West Virginia is the 50th most connected state. Dead last. But that’s not surprising considering the state’s mountainous topography and high poverty. The state also has just 29 broadband providers, also one of the lowest numbers in the nation.
There are 97,000 people in West Virginia with no access to broadband. No cable. No DSL. No fixed wireless. No mobile internet. Nothing.
Of the 1.85 million West Virginians, 514,000 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). What’s more, 76,000 Mountain Staters are handicapped by low data caps because they are restricted to fixed wireless or mobile broadband providers.
Let’s get back to the high poverty rate we mentioned in the opening paragraph. The state’s overall poverty rate is 18.5%. Its child poverty rate is 25%. Its senior poverty rate is 11%. And its extreme poverty rate is 8.4%.
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
- 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.
Where: Ohio and West Virginia
This pilot program, conducted by Frontier, Connect Ohio and Mission West Virginia, attempted to determine if financial incentives would increase the rate at which subscribers sign up for digital literacy training. Subscribers were able to choose from three offers: (1) a $20 monthly subsidy off a range of wireline broadband plans, (2) A $30 monthly subsidy and waiver of one-time $34.99 charge IF the subscriber participated in a digital literacy program, and (3) A $20 monthly subsidy and free computer if the subscriber participated in a digital literacy program.
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 municipal networks with residential service in West Virginia:
Provider: City of Bridgeport
Services Offered: Data, phone, internet
Area Served: Bridgeport
Bridgeport’s municipal broadband network, operated by CityNet, was designed and implemented as a tool for local businesses. However, the city is currently conducting a pilot program involving 100 homes in order to determine if the network should be made available to residents, too.
Provider: Philippi Communications System
Services Offered: Data, Video
Area Served: Philippi
The Philippi Cable system is based on a fiber optic network that is distributed throughout the City. The fiber network delivers services to the home. Cable and Broadband Internet services are available via this system.