The City recognizes that having access to the internet is critical for families and individuals during this time of crisis. While practicing social distancing and dealing with the closures of many businesses and social services, internet access will help families and individuals do a wide range of activities, from schoolwork to job searching to paying bills.
Through the Office of Innovation and Technology, the City is working to make sure everyone can remain connected and that those without Internet access can get it. Call a Digital Navigator helpline to walk you through these options listed below and get you connected to the Internet.
Below are some of the most important updates on low-cost internet and Wi-Fi access that have been made available. This list also provides the updates made to mobile phone service plans to help support individuals during the COVID-19 crisis. Full updates for each company and any restrictions or limitations can be found on their respective websites. The City does not endorse any particular internet provider or mobile plan and only makes this information available in relation to the Covid-19 response from broadband and internet providers.
We will continue to update this list as we receive more information to share with the Philadelphia community.
Comcast Internet Essentials
- Through December 31, Comcast is offering 60 days of free of Comcast Internet Essentials to new customers with limited means, regardless of previous debt to Comcast. See their website for eligibility requirements and more details. The application is available in seven languages.
- A social security number is not required to apply for Internet Essentials. Comcast accepts 28 different kinds of documents, including PHL City IDs. A full list can be found at https://internetessentials.com/get-help.
- If you recently had to disconnect your Comcast internet due to hardship, you may be eligible to sign up for Internet Essentials immediately—without having a 90-day waiting period. Existing Xfinity internet customers can apply for services at www.internetessentials.com.
- Comcast has increased speeds of Internet Essentials from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps for all customers at no charge. This will remain the base speed of Internet Essentials moving forward.
- Comcast also offers laptops for $150 to Internet Essential customers.
- The simplest, fastest, and easiest way to the apply for the program is from a mobile device at www.InternetEssentials.com. Call 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376) if you are having trouble signing up with your smartphone. However, the call centers are very busy at this time. If you do call, Comcast recommends using the virtual hold option to avoid losing minutes, and a Comcast representative will call you back.
- Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free—including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots, visit www.xfinity.com/wifi. Once at a hotspot, consumers should select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots and then launch a browser.
- Verizon will now offer new Lifeline eligible individuals, Fios (with Disney+ for a year) for $19.99/month at speeds of 200/200. Limitations apply. For program details, visit their Lifeline webpage. For answers to your questions, see Verizon’s COVID-19 FAQs.
- Verizon customers who have lifeline as of March 20, 2020 will have all billing charges waived for 60 days (two billing cycles) beginning with the 3/22/2020 bills. These will apply to either a home phone or Verizon broadband internet service.
- Contact Verizon today to get your internet hooked up.
- Verizon will waive overage charges and late fees for customers who may be financially affected by the COVID-19 crisis through June 30th.
- Verizon will provide two months waived internet and voice service charges for current Lifeline customers and waive router charges through June 30th.
- Verizon will add 15GB of high-speed data for wireless consumer and small business customers.
- Consumer and small business Fios and DSL broadband internet plans will have no data caps.
- This nonprofit offers a Wi-Fi hotspot with Sprint 4G LTE wireless service, provided by Mobile Citizen. Speed varies with tower coverage. No data limitations.
- $14.99 per month plus initial purchase cost of modem. Plans are prepaid with no credit check or hidden fees.
- Household with income below the 200% poverty level, or currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program are eligible.
- They also offer low-cost and refurbished computers. Find more information at www.hitconnect.org.
PCs for People
- This nonprofit offers a Wi-Fi hotspot with Sprint 4G LTE wireless service, provided by Mobile Beacon. Speed varies with tower coverage. No data limitations.
- $15 per month plus initial $80 purchase cost of modem. Plans are prepaid with no credit check or hidden fees.
- Households with income below the 200% poverty level, or currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program are eligible.
- Schools, nonprofits, and libraries can buy bulk internet to provide to their students or members.
AT&T and Cricket
- AT&T will not terminate the service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer because of their inability to pay their bill.
- AT&T will waive wireless plan overage charges for data, voice or text. AT& T will also waive any late payment fees that any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer may incur because of economic hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to submit a waiver request.
- AT&T will keep its public Wi-Fi hotspots open for any American who needs them.
- AT&T is automatically increasing mobile hotspot data by 15GB a month through May 13th for those with an unlimited plan.
- For pre-paid customers, AT&T is offering a $15 limited-time offer for 2GB of data with unlimited talk and text to new and existing customers with no activation fee and an automatic 10GB per month of additional data for 60 days is being added temporarily to existing customers’ capped phone plans and for new customers who activate capped phone plans prior to April 26.
