Cheap and Free Internet for Students

Learn more about affordable internet access if you need to get online for class.

Can students get free internet?

Students can get free internet with help from community internet access points or internet service providers that offer the first 30–60 days of service free. Low-income families with students in K–12 can also get discounts on internet service.

If you or someone you know needs cheap internet for students, we’ll help you find a long-term solution.

What is the best free internet service for students?

If you want free internet, public Wi-Fi hotspots and community internet access points are available to everyone with an internet-ready device. Or, if you’re a college student, you can try using your family’s internet account to access internet provider hotspots.

Public Wi-Fi hotspots

You’ve probably seen a sign in a café window for free Wi-Fi—and that means you’ve been near a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

In addition to businesses that want you to buy a beverage in exchange for a Wi-Fi password, public libraries and town centers often act as community internet access points where the internet is free for everyone.

When you’re near a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can see it among the available networks on your device’s Wi-Fi settings. But you don’t have to walk all around town hunting down a free signal—instead, check your location with Wiman.

Wiman has a database filled with all your local free Wi-Fi, and the Android version of the app will even connect your phone automatically. A quick search in this writer’s area shows there’s free Wi-Fi at the local high schools, libraries, and—uh—Arby’s.

Honestly, there are worse places to do your online homework than a parking lot near readily available French dip sandwiches.

Public Wi-Fi safety tips

Unlike secure home networks, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t a safe place for your personal data.

Follow this advice to keep your info secure:

  • Avoid online shopping and banking while you’re on a public network.
  • Keep your software up to date to protect against new viruses and other malware.
  • Use a VPN to encrypt your data and hide your internet activity.

Hotspots for college students

Internet for college students can be a costly expense, and you might find yourself missing the days when you could use your family’s internet service for free.

But being away from home doesn’t mean you’re all on your own. Even if you live far away from your family as a student, you could still get free internet by using hotspots.

Many internet providers like Comcast offer free internet and Wi-Fi hotspot access to their customers, and some of these hotspot networks are huge. If your folks get internet from one of the providers below, they probably have a hotspot account, and they might not even realize it.

Use these links to learn how to access the providers’ hotspot networks:

If your provider from back home has hotspots around your college town, you might even have one near your dorm.

These provider hotspots your family pays for are free internet for you—but think twice before you share the login info with your friends. Your folks’ account has some private info they won’t want you passing around.

What is the best cheap internet for students?

The best cheap internet for students is available through a few internet provider’s low-income initiatives. These programs offer special prices for low-income customers, and most plans start at $10 per month.

But even if you qualify for one of these provider initiatives, you might not live where one of these philanthropic internet providers are available. If that’s the case, you can apply for the government Lifeline program, which offers a $9.25 per month discount on internet.

Many providers also have cheap internet packages for everyone, which we’ve already rounded up in our “Best Cheap Internet” article. Those deals start around $35 per month, and they’re a good alternative if you don’t qualify for a low-income initiative.

Internet provider options for students

Some providers have better student discount internet than others—but those providers may or may not offer service where you live.

For example, providers like Spectrum don’t have student internet deals. But with Xfinity internet, students can get offers including a free gift card and Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.

Check the internet service options in your area before you get your heart set on a provider.

Enter your zip code below to see the internet providers in your neighborhood. (We don’t ever keep or share your info, so your general location is safe with us.) Compare that with our info below to see if the internet providers in your area offer special student deals.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Who has internet for $10 a month?

AT&T, Cox, Mediacom, and Xfinity all offer low-income household initiatives for about $10 per month. Each provider has different ways to qualify for this low-cost internet, so check the chart below to see if you can snag a deal.

