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Guide To Internet Plans For Low- And Fixed-Income Households

Updated:
Find out if you or a member of your household qualify for a discount on internet, free computers, and resources to stay connected at home.

Internet service is no longer the optional luxury it once was. Nowadays, an internet connection is an essential utility that helps families learn, find jobs, and keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, high costs can be an issue for many working families, so we created this guide with useful links and resources to help you bring your household online. In this guide to low-income internet, we’ll cover the following topics:

Apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program

Emerging from the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government-sponsored internet service discount program from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that's administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). The aim of this program is to offer discounted internet services to people in fixed- and low-income households for the purpose of work, school, healthcare, and more. Here, we will cover all the details of the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Who Qualifies for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

Eligible participants in the ACP must fall into a category where they demonstrate exceptional needs. Beyond falling below the 200 percent Federal Poverty Guidelines applicants can qualify if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income internet program
  • Participates in one of these assistance programs:
    • SNAP 
    • Medicaid 
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance 
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • WIC
    • Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
    • Lifeline
  • Participates in one of these assistance programs and lives on Qualifying Tribal lands:
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance 
    • Tribal TANF
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
    • Tribal Head Start (income-based)

What Are the Benefits of the Affordable Connectivity Program?

If you fall into one of the above categories, then you're eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program. Here are the benefits you can get with the Affordable Connectivity Program:

  • $30 per month toward a broadband service plan
  • $75 per month toward a broadband service plan if they live on tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of $100 for the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet if the recipient contributes $10 to $50 toward the purchase price of the device

The Affordable Connectivity Program is only valid for one monthly service discount and one device discount per household, meaning if multiple members in your house qualify, you cannot combine these benefits.

What Internet Providers Are Participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program?

Hundreds of internet providers are currently offering discounted internet services through the ACP, and you can find the specific internet providers in the official FCC ACP list. The providers’ offerings differ by state, so you’ll have to find your state to see what providers in your area will provide these services. Here’s a list of just some of the major internet providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program:

How Do You Apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

Applying for the Affordable Connectivity Program is easy. Simply follow these steps to sign up for the service, prove your eligibility, and start getting discounted internet services for your home:

  1. Submit an application. Navigate to the ACPBenefit.org website to fill out a digital application or print a mail-in application. Submit this form with all your details and eligibility documentation.
  2. Contact your preferred broadband provider directly. Once approved by the ACP, you can contact your preferred participating provider to select a plan and receive the discount. Some providers may require some additional documentation, and you will fill this information out at that time.

Also, if you're already enrolled in the FCC Lifeline program, you don't need to apply again through this process. Instead, you can talk directly to your Lifeline provider to get the ACP discount on your service. If it's not available with them, you are still eligible to switch to another provider.

How to Get a Low-Income Discount on Internet

The best sales never end. Unlike time-limited promotions and deals, discounts for low-income households are available year-round to families who qualify – no special coupon necessary. Here are some providers offering low-income internet services:

Internet Provider Low-Income Plan Options

Plan name

Price

Speeds up to

Data caps

Self-install available

Qualifying programs

AT&T Access

$10 per month

25 Mbps

150 GB – 1 TB

Yes

SNAP, NSLP, SSI (California residents only), Head Start, Income (temporarily)

Cox Connect2Compete

$9.95 per month

25 Mbps

1.25 TB

Yes

NSLP, SNAP, TANF, HUD, and PBRA

Frontier Lifeline Program

$9.25 per month

6 Mbps

N/A

No

Lifeline

Mediacom Connect2Compete

$9.95 per month

25 Mbps

N/A

Yes

NSLP

RCN Internet First

$9.95 per month

25 Mbps

N/A

Yes

NSLP, SSI, SNAP, Medicaid, housing assistance

Spectrum Internet Assist

$14.99 per month

30 Mbps

N/A

Yes

NSLP, SSI

Xfinity Internet Essentials

$9.95 per month

25 Mbps

N/A

Yes

NSLP, HUD, Pell Grant, veteran government assistance, seniors on Medicaid, persons with a disability

In addition to discounted rates, the low-income plans listed above will let you borrow equipment for free and don’t require a contract. Some providers also offer additional perks. Cox’s Digital Academy and XFinity’s Learning Center, for example, bring educational support to children living in your home. The following list will guide you through the application process: 

How to Apply for AT&T Access

  1. Check availability. Enter your address when you first begin to fill out the online application to make sure your area is covered.
  2. Apply now. Submit an application online, including information demonstrating your level of need. Use the confirmation number provided to you by AT&T to check your application status periodically.
  3. Get online. Once your application has been received, a representative from AT&T internet will get in touch with you in three to five business days with the next steps.

