Does The Government Offer Free Internet?
As you may have heard, the government is running a special support program called the Lifeline Assistance. This program is intended to help out low-income families and households by making their telecommunication services more affordable.
Generally speaking, the government doesn’t offer free internet services. The Lifeline Assistance offers a monthly discount of $9.25 towards your mobile phone bill, landline bill, or internet service bill. As such, you’d only get a government FREE internet service if you were to find a provider that would charge you $9.25 or less.
However, many companies decided to sweeten the government’s support, by offering free packages. These free Lifeline plans are extremely common when it comes to cell phone providers. There are quite many wireless providers offering free monthly plans that include a decent amount of free minutes, texts, and even mobile data.
That said, you can access the internet through your phone deal’s data for free. In case of a solid smartphone, you can also create a hotspot and use your phone’s data to surf the internet with your laptop or tablet.
However, when it comes to internet providers, none of them offers free internet, although there are many offering highly discounted deals.
So to the correct answer to the ‘Does the government offer free internet?’ question would be NO. Unfortunately, government free internet services do not exist, only highly discounted options are available to those eligible for the Lifeline support.
Of course, there are very specific sets of rules set in place that must be met for you and your household to obtain the Lifeline Assistance support but more on that in the following section.
NOTE: Aside from the government’s Lifeline program, there are other individual internet company based programs that are set in place to provide those financially-challenged with an internet connection.
How To Get Government Free Internet Service
If you are struggling financially, you are probably wondering how to get government free internet service, right? Well, no worries, we will tell you all you need to know in this section. But like we explained above, getting free internet via wireless provider through your smartphone is highly possible, however, getting a free high-speed internet is not. What you will get is a discount of $9.25 toward your monthly internet bill.
The Eligible Program And Process For Free Government Internet
To meet the eligibility conditions for the Lifeline assistance, you or should we say your household (NOTE: the Lifeline support is limited per household, not per person), must have an income that is at 135% or below the government’s Federal Poverty Guidelines (LOW-INCOME-BASED ELIGIBILITY) OR have a family member that is a member of a specific government-supported program (PARTICIPATION-BASED ELIGIBILITY).
Here is the list of programs that can get your household the Lifeline support:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Tribal Programs (must live on federally-recognized Tribal lands):
- Any of the federal assistance programs listed above
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Head Start (only households meeting the income qualifying standard)
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
Note: Tribal Lifeline ads an additional $25 discount for a total of $34.25.
If your household meets the eligibility conditions, you can apply for the Lifeline support. To do so you, have several options, which often vary from state to state or even city to city. The simplest and fastest way to apply is online, either directly at the Lifeline National Verifier website or through the internet/wireless/landline provider’s website (in many cases their application will transfer you onto the Lifeline National Verifier’s application). You can also apply via regular mail, however, we suggest you to stick to the online application if possible since it is much faster and less complicated.
Does Covid-19 Update On Lifeline Services?
So far, the COVID-19 situation hasn’t affected the Lifeline services aside from 60 days waiver for:
- Lifetime recertification and reverification requirements, and
- The 2019 mandate that requires participating carrier’ enrollment representatives to register.
Moreover, some providers decided to offer additional discounts or even free services to aid those most affected by the current situation.
Free Government Internet Application Process
As mentioned above, you can apply directly via the provider, or you can do so through the Lifeline National Verifier.
Applying through the Lifeline National Verifier:
We suggest online application: https://nationalverifier.servicenowservices.com/lifeline
You can also apply via mail, in which case you will need to print out the application, fill it out, enclose the documentation and send it to the Lifeline Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, KY 40742.
Applying through a provider:
Find an internet provider that offers a Lifeline discount. You may use this tool: https://data.usac.org/publicreports/CompaniesNearMe/Download/Report
Search for the ‘Lifeline’ keyword on their site and then find the ‘Apply’ button (or similar). You may also send the application package to the provider’s headquarters address, which you will locate on their official websites.
Whether you are applying directly through the Lifeline National Verifier or individual provider, you will need to provide the following:
- Filled-out Lifeline application (if you decide to apply via mail, you will need to print it out first)
- Submit proof of Low-income OR participation in one of the above-listed programs.
- Acceptable document for low-income proof are:
- The prior year’s state, federal, or Tribal tax return
- Current income statement from an employer or paycheck stub
- Social Security statement of benefits
- Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation statement of benefits
- Federal or Tribal notice letter of participation in General Assistance
- Divorce decree, child support award, or other official document containing income information
- Acceptable document to prove government-supported program memberships are documents containing the following (copies of the membership card or program’s cover letters are usually enough):
- Your name, or the name of your benefit qualifying person (BQP);
- The name of the Lifeline-qualifying program, such as SNAP;
- The government or Tribal program administrator or the managed care organization (MCO) that issued the document; and
- An issue date within the last 12 months or a future expiration date that aligns with the benefit period.
- Copies of documents proving your identity.
