Are There Programs Available to Help Make Internet Service More Affordable?

Several programs exist to help make internet service more affordable. There are both government subsidies and low-income internet programs from internet service providers (ISPs) that can lower your internet bill. The new Emergency Broadband Benefit program is a good example, which can reduce your monthly cost and grant a $100 discount towards a new computer or tablet.

We’ll walk you through these inexpensive internet plans, income-based programs, and low-income family plans to help you reduce the cost of staying connected.

Programs for low-income internet

ProviderProgramWho qualifiesOfferMore info
Altice OptimumAltice Advantage Internet with speeds up to 30 MbpsNew customers with a child recipient of NSLP, seniors eligible for SSI, or veterans receiving public assistance$14.99/mo. with no cost for first 60 days*Learn More
Altice SuddenlinkAltice Advantage Internet with speeds up to 30 MbpsNew customers with a child recipient of NSLP, seniors eligible for SSI, or veterans receiving public assistance$14.99/mo. with no cost for first 60 days*Learn More
AT&TAccess program internet with speeds up to 10 MbpsAt least one person in household must participate in SNAP$5.00–$10.00/mo.Learn More
SpectrumInternet Assist with speeds up to 30 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)New Spectrum customers with at least one recipient of certain public assistance programs in the household$14.99/mo. for 12 mo.Learn More
Comcast Xfinity§Internet Essentials package with speeds up to 50 MbpsNew Xfinity customers who are eligible for public assistance programs$9.95/mo.Learn More
Cox†††ConnectAssist package with speeds up to 50 MbpsAvailable to households who currently participate in an income-based government assistance program such as SNAP or Medicaid.$30.00/mo.Learn More
Cox**Internet up to 50 Mbps through Connect2Compete programNew Cox customers with at least one K–12 student in household who qualifies for public assistance programs$9.95/mo.Learn More
Federal
Communications
Commission††
Lifeline discountHouseholds that make less than 135% of federal poverty guideline or have at least one member participating in certain public assistance programs$9.95 off monthly internet or phone bill through certain ISPsLearn More
Federal
Communications
Commission
Enhanced Lifeline benefits for Tribal landsLow-income households on federally recognized Tribal lands$34.95 off monthly internet billLearn More
Federal
Communications
Commission
Emergency Broadband BenefitHouseholds that make less than 135% of federal poverty guideline or have at least one member participating in certain public assistance programsUp to $50–$75 off monthly internet bill and $100 toward a new laptop, desktop, or tabletLearn More
Mediacom††Internet up to 25 Mbps through Connect2Compete programNew Mediacom customers with at least one K–12 student in household who qualifies for National School Lunch Program$9.95/mo.Learn More
Verizon FiosMonthly discount off fiber internet plansNew Verizon customers who are enrolled in the Lifeline Discount Program$20 off monthly internet bill§§Learn More

Internet First
Internet up to 50 Mbps in areas served by RCN, Wave, or GrandeNew subscribers with at least one member in household participating in certain public assistance programs$9.95/mo. with no cost for first 60 days***Learn More

†††Please see https://www.cox.com/residential/internet/low-cost-internet-plans.html#lowCostInternetAffordabilityFaqs9 for full eligibility requirements.

Are you a student looking for deals on internet service?

Check out our guide to internet service for students.

Government Assistance

Lifeline

Lifeline is a government program backed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It provides a monthly phone or internet service discount for low-income households.

Lifeline benefits give eligible subscribers a discount of at least $9.25 per month off either landline phone service, wireless phone service, broadband, or bundled services. Enhanced Lifeline benefits for Tribal lands bumps the discount up an extra $25 for a total discount of $34.95 per month for households within federally recognized Tribal lands.

Pro tip:

Each household can claim only one Lifeline discount for phone OR internet service, so make sure to prioritize the one you use the most.

Your household may qualify for Lifeline if your income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines. Additionally, you may qualify if you or someone in your household participates in certain federal assistance programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Medicaid
  • Tribal Programs for Native Americans

To find ISPs that offer Lifeline discounts and check your eligibility for the program, visit the Universal Service Administration Co. website. The USAC is part of the FCC, and it oversees the Universal Service Fund, which funds Lifeline discounts and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps low-income families afford an internet connection by subsidising the cost of their internet bill. The ACP provides $30 per month toward a household’s internet bill, though households on Tribal land or high-cost areas might be eligible for enhanced support of up to $75 per month.1

You may qualify for the ACP if at least one person in your household meets the following criteria:

  • Qualifies for the Lifeline Program
  • Is approved for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP)
  • Has received a Pell Grant in the current year
  • Is currently eligible for certain providers’ low-income programs
  • Receives assistance through SNAP or WIC

This program replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program that was instituted in 2021 to help those dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The main differences between the two programs is that the monthly benefit has been reduced and some of the qualifications have changed. Families on WIC now qualify for the ACP, while a substantial loss of income in 2020 no longer qualifies a household for the program. The maximum income for qualifying households has also been increased from 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines to 200%.1

The ACP goes into effect December 31, 2021. Following that, there will be a 60-day transition period where those who currently qualify for the EBB program can continue to receive those benefits.1

Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

The FCC opened enrollments for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program on May 12, 2021. It provides a monthly discount of up to $50–$75 for qualified households. It also grants a one-time discount of up to $100 toward a new laptop, desktop, or tablet when purchased from participating providers.

