How to Get Low-Cost Internet Assistance

Recent Updates: 3 weeks ago
If you live in New York, good news: The state just ordered internet providers in the area to start providing a $15 a month low-income internet plan that offers at least 25 Mbps download speeds.1 (Internet providers can also provide a 100 Mbps plan for $20 a month.)

Some qualifying programs include SNAP or discounted school lunches, and New York internet companies have 60 days to get these low-income plans up and running. Stay tuned here for more info as these plans become available.

Try getting things done without internet in today’s world and you’re looking at an almost impossible challenge. If you can’t pay for internet service, there are a handful of programs that can offer you low-cost internet access or a sum of money to help pay for your internet service.

Many large internet service providers (ISPs) offer low-cost internet plans, and there are also a few government assistance programs like Lifeline and the Emergency Broadband Benefit that can help.

Let’s dig into the details to find out which low-cost internet option might help you the most.

Low-cost internet assistance programs overview
ProgramFeaturesQualifying programsDetails
Altice Advantage30 Mbps internet for $14.99/mo.*NSLP, SSI, Veteran assistance programsApply Now
AT&T AccessUp to 25 Mbps internet for $10.00/mo.**SNAP, SSI (CA only)Apply Now
Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials50 Mbps internet for $9.95/mo.†HUD, LIHEAP, Medicaid, NSLP, SNAP, SSI, TANF, WICApply Now
Cox Connect2Compete25 Mbps internet for $9.95/mo.NSLP, SNAP, LIHEAP, WIC, TANFApply Now
Internet First (Grande, RCN, and Wave)Up to 50 Mbps internet for $9.95/mo.††NSLP, HUD, Medicaid, SNAP, SSIApply Now
Lifeline$9.25 discount on mobile or internet serviceHouseholds at 135% or less than poverty level or enrolled in certain assistance programsApply Now
Tribal Lifeline$34.25 discount on mobile or internet serviceTribal households on Tribal lands and enrolled in certain assistance programsApply Now
Mediacom Connect2Compete25 Mbps internet for $9.95/mo.‡NSLPApply Now
Q-Link WirelessFree 4.5 GB of mobile data at 4G LTE speedsSNAP, MedicaidApply Now
Spectrum Internet AssistUp to 30 Mbps internet for $14.99/mo. for 12 mos.‡‡NSLP, SSIApply Now
Verizon Lifeline200-940 Mbps internet for $19.99-$59.99/mo.§Must be enrolled in LifelineApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Plus taxes and installation fee
**For a limited time, Access from AT&T customers at locations with available AT&T Internet speeds above 10Mbps are eligible for a speed upgrade up to 25Mbps.
†Per Month + Tax
††For qualifying households
‡Plus taxes
‡‡Wireless speeds may vary.
§Per month w/ Lifeline approval, Auto Pay + taxes & equip. charges.

Money icon
Looking for free internet?
Take a peek at our guide to free internet options.

What you should know about low-cost internet programs

Before you start wading through all the details on who qualifies for low-cost internet programs and how, it’s good to start with some basic knowledge. Sometimes acronyms and fine print can make your search more confusing, so let’s clear things up a bit.

1. Clearing up all those acronyms

The government sure does like its acronyms, and that can make it difficult to tell if you qualify for certain internet assistance programs. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to some of the more common federal assistance programs you might see:

  • FPHA: Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • HUD: Housing and Urban Development’s public housing programs
  • LIHEAP: Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • NSLP: National School Lunch Program
  • CEP of NSLP: Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch Program
  • SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • WIC: Women, Infants, and Children Program

2. Most ISP programs require you to be a new customer

If you’re already paying for internet service, you’ll want to pay close attention to the fine print on any low-income internet plans offered by your ISP.

Most ISPs require you not to have had their service for a certain length of time before you can apply for their low-income plans. For example, Comcast Xfinity’s Internet Essentials plan requires you to not have had Xfinity internet for 90 days before you can apply.

If you’re stuck in this window of time where you need low-cost internet but can’t apply for your ISP’s assistance plan just yet, we recommend checking out the Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit programs for help while you wait.

3. Watch out for extra fees

You won’t find extra fees hidden in the fine print for government assistance programs, but some internet provider programs do include surprises.

For the most part, you shouldn’t need to go through a credit check, pay a deposit, or pay for equipment and installation with internet provider programs.

But some, like AT&T Access, may charge you for going over your data cap. And others, like Verizon Lifeline, require an installation and equipment rental fee. We’ve tried to detail any extra fees you might come across in certain ISP programs here.

Light Bulb icon
8 tips for paying less for internet
Internet is essential, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and a leg for it. If you’re not able to qualify for a low-income internet plan or if you’re waiting to get approved, here are some ways you can trim your internet bill in the meantime.

