Free Internet and discounted Internet for the poor

ATTENTION: This page is no longer being updated, in favor of the new website, which covers all the discounted, broadband internet programs for low-income Americans. Go to now.

It took the government a long time to move from helping people afford landline phones to helping them get a cell phone. The next logical step is subsidized high-speed internet for the needy, and we hope it doesn’t take as long for this step to occur as it did for the cell phone program.

Unfortunately, the government is not yet directly offering free internet or discounted internet service, but, we see the FCC moving in the direction of getting the rural and the poor connected.

Free and Almost Free Internet

However, we do have very good news: there are companies that are offering heavily discounted high-speed internet to the very same people who qualify for the Lifeline/Link-Up programs that give out a free cell phone to needy Americans. This is not mandated by the government like the phone program is, but the qualifications are similar.

Actually, there is one company that does offer completely free high-speed internet, based upon the Lifeline qualification criteria. The problem is that this free internet program is only available in Kansas.

Let’s take a look at all of the internet companies who have a plan that follows the Lifeline qualification criteria, both free and nearly-free:

Free High-Speed Internet in Kansas

Knology – This company in Kansas offers absolutely free, high-speed internet to those that meet the Lifeline eligibility criteria for the state. There is no mandate for them to do so, and they receive no reimbursement from the government — they simply do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do. Our hats are off to them, and we’d love to see more internet providers follow their lead. If they do, we’ll be happy to toot their horn on this page.

Almost Free Broadband from CenturyLink

CenturyLink – There is no mandatory compulsion for internet providers to have low-cost plans for the poor. However, CenturyLink has such a plan in every one of the 37 states in which they do business.

They didn’t do it out of the kindness of their heart, agreeing only to provide the plans in order to help convince the Federal Communications Commission to approve its purchase of rival Qwest Communications. But no matter, they are obligated to give you broadband access for only $9.95 a month. In addition, they will sell you a netbook computer for just $149.99!

The eligibility criteria are the same as for a free cell phone, meaning for each state they follow the Lifeline Assistance eligibility guidelines. If you go to their website, you will see the requirements and an application for each state.

Almost Free Broadband from Comcast

Comcast – This provider has a very similar deal as, described above, from CenturyLink. You get the same bargain of $9.95 a month for broadband, and a laptop computer for $149.99; but the requirements for this program are quite different.

Instead of qualifying for under the Lifeline Assistance program, you qualify if you are a family with at least one child who receives free (not discounted) school lunches via the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Take note that if you do have a child in the lunch program, chances are you also qualify for the Lifeline program, and therefore the CenturyLink plan as well; you very well could have a choice of which company to get internet service from.

As with CenturyLink above, this may or may not have been a goodwill since the program is actually a result of the Comcast-NBC merger, in which one of the conditions was that the company agreed to “increase broadband deployment in low income households,” for a term of three years.

The Future of Broadband for Poor Americans

The Universal Service Fund is the organization that collects and distributes money from the government to subsidize landline phones and completely pay for free cell phones, so the poor can afford basic phones and service. But while cell phones may have seemed on the cutting edge when they decided to include them in the Lifeline and Link-Up programs, reliable, high-speed internet is what is now critical in helping people communicate.

Recent events appear to suggest that in the near future we will see the money that is going to landline phone subsidization phased out, and the funds used to help the financially distressed receive basic, high-speed internet service through what may be known as the Connect America Fund. We’ll be reporting on these changes as they occur, and keeping you up to date on where you can take advantage of the free or discounted internet plans.

UPDATE: The National Cable & Telecommunications Association just announced Connect-to-Compete, a program that will begin offering discounted, high-speed internet service for just $9.95 per month to families whose children qualify for free lunches at their schools. Coming Spring 2012 in all fifty states.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: We have just started a new website all about the various program available and becoming available for low-income Americans who need cheap internet and an inexpensive computer. Please to go


