Your selection of really cheap internet options is about to get broader. Much broader. Because the Lifeline Broadband Program will begin delivering free or very heavily-discounted internet access to millions of needy Americans beginning December 1, 2016.
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Lifeline Broadband is an expansion of the wildly successful Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program. The expanded program will deliver the kind of high-speed internet service America’s neediest citizens so desperately need in this digital age PLUS more minutes, more texts, more data, and smarter phones to customers of the free government cell phone program. In fact, it would not be inaccurate to say that the entire emphasis of the Lifeline program is being changed from free government cell phones to inexpensive Internet service.
Lifeline Broadband is here
The Federal Communications Commission knows that cell phones alone can’t provide all the digital help people need in modern America. What the financially-strapped in this country need most is high-speed broadband — to help them search for jobs, find services and especially to help their kids do well in school.
Here’s what the FCC is requiring service providers to offer customers of the new Lifeline Broadband program:
You’ll be able to get Lifeline Broadband in two flavors: fixed broadband (cable or DSL) or mobile (on your phone or tablet). You’ll be able to choose which is more important to you: a fixed high-speed broadband connection in your home, or free smartphone service with unlimited minutes that comes with a modest amount of internet usage.
Fixed Lifeline Broadband: Now there’s an entirely new category of Lifeline provider called the Lifeline Broadband Provider. Lifeline Service Providers who accept the FCC’s Lifeline subsidy are required to provide 150GB of data usage per month. (In effect, that translates to virtually unlimited usage for the average user). You’ll also receive 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds (roughly equivalent to the average low-priced paid plan available today).
Mobile Lifeline Broadband: Some free government cell phone companies already offer some data with their Lifeline Assistance plans, but they primarily offer voice and texting. As of December 1, 2016, free government cell phone service providers must include at least 500 MB of Internet data usage per month. That minimum will increase to 2 GB per month by the end of 2018. Cell phone plans have also been boosted. As of December 1, all free government cell phone service providers will be required to offer unlimited voice plans. (Sorry, texters, but the FCC is not yet requiring service providers to provide unlimited texts. But we wouldn’t be at all surprised if that get included the next time the FCC reviews the program.)
Do you qualify for Lifeline Broadband?
Eligibility guidelines for Lifeline Internet will be identical to those for the Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program. In other words, there are more ways to qualify. A lot more, in fact. Here are the two ways you can qualify:
- You qualify if you currently participate in Food stamps Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP), Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or the Veterans Pension and Survivor’s Benefit program. In addition, those on tribal lands can qualify if they are participate in Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance (BIA), Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), Tribal Head Start (only those households meeting its income qualifying standard) or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
- You qualify if your household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. (More good news: Residents of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas qualify with household incomes all the way up to 150% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.)
How much will Lifeline Internet cost?
No prices nor participating companies have yet been announced. But here’s what we anticipate prices will look like:
Free: A few new Lifeline Broadband Providers will figure out a way to offer high-speed broadband service for free (in other words, the $9.25 subsidy they receive per account per month will be their only source of revenue). We’re already seeing an increasing number of free government cell phone companies begin to offer free data plans to go along with their free minutes and texts.
Really inexpensive: Other enterprising entrepreneurs will work out a way to offer high-speed internet service at greatly reduced monthly rates similar to current programs such as Comcast’s Internet Essentials or PCs for People that deliver high-speed Internet to low-income consumers a mere $9.95 per month.
Inexpensive bundles: A few companies (including a few of those start-ups created just to serve this new market plus a few creative free government cell phone companies) will work out a way to bundle cell phones and broadband and make it available at crazy low prices.
Discounted: Large, entrenched Internet service providers (names like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, for example) will merely discount their standard Internet plans by $9.25 per month. (In other words, they will do what the bare minimum required of them by the new edicts and nothing more.)
CheapInternet.com will be the first to bring you more news about the Lifeline Broadband program. When prices are revealed, you’ll read them here first. When new companies spring to life, we’ll tell you about them ASAP. So keep checking back here at CheapInternet.com for more news. We will update this article as soon as prices are revealed.
Easier to apply, faster to get approved
The FCC created the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD) as a weapon to crack down on fraud, waste and abuse in the Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program. That same program is now being expanded to include Lifeline Broadband service, making the NLAD even more important.
When you sign up for a Lifeline Broadband, your name will immediately be checked against the database to make sure you aren’t already enrolled for a subsidized account. Wait time will be substantially decreased because the check will be performed in real-time. (Of course, that also means that you can be denied in real time if you’re trying to sign up for a fraudulent second Lifeline account.)
Where is Lifeline Broadband available?
That’s the question of the day. And no one yet knows the answer. However, we expect announcements from Lifeline Broadband companies any day now. Service is scheduled to begin December 1, so companies should begin revealing their plans very soon.
Come back to this page as often as you can, because we’ll give you a complete list of Lifeline Broadband availabilities as soon as the information is available.
Don’t forget your other cheap Internet options
In addition to the new Lifeline Broadband, a few more great low-income Internet plans are available and you should check them out.
Each of these programs is a little different than all the others (CLICK HERE to see them all). You’ll find different ways to qualify, and availability in just some regions of the country. But with a little luck, one or more of them may be available for you.
Check back frequently, because we’ll continue to update this exciting news for low-income Americans. In fact, subscribe to our news updates to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Recent Articles we’ve published on Lifeline Broadband
Free Government Internet Phones - In the noble quest to bridge the digital divide and get all Americans online, the FCC will be soon expanding the Lifeline program to provide internet-enabled smartphones that come with a mobile internet