Internet access is not a luxury. People need internet service to check their email, pay their bills, make appointments, and locate important information. But with the average internet bill running between $50 and $60 nationwide, the cost is too high for many people. Thankfully, there are ways to find free or nearly free internet if you know where to look.
- 12 Ways To Get Free or Nearly Free Internet
- Searching for Free Internet
- 12 Ways To Get Free or Nearly Free Internet
- Free and Nearly Free Internet
12 Ways To Get Free or Nearly Free Internet
- NetZero – Free Dial-Up
- Freedom Pop
- Emergency Broadband Benefit
- Wifi Hotspots
- Wifi Map Smartphone App
- Internet Essentials (Comcast)
- Spectrum Internet Assist
- Internet Basics (CenturyLink)
- Access (AT&T)
- Connect2Compete (Cox)
- Google Fiber
There is a proven connection between internet connectivity and opportunity. A low-income family is 24% more likely to not own a smartphone. About 40% of these families do not have broadband access, nor do they have a personal computer.
By contrast, only 7% of households making six figures or more in annual income don’t have broadband access. Only 3% don’t own a smartphone, and as many as 63% report having a smartphone, broadband, a personal computer, and a tablet.
Having a smartphone makes it possible to schedule healthcare appointments on the go, reschedule a job interview with a prospective employer, or allow your child’s school to reach you if there is some timely issue to address.
Homes without an internet service provider can fall into something called the homework gap. The homework gap essentially describes the disparate educational experiences for low-income families who don’t have access to educational resources at home.
In recent years, the government at federal and state levels have addressed these issues by providing free internet access to those in need. Free internet service is largely funded by taxing telecom companies, which they pass on to consumers as the Universal Service Fee. This allows an individual internet provider to connect low-income families with free wifi or dial-up at a decent internet speed.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have lost their jobs and been quarantined in their homes. This creates a greater need for the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which in part will helps provide free access to the internet for any family or individual that cannot afford it.
If paying your service provider has become burdensome or impossible, you might want to look at free internet options.
Searching for Free Internet
The average internet bill can be up to $60 per month. If you’re paying for a triple package of cable, internet, and a phone line, that can run up to $132 monthly, or $1,584 annually – which for most Americans, is a month of rent or mortgage.
For many Americans, internet costs are simply too high. Consider the fact that 42 million Americans are receiving SNAP benefits to help with groceries. Almost twice that number have Medicaid for their health insurance. These American households are living below the Federal Poverty Line, or not far from it. For these people, $50 or $60 every month may be a stretch – not to mention $132.
The internet is not just for games and streaming movies. It’s for communication, making medical appointments, paying bills, and researching important topics. Internet access allows people to stay connected with their communities, shop with greater ease, participate in remote education, and benefit from telehealth…all of which is increasingly important in the era of COVID pandemics. An increasing number of Americans are using the internet to work remotely.
Free internet, or nearly free internet, can be a huge boon. The question is just where to find it…
12 Ways To Get Free or Nearly Free Internet
1. NetZero – Free Dial-Up
NetZero allows you to access the internet through a standard phone line. If you don’t have broadband in your neighborhood, or even if you do and you’re looking for an inexpensive alternative, NetZero will let you have up to ten hours of internet connectivity on a dial-up connection. All you need to do is connect a dial-up modem in your computer to a phone jack. If you need more than 10 hours weekly of internet usage, NetZero has very inexpensive plans starting at around $30 per month.
2. Freedom Pop
FreedomPop uses the Sprint and AT&T networks to deliver free and low-cost wifi to customers around the United States. The basic plan provides 500 MB of uploading and downloading on a FreedomPop device or one you bring to their plan.
If you need more data than that, you can get a plan with speeds of 1GB and higher for $22.99 and up. Sometimes you can use a plan like Freedom Pop to turn your smartphone into a mobile hotspot and provide a wifi network for the other devices in your home, which sure beats paying twice that amount for internet access.
3. Emergency Broadband Benefit
The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) is an FCC program created during the COVID pandemic. Households can get $50 off their internet bill ($75 off for Tribal Lands) and a $100 credit toward a laptop, desktop, or tablet, as long as they contribute $10 toward the device and no more than $50 total.
You can apply through an eligible ISP, by going on to GetEmergencyBroadband.org, or by calling 833-511-0311. To qualify, your household must have a combined income within 135% of the Federal Poverty Level.
