There are 51,000 people in Wisconsin with no access to broadband. No cable. No DSL. No fixed wireless. No mobile internet. Nothing.
Of the 5.74 million Wisconsinites, one 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). 209,000 residents of Wisconsin depend on fixed wireless or mobile broadband with low data caps.
According to the latest statistics, Wisconsin’s overall poverty rate is 13.5%. It’s child poverty rate is 18%. It’s senior poverty rate is 8%. And, unfortunately, it’s extreme poverty rate is 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.
- Access from AT&T
- 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.
Who: TracFone and Technology Goes Home
Where: Wisconsin, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland and Florida
Contact: 617-635-2822 (Technology Goes Home); 800-867-7183 (TracFone)
TracFone’s pilot program offers differing combinations of free or discounted hardware combined with service at a cost of $10 or $20 per month. The purpose of this TracFone and Technology Goes Home pilot program was to test low-income customers’ sensitivity to upfront and ongoing prices. By comparing two different offers, TracFone was expected to estimate the adoption and success of each offer.
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 that inhibit or even prohibit municipal broadband networks. According to arstechnica.com, Wisconsin’s law says, “Cities and towns must ‘conduct a feasibility study and hold a public hearing prior to providing telecom, cable, or Internet services.’ Additionally, the state ‘prohibits subsidization of most cable and telecom services and prescribes minimum prices for telecommunications services.'”
Nevertheless, two communities have managed to navigate the arcane regulations and established high speed networks for the benefit of their citizens.
Provider: Reedsburg Utility Commission
Services offered: Voice, Data, Video
Area Served: Reedsburg and nearby rural communities
Reedsburg Utility is now extending its municipal Fiber to the Home (FTTH) network beyond Reedsburg and into to the surrounding rural areas of Sauk County. When completed, fiber will reach the northern Sauk County border, extending to the northeast along I 90/94 and to the southwest reaching Loganville, Lime Ridge and Hill Point. It will serve more than 4,400 residents of Reedsburg plus 6,000 rural residents, 144 businesses and 12 schools and libraries.
Provider: Sun Prairie Utilities
Services Offered: Data, Smart Grid
Area Served: Sun Prairie
Sun Prairie Utilities is a locally-owned municipal electric, water, and fiber optic utility. In 1998, it built a fiber optic ring around much of the city to provide communications for both city use. It has now been expanded to serve nearly 70 homes and businesses.