The Internet, what used to be a luxury that you could easily live without, has quickly evolved into a necessity with so much of the world’s economy relying on it? Businesses are developing models that completely revolve around online operations. Students are constantly surfing the web to do their academic research. Some educational institutions are even completely conducting their classes online, not to mention the heavy reliance on our communication modes on the internet through social media. As a result, internet access has quickly become expensive due to increased demand. Therefore, if you are a heavy data user, you could be looking for how to get free wifi at home with a router.
There are various ways to access free internet at home or get access to highly affordable data plans. First on the list is Everyoneon.org, a government program that exists explicitly to provide free internet to low-income households and schools to help students from low-income families stay connected while at home. However, they only offer free internet to those eligible to be beneficiaries of the program. Still, they do provide access to affordable data plans to homes that are not eligible. The application process to be a beneficiary of the program is simple. You can visit Everyoneon.org for further details.
You can also get affordable internet at home by using a mobile hotspot unlimited plan from internet providers that offer affordable packages for the same such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. This works through mobile tethering, a feature in smartphones that allows you to use your mobile data to send out internet signals to devices in your house within range. There are various plans offered by different internet providers that you can choose from according to your preference and budget.
Who qualifies for a free router?
As mentioned earlier, some internet providers such as AT&T are in collaboration with the government to provide free internet services to low-income households. They provide free connectivity devices such as routers and cell phones with no installation fee no deposit, and no commission fees, along with subsidized data plans.
To benefit from the program, at least one person in the home must be eligible for the program. The general checks used for eligibility include:
i) Income Eligibility
To qualify for a free router based on income, your income should be 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or lower. The guidelines differ by household size and location, but the federal poverty guideline is generally an annual income of around $34,000 for a household with four members.
ii) Participation in federal assistance programs
You may qualify for a free router and free internet access if you or a member of your household participates in any federal assistance program such as Federal Public Housing Assistance and Medicaid, among others.
Best free internet providers in the US
Internet providers that offer free or affordable data plans have varying packages in terms of the internet speeds offered, who has access to the plans, and the cost. The following are some of the best internet providers for those of us in need of free internet:
Through the Access Program, AT&T offers affordable internet access at speeds of up to 10Mbps at only five to ten dollars per month. The program is available to eligible low-income homes with at least one member who participates in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Beneficiaries of the program receive the maximum available internet speeds in their location, including 150GB to 1TB data allowance according to available internet speeds. AT&T also provides free connectivity devices to beneficiaries of the program without installation fees, deposits, or commitment fees.
Altice Optimum and Altice Suddenlink offer affordable internet access through the Altice Advantage Internet program. This program provides its beneficiary internet speeds of up to 30Mbps. Eligible beneficiaries include new Altice clients who have a child, who are a recipient of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), seniors who qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or veterans receiving public assistance. The plan is affordable as it goes for only $14.99 per month, with the first sixty days being completely free.
COX collaborates with the federal government to provide affordable internet access through the Connect2Compete program. It offers high-speed internet of up to 50Mbps at only $9.95/month to the program’s beneficiaries.
The program’s beneficiaries include new COX clients who have a minimum of one student who is between kindergarten and 12th grade within the household who participates or qualifies for public assistance federal programs.
Mediacom also collaborates with the federal government to provide affordable internet access to low-income homes. It does so through the Connect2Connect Program. Mediacom offers internet speeds of up to 25Mbps and a Wi-Fi modem to its beneficiaries at $9.95/month.
The program’s beneficiaries include new Mediacom clients with a minimum of one student between kindergarten and 12th grade within the household who qualifies for or participates in the National School Lunch Program.
5) Comcast Xfinity
Comcast Xfinity offers affordable internet at $9.95/month, with the first sixty days completely free if the program’s application is done before June 30, 2021. It does so through the Internet Essentials Program.
It offers all new customers eligible for federal assistance programs, including students, elderly citizens, and low-income households. The Internet Essentials package offers internet speeds of up to 25Mbps.
As part of the Internet Essentials program, Comcast Xfinity also offers low-cost laptops and computers with a ninety-day warranty and essential office and security packages.
Cable vs Fibre-optics, which is better?
When choosing your internet provider and data plan, it is important to consider whether you will be receiving cable internet or fiber-optic internet. But which of the two is better suited for you?
First, let me tell you the difference. Cable internet is the internet delivered to your home via copper coaxial cables. In contrast, fiber internet comes to your house through very thin strands of glass or plastic called optical fibers held in an inwardly reflective cladding.
Fibre internet is generally faster than cable internet with speeds of up to 200`0Mbps while cable internet only goes up to 1000Mbps. Fibre internet is significantly less prone to congestion and has much faster upload speeds than cable internet.
However, fiber internet is a lot more expensive, costing between $65-$300/month than cable internet, which costs $30-$100/month. Fibre internet is far less accessible than cable internet as it has limited availability in the US. Cable internet also has a wider range of data plans as opposed to fiber internet.
Providers of cable internet include:
- Wow Internet
- Spectrum Internet
- COX Internet
Providers of fiber internet include:
- CenturyLink Fibre Internet
- AT&T Fibre Internet
- Google Fibre
- Verizon Fios Connection
- Frontier Simply Fios
Once you understand the pros and cons of cable and fiber internet, it becomes a bit easier to decide which of the two is more suitable. Just ask yourself what you really need and how much you have at your disposal to spend on internet access. If you do not have any financial constraints and need breakneck internet speeds, then fiber internet is the way to go, so long as it is available in your area.
However, if you generally do not require extremely fast internet, whether or not you have financial limitations, the cable would be the wiser choice as it is generally sufficient. Another point of consideration would be the number of people that are meant to be serviced by the same internet access point.
As mentioned earlier, cable internet is prone to congestion hence fiber internet would be suitable for households with multiple people accessing the internet simultaneously. With the internet becoming such an essential part of our daily lives, internet access should be made available to everyone, including low-income homes. Free WiFi access is an important stride made to achieve that, making the internet affordable or completely free to eligible homes.
Once you have purchased your own router or have been availed with a free one, if eligible, the path to affordable internet is clear. The application process to be a beneficiary of the many available programs that facilitate the same is simple and direct, hence, if you feel like you would benefit from the programs, this is your go-ahead.
The continuous technological advancements in the telecommunication sector broaden our choices in regard to the devices available to us and the available internet speeds. That being said, continue to make personalized choices on what would serve you best, and as John T. Chambers said “ The two equalizers in life: the internet and education,” go ahead and use both to your advantage.