SVG Icons

Free and Low-Income Internet Plans for Families, Seniors, and Students

We reviewed relevant government programs and dozens of internet providers to bring you our guide to low-income internet.

Free internet during the new coronavirus pandemic

Update 10/29/20: Because of the increase of online schooling, Spectrum is offering households with students (K–12 and college) and educators free broadband internet for 60 days with any plan up to 100 Mbps. For this free service, call 1-844-488-8395 to sign up.

Low-income internet for seniors, students, and families

Your income bracket doesn’t have to limit your internet access. If your home needs a boost to cross the digital divide, take advantage of low-income internet options in your area.

Affordable internet services are available through two primary options:

  • First, there are a variety of internet provider initiatives with discounted monthly rates that low-income families can usually access if their kids qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Find out how to apply through an Internet Service Provider.
  • The second option is a government assistance program called Lifeline, which offers $9.25 per month off either internet or phone services to low-income households. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to enroll in Lifeline through it.

Internet provider initiatives vs. Lifeline assistance

Swipe Left to See All →
ProviderDiscounted provider priceLowest price with Lifeline assistance
AT&T$10.00/mo.$30.74/mo.
CenturyLinkN/A$39.75/mo.
Cox$9.95/mo.$10.74/mo.
FrontierN/A$20.74/mo.
Mediacom$9.95/mo.$30.74/mo.
RCNN/A$10.74/mo.
Spectrum$14.99/mo.$40.74/mo.
Verizon Fios$19.99/mo.$19.99/mo.
Xfinity$9.95/mo.$15.74/mo.

Data effective 10/29/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Taxes and fees may apply.

At first glance, ISP low-income plans are the best deal, but not all homes qualify. Find out if you meet the requirements before you decide which option to go with.

Pro tip: If you share internet service with other low-income households or you live on tribal lands, Lifeline can be an even better option because you’ll get extra discounts. Additionally, some provider initiatives don’t offer high-speed internet service (25 Mbps or higher), which you can usually get with Lifeline assistance.

Find an internet service provider

You’ll need to know which ISPs offer service in your neighborhood before you pick the one you want. Enter your zip code below to find what’s available near you.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Understanding low-income internet service

Independent from Lifeline, various providers offer low-cost internet. Read on to find out about student, low-income household, and senior citizen discounts.

K–12 student internet packages

Many low-income internet programs focus on connecting students to valuable online resources, so they require that you have a school-age child at home or that you be an educator.

You’ll also need to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Public Housing (HUD).

Each provider has a unique list of qualifying programs, so check our summary below to see what they’re looking for.

Free internet for college students

Unless you’re using free public Wi-Fi, free internet for college students is what we like to call a unicorn—beautiful in concept, but non-existent.

That said, because of the new coronavirus pandemic, Spectrum is offering free internet to college students for 60 days. Keep in mind that you must be a new customer to qualify.

And Internet Essentials from Comcast is available for cheap to community college students in Colorado and Illinois with documentation from your financial aid office.

One last thought: if you can tough it out by tethering your smartphone, Verizon Wireless also offers a discount for college students.

Internet service for low-income families and households

If you don’t have any school-age children, there are other ways to qualify for low-income internet. Spectrum Internet Assist and Internet Essentials from Comcast work for low-income homes without K–12 children.

Anyone with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can qualify for Spectrum Internet Assist and the Internet Essentials program from Comcast.

Internet for senior citizens

Unfortunately, free internet for senior citizens is not something internet companies typically provide. But Internet Essentials from Comcast is available for qualifying seniors for only $9.95 per month.

Local internet service providers (ISPs) may also offer senior discounts, so it might be worth seeing if there are any locally owned ISPs operating in your area.

Important note: While government assistance is the main requirement to qualify for these low-price plans, you may also need to be a new customer and have no outstanding bills with the provider.

Summary of low-cost internet for low-income homes

Swipe Left to See All →
Provider low-income initiativeMax download speedIntroductory priceQualifying programs
AT&T Access*10 Mbps$10.00/mo.SNAPApply
Cox Connect2Compete*25 Mbps$9.95/mo.NSLP
SNAP
TANF
HUD
Apply
Mediacom Connect-2-Compete*25 Mbps$9.95/mo.NSLPApply
Spectrum Internet Assist30 Mbps$14.99/mo.NSLP
SSI
Apply
Verizon Lifeline200 Mbps–940/880 Mbps$19.99–$59.99/mo.LifelineApply
Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity)25 Mbps$9.95/mo.NSLP
HUD
Veteran government assistance
Senior government assistance
Pell Grant
Apply

Data effective 10/29/2020. 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.

Recently, many of these assistance programs raised their internet speeds to meet the 25 Mbps download standard for broadband (high-speed) internet. This means your webpages will load faster than they would have before and streaming video won’t have so many hiccups.

Spectrum Internet Assist

While Spectrum’s low-income internet program is higher priced than most others on our list, it’s also one of the few that offers aid to homes without K–12 children. It brings a lot more to the table too.

Spectrum Internet Assist is solid, offering broadband speeds of 30 Mbps and a free internet modem with additional Wi-Fi service for $5 per month (internet providers normally charge $10 per month for Wi-Fi routers). To top it off, you won’t have to worry about data caps or contracts.

So if one or more of the people in your household are recipients of Supplemental Security Income, National School Lunch Program (NSLP), or Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP, you can fill out the Spectrum Internet Assist application.