How to Apply for Cox Connect2Compete

  1. Check availability. Enter your address on the first page of the Cox Connect2Compete application to verify if your neighborhood can receive service from Cox.
  2. Apply now. Fill out the application, and submit verifying information, such as proof of your child’s school enrollment.
  3. Get online. If approved, you’ll have the option to self-install your internet. Your Cox Easy Connect kit should arrive within five to 10 business days. 

How to Apply for Frontier Lifeline

  1. Check availability. Select your state from the list found on the first section of the Frontier LifeLine Program application.
  2. Apply now. Download an application, fill out your household’s personal and financial information, and return it to the printed address or specific recipient for your state. Alternatively, you can apply directly online for a quicker response.
  3. Get online. After your application is approved, call Frontier at 800-921-8101 to have the Lifeline discount added to your account.

*** Application process varies from state to state. Make sure to read the instructions carefully. ***

How to Apply for Mediacom Connect2Compete 

  1. Check availability. Enter your ZIP code to verify you live in a qualifying area after clicking “Apply today” at the top-right corner of the Mediacom Connect2Compete program page.
  2. Apply now. Complete the online form with your relevant details; a sales representative will follow up with you in a few days.
  3. Get online. Once your application is approved, your discount will be reflected on your payment bill. Mediacom waives both equipment and installation fees with their Connect2Compete program.

How to Apply for RCN Internet First 

  1. Check availability. From the RCN Internet First page, select your state from the drop-down menu that pops up first.
  2. Apply now. Download the application, and mail it to the printed address, along with supporting documents, or apply online for faster results.
  3. Get online. RCN will post your discount to your account once your application is approved.

How to Apply for Spectrum Internet Assist

  1. Check availability. Make sure the program is available in your area and you meet the eligibility requirements.
  2. Apply now. Complete an online application form, and attach the verifying documents. If you are eligible, you can also call 844-525-1574 to start the enrollment process. 
  3. Get online. Your Spectrum account will be updated to include your new discount. 

How to Apply for Xfinity Internet Essentials 

  1. Check availability. Enter your address on the Xfinity Internet Essentials page to see if it’s available in your area.
  2. Apply now. Once your address is verified, you will be able to submit an online application. You will be notified via SMS, e-mail, or snail mail if you are approved, or if Xfinity needs additional documents from you. 

Get online. Use the step-by-step guide included with your internet equipment to self-install your service.

Other Ways to Save on Internet Services

Did you know that in addition to books, magazines, and movies, you can also borrow Wi-Fi from your local library and bring it home to your devices? There’s more to affordable internet than discounted prices and special programs, and the following list of free Wi-Fi services will bring you up to speed:

Hot Spots and Free Wi-Fi From Internet Providers

Mobile hot spots are portable devices that connect you to Wi-Fi internet anywhere you go. They work by taking a cellular connection and converting it into a wireless signal for your laptops, tablets, and phones. Here are some of the internet providers offering hot spots in public places or for customers to take home:

Community Resources for Internet Access

Nonprofits and city governments across America are working hard to close the digital divide and ensure everyone has internet access at home. Here are some of the groups providing free Wi-Fi and internet equipment to families in need:

  • City governments: Many cities offer free Wi-Fi to families living in public housing. They also offer free Wi-Fi downtown or in other popular locations, such as recreational centers. Visit your city’s website for more information.
  • Public schools: Your child’s school likely has a loan program where you can borrow a hot spot and laptop for the academic year. Any damages to the devices are your responsibility, though you can usually purchase insurance for a few bucks. 
  • Nonprofits: Many charitable organizations provide free or low-cost internet hot spots that allow you to connect multiple devices at once. Program details vary, but the limit is usually one hot spot per household. 
  • Public libraries: Most local libraries will lend you an internet hot spot or a device with built-in Wi-Fi for up to two weeks. All you need is a library card, and getting one is easy.

Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers

Administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the Lifeline Program is a long-standing government program aimed at bringing equitable access to phones and internet to all people in the United States, especially low-income households, seniors, and veterans.

