Need help getting a device or internet?
Most programs that offer free personal computers or tablets or discounted internet access have income limits but may have free classes regardless of income. Some programs that target students serve people of any age. Check with local social services agencies, including area agencies on aging, for possibilities in addition to what's below.
Free or low-cost devices
These are some of the programs that operate in more than one area of the country:
• Community Tech Network helps economically disadvantaged people get connected to and comfortable with the internet, concentrating on the San Francisco Bay Area and central Texas. Its Home Connect program, started in April 2020, helps older adults who are isolated and sheltering in place. It hopes to expand nationwide this year by helping train other nonprofits in its methods.
• EveryoneOn helps low-income people find low-cost, refurbished computers and tablets through companies such as PCs for People and PlanITROI. Its service also points out low-cost internet options.
• Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) partnered with New York City officials and a company in the private sector to provide tablets, internet and training to older residents in city-subsidized housing and hopes to replicate that program elsewhere as financing allows. Its Senior Planet program teaches technology to all ages nationwide in free online classes, concentrating on adults 60 years and older. And it is launching an Aging Connected service to help people find low-cost internet.
• PCs for People sells refurbished desktop and laptop computers to people enrolled in an income-based government assistance program or making below 200 percent of the poverty level. It also sells mobile Wi-Fi hot spots, for a one-time fee, with T-Mobile 4G LTE service starting at $15 a month.
• Tech Goes Home partners with other organizations in the Boston area to help older adults and those younger learn digital skills. It also has helped organizations in other cities, including Chattanooga, Tennessee, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and New Orleans, and wants to expand that outreach. All of its courses are online during the pandemic. After completing 15 hours of instruction, participants are eligible to buy a new Chromebook for $50 — priority goes to those without technology, people who are jobless or underemployed, immigrants and people with disabilities — and can get help to sign up for low-cost internet.
Low-cost internet for all ages
Providers in many areas have low-cost plans with speeds high enough to stream videos if you have limited income or participate in certain government programs. But they don't always publicize the offers.
If you haven't enrolled in the federal Lifeline program to help lower the monthly cost of phone or internet service, look there first because some companies require participation in it. If you live on Native American lands, you could receive an additional discount through the Tribal Link Up program. Among the larger broadband providers:
• Access from AT&T. Available to people who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in parts of 21 states where AT&T provides internet service; $10 a month or less for as fast as 25 megabits per second speed (Mbps).
• Altice Advantage Internet. Available to adults age 65 and older who qualify for Supplemental Security Income or veterans who receive state or federal public assistance who live in parts of the four states where Optimum by Altice or the 19 states where Suddenlink Communications provides service; $14.99 plus taxes and installation for speeds of up to 30 Mbps.
• CenturyLink Lifeline. Discounts on regularly priced service are available to participants of the federal Lifeline communications services program in the parts of 34 states that CenturyLink serves. The minimum speed to qualify for a discount of up to $9.25 a month is 25 Mbps.
• Connect2Compete by Cox. Available to households with at least one K-12 student and that participate in a qualifying government assistance program in the parts of 19 states where Cox provides internet service; $9.95 a month for speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Otherwise, the company's least expensive internet is $29.99 for up to 10 Mbps.
• Connect2Compete by Mediacom. Available to households with at least one K-12 student who qualifies for free or reduced-price school lunches in the parts of 22 states where Mediacom provides internet service; $9.95 a month for speeds up to 25 Mbps.
• Frontier Fundamental Internet. Available to California households who participate in one of four government programs for $19.99 a month. Internet speeds vary by area served. A second program with varying speeds, Frontier Affordable Broadband, is available to California LifeLine landline telephone customers for as low as $17.65 a month bundled with phone service. Both sets of applicants are eligible for a free Chromebook while supplies last. Frontier, which has internet service in parts of 25 states, extends internet discounts to those who qualify for their state's Lifeline phone service.
• Google Fiber. Google is rolling out free gigabit internet, speeds of up to 1,000 Mpbs, to families who live in public and affordable housing complexes in the 19 cities where the company has strung fiber optic lines. Google has been concentrating on apartment complexes and high-density neighborhoods in its Fiber program.
• Human-I-T Connect. Partners with internet providers in the Los Angeles area to find service starting at $15 a month for qualified low-income households. The nonprofit also works with other charities in the area to distribute devices that it has refurbished and provide training.
• Internet Essentials from Comcast. Available to people who qualify for programs including Medicaid, low-income home energy assistance, public housing, tribal assistance or Veterans Affairs pensions in parts of 40 states where Comcast provides internet service; $9.95 a month for 25 Mbps.
• Spectrum Internet Assist. Available to adults 65 and older who are part of the Supplemental Security Income program in the parts of 42 states where Charter Spectrum offers service. No price is listed on its website. Speeds are up to 30 Mbps.
• Verizon Lifeline. Available to those who qualify for the federal Lifeline program in the parts of 10 states where Verizon Fios offers service. It provides a $20 discount on Verizon's usual internet service prices, $19.99 plus taxes and equipment charges for 200 Mbps.