Qualifications for Low-Income Internet Services
Programs offering low-cost Internet access for low-income families are available through several large Internet service providers and through some nonprofit foundations. To qualify for these programs, consumers typically must show that they are recipients of low-income assistance at the state or federal level, though specific qualifications vary slightly depending on the program. ISPs offering low-cost Internet services include Comcast and CenturyLink, and nonprofits offering similar services include EveryoneOn and InterConnection Mobile Internet.
Comcast's Internet Essentials
ISP giant Comcast offers low-cost Internet services to low-income families through its Internet Essentials program. To qualify for the program, a family must have at least one child eligible for free school lunches living at home. Comcast also requires that families requesting the program haven't subscribed to other Comcast services within the previous 90 days. While Comcast once required its Internet Essentials users to have no outstanding debt to the company, in August 2014, Comcast abolished debts of low-income families who had outstanding bills with the company that were one year old. Along with the debt-relief program, Comcast offers six months of free service to new subscribers to the Internet Essentials program. The program provides Internet access for $10 per month, guarantees connection speeds of five megabits per second and makes computers available to subscribers at a reduced price. The Internet Essentials program is only available to families living in Comcast service area.
CenturyLink Internet Basics
ISP provider CenturyLink makes its low-cost Internet Basics program available to families whose income is 135 percent of the federal poverty guideline threshold or who qualify for a variety of assistance programs, including free school lunch programs, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and several more. Just as with the Comcast program, Internet Basics customers can't have been CenturyLink subscribers within the previous 90 days. In addition, they may not have an outstanding debt to CenturyLink or have any outstanding CenturyLink equipment. The Internet Basics program charges $12 per month for the first year, with prices rising subsequently.
Nonprofit Internet Services Programs
EveryoneOn works with local ISPs to provide Internet service to low-income families for about $10 per month. They also make ultra-low-cost laptops and tablets available to their clients. The EveryoneOn's Connect2Compete program provides Internet services to students who qualify for the National School Lunch Program and to their families. InterConnection Mobile Internet provides mobile Internet services to families whose annual income is 80 percent of the area median income or to those receiving state or federal low-income assistance. Users must purchase a modem to use the service; however, because the ISPs with which InterConnection Mobile Internet partners are updating their technology, this source of low-cost Internet services is not expected to continue beyond November 2015.
As Internet access becomes increasingly crucial to functioning fully in modern society, ISPs and nonprofits continue to team up to help bridge what's been termed the ""digital divide"" between the haves and the have-nots. Those who qualify for school lunch or other assistance programs can take advantage of these low-cost Internet services, establishing a network to enhance their educational and career opportunities and, in turn, those of their children.