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Free and Low-Income Internet Service

Our experts explain the top ways low-income families, seniors, and students can get cheap internet service from Xfinity, Spectrum, Optimum, and other home internet providers.

Don’t qualify for free or low-income internet?

Not to worry—there are still plenty of affordable internet plans out there to help you stay connected at a low cost. Hop on over to our Best Cheap Internet Packages guide to learn more.

How do I get low-income internet?

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.

The Lifeline program can save you $9.25 to $29.25 monthly. You can combine federal programs like Lifeline with internet provider initiatives that start at $9.95 monthly for 100 Mbps download speeds.

Read on to learn more about how to get free internet service and other affordable internet plans.

Why you should trust us: Our expert editors spend thousands of hours researching and testing the best low-income 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.

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.

Do you qualify for low-income internet?

Each of the low-income options we’ll discuss has different standards to qualify. But you’re a good candidate for most if your household makes less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or you already qualify for one or more government assistance programs:

  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • Public Housing (HUD)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • And more

But if you’re not eligible for low-income internet, don’t worry—we have other articles with recommendations for cheap internet service for your home and current internet deals. Check out low-cost internet providers like XfinityVerizon FiosCox, and AT&T, or enter your zip code below to find internet providers available near you.

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Where to start with low-income internet

There are multiple options for affordable internet services. The best low-income internet option used to be the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offered qualifying households up to $30 per month off internet service (and up to $75 per month if you live on tribal lands). Unfortunately, Congress has halted this program’s funding, and signups have ceased as of February 7, 2024. Funding for the ACP is expected to fully run out in May 2024, but this date could change.

Due to the ACP ending, we recommend looking into two low-cost internet solutions that have been around a bit longer: Lifeline or individual internet provider initiatives.

Low-cost internet through Lifeline and internet providers

The first option is a government assistance program called Lifeline, which offers $9.25 per month off either internet or phone services to low-income households. Lifeline offers less savings than the ACP or most internet provider initiatives, but it’s better than nothing.

Second, there are a variety of internet provider initiatives with discounted monthly rates, with some as low as $9.95 per month. Many are for low-income families with kids who qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), but the qualifications vary by provider.

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

Provider Price of cheapest regular plan
w/ Lifeline
Price of
low-income initiative
Regular plans
Xfinity $15.74/mo. $9.95/mo.
Read Xfinity review
Spectrum $40.74/mo. $24.99/mo.
Read Spectrum review
Optimum $20.74/mo. $14.99/mo.
Read Optimum review
AT&T $25.75/mo. $10.00/mo.
Read AT&T review
Google Fiber $60.75/mo. N/A
Read Google Fiber review
Astound Broadband powered by RCN $10.74/mo. $9.95/mo.
Read Astound review
CenturyLink $40.75/mo. N/A
Read CenturyLink review
Cox $10.74/mo. $9.95/mo.
Read Cox review
Frontier $28.74/mo. $19.99/mo.
Read Frontier review
Mediacom $10.74/mo. $9.95/mo.
Read Mediacom review
Verizon Fios $19.99/mo. $0.00–$49.99/mo.
Read Verizon review
Windstream $30.74/mo. N/A
Read Windstream review

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Taxes and fees may apply

Additional savings: If you share internet service with other low-income households or you live on tribal lands, Lifeline may come with extra discounts—up to $34.25 off internet per month.

Affordable Connectivity Program

At the end of 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the new Affordable Connectivity Program (replacing the old Emergency Broadband Benefit program) to help low-income households afford internet for work, school, and healthcare needs. It came with up to $30 per month towards internet service for qualifying households (up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands).

Do I qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

If you’re already participating in federal assistance programs or a low-income internet program, you’d likely qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program. For eligibility, the FCC required that you or a member of your household meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Your household income is less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
  • You participate in federal assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline.
  • You participate in tribal-specific programs like the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance or Tribal TANF.
  • You qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • You’ve received a Federal Pell Grant for the current award year.
  • You qualify for your participating internet provider’s existing low-income program.

How do I apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

Unfortunately, you can no longer apply for the ACP. The FCC has stated that February 7, 2024, is the last day for ACP applications, and the program has a projected end date of May 2024.

As long as you’re already in the ACP, you’ll still get your ACP internet discount for March 2024. According to the FCC, the ACP will provide a partial bill credit to providers for April if ISPs choose to accept it. But after May, the FCC expects the ACP to shut down fully.

Keep on reading to find out more money-saving alternatives to the ACP.

Cheap Wi-Fi for low-income homes

Many ISPs offer low-income internet plans, which are great alternatives to the ACP. These plans range from around $10 to $30 per month (although Verizon’s could be up to $50) and typically offer around 50 to 100 Mbps download speeds.

Each provider has their own qualifications that must be met, so be sure to read on under the cut to find out which plan best suits your needs.

