A reader recently alerted us to PCs for People, an exciting new cheap Internet plan for low-income Americans. We investigated and we don’t just like what we found, we love it.
It’s fast. It’s cheap. And it’s available to a lot more low-income people than any other program. We think you’ll love it as much as we do.
Instead of being severely geographically-limited like Internet Basics or Internet Essentials, PCs for People is available virtually nationwide (anywhere the Sprint network is available).
Instead of being a program sponsored by huge corporations that really don’t want to devote significant resources to it, cheap Internet for low-income Americans is the raison d’être behind PCs for People.
Instead of offering severely limiting your internet speed and monthly usage, PCS for People offers unlimited usage and truly blazing fast speeds. For example, Comcast’s Internet Essentials just doubled its speed to 10 Mbps, but PCs for People offers average 4G LTE download speeds are between 6-8 Mbps, with peak speeds of 25 Mbps on Sprint 4G LTE and over 100 Mbps on Sprint LTE Plus*
And finally, instead of placing strict limits on who’s eligible, PCs for People has broadened its eligibility requirements to make low-cost computers and high-speed Internet available to far more low-income Americans. For example, Internet Essentials is available only to families with at least one student who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program, but PCs for People is available to anyone below 200% of federal poverty guidelines or anyone currently enrolled in a long laundry list of government assistance programs.
In the words of CheapInternet.com‘s Chief Administrator, “This is a hell of a deal! Get it while you can.”
What’s the catch?
The PCs for People plan sounds so good — so extraordinarily good — that we thought there had to be a catch.
There is one, but it’s truly insignificant compared to what you get for your money. The catch? To get the price down to $10 per month, you are required to pay for one year up front. In our opinion, it’s well worth it. If putting together $120 is difficult, you should scrimp, save and borrow. That’s how good this program sounds.
We recently conducted an email interview with May Sorensen, PCs for People’s Director of Finance and Business Administration. We’re so impressed with the organization and its cheap Internet plan that we present the Q&A exactly as it occurred.
Interview with May Sorensen, PCs for People’s Director of Finance and Business Administration
Can you explain the basics to me? (Your website says you have individual and non-profit plans, but our audience is only interested in the individual plans.)
PCs for People offers unlimited mobile internet service on Sprint’s 4G LTE network for schools, nonprofits and low-income individuals who meet our eligibility requirements. Individuals interested in getting unlimited 4G LTE service must provide proof that they are at or below 200% of the Federal poverty level. The service is made available through Mobile Beacon on Sprint’s network.
To receive the service through PCs for People a recipient can go to one of our offices or order online though pcsrefurbished.com. For new client’s proof of eligibility, a Sprint 4G LTE modem ($74.95) and a prepaid Internet subscription are required. Prepaid subscriptions start at $10 per month and can be purchased in 3 month, 6 month and 12 month increments.
- 1 Month for $16
- 3 Months for $45
- 6 Months for $85
- 9 Months for $115
- 12 Months for $135
For more information please visit https://pcsrefurbished.com/about/internetFAQ.aspx.
Don’t take this the wrong way, because it’s meant as a huge compliment: How did a “mere” social worker manage to bring this effort to life when the big corporate efforts appear to be so inferior to what you appear to offer?
Andrew Elofson, a Blue Earth Count social worker, wanted to help a troubled youth. He saw that the teen had a talent for technology and wanted to steer him in the right direction. He took an old computer the county no longer needed and gave it to the teen. From this simple desire to help a teenager a new program was born. The program has evolved over the last 18 years years into a well established model that helps over 35,000 people join the digital world each year.
Casey Sorensen, who began as PCs for People volunteer while attending college, saw firsthand how this program could impact the lives of low-income individuals. After college Casey began a career as a technology consultant with Deloitte. After three years of meetings with CIOs and flights around the US, Casey wanted to do something different. He started thinking about his successful career and college degree and what lead him to success. He pinpointed it a moment when he was nine and was fortunate enough to get a home computer and a DOS for Dummies book. Casey was instantly hooked and decided he wanted to pursue a career in IT from that day forward.
In 2008 Casey decided to leave Deloitte and incorporate PCs for People, so every kid could have the opportunity to own a home computer and the tools to pursue their goals. At the time, it was thought that technology could help improve the lives of low-income families by giving them a tool for education and communication but in today’s world it is a requirement for livelihood. The ideas and business model of PCs for People is simple and quite frankly we are surprised at how unique our organization is.
Since 2008 PCs for People has distributed computers to over 90,000 individuals, many of these being school-age children. For most individuals it is their first ever home computer. A key reason for PCs for People’s success is the skills Casey is able to bring to PCs for People. Casey spent his time with Deloitte automating processes for fortune 500 organizations. He has been able to leverage this experience to create a one-of-a-kind, efficient, automated machine to distribute computers and internet at unmatched prices.
