Dear Savvy Senior: Do you know where I can find inexpensive high-speed internet services for my home? I’m 70 years old and live strictly on my Social Security, and I’d like to find something faster and cheaper than what I currently have. — Surfing Susan
Dear Susan: There are two new resources available that can help you save money on your home internet services. 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 cost is through the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. For eligible households, this temporary federal benefit provides up to $50 each month toward broadband service, and up to $75 for households on tribal lands.
Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers, provided they contribute $10 to $50 toward the purchase price.
To qualify, you’ll need to show that your annual household income is at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines, which is $20,007 for one person in Hawaii or $27,054 for two. You also qualify if you are receiving such government benefits as Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), SSI, public-housing assistance, veterans’ pension or survivors’ pension benefit, or live on federally recognized tribal lands.
Households that experienced a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020, due to job loss or furlough can also qualify, 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 Get EmergencyBroadband.org. You can apply online or print out an application and mail it in.
If you’re already receiving assistance through the federal Lifeline benefit (see LifelineSupport.org), 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 both the EBB and Lifeline benefits to the same or separate services.
Or, if your broadband provider already has its own low-income or COVID-19 relief program, you may 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 to check out 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 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 under $160.
To qualify, you’ll need to show that your annual household income is at or below 185% of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $27,417 for one person or $37,074 for two. Another way to qualify is if you’re receiving government benefits similar to the EBB program.
To search, go to Aging Connected.org and type in your ZIP code, name and email address, or call 877-745-1930.
Other search options
If you’re not eligible for either resource, you may still be able to save on your internet by shopping and comparing. Go to 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.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.