How to get Financial Support for Telecom Services in the US

If you are struggling to pay your internet or phone bill, there are programs and nonprofits that may be able to help you. Below are details on the kinds of support low income people and families may be eligible for.

How Much is the Average Internet and Phone Bill?

Americans spend a lot of money on their telephone, internet, and cable services every month. On average people spend $57 per month just on internet but this can vary depending on the type of connection you have.

For example:

  • Somebody who lives in a remote area and only has satellite internet can expect to pay an average of $123 per month 
  • Someone using fiber optic cable can expect to pay $59 per month 
  • Someone using DSL might pay only $50 per month.

But that’s just internet. 

What about cell phone plans? Most people pay an average of $50 per month for their cell phone.

And how about cable services or streaming services? Many people are swapping out traditional Cable packages for different streaming sites, but streaming services still averaged $40 per month with the average cable bill $200 per month.

This means people can expect to pay anywhere between $120 per month for one or two streaming services with their cell phone and internet plan, to upwards of a few hundred dollars per month.

How Can You Reduce Your Internet or Phone Bill?

There are of course ways to cut costs such as bundling or cutting out a larger cable bill in exchange for small streaming services, but the cost of cell phones or necessary computers for school work and jobs can still add hundreds of dollars to the average household where, according to the US Bureau of Labor, the median wage is just over $1,000 per week. 

What Kinds of Government Assistance Can You Get for Phone and Internet Service?

A new Broadband plan by the Biden Administration as part of the American Jobs Plan includes bringing affordable high-speed internet to every home with a 100 billion dollar investment to help nonprofits and state-level governments provide more affordable infrastructure and aid where necessary.

Infographic: Financial Assistance for Telecom Services, 1. Lifeline Support is a program offered by the FCC to provide affordable communication services for low-income consumers. 2. In order to get started with a state program, you can contact your state call center directly or contact your phone, internet, and cable service directly and ask them for information about using your state life line program. 3. Check out the following organizations fighting to keep telecom services affordable: - Telecom4Good - MobileCitizen - A4A1 - ModCom - Rural Oregon Wireless Television - Community Telecommunications Network

Federal programs

Lifeline Support is a program offered by the FCC to provide affordable communication services for low-income consumers. It is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company or USAC. USAC’s website provides additional information regarding program requirements.

  • This program gives subscribers a discount on monthly telephone, internet, or bundled packages from participating Wireless providers.
  • Consumers must have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines to participate. It provides up to $9.25 per month in discount on eligible services and up to $34.25 per month for people living on tribal lands.

Additionally, the FCC has the Emergency Broadband Benefit which is limited to 1 discount on a single monthly service and one device per household. Eligible households can get up to $50 per month on broadband services and up to $75 per month for those who live on tribal lands. 

How Do You Know if You Qualify for the Lifeline Program?

Households qualify if:

  1. They have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  2. They have been approved to receive benefits under the reduced-price or free school lunch program
  3. They have received a federal Pell Grant during the same year
  4. They have experienced substantial income loss due to job loss or furlough starting February 29th, 2020 with a total income below $99,000 4 single or $198,000 for joint filers
  5. The household meets the eligibility criteria to participate in any existing covid-19 or low income program

Whether at the state or federal level, Lifeline programs do come with limitations particularly in terms of data usage limits and voice limits.

To use: In order to get started with a federal program, contact your Broadband provider directly to ask about the application process or go to the corresponding Federal website and apply online. For those who cannot apply online and prefer to do it over the phone or mail in eligibility, information can be found here

State programs

Whether at the federal, state, or local level, there are discounts that exist right now that help provide low-income consumers with 21st century phone and internet access so that people can access resources for education, healthcare, and employment at any time.

Which states provide telecom services or support for low income people and families?

California, for example, provides a LifeLine Program at the state level, available in English and Spanish to provide a discount of up to $50 per month toward eligible services and up to $75 per month for those households on tribal lands. Eligible individuals can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. California also offers a range of telecommunications discount and subsidy programs at the state level. 

Oregon passed a state law in 1987 helping residents with affordable and adequate telephone services. There are three individual programs including the Oregon Lifeline program, the Telecommunication Devices Access Program, and the Oregon Relay program.

Texas offers the lifeline services to help offset the cost of telephone, internet and cable for low-income families.

However, not all states offer individualized telephone, internet, and cable services for low-income people and families in all areas.

Oklahoma for example has a specific map for which counties and sections of which counties within the state have programs to help low-income people at the state level.

To use: In order to get started with a state program, you can contact your state call center directly or contact your phone, internet, and cable service directly and ask them for information about using your state life line program. 

Full State List of Low Income Telecom Assistance Programs

Which companies are used by each state to provide lifeline or other low income telecom services?







District of Columbia:




















New Hampshire:

New Jersey:

New York:

North Carolina

North Dakota:





Puerto Rico:

South Dakota:






West Virginia:



Nonprofits fighting for more affordable telecom services

While the Biden Administration has left some households with hope for a future where they can afford Telecom Services, nonprofits are currently fighting at a multitude of levels.

Telecom4Good is a nonprofit organization that supports Grassroots nonprofits who are partnering to help communities access telecommunication services that currently have limited access or no access. They focus on increasing availability, and lowering the overall cost while still providing affordable technology. 

MobileCitizen, another nonprofit, focuses on providing affordable wireless internet and hotspots in all 50 states at only $10 per month. This organization is fighting for high-quality mobile Internet available at prices that low-income families can afford.

A4A1, also known as the Alliance for Affordable Internet, is a global Coalition that is trying to reduce the cost of internet access for low and middle income families. Heavily focused on advocacy, research, and engagement in different countries, they tried to provide connectivity and internet all over the globe in a way that everyone can afford. 

ModCom, or Modern Telecom, is a program that fights for phone services and internet at affordable prices without all the red tape and hidden fees. 

Rural Oregon Wireless Television is one that is fighting to provide areas of Oregon and Washington that currently don’t receive cable with access to that information.

Community Telecommunications Network works out of Detroit, Michigan to fight for more affordable telecommunications for low income families.

Company programs

There are specific offers from companies to help low-income people with their bills. In response to covid, many telecommunications providers joined the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected initiative by pledging to avoid disconnecting services or charging late fees for those who had trouble with payments during the pandemic.

Similarly some lifeline providers have pledged to relax the data usage limits and voice limits because of the pandemic. 

  • T-Mobile offers the Lifeline program, in seven different states as well as Puerto Rico. There is a specific enrollment form that can be filled out after verification from the lifeline Support Center.
  • AT&T for example offers low-cost internet services for eligible households at only $10 per month or less with no deposit required, no annual contract, and free installation.
  • Companies like enTouchWireless offer things like free cell phones for those who qualify for Lifeline programs with various bundles.
  • Spectrum focuses on internet, phone, and cable TV discounts for low-income families so long as they are already eligible for supplemental Security income, the community eligibility provision, or the national school lunch program and these features include no data caps, no contracts, and free internet modems.

Each company is different and there may be many small providers in your area where large providers fail that can offer more information on Telecom services.

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