Low-income families face the same issues the luckier among us do when it comes to getting broadband: few options and fewer still that are affordable. Comcast, though simultaneously the source of many of these issues, has a good program for anyone facing financial hardship, and several new groups now qualify for $10 connectivity.
The “Internet Essentials” program has for several years now offered cheap internet to the economically disadvantaged and other groups who need a helping hand. It has connected some two million households so far and may connect plenty more under the new, expanded eligibility options the company just announced.
Essentially if you’re the beneficiary of any of a bunch of financial aid programs from the government, or are disabled, or a low-income household, you’re eligible. You can apply here for free.
Previously you were eligible under a dozen or so of those programs, but today Comcast announced that the following groups are newly able to take advantage of the program:
- Persons with disabilities
- Seniors on Medicaid
- All low-income adults (defined as 38% above the poverty line in your area)
That last one probably makes a lot of people eligible who might not have participated in one of the other programs, like the National School Lunch Program or Section 8 housing. If you’re low income, get on in there.
In case you’re not quite sure of your exact income, you’re also welcome if you take part in any of the following assistance programs:
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP, free and reduced-price lunch)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps)
- HUD housing assistance and Section 8
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare)
- Supplemental Security Income (social security)
- Head Start or Early Head Start
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Tribal assistance (TTANF and FDPIR)
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- VA pension
Any of these should qualify you for $10 (plus applicable taxes and fees — probably a couple bucks) broadband. You also can apply for a $150 computer, but I’m not sure I’d recommend whatever they’re selling. Cheap laptops are pretty easy to find, so ask around before you go in on Comcast’s house brand.
Just to make sure expectations are in line with reality here, this is a 5-megabit connection, meaning it doesn’t really even qualify as “broadband” under current definitions. But you’ll be able to stream music, play games, do most web stuff and watch YouTube perfectly fine. Just be ready to buffer a bit if you want to watch Netflix in HD. There’s also a 1-terabyte data cap, so 4K all day probably isn’t a good idea.
Good on Comcast for offering this (and rare it is the company deserves kudos). It’s more comprehensive than other low-income connection options from AT&T, Cox and so on, though if they’re the monopoly in your area, you might not have a choice. At least the programs exist — there’s a pretty good list here. Be sure to ask your provider if they have one before you decide to pay full price.