  1. Jenean says

    I definently agree with Joe an Debra Thomas. I grew up without parents. I went to the local free clinic downtown and got myself on birth control. This oppurtunity is afforded to those who need and have the want to. I was determined not to repeat what I have seen others do. Me and my husband both have struggled and done the best we can. We have no family between the both of us. We now have two young children and are in our mid 30’s. My husband got a certificate degree and works. I worked for many years untill our second child. When you have no support through family its hard. There is no one to help with a single thing. Two children is the limit for us ,although, I could keep on poping them out and take from everyone else who works hard so I can be greedy and selfish (two of the seven deadly sins). I could have ten kids by now if I was that ignorant. I could also teach my children to take advantage of everyone and everything untill everything good in this country is no more and everyone is miserable. I believe in QUALITY NOT QUANITY. I want my children to be well educated, work hard and help others.
    Sitting in front of free cable TV, internet, and texting all day is not doing anything for anyone or making this country better. The problem is alot of people have no common sense to use this technology to better themselves in a positive manner. That also means teaching my children self control and what the appropriate use it is intended for i.e… not facebook flirting, myspace bulling, or mindless chat room games. If you are disabled you could find better things in the community to do with your time. There are plenty of jobs involving sitting, volunteer services, and education that would make you have worth. Learning how to improve the quality of your life could benefit everyone. I am very appreciative of what services the good people of this country have afforded to me i.e… free clinics with birth control and medical, education, librarys, parks, and the list goes on. I intend on paying it back with raising my children to be good citizens of this great country and I have plans after I am done with my parenting duties to work hard and volunteer any time I can to help others who want to make a positive impact on their life. Random people who have no name have made great impact in my life. Thank you to the people who pay it back without greed, selfishness, or a hand to take but rather to give.
    If it is free it needs to be restricted to only certain access so it is not just another tool for lazy ignorant persons to run rampent. Free shouldnt mean mindless reality soap operas on cable TV, or sitting on your butt on myspace creating mindless havoc chatting, while neglecting children and/or duties. People walk around staring at phones, computers, and TV like on wallies world as if there is no other reality. People are crashing cars, falling down stairs, running into walls, getting obese, and all without any common sense making others miserable along the way. REALLY!!!! People can’t even spell anymore or put together a full sentence (I see some on here)! I hope parents educate their children well about what this technology is intended for, supervise properly, and have a balance for other things in life. It does have great benifits if that is the intent of the user. I also hope parents won’t throw their children out there for their improper selfish gains as so many times happens these days.

  2. Joe says

    It amazes me how many people cant read or majorly lack common sense. 2 most common questions: “I’m in ****(state other than kansas) how do i qualify for free internet.” easy answer, u don’t cause it’s not out there yet. “where do I sign up” I don’t know, lets think for a second, how do you sign up for AT&Ts low income phone? u contact AT&T right? (yes). or a cell phone from safelink? u contact safelink, right? (again, yes). so considering it’s so easy even a troglodyte (lets see if ne one knows how to work a dictionary) could figure it out, why cant u people. CONTACT THE COMPANY THAT OFFERS THE SERVICE. also, although i support helping the children out, and i support helping those out that truly are down on their luck and need assistance w programs like these (as well as other programs for low income), the majority of people who are on them have no interest in providing for themselves. their need to be additional qualifiers set up, like if u’ve had another child since qualifying for gov’t assistance, ur disqualified (and personally i think that should cost them their kids too), cause if u can’t support the ones u got on ur own, u shouldnt have more.

  3. katrina marshall says

    Hello my name is Katrina Marshall an I’m interested in the laptop and free or discounted internet..I have a child in the free lunch program at school and she needs a laptop and internet for school and for homework. It will be a blessing if we qualify for this program………Thank You & blessed day

  4. Elena Trevino says

    I am in need of help with discount internet for my self and household. We had to relocate back to Los Angeles. My kids are in ssi and well it has been a struggle in finding a permenant job. Look foward to finding help for progress.
    Thank you.

  5. linda trickey says

    I am on medicaide for breast cancer program and am wondering if I am able to get free phone I live in south carolina?

  6. Barbara Thomas says

    This website is faulty, and it connect you to one website than another without connecting you to the actual application! I was trying to apply for my mother, who is not only elderly, but is on a fixed income too. This is reprehensible considering she worked for the government all of her life. She is impoverished now due to her many surgeries, and she still has to travel to and from her doctor visits, and I fear for her because she does not have a cell phone, etc. I could help with one, but I lost my full time job too!

    • Debra Thomas says

      List: Free Cell Phone Providers for the Poor
      The following companies offer free cell phones and a monthly allotment of minutes, compliments of the government’s Lifeline program. Here are the big three:

      Safelink Wireless – Safelink Wireless is a brand of Tracfone. This is the largest, oldest and best known of the companies that offer free government cell phones. They have more than 2,000,000 customers in 31 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. And they’re coming soon to the remaining 19 states.

      Assurance Wireless – Assurance Wireless is a brand of Sprint Nextel. It is one of the newer companies participating in the Lifeline program, but it’s growing very rapidly because it is a subsidiary of Virgin Wireless. It serves 23 states and the Disctrict of Columbia.

      ReachOut Wireless – ReachOut Wireless ­is a regional company that isn’t as large as some of the others, but still an outstanding option. They currently offer the LifeLine service in 13 southern and Midwestern states.


      Cintex Wireless – This regional Lifeline provider offers cell phone plans in Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island or West Virginia.

      Care Wireless – This brand of prepaid phone company PlatinumTel Wireless offers phones in Illinois.

