Cheap and Free Internet for Students
Find government assistance and some smart tips for affordable internet access.
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:
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.
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.
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||
|Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity)||$9.95/mo.||50 Mbps||
Federal Pell Grant
|Mediacom Connect-2-Compete*||$9.95/mo.||25 Mbps||NSLP||Apply|
|Access from AT&T||$10.00/mo.||25 Mbps||
|Optimum Advantage Internet||$14.99/mo.||50 Mbps||
|Frontier Fundamental Internet||$19.99/mo.||N/A||
|Spectrum Internet Assist||$17.99/mo.||30 Mbps||
|Cox ConnectAssist||$30.00/mo.||100 Mbps||
Certain public housing
Certain tribal programs
Federal Pell Grant
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
- Head Start
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Tribal assistance
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Veteran Affairs (VA) pension
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.
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
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:
- AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots
- Cox Wi-Fi hotspots
- Optimum Wi-Fi hotspots
- Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspots
- Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots
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.
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
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.