There are 105,000 people in Virginia with no access to broadband. No cable. No DSL. No fixed wireless. No mobile internet. Nothing.
Of the 8.3 million Virginians, 932,000 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). 291,000 Virginians depend on fixed wireless or mobile broadband as their only source of internet.
The poverty rates in Virginia are not good. According to the latest statistics, the overall poverty rate is 11.7%. The child poverty rate is 15%. The senior poverty rate is 13%. And the extreme poverty rate is 5.4%, nothing to be proud of.
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
- Cox Low-Income 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 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, none of the Lifeline Broadband Pilot Programs are being conducted in Virginia.
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.”
Virginia is one of the states that makes it difficult for municipalities to create broadband networks for their residents. According to arstechnica.com, “Municipal electric utilities can offer phone and Internet services ‘provided that they do not subsidize services, that they impute private-sector costs into their rates, that they do not charge rates lower than the incumbents, and that [they] comply with numerous procedural, financing, reporting and other requirements that do not apply to the private sector.’ Other requirements make it nearly impossible for municipalities to offer cable service, except in Bristol, which was grandfathered.”
Provider: BVU OptiNet (BVU Authority)
Services Offered: Voice, Data, Video, Business Services, Smart Grid
Area Served: Bristol
With reliable utilities and one of the best broadband networks in the country, OptiNet supports homes and businesses in Southwest VA. The 100% fiber-optic network offers 1 Gig speeds for faster downloads and uploads and smoother video streaming. The network serves approximately 16,500 residents and businesses.
Provider: Martinsville Information Network (MINet)
Services Offered: Business Services, Data, Voice
Area Served: Martinsville
Martinsville Information Network (MINET), consists of 48 strands of fiber and it connects the town’s schools, municipal sites, and local businesses. Residential expansion is currently under discussion.
Services Offered: Voice, Video, Business Services, Security, Data
Area Served: Danville, Virginia
Wireless antennas installed in Danville’s Hot Parks provide free wifi access to anyone who comes into range. The Hot Park project is a joint venture of Danville Utilities and the City’s Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and Information Technology Services. nDanville’s Hot Park public wireless internet system is now in place at the Carrington Pavillion, the Danville Welcome Center on the Route 29 Bypass, and at Ballou and Anglers Parks. Other locations are coming soon.