How to Get Free Government Internet for Seniors?

Like everyone else, seniors need low-cost or free high-speed internet to buy groceries, manage finances, and pay bills without leaving their homes. They can also use the internet to connect to their family members and friends. The good thing is that seniors do not have to subscribe to expensive fixed-line broadband plans to access the internet.

There are several government-initiated internet programs explicitly targeting seniors. They can take advantage of these programs and get affordable or free internet from the government. Below is a comprehensive guideline on  how to get free government internet for seniors:

The Life-Line Program for Low-Income Consumers

Seniors living in low-income households across the United States can access discounted high-speed internet or telephone services. It is a Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) program that enrolls membership and disburses support to low-income households. 

The decades-old lifeline program has grown in membership since its inception in 1985 and now provides 1000 minutes of telephone talk time and 4.5 GB of monthly data. The data limit for the program as of December 2021 is $5.25.

It works with various ISPs, which provide Wi-Fi-enabled devices and high-speed internet connections. Low-income households qualify for the Lifeline program if they meet the following criteria:

  • Maximum income of 135% of the Federal Policy guidelines
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Medicaid
  • Head Start
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
  • Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Programs

Households can apply for the program through an ISP’s website or the National Verifier website. Once they receive the application, the National Verifier checks data from subscriber records and program databases before qualifying one as eligible. Once enrolled in the Lifeline program, a household can only receive one discount.

Affordable Connectivity Program

With the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), seniors living in low-income households can get low-cost or free government internet. Through the ACP, families get a $30 monthly internet or telephone bill subsidy. Those living on tribal land can enjoy a discount of up to $75 monthly. There is also a one-time $100 for buying a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer for each low-income family.

According to the FCC, the ACP is for households with an income below or 200% of existing Federal Poverty Guidelines. In addition, at least one family member should have received or participate in any of the following:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • WIC
  • Lifeline
  • Tribal TANF
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • School Breakfast Program
  • Federal Pell Grant in the last 12 months
  • Eligibility criteria for participating ISPs

Households can apply via ACPBenefit.org, where they can submit an application or print a form, fill it out, and mail it to the concerned ISP. They will need to contact the ISP to pick an appropriate plan.

The FCC instituted the ACP as a replacement for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which began in 2021 to help families mitigate against the effects of Covid-19. While the EBB had a $50 monthly benefit, the ACP  provides a $30 benefit. Besides, the eligibility criteria for households have increased from 135% to 200% of the prevailing Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Affordable Wi-Fi for Seniors in Low-Income Families

Free Government Internet for Seniors

Did you know that you can also get low-cost internet directly from the ISPs? Most providers work with the government to avail cheap or free internet, so you should check with them. 

You can always check an ISP’s website to find out whether or not they are part of the government’s subsidized internet programs. Some of the ISPs offer low-cost or free internet for seniors through government-sponsored programs. They include:

1) Comcast’s Internet Essentials

If your location has adequate Xfinity internet coverage, you can enroll in the Internet Essentials program that targets low-income households. Once you get registered into the program, you’ll pay $9.95 monthly and get free home Wi-Fi at download speeds of up to $50. Seniors from the household can also access Xfinity hotspots across the country and have an opportunity to buy a low-cost laptop, tablet, or computer.

The Internet Essentials program has a strict qualification criterion that includes at least one family member participating in the HUD, NSLP, Pell Grant, Senior Government Assistance, and Veteran Government Assistance. Households can complete the application on www.internetessentials.com

2) Astound Broadband Internet First

Astound Broadband is an internet service provider powered by Grande, RCN, and Wave. It offers Internet First to low-income households with seniors and students. For a family to qualify, it must participate in any eligible public assistance programs. It has a $9.95 monthly charge for connectivity with free internet for the first 60 days.

3) Spectrum Internet Assist

The Spectrum Internet Assist is a more expensive option with many advantages, including considering low-income households without K-12 children. It has high-speed internet with download speeds of up to 30 Mbps, a free internet modem, and other Wi-Fi for $5 monthly. You can avoid paying the usual $10 that ISPs charge for Wi-Fi routers.

Once you sign up for their service, you can use the internet without worrying about breaching data caps. However, it would help if you met a stringent criterion to qualify for the program. For once, one or more of your family members should be enrolled in the following:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP

If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can fill out an application on the company’s website and wait for them to contact you with an appropriate reply. Once you get approved to join the program, you can start enjoying subsidized internet services.

4) Access from AT&T

Access from AT&T works together with the FCC ACP to provide high-speed internet free of charge. Seniors living in eligible households can enjoy download speeds of up to 100 Mbps. With such blazing internet speeds, seniors can browse the internet, connect with family members via social media, and buy groceries online.

Households that qualify for Access from AT&T should have at least one household member enrolled in the NSLP, SSI, or SNAP programs. These households should have a combined income of 200% of the prevailing Federal Poverty Guidelines. You can check out the chart on the company’s website to know if you qualify.

5) Verizon Lifeline

Verizon is one of the few ISPs that takes advantage of the government’s lifeline program to provide affordable or free internet to seniors in qualifying households. Families get a $9.25 monthly discount for internet connection in the Lifeline program. Once you sign up for Verizon Lifeline, your discount increases to $20.

Therefore, regardless of the internet plan, Verizon reduces the monthly cost by $20. If a particular plan costs $20 or less, you’ll enjoy free internet for a lifetime.

The most significant disadvantage with Verizon is that it’s a bit more expensive than most other ISPs. However, it has blazing internet speeds that seniors and members of their households wouldn’t want to miss out on. You can use the internet to hold video calls with family members or stream your favorite TV programs.

How Seniors Can Access Social Media

One of the most significant reasons seniors need free internet is to stay in touch with family members. Social media should be on top of the priority list when it comes to ways of connecting with others. The following are some of the most valuable ways that seniors can connect to social media:

1) Facebook

People go to Facebook to catch up with their friends and family members. Once you sign up for a Facebook account, you can add friends and connect with them every day. Facebook is accessible via web browsers and a mobile app on your smartphone. 

2) Email

As a senior citizen, you need an email account, including signing up for social media. You can get a free email account from providers such as Outlook and Gmail. Once you have set it up, you can send emails to family, friends, and organizations when the need arises.

3) YouTube

You can watch online videos on YouTube, including movies, documentaries, and educational content. You only need to know how to search for videos on the platform. Besides, you can post content on YouTube and earn a passive income through advertisements.

4) Instagram

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, owns Instagram. It provides the perfect platform to share pictures and photos. You can follow up on what your loved ones are up to and post pictures highlighting your daily experiences.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to get government internet for seniors, what are you doing about it? With so many government programs targeting senior citizens in low-income households, you couldn’t possibly miss out on one of these. Check on the ISP’s website to understand whether or not you’re eligible for any of the programs and make an application. If approved, you can access either affordable or accessible internet completely.

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