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ATTENTION: This page is no longer being updated, in favor of the new website, which covers all the discounted, broadband internet programs for low-income Americans.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

  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. 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.