Internet service plans can be expensive, especially if you have to rent a modem and router from the internet service provider. There are some free internet or low cost internet service plans available for low income consumers. But what if you don’t qualify as a low income household? What if you just want some more affordable internet? The good news is that you have options.
6 Low Cost Internet Plans for Everyone
The Internet is absolutely indispensable for finding a new job if you’re unemployed, or seeking better employment if you’re looking to grow professionally; with the internet, you can browse job boards, apply online, and stay in touch with hiring managers. The internet is also important for staying healthy. You can use it to connect to doctors for telehealth visits and to locate medical and dental care. Internet service is also important in terms of staying educated and informed.
Students use the internet to help write their school papers and do their homework, while adults can use the internet to find accurate information about world affairs. Many adults also manage their finances through the internet with online banking, and use it for shopping as well. In fact, in the era of COVID-19, internet access has become even more vital.
But beyond these vital services, it’s also just nice to have the internet, and high speed internet at that. Internet connectivity allows you to stay connected to friends with social media. It allows you to play games. It can facilitate a connection to a streaming service like Netflix so you can watch your favorite shows and movies. There are a number of broadband internet service providers who offer low income Americans cheap internet, and these individuals certainly benefit from the way the internet can close opportunity gaps in terms of employment, safety, and emotional health.
But for those Americans who don’t quite fall within 135% of the Federal Poverty Guideline for their family size, or who are not welfare recipients, there are no subsidy programs to provide them with much needed internet service. The good news is that there is still low cost internet, and many of these providers also give existing customers access to a national network of wi fi hotspots to enjoy their internet usage on the go as well.
6 Low Cost Internet Plans for Everyone
NetZero has been around since the days when logging on to the internet meant that if someone called you on the phone, they would know you’re surfing the web. Well it’s still around, and it’s free…and it’s still offering DSL internet through your landline. The good news is that even though DSL might be slower, it’s free. Since it uses a landline, if you already have one of those, you can just connect to the internet without having to buy a router or modem. In fact, all you need to do is order an installation CD or download their software. If you want wireless service in your home, you can purchase a router.
If you’re not interested in DSL because you feel it would be too slow, NetZero does now offer 4G mobile broadband. You can purchase a very portable USB stick for $49 or a wireless hub—the NetZero 4G Hotspot—for around $100 and then pay for wireless internet for $9.95 per month for a basic plan. If you really want free internet for an even more bare-bones plan, you can use your wireless hardware for up to 200 MB of data usage per month, for free, though that amounts to just a handful of hours of internet usage.
FreedomPop literally offers free internet, regardless of financial situation. They have two plans, one for home internet and one for mobile. The home internet plan offers 500 MB of free internet usage per month, but you will have to purchase an $89 FreedomPop mobile hotspot for your home. Take note: 500 MB of internet means around 6 hours of browsing, or streaming 100 songs, or watching one hour of video. So that said, the free plan is maybe not as great as it sounds up front, but it is free. But you can upgrade to a premium plan for just $9.95 per month, which can increase your internet usage fivefold.
Faster internet is available for less than $15 with 10 GB of usage, and the fastest internet plan they offer is just $4 more to bump your download speed to 8 Mbps. FreedomPop also offers mobile internet plans that are free with 200 MB of data usage, 500 text messages, and 200 minutes of talk time.
Xfinity is a trade name of Comcast Cable Communications and they offer some consumer friendly pricing on their internet plans and internet plus television. The cost really depends on how many devices you plan on connecting and how fast you want the download speed to be. The performance select package starts at just $34.99 for 100 Mbps. Performance pro offers 100 Mbps more for just an additional $15. There are more costly plans (going all the way up to $299) but these plans are only for individuals who might need a very high download and upload speed for gaming, or who want to enjoy a wide range of television channels and other streaming services.
The less than $35 internet service plan is more than sufficient for most consumers, even if they have several devices in their home (computer, mobile phones, etc). You can bring your own router to the plan or you can rent one from your local Comcast retailer for around $15, which is an added expense to consider.
Many consumers might opt to save some money by purchasing their own modem and router. The downside is that you’ll be responsible for the maintenance yourself, but the upside is that you’ll avoid adding $15 to your monthly internet bill for annual savings of up to $150, year after year.