Provider low-income initiative Price Download speeds Qualifying programs Details
Internet Essentials from Comcast (Xfinity) $9.95/mo. 50 Mbps Federal Pell Grant
HUD
LIHEAP
MEDICAID
NSLP/Head Start
SNAP
SSI
TANF
Tribal assistance
VA Pension
WIC
Apply
Spectrum Internet Assist** $24.99/mo. Up to 50 Mbps NSLP
SSI
Apply
Access from AT&T $10.00/mo. Up to 25 Mbps SNAP
SSI
Apply
Cox Connect2Compete* $9.95/mo. Up to 100 Mbps HUD
NSLP
SNAP
TANF
Mediacom Connect-2-Compete* $9.95/mo. Up to 25 Mbps NSLP Apply
Internet First (Astound Broadband) $9.95/mo. Up to 50 Mbps Federal Pell Grant
HUD
LIHEAP
NSLP
Medicaid
SNAP
SSI
TANF
Tribal assistance
Unemployment
VA Pension
WIC
Apply
Optimum Advantage Internet $14.99/mo. Up to 50 Mbps NSLP
SSI
Apply
Frontier Fundamental Internet $19.99/mo. N/A CalFresh
Medi-Cal
SSI
Apply
Verizon Lifeline $0.00–$49.99/mo. Up to 200 Mbps–940/880 Mbps Lifeline Apply
Cox ConnectAssist $30.00/mo. Up to 100 Mbps Certain public housing
Certain tribal programs
Federal Pell Grant
Head Start
LIHEAP
SNAP
SSI
TANF
VA Pension
WIC

Data effective as of post 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.
**No contract required. Available in select areas only.

Internet Essentials from Comcast (also known as Xfinity) accepts the widest range of government programs to qualify for low-income internet.

To see if Xfinity or any of the other providers above offer internet near you, enter your zip code below. We respect your privacy, so we don’t save your zip code or share it with anyone else.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Internet Essentials from Comcast

If you live in an Xfinity area, you have access to the low-income program Internet Essentials from Comcast. Eligible households get 50 Mbps download speeds with free in-home Wi-Fi for $9.95 per month (plus tax). You’ll also have access to Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots and get the option to purchase a low-cost computer.

To qualify for Internet Essentials, someone in your household must participate in one of the following programs: NSLP, HUD, veteran government assistance, senior government assistance, or Pell Grant. Head over to InternetEssentials.com to apply.

Access from AT&T

Access from AT&T offers up to 100 Mbps download speeds for $30.00 per month.

You can qualify for Access from AT&T with SNAP, SSI, or the National School Lunch program. Also, AT&T accepts households within as much as 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. There’s a helpful chart on the application website if you’re not sure whether you qualify.

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 50 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.

Astound Broadband’s Internet First

Astound Broadband, which is powered by RCN, Wave, and Grande, offers Internet First for families and students in low-income households. If your household takes part in Internet First’s long list of qualifying public assistance programs, you can get internet access for only $9.95 a month—and your first 60 days are free.

Go to the Internet First website to apply for service.

Optimum Advantage Internet

Optimum offers their Optimum Advantage Internet plan, where eligible customers can get up to 50 Mbps internet speeds plus free installation, a free router, and no data caps for $14.99 per month. 

To be eligible for the Optimum Advantage Internet plan, you or someone in your household must qualify or participate in NSLP, veteran government assistance, senior government assistance, or are a New York City resident attending a New York City public school. Click here to apply. 

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 down even further, making its starting plan completely free.

Verizon’s deal 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.

Affordable internet for families, students, and seniors

Free internet for low-income families and households

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.

If you don’t have any school-age children, there are other ways to qualify for low-income internet service. Anyone with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can qualify for Spectrum Internet Assist and Internet Essentials from Comcast.

Free internet for K–12 students

There are more internet-saving options available if you have kids at home and 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 the table above to see what they’re looking for.

Free internet for college students

If you’re a college student, look into free public Wi-Fi hotspots and internet services with free intro periods. Read our article “Cheap and Free Internet for Students” for an in-depth look at these options.

And if you’re a community college student in Colorado and Illinois, you may be able to get Internet Essentials from Comcast with documentation from your financial aid office.

One last thought: sometimes internet providers offer deals for students. Check out this month’s deals to see what’s available right now.

Free internet for senior citizens

If you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you can get affordable internet with Access from AT&T, Optimum Advantage Internet, Spectrum Internet Assist, Verizon Lifeline, and Internet Essentials from Comcast.

To find out which of these providers is in your area, enter your zip code below:

Please enter a valid zip code.

Lifeline FCC internet subsidy

Lifeline is a government-sponsored program from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It works directly with internet providers to create lower monthly rates for folks who are near or below the federal poverty guidelines, take part in federal assistance programs, or live on tribal lands.

If your household income is less than or equal to 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or you participate in federal assistance programs, you can get a $9.25 per month discount on internet or phone service. Check Lifeline’s qualification page for more details.

