Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you help me find a cheap Internet service for my house? I'm retired and live on a fixed income, and the Internet service I use now is too expensive.
There are actually a number of companies that offer low-cost or free home Internet services, but what's available to you will depend on where you live and your financial situation. Here are some options to check into.
If you are a light Internet user and you live in their service area, free high-speed Internet is now available through the telecom company FreedomPop. Just go to freedompop.com and type in your address to find out if they serve your location. If they do, you'll need to buy the $89 Freedom Hub Burst home modem that allows you to access the Internet. You simply plug it in and you're ready to go.
FreedomPop is a non-contract service that provides 1 gigabyte (GB) of data per month for free, which is adequate for sending and receiving emails and surfing the web. If, however, you want more data for things like watching Internet videos or sharing photos you can pay $10/month for 5 GB or $18/month for 10 GB.
If FreedomPop is not available in your area, there are other providers that offer high-speed Internet at a low cost. For example, NetZero and Juno now have DSL 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, see 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 the television and phone providers in your area to see what types of bundle packages they offer.
If, however, 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.
Low Income Internet
If your income is low enough and you live in a participating state, there are also a number of programs that offer low-cost high-speed Internet services. One that's most fitting for financially challenged seniors is CenturyLink's Internet Basics program, which is available in 37 states. This program offers high-speed DSL Internet service for just $10 a month for the first year ($21/month afterwards). It also offers offer 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, SSI, 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.
There are other programs available that serve additional states, like Internet Essentials offered by Comcast and Connect2Compete, but to be eligible you must have a child or grandchild who lives in your house that participates in the national school lunch program. Both of these programs offer Internet home service for $10/month and a $150 personal computer.
Also, stay tuned for the government's Lifeline Broadband Program that could soon be offering income-qualified citizens across the country, high-speed home Internet services for a low cost. To find out more about all of 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.