High-speed internet can certainly be considered essential in today’s world. This is especially true for families that depend on the internet for work-related tasks or ones involving online-based learning, two activities that became much more common since the pandemic started in 2020. This is why some internet service providers are offering free internet options for low-income families. In short, this is possible because of a combination of subsidies related to the infrastructure bill and additional budget-friendly options available from some ISPs.
Making Low-Income Plans Free
Many top national internet service providers like HughesNet internet already offer low-income service options that dramatically reduce the cost of monthly high-speed internet. However, subsidies from the infrastructure legislation are factored in the cost goes down to nothing, which means free internet for qualifying customers. This is the case for major providers like Comcast, and Verizon.
Exactly what applies and what’s available varies from one ISP to the next. So, let’s focus on the two ones we mentioned above, Comcast and Verizon, to provide a better idea of what can be expected with free internet for low-income families.
Already one of the largest cable service providers in the United States, Comcast is quickly earning a similar honor with its Xfinity internet service. According to Comcast, the company intends to provide subsidized broadband plans with download speeds that go up to 100 Mbps, or megabits per second.
Average download speeds, according to businessinsider.com, range from 12 to 25 Mbps. Therefore, 100 Mbps is suitable for many common internet needs today. Comcast is also giving customers a slower 50 Mbps speed option coupled with a mobile phone account. This combination service option is also free for qualifying customers.
Verizon is another leading U.S internet service provider on board with helping low-income families gain access to free high-speed internet. The free option available from Verizon comes with speeds up to 200 Mbps for download speeds. This also applies to upload speeds.
New Jersey-based Astound is another broadband service provider with free service options available for low-income families when subsidies are factored into the price. The company’s free plan offers download speeds of around 150 Mbps for qualifying customers. Spectrum and Cox also have low-income service options available.
The Affordable Connectivity Program (and a Few Other Low-Income Options)
The ACP is the program considered one of the most appealing ones for low-income households. The program gives low-income internet users $30 off internet service for recurring monthly plans. Since some plans can start as low as $19.99 a month, this is another way to get free internet service. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a member of a household must meet at least one of the qualifications considered for the ACP, a list that includes:
• Participating in a federal assistance program – e.g., Medicaid, SNAP, etc.
• Qualifying for the National School Lunch Program
• Receiving a Federal Pell Grant (must be for the current award year)
• Qualifying for a low-income internet plan offered by one of your local providers
Lifeline and Internet Provider Initiatives
Lifeline is a government assistance program for low-income households. Recipients receive $9.25 off of monthly internet service. While service isn’t necessarily free with Lifeline, it’s worth considering for families not meeting the criteria for free internet options. There are many internet provider initiatives as well that can be beneficial for low-income families looking for assistance with internet service costs. Many of these programs are for families with kids with a lower income. However, the qualifications vary based on the provider involved and the nature of the program.