Internet Connection for low-income seniors, students, and families
Your income level does not have to limit your access to the internet. Take advantage of low-cost internet options in your area if your home needs a boost to bridge the digital divide.
Also, Read: How to Buy and Install Internet Service?
There are two main ways to get cheap internet service:
First, low-income families may typically take advantage of a variety of internet provider programs with discounted monthly rates if their children are eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Learn how to submit an application through an Internet Service Provider.
The second alternative is Lifeline, a government aid program that provides low-income households $9.25 per month off either online or phone services. To enroll in Lifeline, contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
|Provider||Discounted provider price||Lowest price with Lifeline assistance|
TIP: If you share internet service with other low-income families or live on tribal lands, Lifeline may be a better choice because you will receive additional discounts. Furthermore, some provider initiatives do not provide high-speed internet service (25 Mbps or higher), which is generally available via Lifeline assistance.
Various providers, in addition to Lifeline, provide low-cost internet. Continue reading to learn about student, low-income family, and senior citizen discounts.
Many low-income internet programs focus on connecting students to important online resources, so you must have a school-aged child at home or be an educator to participate.
You must also be enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Public Housing (HUD).
Each provider has its own list of programs that qualify, so check out our summary below to see what they're looking for.
Free internet for college students is a unicorn—beautiful in concept, but non-existent—unless you're using free public Wi-Fi.
Spectrum is, however, providing free internet to college students for 60 days due to the new coronavirus pandemic. Remember that you must be a new customer to be eligible.
And, with papers from your financial aid office, community college students in Colorado and Illinois can get Comcast Internet Essentials for free.
Last but not least, if you can get it by tethering your smartphone, Verizon Wireless offers a college student discount.
Unfortunately, internet service providers rarely provide free internet to senior citizens. Comcast's Internet Essentials, on the other hand, is just $9.95 a month for qualifying seniors.
Senior discounts may be available from local internet service providers (ISPs), so check to see if there are any locally owned ISPs in your area.
NOTE: While you may have government assistance to qualify for these low-cost plans, you may still need to be a new customer with no outstanding bills with the supplier.
|Provider low-income initiative||Max download speed||Introductory price||Qualifying programs|
|Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity)||25 Mbps||
Veteran government assistance
Senior government assistance
|Verizon Lifeline||200 Mbps–940/880 Mbps||$19.99–$59.99/mo.||Lifeline||Apply|
|Spectrum Internet Assist||30 Mbps||$14.99/mo.||NSLP
|Mediacom Connect-2-Compete*||25 Mbps||$9.95/mo.||NSLP||Apply|
|Cox Connect2Compete*||25 Mbps||$9.95/mo.||NSLP
|AT&T Access*||10 Mbps||$10.00/mo.||SNAP||Apply|
Many of these aid programs have recently increased their internet speeds to meet the broadband internet download standard of 25 Mbps. This means that your webpages will load faster than before, and streaming video will run more smoothly.
Rather than developing a new internet plan, as many other companies do, Verizon increases the discount you'd get from the government's Lifeline Discount Program.
Lifeline, which we'll go over in more detail below, gives you $9.25 off your monthly internet service. With Verizon's additional discount, you can save up to $20 on your internet plan of choice.
While Verizon's offer isn't as cheap as the other low-income programs, it does offer the fastest speeds. You can easily hold video calls while other family members use the internet at these speeds, which is especially useful if you work from home.
While Spectrum's low-income internet plan is more expensive than the majority of the others on our list, it is one of the few that helps families without children in grades K–12. It also adds a lot more to the table.
Spectrum Internet Assist is a good deal, with 30 Mbps download speeds and a free internet modem, plus $5 per month for additional Wi-Fi service, internet providers typically charge $10 per month for Wi-Fi routers. You won't have to worry about data caps or contracts, either.
If one or more members of your household receive Supplemental Security Income, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), or the NSLP's Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), you can apply for Spectrum Internet Assist.
There are other ways to apply for low-income internet service if you don't have any school-aged children. Spectrum Internet Assist and Internet Essentials from Comcast are designed for low-income families without children in grades K–12.
Spectrum Internet Assist and Comcast's Internet Essentials programs are available to anyone on Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
If you are near or below the federal poverty line, participate in federal aid programs, or live on tribal lands, Lifeline will help you with internet expenses. It's a government-sponsored initiative that works directly with internet service providers to lower monthly rates for low-income families.
|How to qualify for Lifeline||Discount on internet or phone|
|You participate in federal assistance programs.||$9.25/mo|
|Your household income is less than or equal to 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.||$9.25/mo|
|Additional Lifeline discounts||Discount on internet or phone|
|You qualify for Lifeline and share the internet with other qualifying households.||$9.25/mo. per qualifying household in addition to the $9.25/mo. discount|
|You qualify for Lifeline and live on tribal lands.||$20.00/mo. in addition to the $9.25/mo. discount|
If you live with others but do not share money, you can use Lifeline on your online subscription many times. People you live with must also meet poverty criteria or be eligible for federal aid programs, but as long as they aren't considered part of your household under Lifeline rules, you can stack discounts to get cheaper internet.
Do you want to know how much the Lifeline discount starts at different providers? Let's take a closer look.
|Provider||Cheapest package speed||Introductory price||Introductory price w/ Lifeline assistance|
You've also noticed that after Lifeline assistance, the final prices are higher than those offered by ISP low-income programs. But don't dismiss Lifeline—it's a huge help when local providers don't have their own initiatives. Lifeline provides internet access to people all over the world, so if you qualify, it's always an option.
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