During the Corona pandemic, the government passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 which made it possible for broadband carriers to offer affordable internet through the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB). The program has since been replaced by a long-term solution the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). ACP is a one-year renewable broadband solution that creates connections families need for work, school, and health care.
Through the ACP program, broadband carriers are now offering more data to eligible households. You cans find mobile carriers that offer free unlimited data for work and entertainment while others are offering high-speed hotspot data as part of the free government plan. The additional data requires a 4G or 5G compatible device like a smartphone or a hotspot device to enjoy unlimited video streams, which may cost hundreds of dollars. Thankfully, some carriers offer new customers a free government hotspot device to help them fully access the free government phone plan.
In this article, we look at how to get a free government hotspot device and some of the carriers that provide new customers with a free hotspot device.
How to Get a Free Government Hotspot Device
Most Lifeline broadband providers offer new customers all the equipment they need to access the internet at home upon approval. Some carriers offer a 4G or 5G compatible smartphone that you can use to call and text friends and also create a home network. A hotspot device makes it easy to share your data with friends and relatives. It also allows you to access the internet on your home computer and other WiFi-enabled devices. Lifeline and ACP-approved customers get up to $100 benefits towards a phone or an internet-capable device like a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, which makes it possible for carriers to offer a free government hotspot device.
However, you will need ACP approval to get the free government hotspot device. The ACP is a federal government benefit program under the Federal Communications Commission that lowers broadband internet access for an eligible household by up to $30 per month. It offers eligible households living in Tribal lands up to $75 per month, which allows them to get free unlimited phone plans. Eligible individuals may also get a one-off gadget discount of up to $100 per household. Qualified households can use the gadget benefit to get a free government hotspot device like a Mi-Fi and a mobile device.
How to Qualify for a Free Government Hotspot Device Through ACP
You will need to demonstrate that you are experiencing a financial challenge to qualify for a free government hotspot device through ACP. The program targets low-income families in an attempt to lift them to a position they may access government programs, apply for jobs, complete school assignments and contact emergency services. You may qualify for the free ACP gadget benefit if:
1. Your Household Income is 200% or Less Than the Federal Poverty Guidelines
The household income refers to all earnings and benefits all household members get including child support, salary, and alimony. The 200% income amount is before taxes and the limit varies by the household size. The income limits for ACP as per the 2022 Federal Poverty guidelines include:
|Household size||Alaska||Hawaii||All other state|
|For each additional person||$11,800||$10,860||$9,440|
2. You are Participating in Eligible Federal Assistance Programs
You may be eligible to get a free government internet device if any member of your household is participating in any of these programs;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Supplemental Nutritional Program (WIC)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Federal Pell Grant participant in the current award year
- Free School Breakfast or Lunch Program
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal TANF
- Head Start
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
Which Free Government Hotspot Device Can You Get From ACP
The free government hotspot device you can get if you are eligible for ACP will depend on what your current carrier offers. Some broadband carriers offer all necessary equipment to help you access internet service at home as part of the free government internet service. Other broadband carriers offer internet devices that you may purchase using the ACP gadget benefit. However, the government requires you to make a partial payment of between $10 and $50 for the internet-enabled device. Some of the free hotspot devices you may be eligible to get include;
- Free smartphone
- Free Mi-Fi
- Free home broadband networking equipment
How to Use a Free Phone As a Free Government Hotspot Device
You do not need to purchase a hotspot device if you already have a smartphone. You can use your 4G or 5G-enabled phone to create a hotspot network that allows you to share the internet with your friends. You may also use your phone hotspot to create an Internet connection for other Wi-Fi-enabled devices. It is more efficient to use a mobile phone hotspot network if your phone plan comes with hotspot data.
Nonetheless, you must ensure your mobile hotspot network is safe by using a password. You do not want unauthorized devices to access your mobile hotspot as it could deplete your data more quickly. You may also have to keep your phone plugged when tethering as it depletes your phone battery quickly. Use the following steps to turn your free government phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Go to your iPhone “Settings” and then “Personal Hotspot”
- Create a password for your hotspot network security
- Slide the switch to turn on “Allow Others to Join” and follow instructions to create a hotspot network
- Go to your Android Phone “Settings”
- Select “Connecting & sharing” and then “Personal hotspot”
- Slide the switch to turn on Personal hotspot and then go to “Hotspot setting”
- Now create a password for your hotspot network security
Note: Once you create the network all Wi-Fi-enabled devices will see your network but will require the password to connect. Some mobile phones also allow you to tether using a data cable and Bluetooth. Always disconnect your hotspot network when not in use to save your data.
Carriers That Offer a Free Government Hotspot Device To Eligible Households
1. Allo Communications
Allo is a provider of the federal internet program. Customers eligible for the government ACP program may receive ALLO’s 100 Mbps internet service plan for free. The carrier may also apply the ACP discount on its other plans that include 50 Mbps, 500 Mbps, 1 Gig, and 2.3 Gig internet options. However, you will have to pay the difference if the internet plan of your choice costs more than your eligible ACP discount. You may qualify for up to $30 ACP benefit on your Internet plan or up to $75 for customers living in Tribal lands.
