Did you know that you can access free government internet in many ways and from different Internet Service Providers? With the Covid-19 pandemic having exposed the vulnerabilities of low-income households and families, the U.S. government has established a $3.2 billion internet subsidy program.
With a phone bill discount, paying for the internet becomes much cheaper? While some ISPs would use that amount to cover your entire internet bills, others may only reduce the price to that extent. If you find a provider charging the discounted amount or less, you have free internet.
You may not understand how the program works if you have never used it before. This article discusses free government internet in great detail to help you understand how it works. Keep reading for more information:
- What Is Free Government Internet
- How to Get Free Government Internet
- How to Apply for The Government Free Internet
- What Do I Need to Apply for Free Government Internet
- 1. Filled-Out Application Form
- 2. Proof of Low Income
- 3. Proof of Federal Support
- 4. Identity Documents
- 1. AT&T Access Program
- 2. Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials
- 3. Altice Optimum – Altice Advantage Internet
- 4. Spectrum
- 5. Altice Suddenlink
- 6. Cox
- 7. Internet First
- 8. Verizon Fios
- 9. Mediacom
- 10. Federal Communications Commission
- 1. Lifeline
- 2. Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
- 3. Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)
- 4. ConnectHomeUSA
What Is Free Government Internet
Free government internet is a U.S. government-initiated program that seeks to subsidize the internet for low-income households and families. Through it, the government the monthly internet fee by a given amount. Therefore, poor households may pay less or no fees to access high-speed internet.
As a result of the government’s initiative, several ISP now offer free packages. These internet plans by wireless providers might not be completely free. Instead, paid plans may include free texts, minutes, and mobile data.
Free or highly-discounted internet is accessible on smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Only eligible families can access these services after meeting certain government-established rules. Failure to meet any of the laid down criteria may result in you missing out on the deal.
How to Get Free Government Internet
Are you struggling financially and in need of government-free internet? There’s an elaborate criterion that each household must meet to access free Internet. A qualifying household should have 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines of having at least one family member in a government-supported program.
The following are the government-supported programs that can get you government free Internet:
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Supplementary Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Head Start (for qualifying households)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
If your family or family meets the eligibility criterion, you’re free to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
How to Apply for The Government Free Internet
How you apply for the program varies from state to state. Applying online is the simplest and fast way to do so. It can be on the National Verifier website or via a landline/wireless/internet provider’s website. If you choose the latter, you will be redirected to the application on the National Verifier’s website.
It’s also possible to apply using regular mail by printing out an application form and filling it out. You can then send it via mail to the following address:
- Life Support Center,
- P.O Box 7081,
- London, KY 40742
In the case of an ISP, you have to go to their website and search for “Lifeline.” That should open the National Verifier website, where you can complete the application. Alternatively, you can fill out the form manually and mail it to the ISP’s headquarters address, available on their official website.
What Do I Need to Apply for Free Government Internet
Regardless of how you make the application, there are several things you need to provide, including the following:
1. Filled-Out Application Form
If you’re applying online, you must fill out and submit the form, providing all the needed information. Offline applications involve printing out the form, filling it out before sending it to the Life Support Center or ISP via email.
2. Proof of Low Income
It is also necessary to prove that you have a low income as defined by existing federal standards. The following documents are acceptable as proof of low income:
- The previous year’s tribal or federal tax return
- Statement of Social Security benefits
- Current paycheck tub or income statement from an employer
- Statemen of Workers’ or Unemployment Compensation
- Child support award, divorce decree, or other income documents
- Federal or Tribal General Assistance letter of participation
3. Proof of Federal Support
If you’re receiving support from the federal government, you must provide documents proving it. Essentially, you need a copy of your membership card or the program’s cover letter. From these documents, the following information is provided:
- The name of the benefit qualifying person (BQP)
- Name of the program, like SNAP
- Managed care organization (MCO), tribal, or government program administrator that issued the document
- An issue date within 12 months or an expiration date that hasn’t passed the benefit period
4. Identity Documents
Also necessary is you providing identity documents such as a Social Security Card, Photo ID Card, State-Issued Driver’s License, Passport, or Passport Card. The purpose of providing these documents is to prove that it’s you applying for free government internet.
Programs for Low-Income Internet
Several of the Internet Service Providers and the FCC have programs targeting low-income families and households. While these programs depend on government subsidies, they are not free of charge but more affordable than regular internet packages. Here is an overview of the programs for low-income Internet:
1. AT&T Access Program
The AT&T Access Program provides a maximum speed of 10 Mbps. It targets households in which at least one person participates in SNAP. Even though the AT&T Access Program isn’t related to the free government internet program, it is cheaper and available for $5.00/month to $10.00/month. The cheapest AT&T plan without Lifeline support starts at $25.75/month.
2. Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials
With the Xfinity Internet Essentials program, you get up to 50 Mbps, one of the best. It is available to households or families already participating in a public assistance program. Those who enroll in this program pay $9.95/month. Without Lifeline assistance, the cheapest internet package starts at $10.74/month.
3. Altice Optimum – Altice Advantage Internet
Altice Advantage Internet had a maximum speed of 30 Mbps. It is a welcome program for new customers with a child on the NSLP, veterans on a public assistance program, and senior citizens eligible for SSI. The program costs $14.99/month with a 60-day grace period. If you choose the non-Lifeline-supported program, you’ll pay $20.74/month.
The standard packages on the Spectrum network start at $40.74, which is one of the most expensive in the country. If you belong to a household or family with at least one member receiving public assistance, you can enjoy the 30 Mbps Internet assistance program. The subsidized Internet starts at $14.99/month.