Through the Lifeline Program individuals can get up to $9.25 per month toward these services, though you can only get this discount once per household. You can qualify for the Lifeline Program if you or someone in your household participates in one of the following programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
  • Tribal programs (and live on federally-recognized Tribal lands)

Alternatively, participation in one of these federal programs isn’t the only way to get into the Lifeline Program. If your income falls under the 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines, then you can also receive the benefits of the Lifeline Program. Here are the federal poverty guidelines so you can see if you qualify:

Lifeline Program Federal Poverty Guidelines

Household size

48 contiguous states and D.C.

Alaska

Hawaii

1

$17,388 or less

$21,060 or less

$19,413 or less

2

$23,517 or less

$29,390 or less

$27,054 or less

3

$29,646 or less

$37,058 or less

$34,101 or less

4

$35,775 or less

$44,726 or less

$41,148 or less

5

$41,904 or less

$52,394 or less

$48,195 or less

6

$48,033 or less

$60,062 or less

$55,242 or less

7

$54,162 or less

$67,730 or less

$62,289 or less

8

$60,291 or less

$75,398 or less

$69,336

For each additional person add

$6,126

$7,668

$7,047

* For each additional person beyond age 8, add $6,126 to the total for the contiguous U.S., $7,668 for Alaska, and $7,047 for Hawaii.

How to Apply for the Lifeline Program

Enrolling in Lifeline is simple and easy. You can submit your application online or by mail, along with proof of eligibility. Once your application is approved, you can choose a phone or internet provider that participates in the program and begin saving on your next bill.

Where to Find Affordable Internet Equipment

An internet connection isn’t any good if you don’t have a working computer or laptop. Thankfully, many organizations redistribute recycled or refurbished internet devices to families in need for free or for a fraction of their original cost. Demand for these programs is high, though, so you might be put on a waiting list before receiving your new equipment. We created the following table shown to help you find your next desktop, laptop, or tablet for free or at a discounted price:

Affordable Device Programs for Low-Income Households

Program

Services

Eligibility requirement

Price

Distribution process

PCs for People

Free and low-cost refurbished desktops, laptops and other devices

Individuals with an income below the 200% of the poverty rate or those participating in an income-based federal program

Desktops start at $75 and laptops at $100

Visit one of their stores in-person or shop their online collection

human-I-T

Free and low-cost recycled desktops and laptops

Recipients must participate in a government assistance program (SNAP/EBT, Medi-Cal/Medicaid, SSI, SSD, NSLP, etc.)

$0 to $100

Purchase directly from their website

ConnectAll

Low-cost refurbished desktops and laptops for low-income individuals and nonprofits

Individuals must have a total income of less than $50 per year or participate in a federal assistance program 

Starting at $109

Create an account online

EveryoneON

Affordable computers and low-cost internet service

Eligibility based on income or participation in National School Lunch Program, Head Start, SNAP or other assistance program

$0 to $100

Enter your ZIP code to find offers near you

The On It Foundation

Free computers for K-12 students

Students must be in grades K-12, receive free or reduced lunch, and attend a public school in the United States

Free

Submit your request for a free computer, as well as proof of participation in lunch program, by mail or e-mail 

ConnectHomeUSA

Recycled laptops and desktops for free or low-prices

Participation in HUD-assisted housing 

$0 to $200

Enter your ZIP code to see options in your area

How to Qualify for Free and Discounted Mobile Service and Phones

Everyone needs a computer not just in their home but in their pockets. A working cell phone with a data plan can be a lifesaver when you’re out on the street and need to find an address, send an email, or just keep yourself distracted while riding the bus. Just like Wi-Fi plans for households and laptops, some service providers provide customers hotspotwith affordable cell phone plans to help them keep up with the 21st century. Search through the following table to find discounted cellphone plans to help you stay connected on the go:

Cellphone Plans for Low-Income Individuals

Providers

Service plan

Cost 

Eligibility requirements

Data caps

Free phone

Verizon Wireless

1,000 minutes

$0 to $25 per month

Income 135% below federal poverty guidelines or enrollment in qualifying federal assistance programs 

No data service

No

TAG Mobile

Varies

$10 to $25 per month

Income 135% below federal poverty guidelines or enrollment in qualifying federal assistance programs 

100 MB – 2 GB

Yes

Assurance Wireless 

Unlimited talk and texts

$15 to $45 per month

Income 135% below federal poverty guidelines or enrollment in qualifying federal assistance programs 