- Acceptable document for low-income proof are:
Government Free Internet Service Providers
In case you jumped straight to this section, we need to point out again, that there are no government free internet service providers. The Lifeline support offers a $9.25 monthly discount which is in some cases additional sweetened by the provider itself. We will focus on those providers in the next section.
However, two companies are offering a limited amount of data for free per month:
- NetZero offers dial-up internet; 10 hours of free internet service per month
- FreedomPop offers 1 GB of free data per month
There are other ways to access the internet for free and we will discuss those in the upcoming sections. One of the most widely used tricks is to use mobile phone deal’s data (see the “Government Free Phone and Internet” section).
Best Internet Discount Options For Low-income Families
Herein we will provide you with a list of actual internet providers (not wireless providers like above) that do not offer government free internet service but highly discounted. We will take a look at their low-income assistance plans. There are some major internet providers to be found among the companies we have pinpointed for you.
Note: All prices listed below are the most affordable option, however, in some cases, these include WiFi router, while in other they are limited to a single basic line connection. As such, make sure to visit a provider’s site to obtain all the details.
As far as the Lifeline discount is concerned, there are many companies you can choose from (search by ZIP code: https://data.usac.org/publicreports/CompaniesNearMe/Download/Report), however, we believe these 5 internet providers deserve to be emphasized:
The Lifeline discount of $9.25 will be discounted from their $49/mo. for up to 100Mbps.
The Lifeline discount of $9.25 will be discounted from their regular prices. Their most affordable plan starts at $29.99/month for base speed.
The Lifeline discount of $9.25 will be discounted from their regular prices. Their most affordable plan starts at $19.99/month for up to 25 Mbps and requires no contract.
The Lifeline discount of $9.25 will be discounted from their regular prices. Their most affordable plan starts at $55/month for up to 100 Mbps.
The Lifeline discount of $9.25 will be discounted from their regular prices. Their most affordable plan starts at $39.99/month for up to 200 Mbps.
Xfinity offers an Internet Essential program, which enables qualifying customers to purchase a plan for just $9.95 per month. Internet Essentials is set in place to help students, seniors, and low-income families.
For this discounted price, you get 15 Mbps internet and free in-home Wi-Fi. The great thing about it is that it requires no credit check.
Note: Internet Essentials has nothing to do with the Lifeline Assistance program, which makes Xfinity a great option even for those who do not qualify for the Lifeline support.
Spectrum has an Internet Assist program set in place, which is very similar to Xfinity’s Internet Essentials. Internet Assist provides 30 Mbps speed internet with no data cap and no contract for $14.99/month.
Cox offers Low-Cost Internet that is part of the Connect2Compete program. The program is aimed to help K–12 students reach their full potential by providing internet access to low-income families. Low-Cost Internet is available at $9.95 per month. Families must have at least one child in kindergarten or grades 1–12.
AT&T has its Access program set in place. It offers up to 10 Mbps internet to eligible low-income families for affordable $10.00 per month. In order to qualify for this program, customers must have at least one family member participating in the SNAP program.
Mediacom also participates in the Connect2Compete program, which partners with EveryoneOn to offer inexpensive internet for students eligible for the NSLP. Their program offers a 10 Mbps internet connection and Wi-Fi modem for $9.95 per month.
Is Low Income Internet Available In My Area?
As we have mentioned a couple of times thus far, the government free internet service options and other discounted options available to your household depend on your location. As such, you must visit the link provided above, to check which Lifeline internet providers are available in your area.
Regarding other discounted options, you can visit each provider’s official website directly and check the availability in your area by entering your zip code.
Alternative Ways to Get Free Internet
Even though most things are not free in 2020 and the internet at home is sure a commodity that you have to pay for, some alternative ways can get you access to the internet free of charge. In some cases you will be limited by the amount of data you can transfer or the speed, in other, it may be your neighbor’s goodwill determining your access.
Get Internet Anywhere: Freedom Pop Mobile Hotspot
If available in your area, you get 1GB of data each month for free. It is not a lot, however, it can be enough to used email service, chatting (no voice or video calls), and other low consumption tasks completely for free for the whole month. Use a SIM card in your phone or a hotspot device and connect for free.
FreedomPop was established back in 2012 and has been rewriting the rules of the global telecoms industry since then. Simply visit their official website and enter your ZIP code and address to check if your location qualifies. They also promise fast speeds and no contracts.
Get Wi-Fi on the Go: ISP-Provided Wi-Fi Hotspots
Many ISP (Internet Service Providers) provide their hotspots on public transportations and stop stations in various locations. Again, it depends on your location and the generosity of the ISP provider, however, certain locations offer FREE public access. Of course, these are often limited to a specific time (e.g.: first 30 min are free) and transfer speed.
So if you are riding a bus or a subway, you can always check available WiFi connection to see if there is any chance for you to connect. These connections, especially if free, may not be the fastest, however, they can be more than enough, to surf the web and read some awesome content or to be active on your social media accounts.
Get Wi-Fi in Public: Municipal Wi-Fi Hotspots
There are also many municipal WiFi hotspots all over the country. This sort of WiFi option was established by the city’s government to offer its citizens and visitors a chance to connect. The speed on municipal WiFi networks is never very high but enough to help you get the things done.
