North Carolina is the 18th most connected state and has 90 broadband providers. So you might be tempted to think that everyone in the state has high speed internet. Unfortunately, there are 100,000 people in North Carolina with no access to broadband. No cable. No DSL. No fixed wireless. No mobile internet. Nothing.
Of the 9.9 million North Carolinians, 1.1 million 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). Another 229,000 are stuck with low data caps because their home internet connection is either fixed wireless or mobile broadband.
The state’s overall poverty rate is 17.9%. Its child poverty rate is a horrifying 26%. Its senior poverty rate is 14%. And its extreme poverty rate is 7.6%.
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.
- Access from AT&T
- Spectrum Internet Assist
- Comcast’s Internet Essentials
- Connect2Compete (EveryoneOn)
- 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.
Unfortunately, there are no FCC-authorized Lifeline Broadband Pilot Programs being conducted in North Carolina.
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.”
Some states have passed laws making it almost impossible for municipalities to establish their own broadband networks. North Carolina is one of those states. According to ArsTechnica.com, the state has “‘Numerous’ requirements (that) make it impractical to provide public communications services. ‘For example, public entities must comply with unspecified legal requirements, impute phantom costs into their rates, conduct a referendum before providing service, forego popular financing mechanisms, refrain from using typical industry pricing mechanisms, and make their commercially sensitive information available to their incumbent competitors.'”
Nevertheless, several communities have managed to get the job done and now offer these services to their residents:
Provider: Fibrant Communications
Services Offered: Data, Voice, Video
Area Served: Salisbury
Fibrant Communications is a community-owned public utility that proudly offers Salisbury, North Carolina residents lightning-fast fiber-optic internet speeds you might expect to find in big cities.
Services Offered: Voice, Data, Video
Area Served: Wilson
Greenlight is North Carolina’s only all fiber optic network. It provides faster internet access, as well as superior TV images and dependable phone service. As the community-owned utility says, “No more calls to who-knows-where. Greenlight is a service of the City of Wilson, NC.”
Services Offered: Data, Video, Voice
Area Served: Mooresville, Davidson and Cornelius
MI-Connection offers residents of the neighboring towns of Mooresville, Davidson and Cornelius “the fastest residential Broadband Internet in the market – hands down!” Of course, every broadband provider says the same thing, but we doubt that the residents of those three towns are complaining.