When you're a student -- whether tackling college away from home, experiencing high school for the first time or in the midst of middle school -- juggling the responsibilities of education, no matter what level, can be tough. Whether or not you'll be engaging in any remote learning, you're going to want a reliable, affordable internet connection. Those don't come cheap, but there are a number of broadband discounts available that might help ease the financial burden on you and your family.
Start by checking out federal broadband support
Before digging into the provider-specific deals out there, it's best to start with federal programs that may be of use no matter which provider services the area in which you live or go to school. If you or anyone in your household participates in Federal Public Housing Assistance, the National School Lunch Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or other qualifying federal programs, you will likely be eligible.
First off is, a program that's been around since 1985. It's often viewed as a program for seniors -- participation in Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income are among some of the qualifiers -- but Lifeline is really intended to offer assistance for low-income households. That makes it a viable option for families with K-12 kids or for college students out on their own. Eligibility factors include income that's 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines, or participation in federal assistance programs like FPHA or SNAP.
Once you qualify, you get a discount of $9.25 a month on your internet bill. That's $111 a year off your broadband costs.
If you qualify for Lifeline, you're also eligible for the, which is a government subsidy program set up by the Federal Communications Commission. Qualified individuals and households will receive a monthly discount on the cost of broadband service from participating internet service providers.
You can use the ACP for the programs listed below and it might fully cover your monthly charge. Or, you could also opt to use the ACP to pay for a faster plan with more megabits per second.
Now, without further ado, here are some of your options.
This program offers affordable internet for families and students in qualifying, low-income households (including those who qualify for NSLP, SNAP, Head Start and WIC, among others). It features up to 50Mbps download speeds for $10 a month, with the first 60 days for free. There are no contracts, credit checks or installation fees.
This program features up to 100Mbps download speeds for $30 a month or less for limited-income households within AT&T's 21-state footprint. There are no contracts, data overage charges or installation fees, and AT&T provides a Wi-Fi modem free of charge. You may apply via income status or participation in Head Start, NSLP or SNAP.
AT&T Home Internet
Participants in this program will receive up to 100Mbps download speeds for $10 a month. This is aimed at families with school-aged children (K-12) that receive government assistance (including NSLP, SNAP, TANF or public housing). Cox's offer includes no contracts, free installation, free access to Wi-Fi hotspots and Wi-Fi modem rental at no charge. This plan does come with a data cap of 1.25TB.
Mediacom's offering shares a name with Cox's low-income plan but is a different discount program. It features up to 25Mbps download speeds for $10 a month or 100Mbps for $30 a month. No deposit is required and there are no contracts. Your installation, equipment rental and Wi-Fi modem are free as well. To be a qualifying household you must have at least one student in K-12 and at least one child in NSLP.
For $15 a month, participants will receive up to 50Mbps download speeds as well as a free router and modem, unlimited data, free installation and no contracts. You may be eligible if you or anyone in your household participates in NSLP or is a New York City resident and attends a New York City public school.
This special program is available for students K-12 who are enrolled in the NSLP. The application process typically goes through school administrators, but parents and guardians can apply on behalf of their child's school. All eligible students will receive 100GB a year and a free mobile hotspot for at least five years. There's also the option to use the money value ($500 a year) toward a larger data plan and pay the rest out of pocket. Considering the average household uses more than 400GB a month, that'll probably be the way to go for most families.
Through Verizon's Fios Forward program, customers currently enrolled in the federal Lifeline program can save $10 a month on any Verizon Fios plan offered at their address.
Plus, if you participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, you may be eligible to receive free internet through Fios Forward. This would be a free 300Mbps plan, including all fees and router costs. You must have a Fios Mix & Match plan and be approved for the ACP to qualify.
Xfinity offers college students a deal to get up to $100 in a Visa Prepaid Card and receive free self-installation. Further details will depend upon your area and verifying your student status. Offer not available to students living in on-campus housing.
This plan features up to 50Mbps download speeds for $10 a month and no installation fee for participants in NSLP, public housing, SNAP or TANF. There's also an Internet Essentials Plus tier with 100Mbps for $30 per month. Similarly, it includes free equipment and requires no contract or credit check.
Student internet deals and discounts FAQs
Will AT&T give students a discount on internet service?
AT&T does not have a specific home internet discount program for students. They do have a discount plan called Access from AT&T that is aimed toward homes with participants in Head Start or the NSLP.
This is not to be confused with AT&T's wireless plans, which do offer discounts based on school or university eligibility.
Does the government offer free internet?
Not explicitly, but it is possible to essentially get free internet from the government by utilizing the Affordable Connectivity Program. This is a government subsidy program set up by the Federal Communications Commission that provides qualifying households with a monthly discount on the cost of internet service.
Once you qualify, you can use the ACP -- $30 per month for most households, $75 per month for those living on tribal lands -- with participating ISPs. From there, you may be able to select a plan where the amount of the ACP will fully cover your monthly charge. So, in a sense, you'd have free internet from the government.
Which internet providers feature broadband plans for $10 a month?
Cox's Connect2Compete features 100Mbps for $10 a month, while Mediacom's Connect2Compete is also $10 a month but for 25Mbps. Astound Broadband provides a 50Mbps plan for $10 a month with its Internet First program and Xfinity's Internet Essentials plan is 50Mbps for $10 a month.