Mobile, cable or DSL? If mobile, what network do you run on. And, 3G or LTE or…?
The service is mobile 4G LTE on Sprint’s network. Many of the client we provide service to have multiple housing arrangements over the course of a year. Having a mobile internet service and a laptop allow the families and individuals we service to take their connection to the world with them wherever the road of life may lead (assuming there are Sprint towers).
If mobile, do your customers get a hotspot device? If so do they pay for it and how much?
Each customer gets a 4G LTE Sprint mobile hotspot. Currently the Netgear Fuse, Novatel Mifi 500 and Franklin Wireless R850 are offered. Each modem is capable of supporting 10 wireless devices, 1 wired (via USB), has a 10 hour battery, download speed tests between 12-40Mbps and are $74.95 on our sales site.
Prepaid subscriptions start at $10 per month and can be purchased in 3 month, 6 month and 12 month increments.
- 1 Months for $16
- 3 Months for $45
- 6 Months for $85
- 9 Months for $115
- 12 Months for $135
To continue using the service after the initial subscription a client will need to renew. Renewal pricing is at the same low rates with the same plans available.
“From the sales site: To participate in this program and receive the low cost pricing for 4G LTE service; PCs for People must verify you meet the stated eligibility requirements. As a new client, you will need to upload proof to complete registration. When renewing, if you buy a plan that stretches past 1 year since you have provided PCs for People proof of eligibility, you will need to again provide required documentation (prior to renewing) to establish you are still eligible to receive Mobile Beacon’s service through this program.”
If mobile, is a hotspot required or can it run on a smartphone on its own?
Unfortunately, Mobile Beacon’s activation process with Sprint does not currently allow users to supply their own device. We have asked that our users be allowed to purchase or utilize existing devices several times and we will provide updates if the current policy changes.
What’s the process to sign up when the customer isn’t located in Minnesota?
Customers in Colorado or Minnesota can bring their proof of eligibility and a picture ID to their closest office. Clients anywhere across the US and Puerto Rico can register online or over the phone.
Online orders – pcsrefurbished.com
- Have your proof of eligibility and credit card ready
- Choose your plan and add it to your cart
- Register and upload your proof of eligibility (as an image file)
- Checkout online with your credit card
The uploaded proof of eligibility is validated by PCs for People prior to accepting payment and shipping a new device. The prepaid time on the device will start when the device is received by the client.
Phone or Mail Orders
Customers may order via phone by calling 651-354-2552. Prior to calling PCs for People must receive proof of eligibility via:
- Upload from an online customer account
- Emailed to email@example.com
- Mailed with a phone number and name to PCs for People at 1481 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104
Once an order is accepted and payment is received it is shipped by PCs for People and will arrive in 3-7 business days.
Speaking of Minnesota, why Minnesota and Colorado?
The county program started in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. Over the past 18 years PCs for People has refined and perfected the model and expanded to several offices across the state. In late 2014 PCs for People was conducting a live demonstration of custom automated systems that allow volunteers and people with disabilities to efficiently refurbish computers. A representative from Blue Star Recyclers, a Colorado non-profit, asked if people on the autism spectrum could run the systems PCs for People had developed. The answer was yes and a new partnership was born.
PCs for People is working on expanding the program nationwide and currently serves a nationwide need via an online offering at pcsrefurbished.com.
Do you have a limit on the number of customers you can sign up? From what I’ve read, it looks like you may be limited by the number of computers that are donated. Is that correct? We average about 8000 page views per day and I fear that you may get overwhelmed if we hype you too much. (I’m sure there are worse problems to have.)
Meeting the community need is our greatest challenge and the reason why our program has grown. When we opened in 2008 in St. Paul, MN, PCs for People had 400 computers. It was thought this would be sufficient to meet the first year’s demand. The demand for low cost technology was grossly underestimated. In two months, not only were the 400 computers gone but there was a 1,200 family waiting list. With zero marketing 1,600 households had come to PCs for People’s office in less than 2 months.
PCs for People had to step back and figure out how to meet this remarkable community need. The first step was finding thousands of computers. PCs for People decided to create a free service offering for businesses that are upgrading their IT assets. PCs for People was certified for data wiping, purchased a warehouse, truck and hired a warehouse staff. Now instead of asking for donations of computers we are able to offer pickup, NAID certified data wiping and recycling to businesses at no charge. We have worked with 400 businesses since 2008 offering these services and eliminated the waiting list (permanently) in 2010.
Our next challenge is meeting the needs on a much larger national level. We have spent the last 8 years developing a model to for this challenge and are eager to impact families across the US.