Verizon Lifeline

Rather than creating a new internet plan like many other companies, Verizon boosts the discount you’d normally get from the government-sponsored Lifeline Discount Program.

Lifeline, which we discuss in more detail below, offers $9.25 off internet service each month. Verizon’s added discount brings that all the way to $20 off the internet plan of your choice.

While Verizon’s deal isn’t as affordable as the other low-income initiatives, it offers the fastest speeds on our list. With speeds this fast, you can easily hold video calls while other family members are on the internet, which is a great help if you’re working from home.

Understanding the Lifeline government assistance program

Lifeline is here to help you with internet costs if you are near or below the federal poverty guidelines, take part in federal assistance programs, or live on tribal lands. It’s a government-sponsored program that works directly with internet providers to create lower monthly rates for low-income households.

Lifeline internet discounts summary

Swipe Left to See All →

How to qualify for Lifeline

Discount on internet or phone

Your household income is less than or equal to 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.$9.25/mo.
You participate in federal assistance programs.$9.25/mo.
Swipe Left to See All →

Additional Lifeline discounts

Discount on internet or phone

You qualify for Lifeline and live on tribal lands.$20.00/mo. in addition to the $9.25/mo. discount
You qualify for Lifeline and share internet with other qualifying households.$9.25/mo. per qualifying household in addition to the $9.25/mo. discount

If you live with other people but don’t share money, you can take advantage of Lifeline multiple times on your internet subscription. The people you live with also need to qualify based on poverty guidelines or federal assistance programs, but as long as they aren’t considered part of your household by Lifeline rules, you can stack up the discounts to get cheaper internet.

Wondering what the starting Lifeline discount looks like with different providers? Let’s take a look.

Lifeline internet discounts on cheapest internet packages

Swipe Left to See All →
ProviderCheapest package speedIntroductory priceIntroductory price w/ Lifeline assistance
AT&T100 Mbps$39.99/mo.$30.74/mo.
CenturyLink100 Mbps$49.00/mo.$39.75/mo.
Cox10 Mbps$19.99/mo.$10.74/mo.
Frontier50 Mbps$29.99/mo.$20.74/mo.
Mediacom60 Mbps$39.99/mo.$30.74/mo.
RCN25 Mbps$19.99/mo.$10.74/mo.
Spectrum100 Mbps$49.99/mo.$40.74/mo.
Xfinity100 Mbps$24.99/mo.$15.74/mo.

Data effective 10/29/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Taxes and fees may apply.

You’ve probably noticed the final prices after Lifeline assistance are higher than those from ISP low-income programs. But don’t write Lifeline off—it’s a big help when providers in your area don’t offer their own initiatives. Lifeline makes internet accessible across the country, so it’s always an option if you qualify.

Not sure which of these providers are available where you are? Enter your zip code to see your options:

Please enter a valid zip code.

Get free or low-cost internet today

The internet access plays a huge role in our daily life—from news to education to keeping in touch with your loved ones. With help from Lifeline and ISP initiatives, we can all stay connected. Take advantage of these programs to get high-speed internet service at a price that works for your family.

Free and low-income internet FAQ

How do I get internet with a low income?

There are a ton of ways to get free or affordable internet if your income is considered low. The US government offers discounted internet through its Lifeline program (read more below), and pretty much every internet company has an affordable starter plan that will allow you to surf the web and answer your DMs for under $20 per month.

Can I get internet with food stamps?

If you participate in SNAP (what folks commonly call “food stamps”), you may also qualify for low-cost internet. Internet companies, like AT&T and Cox, require that at least one person in your home qualifies for SNAP to get low-cost internet. But low-cost internet is not “included” with SNAP because you have to apply for it separately.

Does the government offer free internet?

The US government offers heavily discounted internet for folks who qualify for its Lifeline program. To qualify for Lifeline, you must already participate in one of these government programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits
  • Tribal Programs for Native Americans

How do low-income families get computers?

Non-profit companies like Connect All and PCs for People offer deals on computers for low-income families and individuals.

Some internet provider initiatives also offer deals on low-cost computers. For example, Internet Essentials from Comcast gives customers the option to buy a computer for $149.99 (plus tax). And Cox Connect2Compete partners with PCs for People to offer a variety of low-cost computers.

How do I get internet with SNAP benefits?

You don’t automatically get internet with SNAP benefits. But you can sign up for Lifeline through the US government or get a discounted internet plan from many internet providers if you receive SNAP benefits.

Can college students get free internet?

Usually, college students can’t get free internet through the government or an internet provider. That said, currently, because of coronavirus, Spectrum is offering free internet for 60 days to college students who are new customers.

Is Xfinity free for college students?

Xfinity isn’t free for college students, but Xfinity does currently offer deals for college students, like a $150 Visa Prepaid Card and free Amazon Music Unlimited for six months.

Does Spectrum offer discounts for college students?

Usually, Spectrum doesn’t offer discounts specifically for college students. Because of the new coronavirus pandemic, however, Spectrum is currently offering free internet service for 60 days to college students who are new customers.

Call 1-844-488-8395 for details.

Does CenturyLink offer student discounts?

CenturyLink doesn’t offer discounts specifically for college students.

Don't miss an update

Stay updated on the latest products and services anytime anywhere.

This site is a U.S. Consumer site. You can learn more about our site and privacy policy here.