Whether you're tackling the upcoming college semester remotely, heading to high school for the first time or in the midst of middle school, a new school year is here -- and whether or not you'll be engaging in any remote learning this time around, you're going to want a reliable, affordable internet connection at home. Good connections usually 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.
Here's where you should start
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 internet 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 Lifeline, 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 up to $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 households will receive a monthly discount on the cost of broadband service from participating internet service providers.
You can use the EBB toward the programs listed below and it might fully cover your monthly charge. Or, you could also opt to use the EBB to pay for a faster plan with more megabits per second.
Now, without further ado, here are some of your options.
Top internet deals and discounts for students
This program features up to 25Mbps download speeds for $5-$10 a month 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.
Participants in this program will receive up to 50Mbps 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 and Wi-Fi modem rental at no charge.
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. 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.
Optimum Advantage Internet
For $15 a month, participants will receive up to 50Mbps download speeds as well as a free smart router and modem, unlimited data, discounted 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 program offers affordable internet for families and students in qualifying, low-income households. It features up to 25Mbps download speeds for $10 a month, with the first 60 days for free. There are no contracts, credit checks or installation fees.
COVID-19 relief measures
Sparklight is extending an offer to assist low-income families as well as high school and college students. It will make its 15Mbps plan available for $10 a month for three months.
This special program is available for students K-12 who are enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. 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.
Customers currently enrolled in Lifeline can save $20 a month on whichever Verizon Fios plan they choose.
Xfinity offers college students a deal where they can get up to $100 in a Visa Prepaid Card, free self-installation and six months of Amazon Music Unlimited. 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. Also, now through Dec. 31, eligible new customers can receive 60 days of free service.