Internet Options for Low or Fixed Income Households
March 25, 2020
Internet service is essential in today’s world, from kids doing research and uploading assignments for school to adults applying for jobs or working from home. Yet the internet can be a huge monthly expense.
If you have a lower income, WiFi on a public network may seem like your only choice. You might assume that home internet service is simply impossible. Fortunately, there are numerous options for internet for low income or fixed-income households. Here’s what you need to know about low-income internet.
The cheapest type of internet
- Satellite: Priced at $39.99 to $150 per month, satellite is not the cheapest type of internet. However, it may be the only option if you live in a very remote area.
- Cable: Cable internet starts at just $19.99 per month in some markets, making this a reasonable choice for low-income households in more urban or suburban areas.
- DSL: DSL pricing also starts at $19.99 per month in some areas. It’s around the same speed as lower-end cable, but it does require home phone service.
- Fiber: Fiber-optic internet is considered high-end. It’s limited in availability, extremely fast and relatively expensive. Prices start at $39.99 per month.
Internet providers with cheap plans
The Cox High-Speed Internet plan, at $19.99 per month, is the cheapest. This cable plan offers 10 Mbps of speed, along with in-home WiFi, Cox Security Suite Plus software and cloud storage.
The Windstream 3 Mbps plan is also priced at $19.99 per month, but the speed is only 3 Mbps. It’s the cheapest DSL plan and is available in many rural areas where cable internet is not an option. There are no data caps.
The Xfinity Performance Starter plan offers cable internet speeds of 25 Mbps for $20 per month. Benefits include a free self-install kit, a Flex 4K streaming device with voice remote and a 1 TB data cap.
Frontier Vantage Internet is a DSL plan offering 6 Mbps for $24.99 per month. Frontier does not apply data caps.
The Mediacom 60 Mbps plan offers cable internet at speeds of 60 Mbps for $39.99 per month. Benefits include a free WiFi 360 whole home extender for three months and a 400 GB data cap.
If you live in a remote area, satellite internet may be your only choice. The HughesNet 10 GB plan offers 25 Mbps for $49.99 per month with a 10 GB data cap. Perks include free installation, a built-in WiFi router and free Bonus Zone 50 GB data between the hours of 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Fios 200 Mbps is the cheapest fiber-optic internet plan, at $39.99 per month for 200 Mbps. You’ll receive a $50 Visa gift card and 12 months of free Disney+ streaming. There are no data caps. (Promotions are subject to change.)
The Sparklight Starter 100 Plus plan offers cable internet at 100 Mbps for $45 per month. You will get a 400 MB data cap, and no contract is required.
|Cox||$19.99/mo.||10 Mbps||In-home WiFi, security software, cloud storage|
|HughesNet||$39.99/mo.||25 Mbps||Built-in WiFi router, 10 GB data cap, free standard installation|
|Frontier||$24.99/mo.||6 Mbps||No data cap|
|Mediacom||$39.99/mo.||60 Mbps||400 GB data cap, WiFi 360 extender free for three months|
|Sparklight||$45/mo.||100 Mbps||300 GB data cap, no contract required|
|Verizon Fios||$39.99/mo.||200 Mbps||No data cap, $50 Visa gift card, 12 mo. Disney+ streaming|
|Windstream||$19.99/mo.||3 Mbps||No data cap, available in many rural areas|
|Xfinity||$20/mo.||25 Mbps||Free self install, Flex 4K streaming device, 1 TB data cap|
Internet providers with low-income assistance plans
While the prices above may fit into your budget, it’s important to note that they are introductory prices that may increase after the first 12 months or 24 months. Some internet service providers offer special programs for customers that fit their low-income guidelines. Here is what you need to know:
AT&T’s Access program provides speeds up to 3 Mbps for $5 per month or up to 10 Mbps for $10 per month. At least one person in your household must receive benefits through the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For California residents, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) qualifies as well. Also, you must live in one of the 21 states served by AT&T and must not have outstanding debt to AT&T in the past six months.
Comcast Internet Essentials provides 15 Mbps speeds for $9.95 per month. Home WiFi is included. To qualify, someone in your home must be eligible for at least one social service program such as Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, the National School Lunch Program or housing assistance. You must live in an area where Comcast Internet is available but not have subscribed to service within the past 90 days, and you must not have any outstanding debt to Comcast in the past year.
Cox Connect2Compete offers 25 Mbps internet service for $9.95 per month, including home WiFi. Your home must include a K-12 student and qualify for public assistance such as, but not limited to, the National School Lunch Program, SNAP or Section 8 housing. You must not owe an outstanding balance to Cox and you must not have had Cox service in the past 90 days.
Spectrum Internet Assist provides 30 Mbps connection speeds for a sliding scale price. Home WiFi is available for an additional $5 per month. Someone in your household must qualify for the National School Lunch Program or its Community Eligibility Provision, or be a senior-aged 65 or above who qualifies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You must not have subscribed to any Charter Communications internet services for 30 days and have no outstanding Charter Communications debt in the past year.
Other programs for low-income internet assistance
Lifeline is a federal government program that provides a small credit of $9.25 on the monthly phone or internet bill (not both) for low-income households using participating providers. You can qualify based on income (135% or less of federal poverty guidelines for your state and household size), or if someone in your household qualifies for federal assistance such as SNAP, Medicaid or SSI.
If you live on Tribal lands, you can also qualify through certain Tribal programs such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance program or Head Start. You will receive an additional $25 per month, for a total of $34.25 in credits.
Your state or local government may have a program to help low-income people in your community get internet service. Speak with your case manager at any of the offices where you currently receive assistance to see if anything is available in your area.
The bottom line
Internet service is an important part of modern life, but it can be tough for low-income households to subscribe. Fortunately, the programs detailed above can help you get connected.