Dear Savvy Senior: Can you help me find a cheap home Internet service? I’m retired and live on a fixed income, and the Internet service I use now is too expensive. — Financially Squeezed
Dear Squeezed: Several companies offer low-cost or free home Internet services, but what’s available to you will depend on where you live and your finances.
Here are options to explore.
If you’re a light Internet user and you live in their service area, free high-speed Internet is available through the telecom company FreedomPop. Visit freedompop.com and type in your address to see whether this company serves your location. If it does, you’ll need to buy the $89 Freedom Hub Burst home modem that lets you access the Internet. Plug it in, and you’re ready to go.
FreedomPop is a noncontract service that provides 1 gigabyte of data per month for free, which is adequate for sending and receiving emails and surfing the World Wide Web. If, however, you want more data for things like watching Internet videos or sharing photos you can pay $10 per month for 5 GB or $18 per month for 10 GB.
If FreedomPop is unavailable in your area, other providers offer high-speed Internet at a low cost. For example, NetZero (netzero.net, 800-638-9376) and Juno (juno.com, 888-213-9093) now have digital subscriber line plans for only $10 per month for the first six months with no data restrictions, provided you live in their service areas and you have a home phone line. After six months, the price jumps up to $18 per month.
To search for other high-speed Internet service providers in your area, visit ispprovidersinmyarea.com.
Another strategy to get cheaper high-speed Internet is to combine, or bundle it together with your TV and/or phone service. Check with television and phone providers in your area to see which bundle packages they offer.
If you can’t find a high-speed service that fits your budget, and you don’t mind slower service, consider getting dial-up Internet. If you have a home phone line, NetZero and Juno again provide some very inexpensive dial-up services running $10 and $11 per month respectively.
If your income is low enough and you live in a participating state, several programs offer low-cost high-speed Internet services.
One that’s most fitting for financially challenged seniors is CenturyLink’s Internet Basics program (centurylink.com/home/internetbasics, 866-642-0444), which is available in 37 states. This program offers high-speed digital subscriber line Internet service for just $10 a month for the first year ($21/month afterward). It also offers a personal computer for just $150 and free introductory computer classes.
To qualify, you’ll need to show that you’re receiving certain types of government benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, home energy assistance or public housing assistance. Or, that your household income is at or below 135, 150 or 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines — it varies by state.
Other programs serve additional states, like Internet Essentials offered by Comcast (internetessentials.com) and Connect2Compete (connect2compete.org), but to be eligible you must have a child or grandchild who lives in your house who participates in the national school lunch program. Both programs offer Internet home service for $10 per month and a $150 personal computer.
Stay tuned for the government’s lifeline broadband program that could soon offer high-speed home Internet services for a low cost to income-qualified citizens across the country. To learn more about these programs, visit cheapinternet.com.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.