Everyone can agree to the fact 2020 has been a tough pill to swallow due to the cataclysmic Covid-19 pandemic. And the only thing that kept us all entwined was the internet. Proper internet access has helped us stay connected, and paved the way for businesses to stay afloat.
According to the statistics, currently, more than 300 million internet users are present in the United States. Whether you are a student or employed and working from home, the internet is the savior for everyone. However, the digital era's privileges don't come without a cost, and you always have to bear the pressure of internet service charges.
Several internet providers in the US offer a variety of plans and packages. You can select any one of them according to your requirements and budget. And, let your internet related needs be taken care of by one of the trusted names in the ISP industry. But, if you are looking to get free internet, read on. We have compiled some tips and tricks that may come in handy when you are in need.
Thanks to the spread of internet connectivity and Wi-Fi networks, it is now much easier to find success at getting internet access, even if you are not subscribed to an ISP.
Wi-Fi hotspots are commonplace in most urban regions in the U.S., with city administrations ensuring the availability of Wi-Fi networks in public places like parks and libraries. Also, shopping malls, superstore chains, cafes, and restaurants, routinely have a Wi-Fi network available for visitors and customers. And, it is not only large businesses that ensure to provide Wi-Fi connectivity free of cost, but a number of small and mid-sized commercial concerns do that.
While you may have to spend a few bucks on grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks to be able to hang around and use Wi-Fi, in a park or a library you are set free from that bond. In particular, libraries offer you a comfortable and quiet place to sit in and do what you need to do online. If you explore, you may even find what more does your local library have to offer—it is not unlikely that you are able to get free access to online newspapers, online courses, ebooks, audiobooks, and video streaming services like the Kanopy.
The only thing that can be a matter of concern when using an open public Wi-Fi network is the security risk. But, again, as the EFF says, increased deployment of HTTPS Encryption on popular websites has almost eliminated that threat. Yet, if you want to feel more secure with everything you do online, you can use a VPN to connect to an available open Wi-Fi network.
Alternatively, if you are subscribed to a cellular data service, you can simply extend its scope to more devices, such as your laptop. Turn your smartphone into a hotspot, and utilize cellular data to connect your laptop without having to pay more for a wired residential connection. This way you don’t have to worry about network security either.
So, if it is about getting only the essentials taken care of on a daily basis, you can surely find internet access without a subscription to an internet plan. But, if you are unable to find a convenient open Wi-Fi network in your neighborhood, there is another option for you. And, that is offered by the Lifeline Assistance Program from the Federal Communications Commission.
The program offers up to a $9.25 monthly discount on internet service for eligible low-income subscribers. Participants who are eligible for certain federal assistance programs—such as the Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or some Tribal Programs—can utilize the discount offered by this program.
Quite a few names in the U.S. ISP industry are partnering with the FCC on its Lifeline Assistance Program, and offer cheap internet access for eligible low-income subscribers.
Renowned internet service providers like Optimum and Suddenlink by Altice, Xfinity from Comcast, Charter Spectrum™, Cox Communications, AT&T and Mediacom Cable offer cheap internet access under special programs set up to help out low-income subscribers. Let’s take a quick look at offerings from each.
Altice Advantage Internet is brought to you by Optimum and Suddenlink. K-12 or college students in need of internet access at home for remote schooling, senior citizens above the age of 65 who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), U.S. military veterans who receive state or federal public assistance—can qualify to benefit from cheap internet access with Optimum & Suddenlink.
For $14.99/month, under this plan you get:
Charter Spectrum™ provides reliable high-speed internet to eligible low-income subscribers under the Spectrum Internet Assist program. In order to qualify one or more members of the household must be enrolled with the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP. Individuals 65 years or above of age who are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are also eligible.
For $14.99/month, under this plan you get:
Xfinity from Comcast offers low-cost internet access with Internet Essentials. If you are eligible for public assistance programs like the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others, you are likely to qualify for a home internet connection under the plan.
For $9.95/month, under this plan you get:
Cox Communications has been committed to bringing low-cost internet access to households with students via the Cox Connect2Compete program. If a family has one or more K-12 children and participates in a government assistance program such as the National School Lunch Program, SNAP, and/or TANF, or who receive Tenant/Project-based Vouchers, Project-based rental assistance, or live in Public Housing, it may be eligible for the low-cost internet option from Cox.
For $9.95/month, Cox delivers a 25/3 Mbps connection, and one Wi-Fi modem rental comes included in the monthly service charge. Cox puts a Digital Academy full of internet tools and resources within the reach of the entire family. And does not bind with contracts that could be translated into an early termination fee.
Mediacom Cable has been using the Mediacom Connect2Compete program in a bid to make the internet more affordable for more and more American households with students. If a family has at least one K-12 student, and at least one child qualifies for free or subsidized school lunch via the National School Lunch Program, it may be eligible for low-cost high-speed internet from Mediacom.
For $9.95/month, under this plan you get:
AT&T too provides low-cost internet access to limited income households with members participating in governmental support programs such as the National School Lunch Program and Supplemental Security Income.
For $10 or less, Access from AT&T gets you:
Well, now that you are aware of available options, you can choose whether you would like to piggyback on public Wi-Fi networks in your vicinity, or rather check if you are eligible for cheap internet access via a mainstream ISP.
There are a plethora of applications available for both Android and iOS users that help identify how to get free Wi-Fi hotspots. If you want to remain free of an ISP bond, you can continue to benefit from public networks by downloading one such app on your smartphone.
Speaking of which, let us tell you the best part of subscribing to the above mentioned low-cost internet programs is that you are eligible to use your provider’s Wi-Fi hotspots. All these ISPs have vast hotspot networks that spread nationwide.
And, before we go, let us add, since the outbreak of COVID, a good number of ISPs have come forward to participate in the FCC effort to reduce the impact of the pandemic on American families. Most have made their Wi-Fi hotspot network free for everyone. While many big names in the industry are still offering 2 months free upon subscription before December 31, 2020, among other relaxations—such as not terminating service for non-payment of the bill if the subscriber has been affected by the pandemic, dropping late fees during the period, etc.
While it is not possible to get free internet at home by any means other than accessing an open Wi-Fi network in the vicinity or using your cellular data by turning your smartphone into a hotspot, low-cost internet access is possible. You can check for eligibility and subscribe to a subsidized plan offered by ISPs like Xfinity, AT&T, Cox, Mediacom, Spectrum, Optimum, and Suddenlink.
Under the Lifeline Assistance program, the government offers a $9.25 monthly discount on internet service to low-income households that qualify for the support. Free internet from the government can be accessed by connecting to public Wi-Fi networks put in place by city administrations.
If you are using a free public Wi-Fi network, it is suggested you take measures to keep your personal information safe.
While free internet is not available unless you connect to public Wi-Fi networks in libraries and elsewhere, providers like Xfinity, AT&T, Cox, Mediacom, Spectrum, Optimum and Suddenlink offer low-cost high-speed internet access to K-12 and college students through specific programs.
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