Internet provider assistance programs

Many large internet providers, including Xfinity, Spectrum, and AT&T, offer special plans at a reduced cost.

Jump ahead to see your internet provider’s low-income internet program, or enter your zip code to see which ISPs are available in your area.

Find cheap internet near me.

Altice Advantage for Optimum and Suddenlink customers

Altice Advantage program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Altice Advantage$14.99/mo.*30 MbpsNSLP, SSI, Veteran assistance programsApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Plus taxes and installation fee

Altice Advantage offers a discounted internet plan for K-12 and college students, their families, seniors, and veterans. The program is available in areas where you can subscribe to Suddenlink or Optimum internet.

The Altice Advantage plan comes with no contract, but there’s still a (discounted) installation fee. If you enroll in auto-pay, you can get an extra $5 off for three months as well. And at the moment, new subscribers can get the Altice Advantage plan for free for 60 days.

AT&T Access

AT&T Access program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
AT&T Access$10/mo.*Up to 25 MbpsSNAP, SSI (CA only)Apply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*For a limited time, Access from AT&T customers at locations with available AT&T Internet speeds above 10Mbps are eligible for a speed upgrade up to 25Mbps.

The AT&T Access program costs $10 a month and gets you download speeds up to 25 Mbps. The speeds likely depend on where you live, but the cost is less if your speeds are less than 25 Mbps.

If your speeds are slower, you’ll also get a 150 GB data cap, while those who can get 25 Mbps speeds get a 1 TB data cap. Be warned: If you go over your data cap, AT&T can charge you an extra $10 per 50 GB of extra data added to your plan.

Data fees aside, AT&T Access comes with no contract and no deposit, plus free installation.

Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials

Comcast Internet Essentials program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials$9.95/mo.*50 MbpsHUD, LIHEAP, Medicaid, NSLP, SNAP, SSI, TANF, WICApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Per Month + Tax

Comcast Xfinity’s Internet Essentials plan comes with reasonable download speeds of 50 Mbps. The ISP is also continuing its offer of two months of free Internet Essentials service for new customers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can qualify for Internet Essentials if you or a member of your household is enrolled in Head Start, Medicaid, LIHEAP, NSLP, public housing assistance, SNAP, TANF, a tribal assistance program, WIC, or receives a VA pension. If you owe money on your Comcast bill, you may still qualify for Internet Essentials.

Aside from that, Internet Essentials comes with no contract and doesn’t require a credit check. But you can’t have subscribed to Xfinity internet within the past 90 days.

Cox Connect2Compete

Cox Connect2Compete program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Cox Connect2Compete$9.95/mo.25 MbpsNSLP, SNAP, LIHEAP, WIC, TANFApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

The Cox Connect2Compete program offers low-income families with K-12 children 25 Mbps internet for about $10 a month. The plan comes with no contract and free installation, plus no deposit is required.

If your low-income household or child is enrolled in one of the following programs, you’re eligible for Cox’s Connect2Compete plan:

  • NSLP
  • SNAP
  • TANF
  • Tenant-based vouchers, project-based vouchers, Section 8 project-based rental assistance, or if you live in public housing

Internet First for Grande, RCN, and Wave subscribers

Internet First program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Internet First$9.95/mo.*Up to 50 MbpsNSLP, HUD, Medicaid, SNAP, SSIApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*For qualifying households

If you’re in an area that gets internet from Grande, RCN, or Wave Broadband, you might be eligible for the Internet First program. It costs about $10 a month and gets you download speeds up to 50 Mbps.

Internet First doesn’t require a contract or credit check, and you won’t need to pay an installation fee.

Mediacom Connect2Compete

Mediacom Connect2Compete program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Mediacom Connect2Compete$9.95/mo.*25 MbpsNSLPApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Plus taxes

The Mediacom Connect2Compete plan comes with 25 Mbps download speeds for about $10 a month. You won’t need to sign a contract, pay a deposit, or pay installation or equipment rental fees.

You can get the Mediacom Connect2Compete low-cost internet plan if you have at least one child living at home and enrolled in K-12. Also, at least one child must also qualify for free or reduced-price lunch through the NSLP.

Q-Link Wireless

Q-Link Wireless program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Q-Link WirelessFree 4.5 GB of mobile data4G LTE speedsMust be enrolled in LifelineApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Q-Link Wireless is kind of an oddball on our list of internet providers. But along with unlimited free talk and text, it also offers 4.5 GB of mobile internet data for free each month. And that’s all on T-Mobile’s highly rated cellular network.

