Best Internet Plans and Discounts for Students
Students rely more on the internet than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, so having a good internet connection has gotten only more important. They need an internet connection that’s not only fast enough to handle any assignment or software program their courses require but also cheap enough to fit into their budget.
Finding an internet plan that meets these criteria is no simple task, so we’re here to help you track down the best internet plans, discounts, bundles, and special offers for students.
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Government internet programs for students
One of the most important things for any student to know is that there are government programs that can help you get internet service. There’s a wide variety of programs that apply to different people in different situations and work with different internet service providers (ISPs).
The first step is determining which programs apply to you. Depending on your income and other government programs you’re involved in, you might qualify for multiple programs for discounted internet. But there are several programs directed specifically at students:
- Cox and Mediacom both participate in the Connect2Compete program, which helps provide affordable internet to K–12 students.
- Suddenlink and Optimum both offer Altice Advantage Internet, which works with the National School Lunch Program and New York City public schools.
For more information on government programs for students, check out our page on government programs for affordable internet.
Internet provider discounts for students
In addition to a wide range of public programs that help students stay connected, many ISPs offer their own programs designed to help students:
Xfinity student discounts
Xfinity is one of the most widely available ISPs in the US and, importantly, offers exclusive deals to students at certain eligible colleges and universities. Xfinity gives you the choice of several different plans, depending on your needs. It also throws in a big pile of extra perks to sweeten the deal, such as a Prepaid Visa® Card, discounts on TV plans, and six months of Amazon Music Unlimited.
Xfinity’s student offers start at $55 per month for its most basic plan. Xfinity is very upfront about its student offers and has a much wider selection than most other ISPs. Be aware that once the promotional period ends on these discounts, Xfinity’s regular rates apply. These deals also require a minimum of a one-year commitment, so be sure to factor that into your plans for your next semester.
While these offers are available only to students living off-campus, some universities have housing with access to Xfinity on Campus, a separate service that is exclusively available to dorms and other on-campus housing.
Spectrum student discounts
Spectrum also has internet deals for students. Its network covers not only residential areas but also some on-campus housing. Spectrum focuses on offering students fast speeds with no data caps—a killer combination if you know you’re going to be streaming hours worth of lectures every day.
Spectrum also offers its Spectrum Mobile plan, giving you access to its network of Wi-Fi hotspots and allowing you to work on a reliable network without having to sit in your dorm or pack into a crowded coffee shop.
Frontier student internet plans
Frontier, like Xfinity, offers a wide variety of student plans, but while Xfinity focuses on college undergrads, Frontier tries to have something for every kind of student, from grad students to parents homeschooling their K–12 school kids.
Frontier gives you a lot of options. If you need a plan with high upload speeds, it’s got that. If you need Wi-Fi to study on the go, it’s got that. Just need a ton of bandwidth to keep all your roommates happy? It’s got that too.
An important thing to note is that Frontier’s discounts apply only for the first 12 months, which is considerably shorter than the average college degree. It’s also not as widely available as Xfinity, so check if it’s available in your area first.
Do any other internet providers offer student discounts?
Although not every ISP has advertised student discounts, you can always call a sales representative to see if they have any offers that you qualify for. It never hurts to ask. Even if the ISP doesn’t have student-specific discounts, you might find another discount that will work for your situation.
Are there any free internet options for students?
The only thing better than cheap internet is free internet. Although most college towns have a local coffee shop or two that’s constantly packed with students doing homework over the free Wi-Fi, there’s more than one way to get online free of charge (though you’ll probably have to provide your own coffee).
There are a few companies that offer completely free internet plans, such as NetZero and FreedomPop. Of course, the plans they offer aren’t particularly fast, so while they might do in a pinch, they’re probably not a long-term solution for getting through your undergrad.
Fortunately, college is a good place to make some innovative friends, so if you’re motivated, there are more ambitious ways of getting around your internet bill, such as constructing a community mesh network.
For more ideas, read more about how to get free internet.
Can I bundle student internet with TV?