And if you live on tribal lands, you can save even more per month, bringing you to a total of $34.25 off internet.

If you live with other people but don’t share money, you can also 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 for every person who qualifies.

Wondering what the Lifeline discount looks like with different providers? Take a look under the cut.

Provider Introductory price Introductory price
w/ Lifeline assistance
Cheapest package speed Regular plans
Xfinity $24.99/mo. $15.74/mo. 75 Mbps
Read Xfinity review
Spectrum $49.99/mo. $40.74/mo. 300 Mbps
Read Spectrum review
AT&T $55.00/mo. $25.75/mo. 100 Mbps
Read AT&T review
CenturyLink $50.00/mo. $40.75/mo. 100 Mbps
Read CenturyLink review
Cox $29.99/mo. $10.74/mo. 25 Mbps
Read Cox review
Frontier $44.99/mo. $28.74/mo. 25 Mbps
Read Frontier review
Mediacom $19.99/mo. $10.74/mo. 100 Mbps
Read Mediacom review
Optimum $29.99/mo. $20.74/mo. 100 Mbps
Read Optimum review
Verizon Fios $49.99/mo. $19.99/mo. 200 Mbps
Read Verizon review
Windstream $39.99/mo. $30.74/mo. 50–400 Mbps
Read Windstream review

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Taxes and fees may apply.

You might have 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.

If you’ve decided the Lifeline program is for you, you can apply online, by mail, or through a local internet company. You can find all the details on the Lifeline website.

Apply for Lifeline

Get free or cheap 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 the ISP initiatives and the Lifeline program, 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 service FAQ

How do I get internet with a low income?

The US government offers discounted internet through the Lifeline program, and many internet providers have low-income internet plans for under $20 per month. Follow the links in this answer to learn how to apply.

Can you get free internet?

Used to, when you combined the $30 monthly discount from the Affordable Connectivity Program with any internet plan under $30, your internet would be completely free.

However, new signups for the ACP have been halted starting on February 7, 2024, but check out similar programs like Lifeline that can also potentially provide free or discounted internet.

How do I get free government internet?

There used to be several ways to qualify for the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program. If you had a household income of less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or have SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline, NSLP, or a Federal Pell Grant, you could apply.

Unfortunately, new signups for the ACP have ceased starting February 7, 2024.

How do I get internet for $10 a month?

AT&T, Cox, Mediacom, and Xfinity from Comcast all offer low-income internet for about $10 per month. You’ll need to qualify for your internet provider’s specified government assistance programs to get these deals. Check out the provider-initiative chart to apply.

How fast is Comcast’s $10 internet?

The $9.95 monthly Internet Essentials from Comcast comes with download speeds up to 50 Mbps and upload speeds up to 5 Mbps. See if you qualify for this internet plan and apply on the Internet Essentials website.

What internet can I get with food stamps?

If you have SNAP benefits (what folks commonly call “food stamps”), you can qualify for the Lifeline program.

Is the government giving free internet?

The Biden administration used to offer reduced-cost, or in some cases, free internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program, depending on household eligibility. It provided up to $30 per month of assistance towards your internet plan.

However, new signups for the ACP have been halted starting February 7, 2024. The anticipated timeframe for the ending of the ACP is May 2024, although this date could change.

How do low-income families get computers?

Check out non-profit companies like Connect All and PCs for People that offer computer deals. Your internet provider may also have some affordable computer options.

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 cheap computers.

Can college students get free internet?

Before February 2024, if you qualified for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you could get a big enough discount that you can get certain affordable internet packages for free. But if you missed the last ACP signup day of February 7, 2024, check out our suggestions for cheap and free internet for students.

Is Xfinity free for college students?

No, Xfinity isn’t free for college students, but it does offer deals for students who sign up online, like getting 200 Mbps internet for just $30/mo. for 1 year.

Does Spectrum offer discounts for college students?

Yes, Spectrum will often offer deals for college students. To see what promotions are currently active, check out our Spectrum deals page.

Does CenturyLink offer student discounts?

CenturyLink doesn’t usually offer discounts, but we keep an eye on things just in case—check out this list of internet deals to see if there are any Centurylink promotions this month.

Is the Affordable Connectivity Program ending?

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that they are taking steps to wind down the ACP due to a lack of funding from Congress. This process includes halting new signups after February 7, 2024. The anticipated timeframe for the ending of the ACP is May 2024, although this date could change. Learn more details about how this could affect you on the FCC’s website.

Why you should trust us

Our internet experts have spent years keeping their ears to the ground for government assistant programs and internet provider programs that offer free or discounted internet for low-income households.

We strive to provide all the relevant links to help you get internet where you live, while also sharing our insight into which offers will get you the best bang for your buck, reliability, features, and customer satisfaction. Check out our How We Rank page for more information on how we compare providers.

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