A recipient can get internet only, computer supply does not affect internet availability. For internet, we will not be able to distribute unlimited $10 per month LTE on Sprint’s network indefinitely. Due to limited bandwidth, selling indefinitely could degrade the service of Sprint’s direct customers. We do not currently know when this offer will be stopped, so we are encouraging eligible recipients to register as soon as they can.
Why are you seemingly the only company that has this kind of deal? Your qualification requirements are so much more generous than Internet Essentials and Internet Basics. Those two programs have the almost unlimited resources of huge corporations behind them. How can PCs For People offer better, faster service to a wider range of people?
Many low cost intent programs serve a great need, but are targeted at a narrow subset of the population. PCs for People understands a wider range of people need help getting computers and internet so they can realize the life changing benefits that come with being part of the digital economy. Beyond that, PCs for People is a non-profit structured to operate on small margins and we’re serving the people that come to our program is the priority versus solely generating profits.
I assume part of the answer to the previous question is that you’re a non-profit, but do you get any subsidies from any government programs?
We are not currently getting any subsidies from the government.
The only negative I see for the low-income readers of our site is that they have to come up with $100-200 upfront for your service. Most of our readers would have a real problem coming up with that kind of upfront payment. How do you address that?
On average the clients we work with are a family of 3 with an annual income of $12,300 per year. Many clients struggle to meet the bare necessities of life and have little funds to dedicate to a home internet connection. We discussed multiple models before we decided on the current offering. Some low-cost programs have leased modems where the client pays extra ongoing monthly fees or need to return the modem if the service is disconnected. Unreturned modems result in extra charges and fees. We wanted to create a prepaid program where the client owns the device, pays as they go and there are no hidden fees or extra charges.
To achieve our mission of helping people join the digital world, we understand the starting cost is a barrier that we need to keep as low as possible. The modems we offer are $140 for a consumer to purchase directly from Sprint. We are subsidizing the modems to bring costs down to $74.95 which is below Sprint’s wholesale cost. In the future we hope a bring-your-own device policy is allowed and we are also pushing to manufacture our own line of reduced cost modems. Until we are allowed to do that we will continue to offer the best deal we can and what we feel is the best internet offering in the US.
Anything I didn’t ask about that you want to mention?
We are continuously looking to improve our service, develop new partnerships and bring technology to those who cannot afford it. Suggestions, feedback and opportunities to work together are always welcome.
PCs for People is about to get very popular
If you’re looking for low-cost, high-speed Internet, PCs for People is the program you’ve been waiting for.
It’s cheap. It’s fast. And no other low-cost plan is available to so many people.
What are you waiting for? Contact PCs for People as soon as possible.
PC’s for People website: http://www.pcsforpeople.com
PC’s for People Low-Cost Internet Page: http://www.pcsforpeople.com/recipients/low-cost-internet
Offices (CO and MN): http://www.pcsforpeople.com/contact
PCs for People Coverage via the Sprint Network
PCs for People operates on the Sprint network. It doesn’t offer the kind of coverage offered by the top three networks (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile), but it covers 95% of the people in the United States and probably includes everyone you need to call.
Here is a list of the major cities covered in each states (but keep in mind that the Sprint network also covers many smaller suburbs and towns surrounding each of these cities).
ALABAMA: Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa
ARKANSAS: Fort Smith, Little Rock
ARIZONA: Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe, Tucson, Yuma
CALIFORNIA: Anaheim, Antioch, Bakersfield, Bell Gardens, Berkeley, Burbank, Carlsbad, Chico, Chula Vista, Clovis, Compton, Concord, Corona, Costa Mesa, Daly City, Downey,AEl Cajon, El Monte, Elk Grove, Escondido, Fairfield, Fontana, Fremont, Fresno, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Glendale, Hawthorne, Hayward, Hemet, Hesperia, Huntington Beach, Inglewood, Irvine, La Puente, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Mission Viejo, Modesto, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Napa, North Hollywood, Norwalk, Oakland, Oceanside, Ontario, Orange, Oxnard, Pacoima, Palmdale, Palo Alto, Pasadena, Perris, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Redwood City, Rialto, Riverside, Roseville, Sacramento, Salinas, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San José, San Leandro, San Mateo, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Santa Rosa, Simi Valley, South Gate, Stockton, Sunnyvale, Sylmar, Temecula, Torrance, Tracy, Vacaville, Vallejo, Van Nuys, Ventura, Visalia, Vista, West Covina, Whittier