Most student plans can’t be combined with other offers, so if you want TV, make sure your plan explicitly includes it. Otherwise you probably won’t be able to simply add TV to your discounted plan the way you would to a normal plan.
Xfinity offers student internet plans that include TV service. It also gives you access to shows via the Xfinity Stream app, which offers a rotating selection of television shows. Xfinity also has a Flex 4K streaming device and the X1 TV Box, which gives you access to live TV. Both of these devices can be added to student internet packages.
If the ISP that gives you the best student offer doesn’t give you an option for adding TV service, you can still get a discount on TV through DISH. DISH gives a discount on satellite TV to students, and unlike most ISPs, DISH is available anywhere in the US. As long as you have someplace where you can install a satellite dish, you can get discounted satellite TV.
What to look for in a student internet plan
While cost is often a major factor for students in choosing an internet plan, you also need to make sure that your plan will meet your educational needs. In the face of tight deadlines, a reliable internet connection is often even more important than a fast connection.
There are a lot of factors that go into reliability, from disruptions that impact certain kinds of connections to the responsiveness of internet service providers (ISPs) when their networks go down.
Check what customers have to say about internet provider reliability in our 2020 ISP Customer Satisfaction Survey.
Even so, speed is still an important factor. This is especially true if you’re sharing an internet plan with roommates.
A good first step in finding the right balance for your internet connection is identifying what you’re going to need the internet for. Here are some examples of how much speed you’ll need for common student internet activities:
|Activity||Recommended download speed||Recommended upload speed|
|General online studying/surfing||1 Mbps||1 Mbps|
|Watching lectures||2.5 Mbps||2.5 Mbps|
|Uploading/downloading a Word doc||1 Mbps||1 Mbps|
|Uploading/downloading a Git repository||10 Mbps||10 Mbps|
|Uploading/downloading HD video||25 Mbps||25 Mbps|
|Making a Zoom call||1.5 Mbps||1.5 Mbps|
Looking up information for an assignment or cramming for a test? Fortunately, even long nights full of web surfing don’t require much in terms of speed or data. Web pages with just text and images can load just fine on a 1 Mbps connection. But if you find yourself watching a lot of video, you’ll probably want download speeds closer to 5–25 Mbps.
If you watch your lectures online, you’re going to need a reliable connection. Streaming video can use a lot of download bandwidth, and to participate in the discussion, you’ll need a decent upload speed too. Software like Skype or Zoom generally requires a minimum speed to run, or your call will be dropped.
For example, Zoom can still run on a fairly slow connection, maintaining a 1080p video stream on just 2.5 Mbps. But if your speed drops below that threshold for any reason, your call could drop. This isn’t usually a problem on a broadband connection, but connections with high latency, like satellite internet, might have issues. If the software you’re using gives you an option for voice only, this can improve some of these performance issues.
Most internet connections are designed to give you fast download speeds, but don’t prioritize upload speeds the same way. For tasks like web surfing or video streaming, this isn’t usually a problem. But many students find themselves uploading material all the time. If you find yourself in this position, look for an internet connection with symmetrical upload speeds, like fiber.
Depending on what you study, the connection speed you need to actually do your schoolwork could vary wildly. If most of your assignments are simply papers, you can get by on a 1 Mbps connection. If you’re in a field like computer science and need to check a large codebase in and out constantly, you might want a much faster internet plan. A 10 Mbps upload speed can make this an easy process.
If you study something like video production, uploading your big project could take all night, as even some of the faster types of internet, like cable, often have low upload speeds. Although you can get by on less speed, this can be very frustrating, so we suggest looking for an upload speed of 25 Mbps.
If you’re living away from home, it’s important to stay connected to your family and friends. This is especially important following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom make staying in touch much easier, and you can usually get by on a basic 1.5–5 Mbps connection to use these programs. If you find yourself dealing with spotty connections, however, you might need either a more reliable internet plan (switching from DSL to fiber, for example) or a plan with faster speeds.
Do you use the internet for highly specialized tasks or relaxing after a hard day of work? Find out how much speed you need.
Author - Peter Christiansen
Peter Christiansen holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years, working 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 edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.