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

Free internet and fee waivers during the new coronavirus pandemic

Update 3/17/20:In light of the COVID-19 (commonly known as “coronavirus”) pandemic and subsequent social distancing, some internet companies are offering free home internet for low-income folks. These offers won’t necessarily stick around for more than a couple months, but they’re here to help those who can’t otherwise afford home internet.

Xfinity (Comcast) is offering new customers their Internet Essentials plan for free for the next two months.

Spectrum is offering households with students (K–12 and college) 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.

Optimum is also offering K–12 and college students free internet for 60 days. This offer is for new customers only. Call 866-200-9522 to set up service.

Suddenlink is also offering free internet for students (K–12 and college) for 60 days. You must also be a new customer to get in on this deal. Call 888-633-0030 to sign up today.

Cox is offering its Starter package (50 Mbps for $19.99 per month) with no annual contract. For low-income folks who qualify, Cox is offering its Connect2Compete program free for one month.

Meanwhile, almost all nationwide internet companies (including the providers above, AT&T, and Verizon) won’t charge any additional fees (late fees, data overages, etc.) for the next 60 days.

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.

Low-income internet for seniors, students, and families

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 free and low-income initiatives vs. Lifeline assistance

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ProviderDiscounted provider priceLowest price with Lifeline assistance

Data effective 4/24/2020. 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. 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

If you have kids in K–12 . . .

Independent from Lifeline, various providers offer low-cost internet. Many of these programs focus on connecting students to valuable online resources, so they require that you have a school-age child at home. 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.

If you don’t have kids in K–12 . . .

If you don’t have any school-age children, there are other ways to qualify. The Spectrum Internet Assist program 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. Additionally, the Internet Essentials program from Comcast is one of the widest-reaching programs because it extends its offer to veterans, seniors, and community college students who receive government assistance.

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

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Provider low-income initiativeMax download speedIntroductory priceQualifying programsHow to get it
AT&T Access*10 Mbps$10.00/mo.SNAPApply
Cox Connect2Compete*25 Mbps$9.95/mo.NSLP
Mediacom Connect-2-Compete*25 Mbps$9.95/mo.NSLPApply
Spectrum Internet Assist30 Mbps$14.99/mo.NSLP
Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity)25 Mbps$9.95/mo.NSLP
Veteran government assistance
Senior government assistance
Pell Grant

Data effective 4/24/2020. 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 the 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.

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

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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.
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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

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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 4/24/2020. 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.

As of the time of writing (3/16/20), some companies, like Xfinity (Comcast) and Spectrum, are offering free internet for low-income households for the next 60 days because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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.

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