Want to save $30 a month on internet service? Find out if you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

How to Get Free or Affordable Internet

Michelle Ricker By Michelle Ricker February 24, 2022

Summary: Finding internet that doesn’t break the bank can feel tough. We’ve rounded up our top tips for choosing an internet plan that fits your life and your budget, and ways you can get help. Read on to save.

 

If you’re looking at your budget and wondering where you can trim expenses, there are the obvious: cooking more at home, hitting matinee movies instead of nighttime showings, and shopping less. But once you’ve done those, it might be harder to find ways to make recurring bills more affordable.

That’s where we come in. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to get affordable internet, from cheap internet options to the latest on government internet programs. All you have to do is read on and then start saving.

What type of internet connection is the most affordable?

As a rule of thumb, slower speeds can seem more affordable. But realistically, the most affordable internet depends on how you use it. Most houses won’t have access to every internet option, because the residence isn’t wired for everything. But we’ll quickly run through the most popular options here:

Fiber Internet

Fiber internet might have a more expensive sticker price than other options, but it pays off: you can avoid slow loading times and frustration, making things like telecommuting and online classes more feasible. Fiber has the fastest speeds (up to 1 Gig) and symmetrical upload and download speeds — meaning everything you do is smoother.

In the battle between fiber vs. cable, fiber comes out on top every time.

Wireless Home Internet

Wireless home internet is the latest option for rural areas. It’s more reliable than satellite internet — and more affordable, too. It doesn’t require expensive equipment or long, multi-year contracts. So you can avoid any early termination fees if you need to change your internet connection or move.

Graphic with an ACP flag flying from the Capitol building to represent the government-funded internet options.

Faster and more affordable internet? What’s not to love?

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet continues to be a popular option for rural areas. It covers 99% of the U.S. so it’s one of the most accessible options. But it’s not necessarily a low-cost internet option. Satellite has longer lag times (which can lead to dropped connections), requires more expensive equipment (that’s the satellite part), and involves long-term contracts (think two or more years).

Satellite has faster speeds than DSL internet, but the connection can be tricky depending on the weather (or even if you live near a lot of trees), so you may not always be able to enjoy the added speed when waiting out the storm.

DSL Internet

DSL internet is one of the older internet technologies. It uses your home’s landline phone connection to get you online. Because telephone lines are so pervasive, it’s another common rural internet option. DSL typically offers download speeds up to 15 Mbps and it’s more reliable than satellite. You don’t have to pay for new equipment to be installed, so depending on your provider, it can be a more inexpensive internet option.

However, if you have wireless home or fiber internet available near you, those are typically better options than DSL.

How to Find the Speed You Need

When you’re ready to choose your internet plan, don’t feel overwhelmed by the speed options. First, think of how you use the internet — are you casually surfing the web and posting on social media? Do you like to stream movies in the evening? Are you using it almost all the time when you’re home, whether for work or gaming?

The more time you spend online, and the more data-heavy activities you’re doing (like videochatting or gaming), the more speed you need.

You can also think about how many devices you have connected to your network. As you add more devices, you’ll need more speed, especially if you’re using multiple devices at the same time.

Not sure what you’d need? You can also use a bandwidth calculator to find out.

Leverage Deals on Internet Packages

Once you’ve got your ideal speed chosen, you might be able to leverage deals. For example, some internet providers offer introductory rates or specials on other services they offer. If you can start your service during a deal, you can enjoy cheaper internet for at least a few months. Or, you can negotiate with your internet provider and see if they can price match, provide a discount, or keep your rate the same as it previously was.

The downside to great starter rates? They often increase dramatically after a year or less, so the savings go away, too. You can opt for a high-speed internet provider who doesn’t have teaser rates and instead has transparent pricing — that way, it’s easier to budget and you’re not stuck with surprises.

Ways to Get Free Internet

Still wondering how to get free internet? We’ve got three of the most popular tips below. But keep in mind: some of these tips depend on where you live, what’s accessible to your home (some addresses are not yet wired for fiber internet, but we’re hopeful that will change soon!), your income, and more. But let’s dive in to low-cost internet options.

Free Internet with WiFi Hotspots

If you’re on the go and looking to hop online (without running up your cell phone’s data plan), you could access public hotspots created by internet service providers. But tread lightly with public internet. Because it’s an open network, it’s easier for anyone to access — including cybercriminals. Avoid entering sensitive information, like bank accounts, or accessing private information, like medical records.

Government Internet Programs

Because internet access is becoming more and more important to everyday life, there is a free government internet program: the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The ACP is a benefit that started in 2022 and provides free internet to households in need. Those who qualify can save up to $30/month on their monthly internet service. To qualify, at least one person in your household needs to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines; or
  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
  • Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
  • Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year

You can think of the ACP program as a more long-term version of the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which was available in 2021. The EBB program offered a discount of up to $50/month, but was available to fewer people and was a temporary program. The ACP is expected to last until 2027 or later, so more people have access to low-cost internet service.

Here’s how to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Other Programs that Assist with Free and Affordable Internet

If you don’t qualify for the ACP program but you’re still looking for other affordable internet options, there are some non-governmental programs.

  • EveryoneOn works to bring internet and technology to low-income families and marginalized communities, and they can help find cheap internet options in your area or offer online learning resources.
  • PC for People focuses on providing refurbished computers to low-income individuals and non-profit organizations, but they also offer tools on finding free and affordable internet.
  • Human-I-T works to reduce e-waste by repairing technology and provides free resources for finding low-cost internet.

If none of those options work, you can also ask your internet provider if there are any more affordable plans. Plus, make sure you’re using any included service so you’re sure to get the most bang for your buck.

Still Have Questions About Free and Affordable Internet Service?

We’ve got answers to your most frequently asked questions.

Can I get free internet at home?

If you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, you could get free or reduced internet at home.

How can I find internet programs near me?

You can visit the FCC’s website to learn more about the Affordable Connectivity Program. Or, run a serviceability check and find out what internet is available to you.

Can the government assist with free internet?

Yes! Through the Affordable Connectivity Program, you can receive up to $30 off your monthly internet bill.

Can students get free internet?

Students are also eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program but may also be able to use free internet at the school library or on-campus.

Does your internet get an A+? Get better internet for all your smart devices.

Are there free internet programs for veterans or seniors?

Some service providers offer discounted rates for veterans or seniors, but there is no federal program at this time.

How can I lower the costs of my internet connection?

Making sure that you’re with a provider who has transparent pricing and no credit checks is a great place to start (psst — EarthLink is one of those). You can also avoid hitting data limits if you have any and ask about discounts for automatic payments or e-billing.

 

If you’re ready to switch to a better internet provider and have a better understanding of exactly how much your service will cost, call EarthLink today at 866-383-3080 or find out more online.

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.

See all posts from Michelle Ricker.

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