Best Internet Plans and Discounts for Students
Students now rely more on the internet than ever, so having a good internet connection is extremely important. They need a connection that’s not only fast enough to handle any assignment or software program 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 plans for students
The government offers programs for students to help them get internet service. These programs 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 use, you might qualify for multiple programs for discounted internet. But there are several programs directed specifically at students:
The Connect2Compete (C2C) program provides affordable internet services to low-income homes with K-12 students. Pricing typically costs $10 to $20 per month.
Altice Advantage Internet
The Altice Advantage Internet program provides internet access to qualified households for $14.99 per month. The program includes a free modem and router, download speeds of up to 30 Mbps, and unlimited data.
Qualified households must be eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or Supplemental Security Income (ages 65 and older). Students must reside in New York City and attend public school.
For more information on government programs for students, check out our page on government programs for affordable internet.
Emergency Broadband Benefit
The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) allows qualifying people to save up to $50–$75 on their monthly internet bills. The program helps low-income Americans and those who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To qualify, someone in your household must be enrolled in certain social programs (Lifeline, SNAP, National School Lunch Program, and others)—or you can qualify based on your income. Applications for the EBB opened on May 12, 2021, and the program will last six months after the pandemic is officially declared as over or when EBB funds are depleted.
The program also includes $100 off the purchase of a computer or tablet in addition to the monthly internet discount. Major internet providers like AT&T, Xfinity, Verizon, and many others are participating but only specific plans qualify.
For more information on how to apply and to see a list of participating providers, check out our complete guide to the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
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 deals 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.
Finally, Xfinity provides an Internet Essentials program for students. This program supplies a free wireless gateway and cable internet with speeds of up to 50 Mbps for just $9.95 per month. Qualified students can get two months of free internet if they apply by December 31, 2021. Approved students can also purchase a computer for $149.99 plus tax.
Students must be eligible for public assistance programs (NSLP, Medicaid, SNAP, and so on) to qualify for Xfinity’s program. To apply, simply complete Xfinity’s online form (optimized for mobile).
Spectrum student discounts
Spectrum’s network covers not only residential areas but also some on-campus housing. Spectrum’s internet deals for students focus on offering fast speeds with no data caps—a killer combination if you know you will 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 offers 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.
AT&T student internet programs
AT&T announced in 2020 a $10 million commitment to support education in underserved communities.1 The company partnered with the nonprofit Connected Nation and pledged to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and free internet service to struggling students.
While applications for school districts and nonprofits are now closed, Connected Nation reports that 35,000 hotspots now cover 81 schools and 43 nonprofits nationwide as of July 2021.2
For example, the Albany Fund for Education and The Salvation Army of Saratoga Springs delivered 1,000 hotspots combined along with a year of free internet connectivity to students lacking internet resources.3
Additionally, AT&T offered free and discounted lines to schools and teachers based on the number of participating students until January 22, 2021.1 These schools can add additional lines at the same price until December 29, 2022.
Access from AT&T
The Access program provides a wireless gateway and internet access with speeds of up to 25 Mbps for just $10 per month. Households with students must participate in SNAP to qualify—SSI for California residents. This plan requires no annual contract or deposit.
Due to COVID-19, AT&T temporarily expanded this program to include students enrolled in the National School Lunch and Head Start Programs. It also extended the program to households with low income. Refer to AT&T’s chart for more information about income limits.
International School Program
Finally, AT&T offers the International Student program for eligible students who are currently studying in the US. The program includes a deposit waiver and long-distance calling through AT&T’s Worldwide Value Calling plan. International students must be enrolled in a two- or four-year college or university within the US to qualify.
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 discounts for qualified students. 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?
Although most college towns have a local coffee shop or two providing free Wi-Fi, there’s more than one way to get online free of charge.
Certain government programs, such as the Lifeline program, can help low-income families cover their internet bills. While the program doesn’t offer free internet itself, when combined with other offers from ISPs, it can cover some or all of the cost of your monthly internet bill. Read our guide to government programs for internet assistance to find out more.
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 an excellent 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?
Generally, most internet plans for students can’t bundle TV. 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 standard plan.
Xfinity offers student internet plans that include TV services. 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, giving you live TV access. You can add both of these devices 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 provides a discount on satellite TV to students, and unlike most ISPs, DISH is available anywhere in the US. As long as you have a place to 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 when 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.
Many factors 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 say about internet provider reliability in our annual customer satisfaction report.
Even so, speed is still an important factor—especially if you’re sharing an internet plan with roommates.
An excellent first step in finding the right balance for your internet connection is identifying how you plan to use it. Here are some examples of how much internet speed you’ll need for everyday 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|
Are you looking up information for an assignment or cramming for a test? Fortunately, even long nights full of web surfing don’t require a lot 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 videos, you’ll probably want download speeds closer to 5–25 Mbps.
You will need a reliable connection if you plan to watch lectures online. 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 will drop your call if your internet speed doesn’t meet the minimum speed requirement.
For example, Zoom can still run on a relatively 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. A broadband connection usually doesn’t have this problem, but connections with high latency, like satellite internet, might have issues.
To improve some of these performance issues, use the voice-only option if available.
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 for 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 and recheck a large codebase, you might want a 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 with less speed, this can be very frustrating, so we suggest looking for an upload speed of 25 Mbps.
Staying connected with friends and family is important when you’re living away from home.
Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom make staying in touch much easier, and you can usually get by on a 1.5–5 Mbps connection to use these programs. However, if you find yourself dealing with spotty connections, 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.
- AT&T, “Enabling Connected Learning with Discounted Wireless Data Plans and Free Wi-Fi Hotspots,” November 12, 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020.
- Connected Nation, “Awareness Announced!” Accessed July 14, 2021.
- Saratoga Today, ”Salvation Army Receives Hotspots to Help Address Homework Gap,” July 8, 2021. Accessed July 14, 2021.
Author - Peter Christiansen
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.