6 GB

Yes

Access Wireless

Unlimited talk and texts + 6 GB of data

Free

Income 135% below federal poverty guidelines or enrollment in qualifying federal assistance programs

6 GB

Yes

Infiniti Mobile

Varies

Free

Income 135% below federal poverty guidelines or enrollment in qualifying federal assistance programs

1 GB – 4.5 GB

Yes

  1. Verizon Wireless
    • Verizon’s low-income cell phone plan retails for $25 per month, but those enrolled in the Lifeline Program can get it for $15 per month or even for free if they are a resident of a federally recognized tribe. Data service isn’t part of Verizon’s plan.
    • Contact Verizon at 800-837-4966 after submitting your application and select your service.
  2. TAG Mobile
    • TAG Mobile provides affordable cell phone service plans that include unlimited talk and text, and prices range from $10 to $25 per month depending on how much internet data you want on your plan.
    • Sign up for the Lifeline Program online to become a TAG Mobile customer. The process takes just a few clicks. 
  3. Assurance Wireless
    • Assurance Wireless provides unlimited talk and texts, as well as 6 GB of data.
    • You can apply online to see if you qualify and begin enjoying quality service for a low cost. 
    • New subscribers can receive a $10 Amazon gift card for signing up.
  4. Access Wireless
    • Access Wireless offers nationwide cell phone coverage to low-income users completely free of charge. 
    • Enter your ZIP code to begin the application process and save big on your cell phone bill. 
  5. Infiniti Mobile
    • Infiniti Mobile offers two low-income cell phone plans. Their Lifeline Program includes 1,000 minutes, unlimited texts, and 1 GB of data. For those with membership in a federally recognized tribe, their Lifeline Tribe Program includes unlimited texts, as well as unlimited minutes and 4.5 GB of data.
    • Applying is easy and takes only a few minutes online

One important thing to keep in mind is that Lifeline Programs are restricted to one per household, and they can’t be combined with a Lifeline landline service. Perks and benefits vary by region, so make sure to request more information.

Additional Low-Income Resources

Your city’s got your back. Many local organizations and groups serving your community can set you up with helpful resources like free Wi-Fi, virtual child care services, and affordable internet equipment. Find your city and see what’s available around you: 

Local Internet Resources for Low-Income Families

New York City

Miami

Los Angeles

Chicago

Philadelphia

Boston

Houston

Dallas

Seattle

Cleveland

Portland

San Francisco

Denver

Indianapolis

New Orleans

Baltimore

Frequently Asked Questions About Internet Plans for Low-Income Households

Are there any government programs to help me get phone or broadband internet access?

The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program helps eligible low-income families gain access to high-speed internet and devices by awarding them $30 per month for a broadband service plan ($75 if they live on tribal lands) and a one-time discount of $100 for the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet (if they contribute $10 to $50 toward the purchase price). Alternatively, qualifying families may also apply for the Lifeline Program to receive $9.25 per month off phone or broadband internet services.

Which internet providers offer low-income internet plans?

Several internet providers run low-income internet plan programs, including AT&T Access, Cox Connect2Compete, Frontier Lifeline Program, Mediacom Connect2Compete, RCN Internet First, Spectrum Internet Assist, and Xfinity Internet Essentials.

Which providers offer discounts on cellphone plans for lower income individuals?

Find discounts on cellphone plans for lower income families through Verizon Wireless, TAG Mobile, Assurance Wireless, Access Wireless, and Infinity Mobile. Many of these cellphone plans come with data allowances and even a free phone!

What organizations provide help with accessing computers and other digital devices for low-income households?

Find discounted and free digital devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, for low-income families from charitable and nonprofit organizations, including PCs for People, human-I-T, ConnectAll, EveryoneON, The On It Foundation, and ConnectHomeUSA. Apply for these devices by filling out the requisite paperwork to demonstrate your level of necessity.

What internet providers offer free hot spots and Wi-Fi internet access?

Cox, MetroNet, Sparklight, Spectrum, and Xfinity are just some of the internet providers offering free hot spots and Wi-Fi internet access to customers throughout many metropolitan regions and beyond.

This page is for everyone who feels lost in the digital age. Understanding the internet and TV market is difficult considering how much it changes.
Here you’ll find information on the best ways to get internet and TV that can accommodate to your circumstances, answers to frequently asked questions about internet and TV technology and terminology and simple explanations to some of the most confusing topics related to internet and TV.