Iowa is the 34th best connected state and a remarkable 347 broadband providers do business in the state. To repeat, a remarkable 347 broadband providers in a relatively small state. Yet there are 10,000 people in Iowa with no access to broadband. No cable. No DSL. No fixed wireless. No mobile internet. Nothing.
Of the 3.1 million Iowans, 527,000 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). 142,000 residents of the state a stuck with low data caps on their home internet connection because they have no choice but to do business with fixed wireless or mobile broadband providers.
The state’s poverty statistics are better than the national averages, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to eliminate the problem. The overall poverty rate is 12.7%. The child poverty rate is 16%. The senior poverty rate is 9%. And the extreme poverty rate is far too high at 5.7%.
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 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.
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.
Where: Ohio, New Jersey, Nevada, Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa and California
Nexus and Connect Ohio investigated the impact of various subsidies and digital literacy on rates of broadband adoption. Subscribers were given $15, $20 or zero subsidies (depending on their home zip codes) on a variety of plans differentiated by usage limits. Nexus expected the results to demonstrate (1) subscribers’ willingness to pay for data limit increases and (2) to determine if subscribers were satisfied with the choices they made.
Where: Iowa and New Mexico
Contact: 703-351-2000 (national headquarters located in Arlington, Virginia)
NTCA (the National Rural Broadband Association), Alpine Communications, Leaco Rural Telephone and Connected Nation looked into the effectiveness of various subsidies by offering wireline broadband plans in one state with a flat subsidy amount of $25 per month for all 12 months, and offering similar plans in another state with subsidies of $40 per month for the first quarter, $30 in the second quarter, $20 in the third quarter, and $10 in the fourth quarter.
Municipal Broadband Networks
Wikipedia defines a Municipal Broadband Network (often called Community 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.”
Here are the residential providers in Iowa:
Provider: Algona Municipal Utilities
Services Provided: Video, Data, Voice
Area Served: Algona
AMU High Speed Internet offers “always-on” connectivity and five speeds to fit anyone’s lifestyle: 1 Mbps, 7 Mbps, 15 Mbps, 30 Mbps, and 50 Mbps.
Provider: Bellevue Municipal Utilities
Services Provided: Voice, Data, Video
Area Served: Bellevue
Bellevue, which sits along the western bank of the Mississippi River just south of Dubuque, built a fiber optic network and began offering services back in the 1990s to 1,200 residences of the town.
Provider: Cedar Falls Utilities
Services Provided: Data, Smart Grid
Area Served: Cedar Falls
CFU provides high-speed or basic internet services for residents within the city limits of Cedar Falls and many customer in our rural electric area. Service is delivered through a new communications network, offering a fiber optic connection to every home and business. Some rural residents receive service through a land-based wireless network.
Provider: Harlan Municipal Utilities
Services Provided: Data, Video, Voice
Area Served: Harlan
At the end of 2012, portions of Harlan were served by a direct fiber to the premise (FTTX) connection. Over time, the rest of the town will be converted. Some IP services, like remote thermostat control, smart appliances and accessing whole home security systems, are available now.
Provider: Independence Light and Power Telecommunications
Services Offered: Data, Video, Voice
Area Served: Independence
In the year 2000, the Independence Light & Power utility added telecommunications to its services, including a locally owned cable television system and high-speed data network. Service is available to businesses and residences within the Independence service area.
Provider: Indianola Municipal Utilities
Services Offered: Data, Voice, Video
Area Served: Indianola
Indianola Municipal Utilities owns an expanding network that delivers residential phone, Internet and video services. They are now available to most customers in the East Side Electric Underground Conversion area. IMU offers residential customers flexible bundling options to meet your specific needs.
Provider: Lenox Municipal Utilities
Services Offered: Voice, Data, Video
Area Served: Lenox
Lenox Municipal Utilities offers high speed fiber optic technology which allows speeds to meet every user’s needs. The utility’s website says, “Be it personal, gaming, or business, we have the speed you want up to 15 mbps up and down.”
Provider: Spencer Municipal Utilities
Services Offered: Voice, Data, Video, Smart Grid
Area Served: Spencer
In addition to offering high speed (up to 100 Mbps) broadband service, SMU provides its customers with free wifi wireless access in several locations around the community.