Internet provider programs for low-income households

Provider low-income initiative Max download speed Introductory price Qualifying programs
AT&T Access* 25 Mbps $10.00/mo. SNAP
SSI (California only)
Head Start (temp.)
NSLP (temp.)
View plan
Cox Connect2Compete* 50 Mbps $9.95/mo. NSLP
Head Start
HUD
LIHEAP
SNAP
TANF
WIC
View Plan
Mediacom Connect-2-Compete* 25 Mbps $9.95/mo. NSLP View plan
Spectrum Internet Assist 30 Mbps $17.99/mo. NSLP
CEP
SSI
View plan
Verizon Lifeline 200 Mbps–
940/880 Mbps
$19.99–$59.99/mo. Lifeline View plan
Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity) 50 Mbps $9.95/mo. NSLP
Head Start
HUD
LIHEAP
Medicaid
SNAP
SSI
TANF
Tribal assistance
VA Pension
WIC
Federal Pell Grant (Colorado & Illinois only)
View plan

Data effective as of publish date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Taxes and fees may apply.
*Home must have a student in K-12 to qualify.

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How to qualify for low-income internet

The qualifications for low-income internet vary by provider, but most require you to already be part of a government assistance program like the ones listed below.

Programs targeted to students

Other programs

How to get low-income internet if providers in your area don’t offer assistance

The government helps connect low-income households with the Lifeline program. To qualify, you must already be part of a federal assistance program, or your household income must be 135% or less of the federal poverty guidelines.

If you share internet with other low-income households or live on tribal lands, you may qualify for even more internet discounts through Lifeline.

With the Lifeline program, you’ll receive at least $9.25 per month toward your internet bill.

Final take

There are limited free and cheap internet options for students who don’t qualify for low-income assistance. But with a little ingenuity—and maybe a late-night trip to Arby’s—there are still ways to find internet access without breaking the bank.

Internet for students FAQ

Which internet plan is best for students?

The best internet providers for college students are Optimum, Astound Broadband powered by RCN, and Spectrum. These no-contract internet providers offer more flexibility—you can cancel your internet service whenever you want.

Most other providers require 12- to 24-month contracts, which isn’t ideal if you plan on returning home during the summer (or if you have an unexpected breakup with your roomies).

How can I get free internet at home?

If you move right next to a city center, library, or coffee shop, you might be able to mooch off their free Wi-Fi. Otherwise, you’ll need to break out the cash and get your own internet plan.

What is the cheapest basic internet?

Xfinity offers the best cheap basic internet plan for standard customers for $34.99 per month for your first year. Visit our cheap internet guide to learn more about affordable internet options.

How do I get free government internet?

There’s no nationwide free government internet, but the Lifeline program offers discounted internet to qualifying home customers. You may also be able to get free internet at your local library.

How can I get free Wi-Fi at home?

You may be able to get free Wi-Fi if you live near a municipal hotspot or if your internet provider offers a free Wi-Fi router deal. If not, you’ll need to purchase your own wireless router.

How can I get Internet at home without a provider?

Internet alternatives like finding free nearby Wi-Fi or using a smartphone hotspot don’t require a provider, but your internet connection will be slower or more inconsistent than a standard internet plan. Check out our non-hardline cable internet guide to learn more about internet alternatives.

How fast is Comcast $10 internet?

Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity) offers 50 Mbps for only $9.95. This is the best deal of any low-income internet program currently available.

Cox Connect2Compete offers the same deal, but only to households with at least one child in K-12 schools.

How do college students get free internet?

College students can access free internet by using public hotspots at cafés, libraries, and other public spaces. Also, if your family has an internet plan with AT&T, Cox, Spectrum, or Xfinity at home, you can use their credentials to log into provider-specific hotspots in your college town.

Are there student Wi-Fi deals during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Back in March 2020, many internet providers signed the Keep Americans Connected initiative and made it easier for students to access internet essentials. However, that initiative lasted only through June 2020—and the COVID-19 pandemic is still going, even two years later.

Methodology

Our experts have spent hundreds of hours researching internet service providers to bring you the best deals across the board. For this article, we researched opportunities available to students and other low-income individuals. Head over to How We Rank for more information on our process.

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