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Cheap and Free Internet for Students

Find government assistance and some smart tips for affordable internet access.

Limited-time offer: New T-Mobile 5G Home Internet customers can get a $50 gift card and a Wi-Fi gateway for free when they sign up for service. Visit T-Mobile to learn more about this deal.

Can students get free internet?

Students can access free internet on the go with public Wi-Fi hotspots or keep connected with their family’s internet provider hotspots. And if you qualify for low-income internet, the Affordable Connectivity Program could save you $30 a month off your internet bill.

We’ll show you the best ways to snag internet for cheap if you need cheap internet for students.

What is the best cheap internet for students?

Xfinity’s Connect More plan comes with 200 Mbps for $25 monthly, and it’s our choice for the best cheap internet package. Plus, there are special Xfinity students deals like $200 back. But Xfinity requires a one-year term agreement, so if you might leave your college town for home in the summer, this deal might not be the one for you.

No-contract internet plans offer more flexibility, which can come in handy when you’re not sure what the next semester might bring. Optimum offers 300 Mbps for $30 monthly, and you can drop the plan without paying early termination fees.

To see if either of these providers offers internet in your area, enter your zip code below:

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What is the best free internet service for students?

When you combine the $30 monthly savings from the Affordable Connectivity Program with an internet provider’s low-income initiative, you can get free internet at home.

If you don’t qualify for those programs, you can still stay connected with public Wi-Fi hotspots or by using your family’s internet account to access internet provider hotspots.

Affordable Connectivity Program

You can save $30 monthly off internet with help from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The government sure loves those initialisms, huh?

We cover this option—and all the ways to save—in our low-income internet guide. To keep things short, you can qualify for ACP if your family makes less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty guideline.

That exact income amount for that federal guideline varies by location and household size, but if you’re going it alone, living in the contiguous US, and making $27,180 or less a year, you qualify.

Combine these savings with a cheap internet plan, or an internet provider’s low-income initiative, and you’ll be set for free internet.

Graphic describing the requirements needed to qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program

Low-income internet initiatives

Internet provider’s low-income initiatives offer special prices for low-income customers, and plans start at $10 per month. Check the chart below for prices, speeds, and qualifying programs.

Internet provider programs for low-income households

Provider low-income initiative Introductory price Max download speed Qualifying programs
Cox Connect2Compete* $9.95/mo. 100 Mbps HUD
Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity) $9.95/mo. 50 Mbps Federal Pell Grant
NSLP/Head Start
Tribal assistance
VA Pension
Mediacom Connect-2-Compete* $9.95/mo. 25 Mbps NSLP Apply
Access from AT&T $10.00/mo. 25 Mbps NSLP
Optimum Advantage Internet $14.99/mo. 50 Mbps NSLP
Frontier Fundamental Internet $19.99/mo. N/A CalFresh
Spectrum Internet Assist $17.99/mo. 30 Mbps NSLP
Verizon Lifeline $19.99–$59.99/mo. 200 Mbps–
940/880 Mbps
Lifeline Apply
Cox ConnectAssist $30.00/mo. 100 Mbps Certain public housing
Certain tribal programs
Federal Pell Grant
Head Start
VA Pension

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.

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

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.

5G home internet

Verizon and T-Mobile have launched their own 5G home internet services, which use 5G cellular data networks to deliver internet to your home. Both services are great deals for students, as you’ll get free installation, unlimited data, and no annual price hikes. If you’re also a qualifying Verizon or T-Mobile cell phone customer, you’ll pay less than $30 per month for internet service.

But 5G internet’s availability can be inconsistent, as it depends on each carrier’s network and enrollment numbers in your region. Check out our 5G home internet guide and T-Mobile vs. Verizon 5G Home Internet breakdown for more information on each provider.

5G home internet providers

Provider Pricing Max download speed Max upload speed Data cap Details
Verizon 5G Home Internet $25.00–$70.00/mo. 85–1,000 Mbps 10–50 Mbps Unlimited View plan
Read full review
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet $30.00–$50.00/mo. 72-245 Mbps 15-31 Mbps Unlimited View plan
Read full review

Data effective as of publish date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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.

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 $19.99 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?

To qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), your household must qualify for an approved government assistance program or make 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or less. Check out our low-income internet guide for more details.

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.

Who has internet for $10 a month?

AT&T, Cox, Mediacom, and Xfinity all offer low-income household initiatives for about $10 per month.


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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