COLORADO: Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Colorado Springs, Denver, Englewood, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Greeley, Littleton, Longmont, Pueblo
CONNECTICUT: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Washington, DC
DELAWARE: Newark, Wilmington
FLORIDA: Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Bradenton, Cape Coral, Clearwater, Daytona Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Gainesville, Hialeah, Hollywood, Homestead, Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Lake Worth, Lakeland, Largo, Melbourne, Miami, Miami Beach, Naples, New Port Richey, Ocala, Orlando, Palm Bay, Panama City, Pensacola, Pompano Beach, Port Saint Lucie, Saint Augustine, Saint Petersburg, Sarasota, Spring Hill, Tallahassee, Tampa, Vero Beach, West Palm Beach, Winter Haven
GEORGIA: Acworth, Albany, Alpharetta, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Cumming, Decatur, Douglasville, Duluth, inesville, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Lithonia, Macon, Marietta, Mcdonough, Norcross, Roswell, Savannah, Stone Mountain, Valdosta
IOWA: Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines
IDAHO: Boise, Idaho Falls, Nampa
ILLINOIS: Aurora, Belleville, Chicago, Elgin, Joliet, Naperville, Peoria, Plainfield, Rockford, Springfield, Waukegan
INDIANA: Bloomington, Elkhart, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Lafayette, Muncie, South Bend, Terre Haute
KANSAS: Kansas City, Lawrence, Olathe, Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita
KENTUCKY: Bowling Green, Lexington, Louisville
LOUISIANA: Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Metairie, New Orleans, Shreveport
MASSACHUSETTS: Boston, MABrockton, Cambridge, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Quincy, Springfield, Worcester
MARYLAND: Annapolis, Baltimore, Bowie, Columbia, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Hagerstown, Hyattsville, Laurel, Rockville, Silver Spring
MICHIGAN: Ann Arbor,IBattle Creek, Canton, Clinton Township, Dearborn, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Livonia, Muskegon, Rochester, Saginaw, Sterling Heights, Warren, Ypsilanti
MINNESOTA: Duluth, Minneapolis, Rochester, Saint Paul
MISSOURI: Ballwin, Columbia, Florissant, Independence, Kansas City, Lees Summit, Saint Charles, Saint Louis, Springfield, Jackson
NORTH CAROLINA: Asheville, Cary, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Concord, Durham, Fayetteville, Gastonia, Greensboro, Greenville, High Point, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Wilmington, Winston Salem
NORTH DAKOTA: Fargo, Lincoln, Omaha
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Manchester
NEW JERSEY: Edison, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Lakewood, Newark, Paterson, Toms River, Trenton
NEW MEXICO: Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe
NEVADA: Henderson, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Reno, Sparks
NEW YORK: Albany, Astoria, Bronx, Brooklyn, Buffalo, NYCorona, Elmhurst, Flushing, Jamaica, New York, Ridgewood, Rochester, Schenectady, Staten Island, Syracuse, Woodside, Yonkers
OHIO: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Hamilton, Mansfield, Springfield, Toledo, Youngstown
OKLAHOMA: Broken Arrow, Edmond, Lawton, Norman, Oklahoma City, Tulsa
OREGON: Beaverton, Bend, Eugene, Hillsboro, Portland, Salem
PENNSYLVANIA: Allentown, Bethlehem, Erie, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton, West Chester, York
PUERTO RICO: Bayamon, Caguas, Carolina, Guaynabo, Mayaguez, Ponce, San Juan
RHODE ISLAND: Providence
SOUTH CAROLINA: Anderson, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Lexington, Myrtle Beach, Rock Hill, Spartanburg, Summerville
SOUTH DAKOTA: Sioux Falls
TENNESSEE: Chattanooga, Clarksville, Franklin, Johnson City, Knoxville, Memphis, Murfreesboro, Nashville
TEXAS: Abilene, Allen, Amarillo, Arlington, Austin, Baytown, Beaumont, Brownsville, Carrollton, College Station, Conroe, Corpus Christi, Cypress, Dallas, Denton, Edinburg, El Paso, Fort Worth, Frisco, Garland, Grand Prairie, Houston, Humble, Irving, Katy, Keller, Killeen, Laredo, Lewisville, Longview, Lubbock, McAllen, Mckinney, Mesquite, Midland, Mission, Missouri City, Odessa, Pasadena, Pearland, Plano, Richardson, Richmond, Round Rock, San Angelo, San Antonio, Spring, Sugar Land, Tyler, Waco, Wichita Falls
UTAH: Ogden, Provo, Salt Lake City, Sandy, West Jordan
VIRGINIA: Alexandria, Arlington, Charlottesville, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Hampton, Henrico, Lynchburg, Manassas, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke, Springfield, Virginia Beach, Woodbridge
WASHINGTON: Auburn, Bellevue, Bellingham, Bothell, Everett, Federal Way, Kennewick, Kent, Lynnwood, Olympia, Puyallup, Renton, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Yakima
WISCONSIN: Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Charleston