Skip to content

Accessing Technology Ethically: A Guide for Low-Income Households

Getting access to a computer and internet in today‘s world is crucial for education, employment, healthcare and more. However, quality technology can be expensive and out of reach for many low-income families and individuals.

The good news is there are a number of legal and ethical programs available to help provide low-cost or free computers, internet access, and other technology to those in need. This guide will outline the top resources, requirements and things to know about these programs.

Government Assistance Programs

Several government-run programs exist to help lower the cost of internet and technology access. Eligibility is based on income thresholds and often proof of participating in other federal or state assistance programs.

The Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides a discount of up to $30 per month towards internet service and up to a $100 discount on a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider.

To qualify, your household income must be at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or someone in your household must participate in certain assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit, or Lifeline.


EveryoneOn helps connect low-income individuals and families to low-cost internet service plans and affordable computers and tablets. The site allows you to check eligibility for ACP discounts as well as search for participating affordable connectivity providers in your area.

State and Local Programs

Some states and cities offer their own low-cost internet or technology access programs, including subsidized or free WiFi hotspots, reduced home internet costs, and device donation programs.

Contact your state or local social services department to ask about availability in your area. Some examples are the California Teleconnect Fund and San Francisco‘s Broadband Access + Equity Program.

Non-Profit and Community Assistance Programs

Along with government-run options, many national and local non-profit organizations work to provide low-cost or free computers, internet access, digital literacy training and tech support to those in need.

Most non-profits require documentation showing you meet income eligibility requirements. This could include recent pay stubs, tax returns, proof of participating in government assistance programs, or a written statement describing your financial situation. accepts applications for donated computers from low-income individuals and nonprofit organizations. Applicants must describe need, verify income at or below the Federal Poverty Level, and pay a small shipping/handling fee.

Cristina Foundation

The Cristina Foundation facilitates donations of computers and IT equipment to students, schools and nonprofit organizations. While they do not donate directly to individuals, contacting local groups listed in their network could help you find available donated technology in your community.


In addition to the affordable connectivity resources described above, EveryoneOn partners with computer donation sources and refurbishing programs across the country. Searching their database can connect you with low-cost, refurbished equipment and other options in your local area.

Human I-T

Human I-T accepts applications from low-income individuals for refurbished desktops, laptops and tablets available at significantly reduced prices. Exact product availability varies. Must meet income qualifications and pay a small fee to cover technological recycling costs.

PCs for People

PCs for People collects donations of used computers and peripherals, refurbishes them, and makes them available to eligible low-income individuals and nonprofit organizations for a small fee covering operation costs. Must meet income qualifications and submit proof of eligibility.

Public Libraries & Community Centers

Many local libraries and community centers offer public-use computers and internet access. While session length or availability may be limited depending on location, these facilities can serve as a free option for meeting basic digital needs. Ask your local branch about availability.

Final Considerations

Accessing low-cost and free technology requires some legwork and planning. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Apply early and be patient. Many government and nonprofit programs have more eligible applicants and requests than they have resources. Applying early and getting on waitlists, even if devices aren’t immediately available, can help secure technology sooner.

  • Choose wisely based on need. If pursuing a donated or discounted computer, think carefully about whether a desktop, laptop, tablet or other device will best serve your purposes. This will help target the most useful equipment.

  • Ask about additional discounts. Some programs offer additional discounts on internet service or data plans to complement acquired devices. Inquire about any deals that may help lower your connectivity costs.

  • Look into digital literacy training. Many organizations that provide technology access also offer free digital literacy classes on the basics of internet usage, productivity software, online safety and more. Consider signing up to make the most of your device.

In Summary

Paying for home internet access or purchasing the latest computing devices is a struggle that many low-income households know all too well. Hopefully this guide has outlined helpful information on the ethical programs and resources that can help eligible individuals and families access the technology they need at affordable prices or no cost.

With some research and outreach to providers in your local area, getting connected without breaking your budget is absolutely possible. Best of luck in finding the assistance options that will work for you!