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- Many internet service providers (ISPs) offer specially discounted plans for households receiving economic assistance from the government, such as the National Student Lunch Program (NSLP).
- Many of these plans cost less than $20/month and include networking equipment.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also has a program to help defray the cost of internet service for low-income households.
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No matter who you are, picking out a home internet plan is tricky. You'll be faced with the decision of what speeds you need on the plan, whether you need to rent a modem and router, how much data you think you might need, and (if you're lucky enough to live somewhere with multiple options) which internet service provider (ISP) to try getting your internet from.
That difficulty gets even harder when you're working on a tight budget and have to ensure your internet will be robust enough for education, especially as many schools turn to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, there are actually many options available from ISPs to help low-income students get internet in their homes. In many cases, these low-cost internet plans will cost less than $20 a month, have no long-term contracts, and include free equipment while you're subscribed. Availability of these plans will depend on your region, as not all ISPs offer service in every region, and on household incomes or eligibility for government assistance programs like Medicaid, Food Stamps, or commonly the National Student Lunch Program (NSLP). Many plans are also only available for new subscribers.
We'll guide you through the variety of affordable internet plans for students in low-income households, so you can understand what each is offering and find one available for you.
See below for the most affordable home internet plans.
Cox's home internet is available in 19 states throughout the US, and its Connect2Compete internet plan is among the more balanced offerings.
For $9.95/month, you'll be able to get an internet plan that includes speeds up to 25Mbps and includes a Wi-Fi modem. That should be plenty to handle the browsing needs of a student. This plan is available for families with a K-12 student who qualify for a variety of assistance programs, including NSLP, Head Start, WIC, and SNAP. Cox also has a special discount available through September 30 offering the first two months free. You can find out all the details from Cox here.Mediacom Connect2Compete
If you're not in a state serviced by Cox, then try Mediacom. It's available in 23 states and offers a Connect2Compete plan.
Mediacom's version of Connect2Compete is fairly similar to Cox's plan with internet speeds up to 25Mbps on a $10/month plan. There are no setup or equipment fees, no contracts, and Mediacom includes a Wi-Fi modem as well. Eligibility is similar to the Cox plan, requiring at least one K-12 student living at home and qualifying for the NSLP. You can find out more from Mediacom here.Access from AT&T
AT&T's internet service is widely available, and that's what makes its Access from AT&T plan a compelling option.
This plan will cost $10/month at most, with lower prices available in some areas, you'll be able to get internet service with speeds up to 25Mbps depending on your region. AT&T will set up your Internet for free and in-home Wi-Fi is included. There's no deposit or annual contract either. Note that there are data caps of either 150GB or 1TB, depending on your region, and AT&T charges $10 when you go over those caps and an additional $10 for every 50GB after that. You can find all the details on service and eligibility from AT&T here.Altice Advantage Internet
If you know you're going to need the data for your student's online learning and video calls, then Altice Advantage Internet may be a smarter option.
It costs slightly more at $14.99/month, but that includes discounted installation, a free router and modem, speeds up to 30Mbps, and unlimited data. The plan is available through Optimum and Suddenlink's internet services. You can find out more details about the plan and eligibility, including special eligibility for New York City public school students, from Optimum and Suddenlink here.Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials
Comcast is another ISP with broad availability through its Xfinity service, including an affordable option for families in need.
For $10/month plus tax, you can get connected with speeds up to 25Mbps, and Wi-Fi is included. A bonus with this plan is that you'll also be able to connect to the many Xfinity WiFi hotspots around the country, so the student in your home will be able to benefit from this service even when they're away from the house. This plan is available to students in households eligible for public assistant programs like NSLP, Medicard, Snap, and more. Comcast is also offering the first two months for free. You can see all the details from Comcast here.