Q-Link lets you keep your phone and number, doesn’t require a credit check or contract, and won’t make you pay for your SIM card or to activate your phone on its network. To sign up for Q-Link, you need to be enrolled in the Lifeline program.

Bullhorn icon
Did you know you can get a free cellphone?
Many cellphone providers, including Q-Link, participate in the government Lifeline program and offer low-cost or free smartphones. Check out our guide on how to get a free phone for more info.

Spectrum Internet Assist

Spectrum Internet Assist program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Spectrum Internet Assist$14.99/mo. for 12 mos.Up to 30 Mbps*NSLP, SSIApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Wireless speeds may vary.

Spectrum (previously known as Charter Communications or Time Warner Cable) offers its Internet Assist low-income internet plan for about $15 a month. You’ll get download speeds of 30 Mbps with unlimited data and won’t need to sign a contract.

To qualify for Internet Assist, someone in your household must get free or reduced-cost lunch through the NSLP or be eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or the NSLP, or be enrolled in SSI.

If you prefer, you can print out the application form and submit it by mail or email to the following address:

Spectrum Internet Assist Program – OCS
4145 S. Falkenburg Road, Riverview, Florida 33578

MAILFORSIA@charter.com

Download Form in English | Descarga El Formulario en Español

Verizon Lifeline program

Verizon Lifeline program details
ProgramPriceDownload speedsQualifying programsDetails
Verizon Lifeline$19.99-$59.99/mo.*200-940 MbpsMust be enrolled in LifelineApply Now

Data effective 4/6/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Per month w/ Lifeline approval, Auto Pay + taxes & equip. charges.

The Verizon Lifeline program is slightly different than the government’s Lifeline assistance program, but it requires you to qualify for and enroll in the government Lifeline program.

Pin icon
Do you qualify for Lifeline?
To enroll in the Lifeline program, your household must earn 135% or less than the national poverty guidelines or someone in your household must be eligible for another assistance program. Check out the full details on Lifeline eligibility.

Verizon’s program gives you a $20 a month discount on any of its fiber internet plans, bringing the prices down to about $20 to $60 a month.

But, be warned that you’ll still need to pay a $99 one-time setup fee and a $15 a month router rental fee for every plan except the Fios Gigabit Connection plan. Plus, you may need to complete a credit check and pay a deposit.

All that said, Verizon’s discounted plans provide enough download speed to support a large family who all need to get online at the same time.

Apply Now | Check Verizon Lifeline Eligibility

Government assistance programs for internet

If your internet provider doesn’t offer a low-cost internet plan, a government assistance program might help your family connect to the internet.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program details
ProgramDiscountQualifying programsDetails
Emergency Broadband Benefit Program$50-$75/mo. service discount
$100 device stipend
Households enrolled in Lifeline or other assistance programsApply Now

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program) is a new, temporary assistance program that discounts internet service by up to $50 a month (up to $75 a month if you live on Tribal lands). It also provides you $100 toward a new device, like a laptop or tablet.

The discounts are applied to your bill by your internet provider if it’s participating in the EBB Program, and you’ll continue to receive the benefit until the program’s funds run out or six months after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is announced.

To qualify for the EBB Program, you or someone in your household must meet the following requirements:

–OR–

  • Had a substantial loss of income, such as a job loss or layoff, since February 29, 2020, and your total household income in 2020 was below: $99,000 for single filers or $198,000 for joint filers

–OR–

  • Participates in the free and reduced-price school lunch or school breakfast program (including CEP of NSLP), or participated in the 2019-2020 school year

–OR–

  • Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year

–OR–

To qualify for the Tribal benefit, you or someone in your household must meet the following requirements:

–OR–

  • You live on Tribal lands

–AND–

Participates in Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Head Start, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

Lifeline and Tribal Lifeline programs

Lifeline program details
ProgramDiscountQualifying programsDetails
Lifeline$9.25 discount on mobile or internet serviceHouseholds at 135% or less than poverty level or enrolled in certain assistance programsApply Now

Lifeline is a government program that gives you a $9.25 discount on mobile or internet service. There are a couple of different ways you can qualify for Lifeline:

–OR–

Someone in your household is enrolled in the following:

  • FPHA
  • Medicaid
  • SNAP
  • SSI
  • Veterans Pension or Survivors Benefits

An easy way to check if you qualify is the Lifeline National Verifier.

Tribal Lifeline program

There’s also a Tribal Lifeline program that offers a $34.25 discount per month, but you must live on Tribal lands to qualify. If you live on Tribal lands, you’re eligible for the Tribal Lifeline program if you’re enrolled in the government assistance programs listed above or any of the following programs:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Head Start
  • Tribal TANF
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

Other resources

If you’re having trouble finding a low-income internet assistance program in your area, there are organizations that can help you with your search. Some also provide low-cost tech, like laptops and tablets.