These benefits are limited to one monthly service and one new device per household. To qualify, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Qualify for Lifeline, SNAP, Medicaid, FPHA, SSI, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain tribal programs
  • Have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), or the USDA Community Eligibility Provision during the 2019–2020 school year
  • Receive a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Have suffered a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, resulting in a total 2020 income below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers 
  • Be eligible for a participating internet provider’s own existing low-income or COVID-19 program

The EBB program will conclude December 31, 2021, but those currently enrolled will receive a 60-day transition period where those who currently qualify for the EBB program can continue to receive those benefits.1 If you qualify, but are not enrolled in the EBB program, you can still do so before December 31, 2021.

ConnectHomeUSA

ConnectHomeUSA began in 2015 as a public-private partnership between the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other organizations. It’s goal is to narrow the digital divide for families with school-age children in HUD-assisted housing.

The program is currently operating in more than 80 communities in the US, with new communities added every year. Residents of ConnectHomeUSA communities can find resources to help find affordable internet services and devices. And if you don’t live in one of those areas, there are resources for people interested in starting a digital inclusion program in their own community.

Pro tip:

If you need inexpensive or free internet and you don’t qualify for low-income programs, check out our guide to getting free home internet.

Internet service provider programs

Many ISPs also offer their own assistance programs for families with low income or other needs that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford internet access. If you don’t qualify for Lifeline or prefer to use the benefit for phone service, this can be a great option.

First, find out which providers service your area:

Altice runs both Optimum and Suddenlink, and customers with access to either ISP can sign up for Altice Advantage Internet, which offers internet speeds up to 30 Mbps for $14.99 per month for those who qualify.

The Altice Advantage Internet program is available to those who have a child recipient of the NSLP in the household, receive Supplemental Security Income (age 65+), or are US military veterans who receive public assistance.

Visit the Altice Advantage Internet webpage to see if you qualify and apply.

AT&T

AT&T’s Access program offers internet speeds up to 10 Mbps to eligible low-income families for $5–$10 per month. To qualify for Access, customers must have at least one family member who participates in the SNAP program.

Visit the Access page to fill out an application and see if you qualify.

Spectrum offers an Internet Assist program similar to Xfinity’s Internet Essentials. Internet Assist offers up to 30 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) for $14.99 per month for 12 months, with no data cap and no contract. The program is available to households where one member is a recipient of the National School Lunch Program, Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP, or Supplemental Security Income (≥ age 65 only).

Internet Assist costs $14.99 per month and offers faster speeds than Xfinity Internet Essentials. But the ISP charges an extra $5.00 per month if you want WiFi.

To apply for Spectrum Internet Assist, call Spectrum at 1-855-542-6651.

Xfinity offers an Internet Essentials program that allows qualifying customers to purchase a plan for just $9.95 per month. This program is designed to help students, seniors, and low-income families. It offers internet speeds up to 25 Mbps and free in-home Wi-Fi, and it doesn’t require a credit check.

Xfinity also offers low-cost computers as part of the Internet Essentials program. Customers can choose a laptop or desktop computer for $149, which includes Microsoft Office, Norton Security Suite, and a 90-day warranty.

To get Internet Essentials, customers need to fill out an application and wait to be approved. For a family to qualify, they must have at least one child eligible for the National School Lunch Program and meet a handful of other requirements.

To apply for Xfinity Internet Essentials, visit the Internet Essentials website.

Cox Low-Cost Internet is part of the Connect2Compete program, aimed at helping K–12 students reach their full potential by providing internet access to low-income families. Low-Cost Internet is $9.95 per month and is available to families with at least one child in kindergarten or grades 1–12.

Eligible families must also be participating in one of the following programs:

To apply for Cox Low-Cost Internet, visit the website and fill out the form.

Mediacom’s Connect2Compete program partners with EveryoneOn to offer inexpensive internet for students eligible for the NSLP. The program includes a 25 Mbps internet connection and Wi-Fi modem for $9.95 per month.

Check your eligibility or sign up by calling 1-855-904-2225 or through Mediacom’s Connect2Compete online application.

You can get the usual Lifeline discount with Verizon, but the ISP also has its own discount for people enrolled in the program. Verizon offers $20 off Verizon Fios internet plans on top of the $9.95 Lifeline discount. That means you could get Verizon’s 200 Mbps internet plan for just $19.99 per month.

To learn more, visit Verizon’s low-income internet page.

Internet First

Internet First is a program that offers cheap internet service for those who live in RCN, Grande, or Wave service areas and qualify for any of these public service programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Public housing assistance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Head Start National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or Head Start
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC)
  • Federal Pell Grant (applicable only for Illinois and Colorado)
  • VA Pension
  • Tribal assistance

Through the Internet First program, you can get internet speeds up to 25 Mbps for $9.95 per month.

Learn more about Internet First, see if you qualify, or apply for assistance at Internet First’s website.

Government programs for internet FAQ

Does the government offer free internet?

The government offers discounts to people’s internet bills through the Lifeline program, which on certain internet plans can bring your monthly cost down to or near zero. People who already participate in government programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, FPHA, and certain Tribal Programs for Native Americans qualify for the Lifeline program.

Can families on food stamps get internet assistance?

Families who participate in SNAP, also known as food stamps, can qualify for internet assistance through the Lifeline program. Many ISPs also have their own programs for low-income households that are open to those who participate in SNAP.

Sources

  1. Federal Communication Commission, “Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Comment on the Implementation of the Affordable Connectivity Program,” November 18, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021.

Author -

Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for HighSpeedInternet.com. Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.

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