How to Get Free Internet and Low-Cost Computers (for Homeschooling and Otherwise)

Last September, an analysis by Microsoft found that 162 million Americans lacked broadband internet. Which is a pretty big problem if it's going to be the lifeline for your kids education.

At the same time, there are a bunch of resources – federally mandated and voluntary – that enable people to get internet for free if they need it.

So here's our guide to how to do that.

FCC Lifeline

FCC Lifeline, a government program backed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), subsidizes internet service providers (ISPs) to provide a monthly phone or internet service discount for low-income households. Lifeline typically provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount on service for eligible low-income subscribers. Subscribers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, but they may not receive a discount on both services at the same time. Lifeline also supports broadband Internet access service and broadband-voice bundles. FCC rules prohibit more than one Lifeline service per household.

You may be eligible for Lifeline if:

  • Your income is 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines, based on your household size and state.
  • You (or someone in your household) participates in one of these federal assistance programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps; Medicaid; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA); Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit; Tribal Programs (and live on federally-recognized Tribal lands).
  • Your child or dependent participates in any of the programs listed above

The following providers offer Lifeline-sponsored discounts and plans:

Comcast's Internet Essentials program provides free internet for low-income households. A temporary program, Comcast has said they'll extend it at least through the end of 2020. Comcast has also said it will keep public Xfinity WiFi hotspots open through the end of the year.

Access from AT&T provides discounted Internet service for low-income consumers. Apply here: https://www.att.com/internet/access/

Spectrum Internet Assist offers discounted high speed Internet for low income families, seniors, and students. Apply here: https://www.spectrum.com/browse/content/spectrum-internet-assist

Verizon Fios customers who qualify for the low-income Lifeline discount program will receive a $20 per month discount on their home Internet service for as long as they remain eligible for the program, bringing the cost to as low as $19.99 per month for 200/200 Mbps internet with no data caps. New registrations will be accepted for the remainder of 2020. Apply here: https://www.verizon.com/info/low-income-internet/

Other Resources for Free or Low-Cost Internet

  • EveryoneOn helps eligible families find sources of low-cost internet and computers in their area. To find out about offers in your area click here and type in your zip code.
  • The National Digital Inclusion Alliance created a list to help eligible households get internet for free or a small price.
  • InternetFirst offers affordable internet to help families and students in eligible households to have reliable access to the Internet, to home school, do homework, access educational resources and more.
  • Cox Connect2Compete is an affordable internet service for eligible families. They also offer school toolkits to help families connect to the internet.
  • human-I-T is a nonprofit organization that helps connect families with low-cost internet near them. They're also currently offering free Chromebooks through certain providers in California.

Electronics & Services On Sale/Free!

  • PC’s For People provides the opportunity for eligible households to be empowered by technology.
  • Project Reboot provides quality computers to eligible families and students in the DC area.
  • Connectall.org refurbishes surplus electronics, primarily used computers, and provides them to individuals and organizations in need of technology.
  • Freecycle.org is an online network nonprofit movement of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their own town – including computers.
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About Liz Oertle
Denver, CO
Liz Oertle is the CEO and co-founder of Nanno. A recovering attorney and mother of two, she is passionate about helping parents connect with high quality childcare on demand.