There are 70,000 people in Alabama with no access to broadband. No cable. No DSL. No fixed wireless. No mobile internet. Nothing.
There are also 482,000 people in Alabama who have access to neither cable nor DSL broadband.
Of the 4.82 million Alabamans, 969,000 have access to only one wired provider. Of course, that means ISP (internet service provider) can old them hostage, raise rates, or alter the terms and conditions of their contract. Because those people have no competitive options).
One out of six Alabamans, and one out of four children, live in poverty, making Alabama the sixth poorest state in the US. Alabama is also home to the second largest income gap in the country. And, unfortunately, one million residents of the state are on Food Stamps.
But fear not, because CheapInternet.com knows a number of ways you can get high-speed broadband internet access at prices far cheaper than you ever imagined possible.
Low-income Internet Service Options
Here is the internet’s most complete list of companies and organizations that offer low-income Americans low-cost, high-speed internet access. And when we say low-cost, we’re talking about plans whose prices range from free to $14.95 per month for broadband internet. Different companies offer different prices, different types of Internet (i.e., cable, DSL or mobile), and different ways to qualify, so check them all out to see which low-income program is right for you. Click on any of the programs below to see full details on what they offer.
- Access from AT&T
- Spectrum Internet Assist
- Comcast’s Internet Essentials
- BrightHouse Networks
- PC’s for People
- Coming soon: Lifeline Broadband
Other Low-Cost Internet Options:
What if you want to sign up for a cheap internet plan, but don’t qualify under the rules of the plans shown above? Or what if none of those plans are offered in your area? Luck may still be on your side, because there are other low-cost plans available for you if you know where to look. And at CheapInternet.com, we know where to look. Here’s a brief review of other low-cost options that may be available in your area.
- 4G Community
- FreedomPop Mobile Internet
- FreedomPop Home Internet
- NetZero DSL
- NetZero 4G Mobile Broadband
Lifeline Broadband Pilot Programs
The Lifeline Assistance program, which offers free government cell phones to low-income Americans, has helped millions of needy Americans. The program has been so successful that the Federal Communications Commission decided to investigate the possibility of creating a similar program called Lifeline Internet or Lifeline Broadband.
Fourteen cable companies and service organizations were selected by the FCC to test pilot programs in various regions around the country. The pilot programs looked into the impact of various pricing plans, discounts, and equipment.
We expect the FCC to announce the results of the pilot programs and perhaps even announce the introduction of an official Lifeline Broadband (or Lifeline Internet) program before the end of 2014. Although you can no longer sign up nor participate in these programs, you may be interested in seeing what the future of free internet may look like in your state.
Who: Troy Cablevision
Troy Cablevision, in partnership with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and ICF International, tested the impact of different subsidies on broadband adoption rates. The company offered $14 off wireline broadband plans within two Alabama counties and offered a $24 discount off the same plans in two other Alabama counties.
Municipal Broadband Networks
Wikipedia defines a Municipal Broadband Network like this: “Municipal broadband deployments are broadband Internet access services provided either fully or partially by local governments. Common connection technologies include unlicensed wireless (Wi-Fi, wireless mesh networks), licensed wireless (such as WiMAX), and fiber-optic. Although many cities previously deployed Wi-Fi based solutions, municipal fiber-to-the-home networks are becoming more prominent because of increased demand for modern audio and video applications.”
According to ArsTechnica.com, muni networks are restricted by law in Alabama. The website says, “Municipal communications services must be self-sustaining, ‘thus impairing bundling and other common industry marketing practices.’ Municipalities cannot use ‘local taxes or other funds to pay for the start-up expenses that any capital-intensive project must pay until the project is constructed and revenues become sufficient to cover ongoing expenses and debt service.”
With those restrictions in mind, here are the Alabama municipalities that have managed to build muni broadband networks for their residents despite daunting legal hurdles:
Provider: Opelika Power Service
Services Offered: Data, Smart Grid, Video, Voice
Area Served: Opelika
Opelika is first city in Alabama to deploy a 100% fiber network that offers GIG internet speeds. This network is available to every home and every business in Opelika.
Provider: Scottsboro Electric Power Board
Services Offered: Data, Smart Grid
Area Served: Scottsboro
Scottsboro Electric Power Board serves 16,000 residents in Scottsboro, one hour southwest of Chattanooga. SEPB provides fiber optic to service areas, or nodes, but it runs the fiber to the node only when it is requested by customers.
Provider: Sylacauga Utilities Board
Services Offered: Data
Area Served: Sylacauga
The Sylacauga Utilities Board serves over 12,000 customers in Sylacauga and the surrounding area, about 45 miles southeast of Birmingham.