How to Get WiFi for Low Income Families in California?

The digital divide in California is stark, with approximately 25% of households lacking broadband internet access according to the Community Tech Network. Low income families are disproportionately impacted, with cost being the primary barrier to access. Internet access has become increasingly crucial for education, healthcare, employment and more. This makes the digital divide a major equity issue.

Having an internet connection at home is especially important for low income families to access critical services and opportunities. For example, it enables students to participate in distance learning and do homework assignments. It allows adults to search for jobs, apply for benefits, take online classes, and telecommute. Getting connected can open doors.

The goal of this article is to provide practical guidance to low income families in California looking to get affordable wifi access at home. We will cover eligibility requirements, low-cost internet plans, government programs, public wifi hotspots, obtaining devices, digital literacy training, and troubleshooting problems. With some persistence and know-how, broadband access is within reach.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for low-cost internet programs in California, households must meet certain eligibility requirements related to income thresholds and participation in government assistance programs.

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides discounts on internet service for households with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For example, a family of four would qualify if their income is below $53,000 per year (Source).

Households that participate in certain government assistance programs like SNAP, WIC, Medi-Cal, and CalFresh also qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program regardless of income. Eligibility is determined at the household level, so if anyone living in the home participates in these programs, the household is eligible (Source).

In addition to the Affordable Connectivity Program, individual internet service providers like Xfinity, Spectrum, AT&T often offer their own low-cost internet plans with eligibility requirements based on similar income thresholds and government program participation.

Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal subsidy program that provides eligible low-income households with discounts on internet service and connected devices like computers or tablets 1. The program provides up to a $30 monthly discount on internet service and up to a one-time $100 discount on a connected device. To be eligible, households must have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or participate in certain government assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline.

To apply for the ACP, you can go to the program’s website at and fill out an online application. You’ll need to provide information on your household income or participation in a qualifying government program. Supporting documents like pay stubs or an eligibility letter may also need to be uploaded. Alternatively, you can print out a mail-in application and send it along with copies of your proof of eligibility. Some internet service providers may also have an ACP application process as part of signing up for service.

Once approved, eligible households can contact participating internet providers in their area to select a service plan and have the ACP discount applied. The discount will be provided as a monthly credit on your bill for as long as you qualify and remain enrolled. For help getting set up with discounted service, you can contact the ACP support center.

Low-Cost Internet Plans

Major internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T offer low-cost internet plans for qualifying low-income families in California. Some options include:

Comcast Internet Essentials: Starting at $9.95/month, provides download speeds up to 50 Mbps. You can apply online at Requirements are SNAP participation, free school lunch, SSI, Medicaid, public housing assistance.

AT&T Access from AT&T: $5-10 per month depending on your speed, up to 25Mbps down. Apply at Eligibility for SNAP or National School Lunch Program required.

To enroll in these programs, you’ll need to verify eligibility through documents like your SNAP/Medicaid participation letter, school lunch award letter, or prior year’s tax return. Internet service providers will walk you through the application process step-by-step.

Local Government Programs

Many cities and counties in California have launched initiatives to provide low-cost or free internet access to low-income residents. For example, the city of San Francisco offers free fiber home internet to families with children in public housing through its Fiber for Housing program (

Local governments often collaborate with nonprofit organizations to provide subsidized internet access. In Los Angeles, the city has partnered with Human-I-T to offer refurbished computers and low-cost internet to qualifying households through the ConnectHomeLA initiative ( Many public libraries also offer hotspot lending programs to help bridge the digital divide.

Low-income families can check with their city or county government to learn about any local initiatives for affordable broadband access. Local nonprofits and community organizations focused on digital inclusion are also valuable resources.

Public WiFi Hotspots

Many public places in California offer free WiFi hotspots that low income families can use to get internet access.

Public libraries in cities across California provide free WiFi networks that anyone can use. For example, the Los Angeles Public Library system offers free WiFi at all 73 locations, including Central Library and neighborhood branches (source). Library WiFi networks do not require a library card and often have good bandwidth for downloading, streaming, and web browsing.

Parks and community centers also frequently offer free public WiFi in California. The City of Los Angeles provides over 300 outdoor WiFi access points in parks like Venice Beach, Runyon Canyon, and Grand Park (source). These hotspots allow families and individuals to get online for free from their smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

Checking for public WiFi hotspots at local libraries, parks, community centers, and other public spaces can be a useful way for low income families to get free internet access in their neighborhoods.

Getting a Device

Obtaining a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet is essential for low-income families to get online. Here are some options for low-cost devices in California:

PCs for People [1] is a nonprofit that provides refurbished desktop and laptop computers to individuals and families who meet income requirements. Households earning less than 200% of the poverty guidelines qualify. Devices start at $99.

Computers for Classrooms [2] is another nonprofit that sells discounted refurbished computers to low-income families, veterans, and students in California. Systems start at around $100.

The CARES Act provided funding for schools to purchase devices for students during the pandemic. Contact your school district to see if they have extra laptops or tablets available to lend to low-income families.

Some local governments and community organizations also run programs to get affordable devices into the hands of those in need. Check for device donation drives or discounted sales in your area.

Digital Literacy Training

Local organizations throughout California offer free or low-cost digital literacy classes and support for low-income families to help them learn essential technology skills. These programs provide training on using computers, navigating the internet, setting up email, using online services, and more.

For example, the California Department of Aging funds numerous digital literacy programs across the state to assist seniors and older adults with technology. Many public libraries also provide technology training classes, often in both English and Spanish. Additionally, nonprofits like Community Tech Network operate Digital Literacy Hubs in cities like San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland to serve low-income residents.

To find a digital literacy program, contact your local senior center, library, community college, or community-based organizations. These trainings help ensure low-income families can fully utilize internet access to carry out essential daily activities online.

Troubleshooting Problems

Even after getting set up with low-income internet access, you may occasionally run into issues that disrupt your connectivity. Here are some common tech support problems and solutions related to low-income internet programs:

If you stop receiving the monthly discount from the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), check whether you need to re-enroll or verify your eligibility. The ACP requires participants to re-certify eligibility every 12 months. Refer to the ACP FAQ for details on the re-certification process.

For problems with slow internet speeds, first try rebooting the modem and router. If that doesn’t help, contact your internet service provider to troubleshoot connectivity issues or request a technician visit. Be sure to ask if there are any optimized internet packages available for ACP participants.

If you move residences, notify your internet provider right away to transfer or set up new service. There may be fees involved with installation at a new address. Ask the provider if there are any special accommodations for ACP subscribers who are relocating.

For lost or broken internet devices, check if they are still under warranty and eligible for replacement. Otherwise, contact local nonprofit organizations to ask about programs that provide discounted or free computers and tablets for low-income families. You may need to meet certain criteria to qualify.

If your eligibility lapses or you have difficulty re-certifying for the ACP, contact the program’s customer support line at 1-877-384-2575. They can explain requirements and help troubleshoot any issues with your enrollment status.


In summary, getting wifi for low income families in California begins by checking eligibility for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, as well as any local government assistance programs. There are also some low-cost internet plans from providers worth exploring. Beyond just getting connected, it’s also important to obtain an internet-enabled device, get digital literacy training if needed, and know how to troubleshoot any issues that arise.

Providing digital access and inclusion for all is critical in today’s increasingly connected world. Affordable high-speed internet allows families to search and apply for jobs, complete homework assignments, access important services and benefits, connect with healthcare providers, and much more. With some guidance on available resources and programs, low income families can get the vital wifi access they need to fully participate in society.

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