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Guide to low-income internet options and affordable internet plans

Lisa Iscrupe

Mar 24, 2021 — 7 min read

Families that meet income or government assistance requirements may qualify for discounted or low-cost internet.

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In today’s ever-connected world, having access to the internet is quickly evolving from a luxury to a necessity. Everything from paying your bills to applying for a job to scheduling a doctor’s appointment is primarily done online. But with internet prices averaging about $60 a month, according to Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst of the Leichtman Research Group, it can be difficult to find low-income internet options that fit your budget.

Our guide to low-income internet options can help you identify government assistance, as well as income-based and provider-specific programs that offer affordable internet for families, students and seniors on a fixed income.

Government-funded broadband assistance

Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program

Beginning in late April 2021, qualifying low-income households can sign up for the emergency broadband benefit program, a Federal Communications Commission program that will subsidize the cost of internet service.The FCC agreed to implement this program on Feb. 25 and is allocating $3.2 billion to cover the costs. 

Eligible low-income households will receive $50/mo. off their internet bill and those living on tribal lands will receive $75/mo. off their internet bill. All qualifying participants will also receive a $100 discount on a computer or tablet. This program is only available for the remainder of the pandemic.

Do I qualify for EBB assistance?

Households can qualify for the broadband benefit program in a range of ways, including:

  • You currently participate in a low-income or pandemic relief program offered by an ISP 
  • You are a Lifeline subscriber 
  • You are on Medicaid
  • You accept SNAP benefits 
  • The kids in your household receive free or reduced-price lunch and/or school breakfast 
  • You are a Pell grant recipient 
  • You lost your job and have seen your income reduced in the last year


Lifeline provides a discount of $9.25 per month for either your phone or internet bill (but not both) and is limited to one discount per household.

COVID-19 update on Lifeline services

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the FCC has waived six requirements for the Lifeline program that will last until December 31, 2021:

  1. Recertification
  2. Reverification
  3. General de-enrollment
  4. Subscriber usage
  5. Income documentation 
  6. Documentation requirements for subscribers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands

Programs that qualify for Lifeline

If you or someone in your household participate in a federal assistance program, you may qualify for Lifeline, the FCC’s program that helps lower either monthly phone or internet costs.

The following federal assistance programs may qualify you for Lifeline:

  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

Some Tribal assistance programs may also qualify you for Lifeline, including:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

How to get Lifeline if you qualify through a government assistance program

To take advantage of Lifeline discounts, you first must establish that you qualify through one of the government programs above. You may need to show proof of qualification, such as presenting a card or award letter from Medicaid or SNAP.

Once you’ve determined your qualification, you can choose an internet or phone company near you and request an application. You will need to provide your full legal name, date of birth, last four digits of your Social Security Number (or Tribal identification number) and address on your application. You may also be required to show an unexpired ID, a Social Security card, a Medicaid card, or other documents to prove your identity.

Your selected company will process your application and may require you to submit additional forms. If approved, you’ll sign up and receive your Lifeline discount toward your bill.

How to get Lifeline if you qualify through income

If you do not receive assistance from one of the government programs listed above, you may still qualify for the $9.25 per month Lifeline discount based on your income. Lifeline provides the monthly phone or internet discount to eligible low-income applicants who have an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.

You’ll need to establish that you qualify by proving your gross annual income. You can do so by showing:

  • Current income state from an employer
  • Divorce decree, child support award or other official document containing income information
  • Federal or Tribal notice letter of participation in General Assistance
  • Paycheck stub
  • State, federal or Tribal tax return from the previous year
  • Social Security statement of benefits
  • Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation state of benefits

If you qualify, you can apply in the same way: Choose a company in your area, submit an application and, if approved, sign up for the Lifeline program.

Summary of low-income internet programs by provider

Many internet service providers also offer their own low-income assistance programs to provide affordable internet access. In many cases, you may need to meet income requirements or participate in a government assistance program. Additionally, some providers may require that you be a new customer and/or have no outstanding bills with the provider.