      Conexion Wireless – This primarily prepaid wireless phone company offers phones for Arkansas and Maryland.

      i-Wireless – This division of Cincinnati Bell serves Ohio only. Residents of Ohio should look into this service before settling on one of the big providers.

      Life Wireless – Life Wireless is a regional free cell phone provider in the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia.

      StandUp Wireless – StandUp Wireless is a regional free cell phone provider in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland and Missouri.

      Terracom Wireless – A regional provider that serves the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia, Maryland, Iowa and Nevada. Sister company to Yourtel Wireless.

      Yourtel Wireless – A regional provider that serves the states of Kansas, Illinois. Missouri, Oklahoma, Washington and Rhode Island.. Sister company to Terracom Wireless.

      True Wireless – A five state provider that serves Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas.

      Tag Mobile – A regional player in the states of Arkansas and Louisiana.

      Wireless for Hope – A regional player in Arkansas and Lousiana.

  7. catherine says

    I am disabled and signing up for Centry Link even though it looks like I can’t get it in my area. Internet is HARD to pay for.

  8. Kizmet says

    If you look up century link it lists where they are doing this program. For those like me with no kids to claim, there is NOTHING for us…

  9. Kizmet says

    While this is all well and good for those with children, what about us who had the sense to say I’m not having a child while I’m on disability? Why is it only those with children are getting help like this? Are we the Disabled Americans, being discriminated against in this internet offer? If it’s about low income, feel free to live my life for a week or two, 900 per month , rent heat, food, medications, all have to come from that. Wish I had the luxury of free internet. If it weren’t for this 1 inch screen from safe link letting me even see this I would have never been able to say I was on the internet. GIVE FREE INTERNET and hey throw in basic cable because many if us disabled are bed ridden or home bound, to the DISABLED. Most of us worked until our bodies literally gave out, so give us a break too!

    • Free Government Cell Phones says

      The reason is that this program is intended to help school children with no internet access, so they can do better in school. It’s specifically for that.

      • Debra Thomas says

        I totally agree with Kizmet on providing the disabled with access to the internet with just two requirements. They must also be enrolled in an accredited educational institute for the purpose of retraining for future employment and their disability is a direct result of their service to our country in one of the armed forces. In other words, they must be a veteran or have been in the service (although not during wartime). As far as giving it to all disabled…heck no. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many people I know that are receiving SSI that are perfectly capable of working. These people are riding the disability handout for “Mental Health” diagnoses which, I am sorry to say, EVERYONE HAS in one form or another! These people are healthier and stronger than most others and compared to all my own personal injuries, health conditions, etc. for which I do not receive any payments for, they are fit as a fiddle. They most certainly have the strength to ride their bicycles to collect or ‘take’ precious metals for recycling in order to get their next ‘medication’ purchase so I am certain that there are many jobs that they can qualify for that are much less strenuous.
        I served in the military back in 1978 but do not receive any veteran’s benefits with the exception of having my registration fee of $50 for University enrollment waived and a $500 Liberty Grant towards my education and I am lucky if I bring in $500 a month to help support myself and youngest child still living at home–but I do it and I am not out there crying and complaining for freebies just because everyone else has them. This is America and if you fail to see all that this Country has to offer that has been provided by all those citizens both past and present that worked their butts off doing whatever it took to make it, then you will never “Live the American Dream”, you will forever be riding it.

  10. greg says

    can you tell me how i can apply for the laptop for 149.95 i would really appreciate it. you ca contact me at the email i have provided thanks for the info and havea great holiday

  11. ADJO EDOH says


  12. karen Goodman says

    i am 68 years old ,disabled and on medicare and medicade.when will i be able to get this broadband internet service cheap.I also got a free phone from the goverment.i am from salem,ohio44460
    please respond
    thank you

  13. Margaret Rivera says

    I currently received a free government phone from reachout wireless.I have two daughters on the free lunch program .I would like information on the lap top program. I live in California. Thank You, Margaret Rivera

  14. julio muriel says

    im a comcast client ; i want to know how i applied for internet for 9.95 a month i paid 3995 a month for internet let me know how applied for it

  15. Angela juhasz says

    Hi I would like to get a free phone and the 995 internet service I get ssi and medicadd my address is2108 judy dr meraux la.70075 number 504/598/6199 thanks my name is angela

  16. says

    Hello i would like to apply for the free cell phone and free internet or the internet for 9.95 a month i am a mother of four and receive foodstamps and medicaide for my children and my 3 children also get free lunches at school could u please tell me how i can receive both services u can email me at the email i have provided thanks so much.

  17. Nevilee weerawardana says

    I have bridge card & medicaid with National School Lunch program Two of my minor kids. I need Comcast free internet & Laptop computer for $149.99 for my daughters. how can i get it. please e-mail me. We are living in Michigan state in Livonia.Zip code 48152 Thanks Happy holidays.