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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 researching a school paper 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.
The Allconnect® guide to low-income internet options and affordable internet plans can help you identify government assistance, income-based and provider-specific programs that offer low-income internet for families, students and seniors on a fixed income.
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Government assistance programs
If you or someone in your household participate in a federal assistance program, you may qualify for Lifeline, the Federal Communication Commission’s program that helps lower either monthly phone or internet costs.
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
On 3/17/20, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the FCC made two changes to the Lifeline program.
- Lifeline program’s recertification and reverification requirements for participating low-income consumers will be waived for 60 days.
- The 2019 mandate that requires participating carriers’ enrollment representatives to register with the Lifeline program administrator will be waived for 60 days.
Programs that qualify for Lifeline
The following federal assistance programs may qualify you for Lifeline:
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- 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.
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.
How to get Lifeline if you qualify through income
Similar to above, 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 service providers:
- AT&T – Up to 10 Mbps for $5/mo. or $10/mo.*
- Cox – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
- Mediacom – Up to 10 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
- Spectrum – Up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo.*
- Xfinity – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
Access from AT&T
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.
Visit the Access from AT&T page for answers to frequently asked questions and to check availability.
COVID-19 update on AT&T’s Lifeline services
In response to the public health crisis, AT&T made the following temporary changes to their Lifeline program:
- New qualifying customers can receive two free months of service. Must order by 4/30/20.
- Waiving all home internet data overage fees.
- Expanded eligibility based on income and to households participating in the National School Lunch Program.
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 1.855.222.3252 to learn more about the program and check on your eligibility.
COVID-19 update on Cox’s Connect2Compete program
Cox’s COVID-19 response includes the following temporary adjustments :
- Two months free of Connect2Compete service.
- Free phone and remote desktop support through Cox Complete Care through 5/15/20.
- Resources for discounted, refurbished equipment, in association with PCs for People.
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).
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 1.855.904.2225 to see if you qualify and learn more about the program.
COVID-19 update on Mediacom’s Connect2Compete program
Mediacom’s COVID-19 response includes the following temporary adjustments :
- Two months free of Connect2Compete service for qualifying households. Must subscribe by 5/15/20.
- Increasing the Connect2Compete internet download/upload internet speed from up to 10 Mbps/1Mbps to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
- No monthly data allowances on all Mediacom broadband service through 5/15/20.
- Free access to Mediacom Xtream Wi-Fi Hotspots for 60 days.
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).
Visit Spectrum’s website to see if Spectrum Internet Assistance is available in your area and to learn more about the program.
COVID-19 update on Spectrum’s Internet Assist program
Spectrum’s COVID-19 response includes the following temporary changes:
- All Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspots available for public use.
- Free internet for 60 days for students.
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.
Visit the Xfinity Internet Essentials page to learn more about their programs and check your eligibility.
*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. Speeds may vary. As of 03/23/20.
COVID-19 update on Xfinity’s Internet Essentials program
Xfinity’s COVID-19 response includes the following changes:
- Free internet service for two months for new Xfinity Internet Essentials customers. Must apply by 4/30/20.
- Increasing the Internet Essentials download/upload internet speed to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. Xfinity has stated that this will remain the new base speed for the Internet Essential program moving forward.
Saving money on internet costs
If you’re struggling to pay for internet 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.
Originally written on 2/21/2019. Last updated 3/24/2020.
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