Some of the municipal networks are free, at least, for a limited time, others you must pay for a monthly fee or get credit points, which serve as minutes or amount of data for you to spend online.
You can use apps and search engines to locate available free WiFi in any area. Just use the term ‘Find free WiFi’, type it in Google search, locate a free hotspot, connect and enjoy.
Get Wi-Fi Where You Shop: Business Wi-Fi Hotspots
Many stores and shopping centers offer free WiFi connections. In some cases, a passcode is needed to access those networks. If you are their customer, they will be happy to share it with you.
Businesses use WiFi for money transactions anyway, so it doesn’t cost them much extra to share their connection with their customers. These please costumers and make them more likely to return, thus it is a marketing move that favors both parties.
Access the Internet without a computer: Public Libraries
Public libraries offer access to computers that have internet access. The computers in public libraries are normally connected to wired internet, however, many public libraries offer WiFi connection as well. This means that you can use your phone or laptop to connect to their network. It may not be as convenient as having constant access at home, however, it can be a very precious method to exploit if you need to excess some valuable online information.
Since 2010 the number of available internet-connected computers in public libraries has been constantly improving. Moreover, there are more and more public libraries offering free WiFi as well.
Bars & Restaurants: Free Wi-Fi Access
Due to the current COVD-19 situation, this option is slightly limited, however, in general, you can get WiFi access in most bars or restaurants. If you order a simple drink, they will gladly provide you with a passcode, which you may use to access their connection option. If the place is not full, they won’t mind you staying longer, however, in a busy café, you may be asked to order again or leave after some time.
Available WiFi Signals in your home
This is a hustle method, however, worth a try. There are many internet networks, that you have a good chance of receiving someone else’s signal in your home. If you are lucky and it is not locked, you can connect and start browsing. However, in most cases, it will be locked with a passcode.
If you can find out who the owner of the network is, you may kindly ask them to share their passcode with you.
Perhaps you live next to a bar or cafe and get to connect to their network form your home.
Can I get WiFi without an internet provider?
Yes, there are various options. We have already listed some of them in the previous section. The most valid one for most people these days is the hotspot. You can use your smartphone to create a hotspot, or you can purchase a separate device, insert a SIM card with a plan that has a lot of data and supports hotspot, connects to that network and that is it.
Here is a list of valid options that you can use to access the internet without internet provider:
- Wi-Fi USB Dongle
- Public Wi-Fi
- Mobile Hotspot
- Use your phone directly
Government Free Phone and Internet
Moreover, some Lifeline-oriented carriers offer quite impressive amounts of mobile data in their free Lifeline plans. Good deals can get you as much as 3GB/month. This means you can access the internet for free, either directly on your smartphone or creating a hotspot and connection with your laptop or tablet.
The amount of data on these deals will not be enough for watching a lot of online videos, however, it is more than sufficient to cover all your email and web browsing needs.
NOTE: Make sure to check if a carrier is enabling you to use the data for hotspot or are you perhaps limited to using in only directly on your phone.
Government Free Internet and Laptops
Strictly speaking, there is very little chance of getting a free laptop from the government directly, however, there are non-profit organizations that have special programs set in place, which can get those who qualify a free laptop. Some of these organizations will also offer a free internet plan or some sort of access to the web.
Here is a list of places, you can check to see if you have a chance of getting a free laptop:
- PCs For People
- St Vincent De Paul
- United Way
- One Laptop Per Child
- Get Causes
- Computers With Causes
- Opportunities Necessary to Increase Technology – ONIT
- On It Foundation
- The United Way 211
- The Goodwill organization
- Open Education Database
- Everyone on
- Salvation Army
- The Notebooks for Students program
- Komputers 4 R Kids
- Rewards with Gift Cards
- Technology for the Future
- Uncle Sam
- Disaster Assistance
- The Alliance For Technology Refurbishing And Reuse
- An Online Public School
- Your State Department of Social Services (often called the Department of Human Services)
- Other government offered support types that may help you get a laptop:
- Education and Training,
- Employment and Career development
- Financial assistance
- Disaster Relief
- American Indian and Alaska Native
- Family and Children’s Services
Frequently Asked Questions
How are things with free internet and fee waivers during the new coronavirus pandemic?
Many ISPs have offered free access to their public hotspots, many wireless providers have expended their data offers to unlimited (without any additional cost), which are all generous and kind offers, we can all appreciate in this strange times.
Can I get the Internet with food stamps?
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps) can get you Lifeline assistance(Government Free Internet Service) or other discounted internet services, yes.
Does ISP offer free internet service to amid coronavirus crisis?
Yes, many ISPs have offered 60-day free access to their public WiFi hotspots.
Which internet connection is more secure – mobile phone hotspot or Starbucks WiFi?
Starbucks WiFi has many users logged into it and is open to everyone. On the other hand, your mobile phone hotspot is locked by the password (if set that way). This makes the latter substantially more secure.