Internet Plans and Discounts for Students

DecisionData Team
September 18, 2020

If you’re like most students across the country, expenses are high and funds are low. Between tuition, books, housing, transportation, utility and phone bills and food, being a student is expensive. The good news is – while your life as a student may be costly, your internet doesn’t have to be. There are many internet providers and tech companies developing special internet plans for students. Whether an undergrad, a graduate student or taking part in a tech school – there is most likely an internet plan available to you with a significant student discount.

Check what providers are available in your area by entering your zip code below:

While money is commonly the most important factor for students, there are some other important factors you should consider before choosing your internet service provider (ISP). internet reliability, data caps and connection speeds are also important features you should examine before choosing the internet you will use. Here are some helpful tips for finding cheap internet plans for students that are reliable and fast. 

Do I need fast internet for college?

Reliability is one of the most important factors you should examine when choosing an ISP as a student. College life is filled with deadlines: enrollment deadlines, homework deadlines, online exams and term papers – every class and every assignment will have a deadline. Having an unreliable internet connection that fails on you just as you try to submit your timed online exam or send in a term paper is a worst-case scenario, and a reality for many college students. 

Your internet company’s coverage area has a lot to do with the reliability of your internet connection, but so does the type of connection. There are currently four different connection types from which you can choose depending on your service provider and your location: cable, DSL, fiber and satellite.

If you have cable television where you live, cable internet is most likely an option for you; cable internet connections tend to be reliable but the downside is that the connection may slow during peak usage hours.

If your apartment, dorm or home has hookups for a landline telephone, then DSL internet is an option for you. DSL internet is more reliable the closer you are to the main hub, so if you are going to school in a metro or urban area, this may be a reliable and affordable option.

Fiber internet is currently the fastest connection on the market. Unfortunately, it is not widely available yet in all areas. If your university is using a fiber internet connection and you live close to your campus, your neighborhood may have fiber internet options. Metro areas are also more likely to have fiber than rural ones at this time.

If you are attending school in a very rural area, then you may be limited to a satellite option for your internet. A satellite can be reliable, but weather, proximity to receivers and large file downloads and uploads may slow down your connection or affect your connection reliability. 

What internet speed do I need as a student?

If you have a heavy class load that requires you to stream and watch a lot of videos, tutorials or documents which require large amounts of data regularly and you are also an avid online gamer in your free time, having a low or limited data plan will most likely not be sufficient for you. Also, if you will be sharing an internet plan with housemates, their usage should also be considered before deciding on a data plan for your home internet. But if you don’t have those higher needs, a lower plan would work for you.

The trick to choosing an internet speed for your household is to find the middle ground between a fast connection and an affordable price. Again, sharing an internet connection with housemates or hosting frequent study groups in your apartment should also be considered before choosing a plan. 

If you won’t be sharing your internet, a plan with 6 Mbps should be sufficient for standard homework use, everyday use and occasional streaming. If you will be sharing your WiFi with housemates, we recommend you look for a plan that offers anywhere from 10-25 Mbps. And if you will be sharing your internet with housemates and will also be holding frequent study groups in your home with a circle of laptops out all streaming the same assigned video, you are better off looking for a plan that offers around 50 Mbps. You can test your current internet speed by using our Internet Speed Test.

Another factor in your internet search is data caps, which will throttle your internet speeds if you reach the maximum allotment. It is fairly uncommon to find an internet plan for students with zero data caps unless you are willing to pay a hefty monthly bill. But having unlimited data is not really necessary in most cases. You should assess your internet usage taking personal and scholastic habits into account.

Student discounts for internet

No matter which ISP or plan you choose, make sure you ask about student discounts. Even internet providers who don’t openly advertise a student discount will most likely have one – you just need to ask about them. You might also be able to take advantage of ISPs that offer discounted services for low-income students, or for people who are enrolled in government assistance programs. Here are a few to consider:

Lifeline

Lifeline offers discounted internet for those whose income is 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines. If you or someone in your household is enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid or other government assistance programs, you can save $9.25 per month on your internet costs. You can enroll in Lifeline through your current ISP. Depending on how much you’re already paying for internet, saving less than $10 a month might not sound like much. But over time, the discount will save you over $100 per year in internet costs.

Comcast Internet Essentials

Comcast Internet Essentials offers affordable high-speed  internet for just $9.95 per month plus tax with no contract, no credit check and no installation fee. Comcast Internet Essentials customers also have the option to purchase a low-cost computer for just $149.99. To qualify for Internet Essentials, you need to be eligible for public assistance programs, like NSLP, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI or others. 

