOn is a nonprofit that helps connect low-income households to affordable internet options and digital learning opportunities in their area. While the organization doesn’t technically offer free internet itself, it’s a great place to start your search to see what’s available near you.
PCs for People
The core mission of PCs for People is to share the benefits of an internet connection with everyone who needs it. The group distributes refurbished computers to low-income individuals and nonprofits, and also provides low-cost internet access nationwide using unlimited 4G LTE wireless data.
Like PCs for People, Human-I–T specializes in refurbishing and donating computer equipment to people who need it, but the organization also helps connect people with low-cost internet options in their area. You can fill out a form on their website or text them for assistance with finding available resources.
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Written by:Joe Supan
Senior Writer, Broadband Content
Joe oversees all things broadband for Allconnect. His work has been referenced by Yahoo!, Lifehacker and more. He has utilized thousands of data points to build a library of metrics to help users navigate these … Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
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