4. Wifi Hotspots
Did you know that free internet is all around you? Coffee shops, diners, fast food restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and other businesses all tend to offer a free wifi connection for their guests. If you only need the internet a few hours a day, you can drop $2 for a coffee and sit in Starbucks, using the internet connection there.
If this is your strategy for getting connected, you may end up spending close to what you would if you were paying for an internet plan at home, but if you use the internet infrequently, this isn’t a bad option. However, there might be a community center in the community that offers a free wifi hotspot, so you can enjoy the use of the internet without having to buy coffee.
5. Wifi Map Mobile App
The Wifi Map app finds free wifi connections nearby. The app is free and will help you locate wifi spots using your current location and your GPS. The irony is that you still need a working phone plan to download the app. However, if you do have service, this app can be a great way to locate a place where you can bring your phone, tablet, or laptop to check your email and browse the internet.
The Lifeline Program, also known as Obamaphone, provides low-income households with a mobile device. To clarify, former Barack Obama did not start the program. Lifeline was actually started 40 years ago, and the modern iteration was signed into law under former President George Bush.
The program really ramped up during Obama’s eight-year administration since it coincided with the cultural explosion of mobile phone usage. Service providers that participate in the Lifeline program will provide you with a device and a phone plan.
7. Internet Essentials (Comcast)
Comcast administers the Internet Essentials plan, which provides low-cost internet to qualifying households. If your home participates in SNAP, housing assistance, Medicaid, SSI, the School Lunch Program, you can get free, reliable internet from Comcast. You must live in an area serviced by Comcast and you cannot have had Comcast service in the last 90 days.
Xfinity wifi hotspots can also be used by participants of the Internet Essentials plan, which means the plan is also great outside of the home. With over 18 million Xfinity wifi locations around the United States, you can find a wifi hotspot wherever you go.
8. Spectrum Internet Assist
Spectrum Internet Assist provides qualifying households with 30 Mbps high-speed internet for around $15 per month. Like the Comcast Internet Essentials Program, participants can show eligibility by providing proof of participation in many state welfare programs.
A Spectrum broadband subscription provides a customer with a free modem, no contracts, no data caps, and the option to obtain in-home wifi for $5 extra each month.
9. Internet Basics (CenturyLink)
CenturyLink operates an Internet Basics program that is currently only available for residents of Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. However, if you live in those states, you can enjoy cheap internet for $15 monthly (and in fact, less than $10 monthly for the first year).
Additionally, CenturyLink will provide you with a personal computer for $150, free computer education classes, and services that include 24/7 support and parental controls.
10. Access (AT&T)
Access by AT&T offers customers free home installation and wifi without a deposit or an annual contract. Customers can get internet speeds of up to 25 Mbps for $10 or less, depending on location. If you qualify for SNAP or SSI (in the state of California), you can participate in the Access program.
During the pandemic, AT&T is also allowing households to enjoy AT&T Access if they participate in the National School Lunch Program, or that can prove their household income is within 135% of the Federal Poverty Line.
11. Connect2Compete (Cox)
If your household has at least one student in grades K-12 who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) you can participate in the Connect2Compete Program and get internet for $10 monthly. Alternatively, if your household qualifies for SNAP, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), or public housing, you can also participate in the Connect2Compete program.
The Connect2Compete program is all about empowering disadvantaged students who need the internet to actively participate in their education, whether that means Zoom classes or research for homework.
12. Google Fiber
Google Fiber offers free internet to public housing through HUD’s ConnectHome program. They also offer discounted plans that may be cheaper than what regional ISPs can offer. In some locations, Google Fiber internet might cost $300 annually, compared to $720 for your typical $60 per month plan.
As a low-cost option or free option, there are better options out there. However, if you live in a housing project, Google Fiber might be free for you. You need to just go over to their website and type in your address to check the cost of service plans.
Free and Nearly Free Internet
Imagine how disadvantaged you would be if you could not check email, locate important contact information, keep track of your finances, pursue an education, or connect with your community…all due to a lack of internet access.
Thankfully, there are many ways to access the internet for free…or at a very low cost. From Lifeline Programs to free wifi hotspots, the internet is easier to access than ever before. For some households, the internet will be free. For others, it can cost a very low $30, $20, or even $10 every month. These homes will now be empowered with a tool that makes life so much easier to navigate.