Access from AT&T

AT&T recently rolled out a similar plan to help low-income students and families get affordable internet access. With Access from AT&T, you can get 3 Mbps for $5 per month or up to 10 Mbps for just $10 a month. AT&T’s internet program comes with no contract, no deposit and no installation fee. Customers also get an in-home WiFi gateway and access to AT&T’s national WiFi hotspot network with no added fee. You can qualify if you or someone in your household uses SNAP, or if you’re a California resident and at least one person in your house receives SSI benefits.

Spectrum Internet Assist

Another great option for discounted internet is Spectrum Internet Assist. If you or someone in your family is enrolled in a government assistance program, you can access pretty significant discounts on your internet service. Spectrum offers high-speed internet of up to 30 Mbps for around $15 per month. Your package comes with a free modem, and you won’t be subjected to data caps or a contract. 

Cox

Another popular internet plan for students is Cox’s Connect2Compete program. As the name states, the company is aiming to give more students internet access so they can get ahead in school and land jobs after college. Cox’s student internet plan is very affordable at just $9.95 per month, regardless of where you live within their coverage area. With a Cox plan, you’ll get access to speeds up to 25 Mbps. All plans include a WiFi modem that can be installed by a technician for free.  

Your household needs to have at least one K-12 student and you must be actively participating in a government assistance program. And if you don’t consider yourself to be especially tech-savvy, Cox offers an educational portal of how-to videos, tutorials, games and more, which can help you master different digital skills.

Internet providers for students

Doing your research is important, but to simplify the process, we put together a list of the three most popular ISPs for students. Check if these providers are available in your area by entering your zip code below:

Xfinity

Xfinity is one of the most popular internet providers nationwide, but they don’t always offer the cheapest rates. However, the company offers exclusive discounts for students who are enrolled at certain colleges. They’ll even throw in added perks, like a Visa gift card when you become a customer. You can use Xfinity’s online search tool to see if you qualify for a discount through your school. 

Even with a student discount, customers are still able to get the same benefits of the Xfinity network. That means you can choose from any existing internet plan and claim the discount. Xfinity’s WiFi speeds range from up to 100 to up to 200 Mbps depending on your package. Customers also get access to the Xfinity Stream App, where you can watch movies, stream live TV and get apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. 

Frontier Communications

Frontier Communications offers deep discounts for students. They partner with Verizon and sell affordable internet plans on their high-speed network. If you live in a city with Fios, you can get internet on the 100% fiber-optic network without paying an arm and a leg through Verizon.

We like Frontier because they offer affordable plans with no data cap. That means you can do homework, stream movies and play games without compromising your connection. Pricing varies based on location, but you can expect to pay less than $30 for basic internet with speeds of up to 6 Mbps. Or, you can upgrade to Frontier’s Vantage internet which is faster but pricier, at 115 Mbps for around $35 per month. And like most internet providers, Frontier also offers package bundles for internet, TV and phone if you’re looking to save even more money. 

Internet needs for students

As a student, having reliable internet access is absolutely essential. The internet providers we reviewed above are among the best on the market. 

If you or a family member qualifies for a government assistance program, we recommend looking into Spectrum, AT&T,Comcast and Cox’s programs. You’ll save even more money without compromising on network speeds, and you probably won’t have to sign a contract. Lifeline is also a great option if you already have an internet plan you’re happy with, but you want to take advantage of other savings. 

Frequently Asked Questions about student internet

What kind of internet do I need in college?

When shopping for a student internet plan, the most important things to look for are speed and reliability. If you can, try to find a DSL or fiber option, which tend to be the fastest and most reliable networks. If you live in an area where cable or satellite internet are your only options, we recommend paying a little extra for faster upload and download speeds. 

Do data caps matter in college?

For the average student, you probably don’t need to worry about data caps. If you’re using the internet for basic purposes like researching, writing papers and watching Netflix occasionally, it’s not going to be an issue. However, if you’re constantly streaming movies and games, or you live with multiple roommates who are also heavy internet users, you might want to consider increasing your data.

Are student discounts for internet plans available?

Yes, there are a few internet providers that offer discounts for students, although some offer better savings than others. Based on our research, Cox offered the best rate of just $9.95 for those who qualify. If you are low-income or participate in a government assistance program, look into Comcast Internet Essentials, Lifeline, Access from AT&T and Spectrum Internet Assist.