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Cheap and Free Internet for Students

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

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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.

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

Why you should trust us: Our expert editors spend thousands of hours researching and testing the best cheap internet service providers (ISPs) every year to provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Not only that, but our compliance specialists work directly with the brands featured on our site and review every page to triple-check the accuracy of all of the information we publish.

What is the best cheap internet for students?

Xfinity’s Connect More plan comes with 200 Mbps for $30 monthly, and it’s our choice for the best cheap internet package. Plus, there are often 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 $40 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:

Please enter a valid zip code.

What is the best free internet service for students?

When you combine the $30 monthly savings from a federal program like Lifeline with an internet provider’s low-income initiative, you could potentially 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 used to be able to save $30 monthly off internet with help from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

We cover this option in more detail in our low-income internet guide. To keep things short, you used to be able to qualify for ACP if your family made 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’d qualify.

However, you can no longer apply for the ACP. February 7, 2024, was the last day for ACP applications, and the program’s funding has a projected end date of May 2024. Keep on reading to find out more money-saving student alternatives to the ACP.

Low-income internet initiatives can help you get cheap internet

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

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 $24.99/mo. 50 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.

Public Wi-Fi hotspots can be a great option for on-the-go students

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 is a solid internet choice for students

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 $35.00–$80.00/mo. 85–1,000 Mbps 10–50 Mbps Unlimited
Read full review
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet $40.00–$60.00/mo. 72-245 Mbps 15-31 Mbps Unlimited
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.

Why you should trust us

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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