AT&T is another telecommunications behemoth with low cost internet plans. In fact, they also offer subsidized internet plans through AT&T Access for just $10, but the Access program will be going away soon. The good news is that AT&T still has plenty of other low cost internet options.
The standard AT&T internet plan is powered by their fiber optic network which facilitates a wonderful download speed of 940 Mbps and up based on location (sometimes going up to as high as 100 Mbps) for just $49.99 per month. If you have DirecTV and want to bundle that together with your internet service provider, AT&T will knock $10 off the monthly price. The downside of AT&T is that it’s not available in every state. But if you live in California, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and around a dozen other states in the South and Midwest, you’re in luck.
If you want to rent your own modem, that will cost you $10 extra per month. If you live in a rural area that is not connected to their network, they can install equipment to facilitate fixed wireless internet for $59.99 on a monthly basis with 250 GB of usage.
CenturyLink has internet plans starting at $49.99 for speeds up to 100 Mbps, depending on your location, as long as you agree to paperless billing. The best part of the plan is that this $49.99 can be your rate for life, unlike other internet service providers who have a habit of presenting a lower rate for the first year of service and then raising the price on you (even though it was in the fine print).
If you want to join the CenturyLink Fiberoptic network for faster downloading speeds of up to 940 Mbps, there is a $65 per month plan that will allow subscribers to stream HD and 4K video to every device, get symmetrical speeds on all devices, and access unlimited data. If you want wireless service in your home or a modem is required in your location, you’ll have to rent a modem and router for $15 per month or pay for one with an up front one time cost of $200.
In some instances, there may be a $135 installation fee. In rare instances where groundwork or arial delivery is required to install the equipment, a $300 or $150 fee (respectively) may apply. Keep in mind that in most instances, consumers will not need to pay these fees, so they’re looking at a price of $65 for internet and equipment rental per month.
Cox’s basic internet service plan with TV service is $55.98 per month if you sign a 12 month contract (this is a 32% savings off the month to month pricing) and it comes with internet and TV, which is a pretty good deal for a cable and internet bundle. That plan only has upload speeds of 3 Mbps, so if you’re looking for something a little stronger, they offer a plan with 10 Mbps for $75.98 per month. Plans increase in price up to the Platinum Duo, which includes free installation, a TV receiver, DVR recording services, HBO Max, Cinemax, STARZ, SHOWTIME and EPIX.
If you don’t need all that and you just need some basic low cost internet, it will cost you a lot less. In fact, if you don’t even want TV as part of your ISP, you can get internet for as low as $29.99 with the Cox Internet Starter Plan with upload speeds of 1 Mbps and up to 1.25 TB (that’s 1,250 GB) of data usage. That’s not a bad deal for less than $1 per day.
Low Cost Internet for Seniors and Low Income Households
Some of these broadband service options are still too expensive for low income families. The good news is that a qualifying household may be able to get free internet service or service from an internet company subsidized through a government program. Companies like Internet Essentials and the Connect2Compete Program offer internet at reasonable speeds to low income households with students receiving government assistance through the National School Lunch Program.
For families whose income falls within 135% of the Federal Poverty Level or who can show participation in a government assistance like supplemental security income, temporary assistance for needy families, or food stamps (SNAP), the Lifeline Program might actually be the best option. A new customer to the Lifeline Discount program can get a free telephone (popularly called Obama Phone) or internet connection through a phone service plan provided by a Lifeline vendor.
For subscribers who meet the eligibility criteria, this can be a great way to get free internet service. Seniors and residents of rural areas can benefit from connectivity for facilitating calls to family and medical professionals and checking their email. Low income households with students can also access low income internet and even get very affordable subsidized hardware like a laptop or desktop computer.
Low Cost Internet
And for households that don’t meet eligibility requirements for heavily subsidized internet, there are still free and low cost options for cheap internet. One easy way to save is to cut cable out of the bundle and just pay for the internet. There are still ways to access video content such as Netflix, YouTube, and even an Amazon Prime membership. Another way to save money is to purchase your own modem and router, which will often leave you paying around $50 or less for decent quality web browsing from your selected internet service provider.