When you’re a student — whether it’s dealing with college away from home, living in high school for the first time, or in the middle of high school — at whatever level, the responsibilities of education can be difficult. Whether you’re doing any distance learning or not, you’ll want a reliable, affordable internet connection. They don’t come cheap, but there are a number of broadband discounts that can help ease the financial burden on you and your family.
Start by checking federal broadband support
Before jumping into provider-specific deals there, it’s best to start with federal programs that can be used regardless of which provider serves the area where you live or go to school. If you or someone in your household receives Federal Public Housing Assistance, the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or other eligible federal programs, you are likely eligible.
First, a program that has been around since 1985. It’s often viewed as a program for seniors — Medicaid participation and Supplemental Security Income are among some of the choices — but Lifeline is really meant to offer assistance to low-income families. It’s a stand-alone option for families with kids K-12 or college students. Eligibility factors include income at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines or participation in federal assistance programs such as FPHA or SNAP.
Once you qualify, you get $9.25 off your internet bill per month. That’s $111 a year off your broadband costs.
If you qualify for Lifeline, you qualifyIt is a government subsidy program established by the Federal Communications Commission. Eligible individuals and households will receive a monthly discount on the price of broadband service from participating Internet providers.
You can use ACP for the programs listed below and it can cover your monthly payment in full. Or, you can also choose to use 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 low-income families (including those eligible for NSLP, SNAP, Head Start, and WIC, among others). It offers download speeds of up to 50 Mbps for $10 per month, with the first 60 days free. There are no contracts, credit checks, or setup fees.
Read our Astound Broadband review.
This program offers download speeds of up to 100 Mbps for $30 per month or less for low-income households in AT&T’s 21 states. There are no contracts, data overages, or setup fees, and AT&T provides a Wi-Fi modem for free. You can apply by income status or participation in Head Start, NSLP, or SNAP.
Read our AT&T home internet review.
AT&T Home Internet
Participants of this program will get download speed up to 100Mbps for $10 per month. It is aimed at families with school-aged children (K-12) who receive public assistance (including NSLP, SNAP, TANF, or public housing). Cox’s offer includes no contract, free installation, free access to Wi-Fi hotspots and free Wi-Fi modem rental. This plan comes with a data limit of 1.25TB.
Read our multi home internet review.
Mediacom’s offering shares the same name as Cox’s low-income plan, but is a different discount program. Download speeds up to 25 Mbps for $10 per month or 100 Mbps for $30 per month. No deposit required and no contract. Installation, equipment rental and your Wi-Fi modem are also free. To be an eligible family, you must have at least one student in K-12 and at least one child in NSLP.
Read our Mediacom home internet review.
For $15 a month, members will get download speeds of up to 50Mbps, as well as a free router and modem, unlimited data, free setup and no contract. You may be eligible if you or someone in your family participates in the NSLP, or if you are a New York City resident and attend a New York City public school.
Read our Optimum home internet review.
This special program is available to K-12 students enrolled in the NSLP. The application process usually goes through school administrators, but parents and guardians can apply on behalf of their child’s school. All eligible students will receive 100 GB per year and free mobile hotspot for at least five years. There’s also the option to use the cash value ($500 per year) toward a larger data plan and pay the rest out of pocket. Given that the average household uses over 400GB per month, this will probably be the way to go for most families.
Read our T-Mobile home internet review.
Through Verizon’s Fios Forward program, customers currently enrolled in the federal Lifeline program can save $10 per month on any Verizon Fios plan offered at their address.
Plus, if you participate in the Affordable Connection Program, you may qualify for free internet through Fios Forward. This will be a free 300Mbps plan including all fees and router costs. You must have a Fios Mix & Match plan and be approved for ACP to be eligible.
Read our Verizon home internet review.
Xfinity offers college students the opportunity to get up to $100 on a Visa Prepaid Card and get free self-installation. Further details will depend on your area and confirmation of your student status. Offer not available to students living on campus.
Read our Xfinity home internet review.
This plan offers download speeds of up to 50Mbps for $10 per month, and there is no setup fee for NSLP, public housing, SNAP, or TANF participants. There’s also an Internet Essentials Plus tier with 100 Mbps for $30 a month. Likewise, it includes free hardware and requires no contract or credit check.
Xfinity vs. Read our review of AT&T.
Frequently asked questions about student internet deals and discounts
Will AT&T discount internet service for students?
AT&T does not have a special home internet discount program for students. They have a discount plan called Access from AT&T aimed at households with participants in Head Start or NSLP.
This is not to be confused with AT&T’s wireless plans, which offer discounts based on school or university eligibility.
Does the government offer free internet?
Not overtly, but it is possible to get free internet from the government using the Affordable Connection Program. This is a government subsidy program created by the Federal Communications Commission that provides a monthly discount on the cost of internet service to eligible households.
Once you qualify, you can use ACP — $30 a month for most households, $75 a month for those living on tribal lands — with participating ISPs. From there, you can choose a plan where the ACP amount will cover your monthly payment in full. So, in a sense, you will have free internet from the government.
Which ISPs offer broadband plans for $10 a month?
Cox’s Connect2Compete has 100Mbps for $10 a month, while Mediacom’s Connect2Compete is $10 a month but 25Mbps. Astound Broadband offers a 50Mbps plan for $10 a month with its Internet First program, and Xfinity’s Internet Essentials plan is 50Mbps for $10 a month.