Comcast Internet Essentials Review: Affordable Internet Access For Low-Income Households

comcastieComcast offers an affordable internet access program called Internet Essentials that provides high-speed internet service for $9.95 a month + taxes, a subsidized $150 computer with Microsoft Office, and free digital literacy training to eligible groups. Over time, they have expanded their eligibility rules and also added new features. Specifically, you now get:

  • XFINITY Cable Internet Service
  • 10 Mbps download & 2 Mbps upload speeds
  • No credit check
  • No activation or installation fee
  • No contract
  • Free modem + WiFi router rental

Here are the current ways to qualify for this program.

Low-income Families. You are eligible if you have at least one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program. If I read the income guidelines for the NSLP correctly, a family of 4 within the contiguous 48 states can’t make more than $31,590 a year to get free lunches during the 2016-2017 school year.

HUD Housing Assistance Households. You are eligible if you receive HUD housing assistance such as Public Housing, Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8 Vouchers) or Multifamily Vouchers (Project-Based Section 8).

Seniors Pilot Program. You must be 62 years old and live in one of the current eligible areas. You must also be enrolled in an eligible state or federal public assistance program. As of mid-2016, the list includes Boston, Palm Beach County, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Community College Student Pilot Program. You must be enrolled in an eligible community college, and also be a Pell Grant recipient. As of mid-2016, the list includes select community colleges in Colorado and Illinois.

In addition, for all groups, you must not have any outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than a year old. Families with outstanding debt more than one year old may still be eligible. You must also live in an area where Comcast Internet Service is available but have not subscribed to it within the last 90 days.

Problems and controversy. If you are already a low-income family that stretches to pay for Comcast internet access, you would need to cancel your existing service and then wait for a full 90 days before signing up for Internet Essentials. If the idea is to give your children the educational benefit of internet access, then it may be difficult to go without internet for 90 days.

This program is not supported with government taxes. Instead, it is a way for Comcast to make happy with various government regulators when they want to merge with another huge company. Indeed, Comcast as a monopoly or part of a duopoly in most areas may be the reason why average people are being charged $40 or $60 a month for basic internet access in the first place.

In any case, it exists, millions more households are eligible that aren’t signed up, and I think it is worth spreading the word. Apply online at or over the phone (1-855-8-INTERNET or 1-855-846-8376).


  1. Linda Buchanan says:

    The way I read it, you must be 62 AND low income and live in one of the areas. Just being over 62 and living in one of the areas does not qualify.

  2. The state of “high speed” internet access in the US is abysmal. We’re ranked 16th in the world yet we invented silicon valley. I can’t wait for Google Fiber to become more widespread and crush the telecom monopolies.

    Interesting article about Google Fiber:

    • I would love to get me some Google Fiber.

      • I think everyone that knows about it would love to get it.
        I moved to the country recently and didn’t research beforehand (who does?) but we can only get a single broadband provider that isn’t wireless (cellular). AT&T Uverse at 3 mbps with data cap of 300 GB/month. SO PAINFUL. Everyone is used to being able to stream video whenever they want and now we have to coordinate. Now I fully understand the digital divide.

  3. Paul Martin says:

    Consumerist website provides a detailed explanation of all the charges of a Comcast bill in their article “The Consumerist Guide To Understanding Your Comcast Bill”, including the surcharges to cover the above-mentioned program that is paid for by the subscribers as well as other fees that Comcast bills as Broadcast TV Fee and Regional Sports Fee that actually pads their profits.

  4. Its a scam many single parents with approved requirements have been tuned down once they applied customer service requested our phone numbers and were told that we were qualified for upgrades only.
    Now our mission is to stop Comcast from spreading that lie to the schools by distributing this form. A group of 30 of us women sre Woking on this.

  5. Danny Lee Charles says:

    AT&T has a $10 in $5 low-income internet program. Check it out.

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