- For new and existing Cricket Customers, starting March 27, Cricket is offering a new unlimited $15 plan with 2GB of data and unlimited talk and text for a limited time with no activation fee.
- AT&T is also supporting many educational initiatives including:
- underwriting expenses for the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) to be available to all educators doing distance learning
- contributing to Khan Academy to help them improve and expand online learning resources
- providing 60 days of free access and unlimited usage of Caribu, a video-calling application that allows family members to read, draw, and play games with one another while at different locations
- supporting TIME for Kids to remove their paywall through the end of the school year
T-Mobile and Metro
- T-Mobile is now offering a 5G, $15/month plan called T-mobile Connect for anyone.
- For the 60 days after activation, Metro is offering a new $15 per month plan for unlimited talk and text plus 2GB of high-speed smartphone data. Get details from T-Mobile.
- New and current Metro customers with any voice line can also get a free 8” tablet (via rebate redemption) with a $15 unlimited tablet data plan.*
- MetroSmart Hotspot devices will be half off, and the $35 per month data plan will include 20GB—double the normal monthly data—for the next 60 days.
- All current T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers who have legacy plans without unlimited high-speed data will get unlimited smartphone data for the next 60 days.
- T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers on smartphone plans with hotspot data will get an additional 10GB per bill cycle for the next 60 days for each voice line (T-Mobile Connect excluded).
- T-Mobile is working with its Lifeline partners to provide customers extra free data up to 5GB of data per month through May 13, 2020.
Sprint and Boost Mobile
- For the next 60 days: Sprint will not terminate service and will waive late fees if customers are unable to pay their Sprint bill because of the coronavirus. Get more details from Sprint and Boost Mobile
- Customers with metered data plans will receive unlimited data per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.
- Sprint will provide customers with an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot data per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.
- Sprint customers with mobile hotspot-capable handsets who don’t have a mobile hotspot today will now get 20GB as well per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.
- Through May 14th, Mint Mobile is offering free unlimited data add-ons to all customers.
This article from WhistleOut provides an update of all the most popular cell phone carriers in Philadelphia and their plans, as well as updates on their responses to Covid-19.
The Federal Lifeline Program
The Federal Lifeline Program is one of the four federal Universal Service programs that lowers the monthly cost of phone or mobile internet for low-income households. Eligible customers can receive up to $9.25 toward their monthly bill.
- Download this handy brochure from Pennyslvania Public Utility Commission that can answer all of your questions about Lifeline.
- Use this county chart to find companies that serve Philadelphia.
- Sign up for Lifeline by going to the National Verifier.
Free Wi-Fi Access
Wi-Fi access has been made accessible to the general public by several companies and local institutions. Wi-Fi may extend to the exterior of a building such as a school or library—and can generally be reached from the facility’s parking lot. Please remember to practice responsible social distancing and avoid group gatherings at these locations if you choose to use the site’s Wi-Fi.
- Public Comcast and AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots are available throughout the city for all individuals.
- LinkPHL always offers free, secure high speed Wi-Fi access. 15 Link kiosks are currently located in Center City.
- For district students, Wi-Fi access at all School District schools will remain active through the extended closure. For more information go to the School District of Philadelphia’s webpage on internet connectivity.
- Wi-Fi access at all Free Library of Philadelphia locations will remain active while the library branches are closed. An active library card number and PIN are needed to access the location’s Wi-Fi. For more information and instructions on how to access free Wi-Fi at any public library branch, visit the Free Library’s website.
- Here is a map of outdoor, accessible Wi-Fi hotspots in Philadelphia.
- The National Free Wi-Fi map provides free Wi-Fi hotspots at businesses and restaurants that are searchable by address. Most locations are in Northeast and Northwest Philadelphia. Many locations may be closed at this time, but they may still have active and available Wi-Fi service.
Tips for getting and improving access
In addition to new offers from the telecommunications companies, here are helpful tips to improve your internet access and how to turn your mobile phone into a Hot Spot to connect your computer to the internet.
Lastly, we recognize that not everyone may have access to a computer or device. We are working with the community to figure out how to better address this need. For now, we advise connecting with PCs for People, a non-profit that works to distribute low-cost computers nationally.
To learn more about what is happening nationally to get people connected to the internet, here are three additional resources that might be useful:
- The National Digital Inclusion Alliance offers resources for educators, policymakers, and a list of low-cost internet options nationally.
- The FCC has a COVID-19 response and has initiated a Keep America Connected Pledge to ensure Americans don’t lose internet access during this time.
- EveryoneOn Discount Broadband Locator is updating the ISP discount locator tool with information about COVID specific offers.