Customers who qualify for the free Allo’s internet service also get the powerful ALLO Blast router as the free government hotspot device. ALLO Blast Router provides whole-home internet coverage. You can connect over 250 devices for uninterrupted streaming, surfing, and gaming. The free ALLO hotspot router supports Wi-Fi 6 technology that detects standby devices automatically. It also supports 6×6 streams of Wi-Fi delivery and a multi-user input and output capability for unbeatable signal strength. You will also enjoy 100% free installation, 24/7 support, and a fully-managed internet experience.
- Free 100Mbs government internet broadband service
- Free ALLO Blast router
- Free Installation
- 24/7 support
Astound may discount your home internet service plan by up to $30 per month or $75 per month if you are living in Tribal lands. The carrier offers a free or reduced-priced internet plan to customers who qualify for ACP. You can sign up for the free or discounted Astound ACP broadband plan by calling customer care at 1-800-427-8686. The carrier will confirm your eligibility with the national verifier and then enroll in the discounted plan.
Astound offers 24/7 award-winning customer service with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not happy with the internet service. It also offers an on-time $20 guarantee if they fail to keep time. Customers also have the option to bring their own equipment or use your best Astound internet equipment. You can choose standard Wi-Fi, whole home Wi-Fi, Gaming Wi-Fi, and EERO Secure equipment for a custom internet experience.
- Free or discounted ACP broadband service
- A selection of hotspot devices to best fit your needs
- You can bring your own device
- 24/7 local award-winning support
AT&T is a leading lifeline provider for customers interested in affordable internet and wireless service. The AT&T ACP benefit covers AT&T fiber, AT&T wireless plans, and AT&T prepaid plans. You can request AT&T to apply for ACP benefit on any plan that has data. ACP-eligible customers can get the AT&T $30 5GB data plan at no cost and enjoy up to 5GB of high-speed data, data rollover, unlimited talk and text, and a mobile hotspot. The ACP benefit is also applicable to all AT&T internet plans, including the 5Gig speeds plan. However, you will have to pay for the balance if you choose a plan that costs more than $30 per month.
AT&T Internet plans guarantee fast, reliable internet to power your home connections. ACP-eligible customers enjoy the internet without an annual contract, data fees, or price increase at 12 months. You will also not pay equipment fees during installation. The AT&T internet plan comes with an AT&T Wifi-Fi gateway as the free government hotspot device, which allows you to enjoy and share exceptional data speeds.
- ACP benefit is applicable on internet, wireless, and prepaid plans
- You get free All-Fi equipment for optimal performance
- No contract
- AT&T ActiveArmor internet security
Xfinity offers Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Plus plans at no cost to ACP-eligible customers. Customers have an option to choose the Internet Essentials to plan that offers up to 50Mbps for free with ACP or the Internet Essentials Plus plan with up to 100Mbs for free. The plans do not require a credit check or a long-term contract. You also get free equipment to help you stream on all your devices at the same time. You will get a step-by-step guide on how to set up your home internet, including installing a modem and Wi-Fi router.
- Free Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Plus plans
- Free modem and Wi-Fi router
- No contract
- No credit check
Cox is a low-cost internet provider that lets you enjoy fast, reliable internet at no cost with ACP benefit. Cox internet plans have a 1280GB data limit per month, which is more than what families need to stream in a month. You may also purchase additional data at $10 for 50GB of data. Cox provides three internet plans that include StraightUp Internet, Connect2Compete, and ConnectAssist. ConnectAssist internet plan offers download speeds of up to 100Mbps and EasyConnect self-installation at no charge. The plan further comes with 12 months of unlimited data and free Wi-Fi modem rental.
- Free internet plan
- Free Wi-Fi modem rental
- 12 months of unlimited data
- EasyConnect self-installation
The government through the ACP program helps to bridge the internet gap by ensuring all households have an access to an internet plan and an internet-enabled device. The program offers a discount of up to $30 or $75 for those living in Tribal lands that carriers use to discount internet plans. The program further offers a one-off gadget benefit of up to $100 that allows broadband carriers to provide a free government hotspot device for internet sharing at home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Almost all major broadband carriers offer free equipment, including a free Wi-Fi gateway and router as part of their ACP discounted internet plans.
Most broadband carriers will provide you with a free hotspot device if you are ACP eligible. That said, the leading carriers that offer a free hotspot device include AT&T, Cox, Xfinity, Astound, and ALLO.
Check with your carrier as carriers have varying internet equipment policies but you will most likely return the device if you cancel the internet plan as most carriers offer free equipment rental.
Yes. You can use a free government smartphone to create a hotspot network and share your data with friends and relatives.