Pennsylvania is the 13th most connected state and has more than 100 broadband providers. Nevertheless, there are still 49,000 people in the state with no access to broadband. No cable. No DSL. No fixed wireless. No mobile internet. Nothing.
Of the 12.8 million Pennsylvanians, 452,000 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). Another 132,000 are stuck with low data caps as a result of being dependent on fixed wireless or mobile broadband.
Pennsylvania’s overall poverty rate is 13.7%. Its child poverty rate is a very high 20%. Its senior poverty rate is 11%. And its extreme poverty rate is 6.1%. So a lot of work has to be done to close the digital divide between the state’s richest citizens and poorest citizens.
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.
- Spectrum Internet Assist
- Comcast’s Internet Essentials
- Frontier Communications
- Cablevision Economy Internet
- 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
- 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, none of the FCC’s Lifeline Broadband Pilot Programs were conducted in Pennsylvania.
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 restricted or even outlawed municipal broadband systems. Pennsylvania is one of those states that has placed such strict restrictions that it becomes virtually impossible for a municipality to offer these services. According to arstechnica.com, Pennsylvania “municipalities cannot sell broadband services if a ‘local telephone company’ already provides broadband, even if the local telephone company charges outrageously high prices or offers poor quality service.”
Nevertheless, one municipality has managed to navigate the serpentine regulations:
Provider: Hometown Utilicom
Services Offered: Voice, Data, Video, Smart Grid
Area Served: Kutztown
Home Net’s fiber-optic technology offers fast and consistent Internet speeds to 2,000 customes in the Kutztown, Pennsylvania area.