Dear Savvy Senior, Do you know where I can find cheaper high-speed internet services for my home? I’m 70 years old and live strictly on my Social Security and would like to find something faster and less expensive than what I currently have. — Surfing Susan
Dear Susan, There are actually two new resources available that can help you save money on your home internet services, but what’s available to you will depend on your income level and where you live. Here’s where to begin.
Depending on your financial situation, a good first step to reducing your home internet costs is through the new Emergency Broadband Benefit program. This is a temporary federal benefit that provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands.
Eligible households also can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10 to $50 toward the purchase price.
To qualify, you will need to show your annual household income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $17,388 for one person or $23,517 for two. Or, if you’re receiving certain types of government benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, SSI, public housing assistance, veterans’ pension, survivors pension benefit or live on federally recognized tribal lands.
Households that experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, because of job loss or furlough also can qualify for the EBB program, as long as their household income for 2020 was at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
To apply, go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org, where you can apply online or print out an application and mail it in.
If you already are receiving assistance through the federal Lifeline benefit (see LifelineSupport.org), which is a $9.25 monthly subsidy for phone or internet costs, you automatically qualify for the EBB program, and you can receive both benefits at the same time. You can apply your EBB and your Lifeline benefit to the same or separate services.
Or, if your broadband provider already has its own low-income or COVID-19 relief program, you might be able to qualify through this program as well. Talk to your broadband provider for more information.
If you’re not eligible for the EBB program, another resource for locating cheaper high-speed internet is Aging Connected, which has a higher income qualification.
Created by Older Adults Technology Services from AARP and the Humana Foundation, Aging Connected is a nationwide campaign created to help lower-income seniors find low-cost, in-home broadband options in their area.
Partnering with telecommunications companies, nonprofits and public entities, Aging Connected will help you search for services in your area that provide high-speed internet at a very low cost. Most participating companies charge about $10 to $15 per month, with no contract and no equipment fee.
Aging Connected also provides referrals to affordable desktop and laptop computers for less than $160.
To qualify, you’ll need to show your annual household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines — $23,800 for one person or $32,200 for two — or if you’re receiving certain types of government benefits similar to the EBB program.
To search, go to AgingConnected.org, and type in your ZIP code, name and email address, or you can call 877-745-1930.
Other Search Options
If you find you’re not eligible for either of the previously listed resources, you still might be able to save on your internet by shopping and comparing. The best way to do this is at websites such as InMyArea.com and BroadbandNow.com, both of which provide a list of internet providers in your area, along with pricing and download speeds.