In today's world, internet access is essential for work, school, and education. A reliable internet connection is even more vital for rural and low-income households, which often cannot afford it.
Fortunately, low-income families and students are eligible for a free internet government program. Financial assistance, discounts, and rebates may also help pay the monthly bill or connection fees.
In addition to government resources, many cable or phone companies offer heavily discounted or even free Internet connections.
Last December 2021, Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. Investments in broadband connectivity will help us afford the connections we need for work, school, health care, and more for a long time.
Here are a few things that have changed under the new program:
- The maximum monthly benefit for households not located on tribal lands has been reduced to $30 per month from $50 per month. Families living on tribal lands continued to receive $75 per month, and no further action was needed on their part.
- New eligibility requirements have been added, such as obtaining WIC benefits or income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
- The ACP has been available only to households that qualify for the previous program or those who meet the eligibility criteria for their provider's COVID-19 program.
In most cases, all households currently receiving the Emergency Broadband Benefit continued to receive it after the transition period ended on March 1, 2022. All legacy EBB participants who are not on qualifying tribal lands will receive a $30 monthly discount. You should contact your provider for information about a possible increase in your monthly service bill or switch to a different plan.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) backs Lifeline, a government program that offers low-income families a monthly discount on telephone or internet service. Subscribers eligible for Lifeline benefits receive at least $9.25 off landline, wireless, broadband, or bundled services.
For households within federally recognized tribal lands, enhanced Lifeline benefits result in a total discount of $34.95. You can claim one Lifeline discount for either phone or internet service, so make sure you prioritize which one you use the most.
Depending on your income, Lifeline may be available to your household if you are at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines. Moreover, you may qualify if someone in your family receives assistance from the following programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Tribal Programs for Native Americans
Visit the Universal Service Administration Company to determine which ISPs offer Lifeline discounts and check your eligibility. The USAC oversees the Universal Service Fund, which provides discounts on Lifeline calls and supports the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and ConnectHomeUSA began a public-private partnership in 2015 to provide affordable housing. With this program, HUD-assisted families with school-aged children can narrow the digital divide.
Resources are available to help residents of ConnectHomeUSA communities locate affordable internet services and devices. There are also resources available for people who would like to start a digital inclusion program in their community if they don't live in one of those areas.
Internet Assistance Programs Offered By ISPs
If you do not qualify for the mentioned programs or prefer phone service benefits, you can still apply for low-cost internet assistance programs by various internet service providers. Here are several ISPs that provide assistance to low-income families:
Customers with access to either Suddenlink or Optimum can sign up for the Altice Advantage Internet plan for $14.99 per month, which offers connection speeds up to 30 Mbps.
Low-income families who qualify for AT&T's Access program can receive internet speeds of up to 10 Mbps for $5-$10 a month. The customer must have at least one SNAP-eligible family member to qualify for access.
The Internet Assist program from Spectrum is available for $14.99 per month for 12 months with speeds up to 30 Mbps, with no data cap and contract. To be eligible, a household member must be a recipient of the National School Lunch Program, the Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP, or Supplemental Security Income.
For $9.95 a month, customers who qualify can purchase Xfinity’s Internet Essentials. Low-income families, students, and seniors can benefit from this program with no credit check required. Internet speeds of up to 25 Mbps are available, as is free Wi-Fi within the home.
Connect2Compete is a program that helps low-income families gain internet access to help students. For $9.95 per month, families with at least one student in kindergarten or grade 1-12 can qualify.
Participation in one of the following programs is also mandatory:
- National School Lunch Program
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Public Housing
In partnership with EveryoneOn, Mediacom's Connect2Compete program offers inexpensive internet to students eligible for the NSLP. With the $9.95 per month program, you get a Wi-Fi modem and a 25 Mbps internet connection.
In addition to the Lifeline discount of $9.95, Verizon is offering $20 off its Fios internet plans. Therefore, Verizon's 200 Mbps internet plan would only cost $19.99 per month.
Without access to a reliable internet connection, many families are deprived of educational and economic opportunities. There are several free internet government programs to help you stay connected and lower your monthly bills, in addition to many affordable or free internet packages.
Children, single mothers, students, and low-income students can qualify for these internet assistance programs.
Seeking more ways to alleviate financial pressure? Discover our new blog post on accessing government hardship grants, a pathway to securing additional support. Learn how you can extend your savings from free internet to potentially thousands in grants.
Want to apply for low-income housing but don't want to wait in line? Read our comprehensive article on how to apply for low-income housing with no waiting list to learn more.
Do you want to learn more about the various grants and foundations that can help you with your day-to-day needs? Check out the rest of Gov Relations' resources today!