5. Altice Suddenlink
With the Altice Advantage Internet, users get maximum speeds of up to 30 Mbps. It is available to households with a child in the NSLP program. Veterans on public assistance and senior citizens eligible for SSI also qualify for this program. Thanks to the inclusion of the government-subsidized Internet, users pay $14.99/month.
If you are a new Cox customer with one or more K-12 students qualifying for public assistance, you’re eligible for the Connect2Complete program. It provides internet speeds of up to 50 Mbps, which is impressive. Besides, it is available at $9.95/month, which is one of the most affordable rates in the industry. The standard packages from Cox** start at $10.74.
The Cox Connect Assist package provides maximum speeds of 50 Mbps, which is impressive. Households getting income from a government-based program can enroll and enjoy the benefits of this program. The only issue with this program is that it’s available for $30.00/month, which is quite expensive, even for subsidized Internet.
7. Internet First
With the Internet First subsidized program, you can get up to 50 Mbps in internet speed, especially if Grande, Wave, and RCN serve your area. Eligible households must have at least one member enrolled in an income-based public assistance program. After signing up for the program, you’ll get a 60-month grace period, after which you start paying $9.95/month.
8. Verizon Fios
If you’re signing up for the Verizon Fios for the first time and are already enrolled in the Lifeline program, you qualify for this package. It comes in the form of a monthly discount for fiber internet customers. Every month, you’ll get $20 slashed off your monthly bill. The most affordable package of Verizon Fios starts from $19.99.
Did you know that you can get up to 25 Mbps with the Mediacom Connect2Complete package? While that’s possible, you need to have at least one of your K-12 kids qualifying or enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. One of the most affordable subsidized internet programs starts at $9.95/month. If you enroll in the regular program, you’ll have to pay at least $10.74/month.
10. Federal Communications Commission
The FCC has the Enhanced Lifeline program for those living in tribal lands. It is available to low-income households living on tribal lands recognized by the federal government. Households get a discount of $34.95 off their monthly internet bills. With that, qualifying households enjoy the true free government internet.
With the Emergency Broadband Benefit, the FCC targets households with up to 135% of the acceptable federal poverty guidelines. Also, those with at least one family member on a public assistance program qualify for this kind of internet subsidy. Households get $50 to $75 off their monthly internet bill and up to $100 for a new desktop, laptop, or tablet.
Types of Government Assistance Internet Programs
Several government-backed subsidized internet programs target low-income households and other vulnerable groups. The following are the common government assistance internet programs:
Lifeline is an FCC-backed program that provides subsidized phone and internet services for low-income households. Eligible households get a discount starting from $9.25/month off wireless phone services, landline phone services, bundled, or broadband services. Poor households in tribal lands get enhanced discounts by $25 or $34.95 more. Therefore, the amount of discount a household gets depends on their location.
Each qualifying household gets only one discount either for phone or internet services. Since they cannot have both, they have to pick one over the other. Eligible households should have their income at 135% of acceptable federal guidelines. Households with at least one of their members in the SNAP, SSI, FPHA, Medicaid, Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits, or Tribal Programs for Native Americans are also eligible.
Since several ISPs offer subsidized Internet, it is important to carefully choose one that’ll give you the best possible services. You can check the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) website. The USAC administers the Universal Service Fund behind the Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit Programs as part of the FCC.
2. Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
The ACP program targets to give low-income households access to the Internet by subsidizing their monthly internet bills. The subsidy is up to $30 per month for normal low-income households. However, those living in high-cost areas or tribal land may receive up to $75 in enhanced support.
Households can join ACP if one or more members meets the criteria for the Lifeline Program, is enrolled in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) or National School Lunch Program, qualifies for low-income programs, gets SNAP or WIC assistance, or has received a Pell Grant in the last 12 months.
The FCC introduced the ACP to replace the Emergency Broadband Program (EBB), which was launched in 2021 to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. While the two programs are similar, the ACP has reduced monthly benefits and different requirements to qualify.
Previously, households who lost substantial income in 2020 qualified for the program while those on WIC didn’t. The former does not qualify for ACP, while the latter does. For households to qualify for ACP, they need an income of 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
The FCC launched the ACP on December 31, 2021. Users who were initially on the EBB program can be kept enjoying its benefits for 60 days before transitioning to ACP. Unfortunately, the transition period ended on March 2, 2022.
3. Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)
The EBB program was operational between May 12, 2021, and December 31, 2021. Qualifying households enjoyed a $50 to $75 discount and a one-time grant of $100 for a new desktop, laptop, or tablet when it was in force. Households had to choose between Internet and phone services.
Qualifying households had to be under the SSI, FPHA, Medicaid, SNAP, Lifeline, some tribal programs, and the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit. The income cap was 135% of the existing Federal Poverty Program. Alternatively, the households needed one kid to be in the SBP, NSLP, or USDA Community Eligibility Program for the previous school years.
Another eligibility criterion is a Federal Pell Grant in the current year, a 2020 income loss of $99,000 (single filers) and $198,000 (joint filers). Finally, the households needed to be eligible for a low-income package from a participating ISP.
The ConnectHomeUSA program is a public-private partnership that started in 2015 to collaborate between other organizations and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It intended to reduce the digital gap for families living in HUD-assisted housing with school-age children.
More than 80 communities across the U.S. still benefit from the program. Every year, new communities are added to the program, with community members having an opportunity to get resources to start digital inclusion programs.
There are several ways of getting free government internet for households that qualify for the program. Once you get into the program, you enjoy highly discounted Internet or free Internet, depending on the ISP.
It is a good way of onboarding households who would have never enjoyed internet services. With a stringent qualification criterion, this program is not for everyone. So, you should check the relevant government websites and ISPs to know if you can enroll.
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