Here’s a quick look at some of the nationwide organizations that can help:

EveryoneOn

EveryoneOn is a nonprofit that helps families find low-cost internet service in your area. The organization also helps you find affordable equipment, like computers and tablets.

PCs for People

PCs for People refurbishes used computers and devices, then resells them at a much more affordable cost. It also offers low-cost mobile internet service with 4G LTE speeds at $15 a month.

To qualify for its reduced-cost laptops and mobile internet, you’ll need to be at or below 200% of the poverty level, or be enrolled in an income-based government program.

Human-I-T

Human-I-T collects donated technology and refurbishes it, then gets it in the hands of low-income families. It also helps you find low-income internet programs in your area.

Now that you know how to get low-cost internet, check these out next.

Find cheap internet plans in your area.

See which ISPs are the most affordable.

CHECK OUT THE CHEAPEST INTERNET PROVIDERS

FAQ

Have more questions about how you qualify for free or low-cost internet assistance? We can help.

How do you qualify for free internet?

To qualify for low-cost or free internet programs, your household will likely need to meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Qualify as low-income based on the national poverty guidelines
  • Have a child in your household that’s enrolled in the NSLP
  • Have a member of your household enrolled in a federal assistance program like SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, SSI, or Veterans Pension
  • Live on Tribal lands

But if your household doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements, there are other ways to get free internet.

How do I get internet for $10 a month?

Many large internet providers offer low-income internet plans that cost $10 a month or less:

Also, you may qualify for the Lifeline or Emergency Broadband Benefit Program discounts, which reduce the cost of your monthly internet bill.

How do I get AT&T internet for $10 a month?

To get AT&T internet that costs $10 a month, you’ll need to enroll in the AT&T Access program. To qualify for the program, someone in your household must be enrolled in SNAP. (Or, if you live in California, you can also qualify if a member of your household is enrolled in SSI.)

And due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AT&T offers its low-income Access internet plan to families whose income is at 135% or less than the national poverty guidelines and to households who participate in NSLP or the Head Start program.

Find out if you’re eligible for the AT&T Access program and how to apply.

Who qualifies for Internet Essentials?

Comcast Xfinity’s Internet Essentials low-income internet plan is available to households with a member enrolled in one of the following programs:

  • Medicaid
  • LIHEAP
  • Pell Grant (Colorado and Illinois only)
  • Public housing assistance
  • SNAP, NSLP, or Head Start
  • TANF
  • Tribal assistance programs
  • WIC
  • VA pension

Plus, you’ll need to live in an area where Xfinity internet is available, and you can’t have subscribed to Xfinity internet within the last 90 days. If you owe money to Xfinity for internet service, you may still qualify for the Internet Essentials plan.

Learn more about Comcast Internet Essentials and how to apply.

How do I get Wi-Fi with SNAP benefits?

These internet providers offer low-income Wi-Fi and internet programs for households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits:

You should first check to see if any of these internet providers offer service in your area. Non-profits like EveryoneOn and Human-I-T can also help you search for low-income internet programs in your area that accept households enrolled in SNAP.

Can college students get free internet?

Outside of public Wi-Fi, there are few ways for college students to get free internet. But there are a couple options for free college internet if you look hard enough:

Does Spectrum offer discounts for college students?

Yes, Charter Spectrum is currently offering 60 days of free internet with 200 Mbps speeds to K-12 and college students plus educators. You’ll need to call 1-844-310-1198 to request the discounted plan.

Keep in mind that Spectrum’s discount for students may end soon, so make sure you call sooner rather than later.

Sources

  1. Bernie Arnason, Telecompetitor, “New York Mandates $15 Low-Income Broadband Service,” April 2021. Accessed April 15, 2021.

‡‡SPECTRUM INTERNET ASSIST: Limited time offer; subject to change; not transferable. Availability of offer based on eligibility and service address that has been pre-qualified. Offer valid to qualified residential customers who (i) have not subscribed to Charter Communications’ Internet services within 30 days prior to requesting services under this offer, (ii) have no outstanding debt for any of Charter Communications’ services that was incurred within 1 year prior to requesting services under this offer and (iii) have no outstanding debt to Charter Communications that was incurred for services provided under this offer and that are subject to Charter Communications’ ordinary debt collection procedures. Equipment, taxes, fees and surcharges may be extra and subject to change during and after the term; installation and additional services are extra. Speed based on wired connection. Available Internet speeds may vary by address. Download speeds are up to 30 Mbps and upload speeds are up to 4 Mbps. WiFi: Equipment, activation and installation fees may apply. Services not available in all areas. Restrictions apply. (c)2019 Charter Communications.