Not everyone in the country has access to stable and fast internet, as highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, many low-income households struggled to stay afloat and thus could not afford to pay for broadband internet.
This made them miss out on many essential services as many public and private institutions shifted their operation online to reduce physical contact. Schooling, working, or ordering food became nearly impossible as all these activities required internet access.
Luckily, the Federal Government initiated the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in May 2021 to provide free income for low-income households. The program gave eligible households $50 every month to pay for broadband services.
Although the program has been scraped, it was replaced by a more long-term one, the ACP. This is because legislators saw the importance of households having access to the internet. This article will walk you through getting free internet for low income through ACP and other means.
The Affordable Connectivity Program
The Affordable Connectivity Program is a new long-term program that came in as a successor of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The program is categorized under the broadband internet-related initiative, which subsidizes the cost of internet services for eligible households.
An allocation of $65 billion was made for the broadband internet-related initiative after the signing of the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act into law by the President of the US, Joe Biden. The Federal Government then provided 60 days for all members of the EBB to transition to the ACP, which kicked off on March 1, 2022.
How does the ACP differ from its predecessor, the EBB? It provides a lower amount of $30 every month to low-income households to help them get free internet. The $75 per month for people living on tribal lands was still maintained. Additionally, the income qualification threshold for the Affordable Connectivity Program was increased to 200%.
While most of the households that were already enrolled in the EBB could transition smoothly to the Affordable Connectivity Program, the Federal Government provided a few exceptions, including:
- People who became eligible for the EBB due to a sudden loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- People who benefited from the EBB after meeting the qualification criteria for Internet Service Providers during the pandemic.
Who is Eligible for the ACP
Despite being allocated a substantial amount of funding, the ACP cannot offer free internet for low-income households to everyone without exhausting the funds. That is why strict criteria have been established to ensure that only those in need will benefit from the program. Some of the requirements that have been put in place include the following:
- You have to meet all the qualifications for the Lifeline program.
- One member of your household has been awarded a Pell Grant in the year under consideration
- Your household needs to have an income that does not surpass 200% of the Poverty Guidelines set by the Federal Government.
- You have to satisfy the guiding criteria for a low-income assistance program offered by an Internet Service Provider participating in the ACP.
- Your household needs to have a student who receives assistance through the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program.
- At least one household member is currently signed up for a government assistance program, specifically, Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program or Women, Infants, and Children.
- If you reside in Tribal lands and are subscribed to Tribal-specific programs such as Tribal TANF, Tribal Head Start, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Food Distribution on Indian Reservations.
- If you’re enrolled in any of the following programs: Federal Public Housing Assistance, Medicaid, and Veterans Pension or Survivors Benefits.
Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Process
You need to enroll to receive free internet for low-income households through the Affordable Connectivity Program. The main ways to do that are outlined below:
- Visit the Affordable Connectivity application page, complete an application and send it. Alternatively, you can download an application form, complete it and send it.
- The second option is to get in touch with a service provider participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program and purchase a plan. You may be required to contact the provider for the discount to be applied.
Which Service Provider Offer Free Internet for Low Income
The Federal Communication Commission has outlined a list of Service Providers that offer free internet for low income through the Affordable Connectivity Program. These providers joined the program during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many still run the Affordable Connectivity Program together, while others run their own assistance programs.
In combination, these providers subsidize the cost of the internet, enabling you to get free or low-cost internet. The leading service providers in question are:
Comcast Xfinity Internet
Xfinity by Comcast has an internet assistance program known as the Internet Essentials program. A subscription for the program costs only $9.95. However, signing up for the Affordable Connectivity Program can reduce this cost to zero. This program also greatly benefits customers who cannot offset their Comcast Internet bills.
Who qualifies for this program? Any eligible low-income household, including those enrolled in government assistance programs, for example, Medicaid, SSI, National School Lunch Program, and Housing Assistance.
Some of the benefits of Comcast Internet Essential include:
- There are no credit checks
- You don’t have to pay any fees for installation
- You will not be tied down by any contracts
- You will be able to use Xfinity WiFi hotspots for 1 hour several times in 30 day period
Cox is one of the most reliable companies that provide internet at a low cost. They can do this through their ConnectAssist package. This package was established with people who receive government aid in mind. If you participate in SNAP, Medicaid, FPHA, and TANF, to mention a few, then you can be eligible.
The ConnectAssist Package will cost you only $30 every month and offer you speeds as high as 100Mbps. This package also comes with WiFi hotspots and learning tools which you can get on Cox Digital Academy.
You can also go for a much cheaper option, the Connect2Cmpete program, which enables you to enjoy internet speeds as high as 100Mbps for only $9.95 every month.
AT&T is among the largest service providers in the country that offers internet access to people from low-income backgrounds. The AT&T Access program facilitates this. For you to benefit from this program, you need to satisfy the following conditions:
- Take part in one of the following programs: National School Lunch Program, Head Start, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Supplemental Security Income.
- A yearly income that does not go beyond 200% of the poverty guidelines set by the Federal Government.
If you apply and qualify for free internet from AT&T through their Affordable Connectivity Program, then you will also be eligible for their Access program.
