The global COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the glaring reality of internet affordability and accessibility in the U.S. According to The No Home Left Offline report, 18 million of the 122 million U.S. “households are offline because they can’t afford to connect to an available internet.” Since the pandemic aided in shifting our learning and working lives into our homes, internet access is now a critical utility.
“Affordability has now emerged as the number one barrier to closing the digital divide. We have a historic opportunity to close two-thirds of the digital divide by connecting 18 million households that have access to the Internet but can’t afford to connect,” said Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway.
Government-funded broadband assistance
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
In response to the urgent need to bridge the digital divide that exists in our country, the current White House administration worked with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
The ACP subsidizes the cost of your monthly internet service. Twenty internet providers, including larger companies like AT&T and Verizon Fios, will offer high-speed internet plans with a minimum Mbps download speed for $30/mo., which will allow anyone receiving the $30/mo. stipend from ACP to get internet service for free.
Those living on Tribal lands will receive $75/mo. off their internet bill. All qualifying participants can also receive a $100 discount on a computer or tablet.
To be eligible for these plans, households must be enrolled in the ACP. You can claim that benefit and apply for a high-speed plan from a participating provider in one place: https://www.whitehouse.gov/getinternet/.
Lifeline provides a discount of $9.25/mo. for either your phone or internet bill (but not both) and is limited to one discount per household. That increases to $34.25 if you live on Tribal lands.
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 June 30, 2022. The waived requirements include recertification, reverification, de-enrollment, usage, income documentation and documentation for subscribers living on Tribal lands.
Qualifying for Lifeline
If you or someone in your household participate in a federal assistance program, you may qualify for Lifeline. Those programs include Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits and more. Check here to see if you are eligible.
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. With the implementation of the ACP, most of the providers now require you to sign up through that program first and then offer these plans, as well as faster services up to 100 Mbps, to you for free, as they fall under the $30/mo. subsidy provided by the federal program. Some ISPs also offer the ACP portal on their sites for easy access. For their student-only, low-cost programs, the ISP may require additional verifications.
Low-income internet options from top providers:
- Altice Advantage Internet (for Optimum and Suddenlink)- Up to 50 Mbps for $14.99/mo.
- Access from AT&T – Up to 100 Mbps for under $30/mo.*
- Cox Connect2Compete – Up to 100 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
- Mediacom Connect2Compete – Up to 25 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
- Spectrum Internet Assist – Up to 100 Mbps for $29.99/mo.*
- Xfinity Internet Essentials – Up to 50 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 50 Mbps for $14.99/mo. 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 up to 100 Mbps internet for under $30/mo. with your ACP enrollment. 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.
For $9.95/mo.*, qualifying participants can receive low-cost internet up to 100 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).
With Mediacom’s Connect2Compete program, qualifying households can receive up to 25 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). 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.
Spectrum Internet Assist
Spectrum low-income internet is offered to eligible applicants through the Spectrum Internet Assist program. The Spectrum Internet 100 promotion price (including WiFi) is $29.99/mo., good for two years, making it free for ACP-qualified users. Additionally, no contract is required and an internet modem is included. You can add in-home Wi-Fi for an extra $5/mo.*
Xfinity Internet Essentials
With Xfinity Internet Essentials, qualifying households can get internet speeds up to 50 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.
*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 05/27/22.
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.
Last updated 05/27/22.
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
Edited by:Trey Paul
Editor, Broadband Content