Low-income internet options from top providers:

  • Altice Advantage Internet – Up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo. 
  • Access from AT&T – Up to 10 Mbps for $5/mo. or $10/mo.*
  • Cox Connect2Compete – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
  • Mediacom Connect2Compete – Up to 10 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
  • Spectrum Internet Assist – Up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo.*
  • Xfinity Internet Essentials – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*

Altice Advantage Internet with Optimum or Suddenlink 

Altice is offering a low-income household discount through both Optimum and Suddenlink called Altice Advantage Internet. Qualifying families can receive up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo. Plus, the first 60 days are free. Eligible households include families with a K-12 or college student who needs internet access at home due to COVID-19, seniors eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or veterans receiving public assistance.

Access from AT&T

Access from AT&T offers low-cost internet service to qualifying participants of up to 10 Mbps with prices ranging from $5-$10/mo.* As part of the program, there’s no contract, no deposit and no installation fee required, plus an in-home Wi-Fi modem and access to more than 30,000 AT&T nationwide hotspots is included.

To qualify, participants must have at least one resident who participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), have an address in AT&T’s 21-state area where wireline home internet service is provided, and not have outstanding debt for AT&T fixed internet service within 6 months.

Cox Connect2Compete

For $9.95/mo.*, qualifying participants can receive low-cost internet up to 15 Mbps from Cox. Additionally, program members can take advantage of no deposits or annual contracts and a free Wi-Fi modem.

Qualifying applicants for the Connect2Compete program must have at least one K-12 student living in their household and participate in either the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Public Housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Visit Cox’s Connect2Compete page or call (855) 222-3252 to learn more about the program and check on your eligibility.

Additionally, for customers who do not meet the eligibility requirements for the Connect2Compete plan, Cox is also offering the Cox Internet Starter 10 (up to 10 Mbps) free for the first month ($19.99/mo.* for months 2-12).

Mediacom Connect2Compete

With Mediacom’s Connect2Compete program, qualifying households can receive up to 10 Mbps for $9.95/mo.* with no contract, no deposit, no installation fees, and no equipment rental fees. A Wi-Fi modem is provided via a no-cost lease.

You may qualify for the program if you have at least one child in grades K-12 living at home and at least one child receives free or reduced school lunches through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Additionally, you must not be a current Mediacom internet customer and not have an outstanding bill or unreturned equipment.

Visit Mediacom’s Connect2Compete page or call (855) 904-2225 to see if you qualify and learn more about the program.

Now available to all new customers, Mediacom is also offering Access Internet 60 (up to 60 Mbps) for $19.99/mo.* for the next 12 months. This is $10/mo. off the normal retail rate.

Spectrum Internet Assist

Spectrum low-income internet is offered to eligible applicants through the Spectrum Internet Assist program with speeds up to 30 Mbps with no data caps for $14.99/mo.* Additionally, no contract is required and an internet modem is included. You can add in-home Wi-Fi for an extra $5/mo.*

To qualify, a member of your household must be a recipient of either the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP, or Supplemental Security Income (for age 65 and older).

Xfinity Internet Essentials

With Xfinity Internet Essentials, qualifying households can get internet speeds up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.* With the program, there’s no credit check, no contract and no installation fee. In-home Wi-Fi is included and participants have the option to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus tax.

You may qualify for Xfinity Internet Essentials if your child is eligible for the National School Lunch Program, you receive HUD housing assistance, you are a community college student in Colorado or Illinois or you are a low-income verified veteran or senior.

Resources low-income households can use to get discounted internet

Saving money on internet costs

If you’re struggling to pay for internet service but don’t qualify for one of the programs above, you can explore cheap internet options from a variety of providers and take other steps to reduce your bill, such as buying your own equipment if it’s cheaper and keeping an eye on hidden internet fees.

Another option is to rely on free public Wi-Fi if you live near any stores, cafes, public parks or other establishments offering free internet. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask providers about discounts. Many internet service providers offer discounts for military and veteran families as well as senior citizens.

Call our experts today to learn more about affordable internet options in your area.

Lisa Iscrupe

Written by:

Lisa Iscrupe

Writer, Broadband & Data Content

Lisa uses years of experience in sales and customer service for internet-TV providers to inform her writing on broadband. Her work has been referenced by CNN and other national sources. In Lisa’s Words: Ever… Read more

Trey Paul

Edited by:

Trey Paul

Editor, Head of Content

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