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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Households qualify if:
Whether at the state or federal level, Lifeline programs do come with limitations particularly in terms of data usage limits and voice limits.
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.
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.
Which companies are used by each state to provide lifeline or other low income telecom services?
District of Columbia:
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.
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.
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.