AT&T also provides data plans at no cost for specific tablets issued to schools for two months. It also has deals for particular groups, such as first responders, who can get a free smartphone once they subscribe to an unlimited plan.
Optimum is one company that collaborates with the government in the Affordable Connectivity Program. They also have the Optimum Advantage Internet package available to existing and new customers. This package costs only $14.99 and offers you 50Mbps, free WiFi router, and installation.
However, if you’re a member of the Affordable Connectivity Program and receive the $30 monthly discount, you can get the Optimum Advantage Internet for free. Who is eligible for Optimum Advantage Internet?
- Households containing students participating in the National School Lunch Program or going to public schools in New York.
- Seniors above the age of 65 years getting Supplemental Security Income.
- Veterans getting public assistance from the Federal Government.
What steps can you follow to get the Optimum Internet for free?
- Create an Optimum account and authenticate your eligibility.
- Shop for plans from Optimum.
- Your credit will take two billing cycles to reflect if you receive approval.
Spectrum provides free internet for low income through Spectrum Internet Assist. Charter Communications created this service in collaboration with Time Warner Cable. It has enabled several senior citizens and low-income families to get low-cost internet for only $19.99, including taxes and fees. This service offers the following benefits:
- Good internet speeds, as much as 30Mbps
- Unlimited access to points where you can use WiFi for free throughout the country
- You don’t have to sign any contracts
- No additional free or limiting of data
- A free modem and WiFi service, which costs $5 every month
Who can qualify for Spectrum Internet Assist?
- Households that have a child benefitting from National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
- Households that have a child participating in the Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP
- Senior citizens aged 65 years and above benefitting from the Supplemental Security Income Program
One of the main advantages of Spectrum Internet Assist is that your credit score will not be considered. However, you will need to clear all your debts at Charter Communications, Time-Warner Cable, or Bright House Networks. You can apply for SIA by filling out a form on their application page or by calling one of their customer service representatives at 1-800-866-8026.
Google Fiber is a service created by the Parent company of tech giant Google, known as Alphabet Inc, to provide high-speed internet to people from low-income backgrounds. Additionally, customers enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program can get a $30 discount on their monthly Google Fiber internet bills. What does Google fiber offer?
- Contract-free service
- Free Installation and activation
- Free home WiFi
- Uncapped data
- Reliable connection
If you have never used Google Fiber before, you can follow the procedure below to complete your application.
- Visit the National Verifier and complete an application. You will be given an application ID after that.
- If you’ve got your application ID, choose a plan and join Google Fiber.
- Complete a Google Fiber Affordable Connectivity Program Subsidy form.
- You will receive a confirmation email once you are approved for the program. The $30 monthly discount will reflect and be deducted from your internet bill if you’re approved for the program.
Google also offers Gigabit Internet to K-12 families in specific public and affordable housing properties. This service which offers internet speeds of up to 1Gbps is made available at no cost. Unfortunately, Google Fiber is still not available in every city yet. You can use check for availability on their website.
Verizon offers high-speed internet to customers signed up for the Fios Forward Home Internet and Affordable Connectivity Program. Applying for free internet through the Fios Forward and Affordable Connectivity program is very straightforward. These are the steps involved.
- Visit the Affordable Connectivity Program official website and complete an application.
- Confirm the availability of Fios Home Internet where you reside.
- Make an order for Fios and complete the installation procedure that follows
- If you receive approval for the ACP and have Fios installed, visit Verizon for the monthly discounts to be effected on your account.
The free internet package, which you get through the Fios Forward and ACP combo, gives you speeds of up to 300Mbps for downloading and streaming.
Addressing Digital Redlining
Digital Redlining comes about as a result of Internet Service Providers neglecting areas that predominantly consists of minorities or low-income households because they believe those areas will not generate enough profits.
Historically, this has caused the Digital Divide mentioned in the previous section. Thankfully, the Digital Equity Act has helped to curb this issue. This act will help to provide digital education to sidelined communities while setting up WiFi hotspots in schools in digitally neglected areas.
Additionally, the Federal Communication Commission mandates all Internet Service Providers to set up their network infrastructure and provide internet services in areas where low-income households or people from minority groups reside.
If you do not know how to get free internet for low-income households, this article has exhausted all the available options. You can opt for the Affordable Connectivity Program being offered by the Federal Government in collaboration with like-minded Service Providers. However, you have to satisfy the guiding criteria for the program. Alternatively, you can check out the non-governmental organizations mentioned.
People Also Asked
Can you Get Free Internet Without a Provider?
Yes. You can get free internet from public WiFi hotspots in places such as malls, hotels, shops, bus stops, airports, and bars. However, public WiFi is not always safe even though they are free.
Does the Government Provide Free Internet for Low-Income Households?
Yes, the government offers free internet for low income households through assistance programs designed and run by the Federal Communication Commission. Some examples include the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program.
Does NetZero still Offer Free Internet?
Yes, NetZero is still one of the oldest companies providing free internet to consumers. They offer you about 200MB monthly free of charge.
Is the EBB Program Still Operational?
The EBB program is not operational since it was concluded, and a new long-term replacement, the ACP, was created on November 15, 2021.