Xfinity Internet Essentials: Is It the Best Low-income Internet?

Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Pro are Xfinity’s low-cost internet plans. The former gives you 50/10 Mbps (download/upload) for $9.95 per month. The latter provides 100/15 Mbps for $30 per month. Both plans have a 1.2 terabyte (TB) data cap.

As a former Xfinity subscriber, I wish I had known about this plan earlier. To prevent you from missing out on affordable internet, I’ve compiled all the information you could need for Internet Essentials.

Some of what you’ll find include:

Let’s get you discounted internet.

What Is Xfinity Comcast Low-income Internet?

Xfinity created the low-cost internet plan Internet Essentials in 2011 to give more people access to the internet. They have two plans, Internet Essentials, and Internet Essentials Pro.

Internet Essentials gives you 50/10 Mbps (download/upload) for $9.95 per month. This doesn’t include tax, which will vary by city and state.

It’s a great plan for a household with one or two people.

Internet Essentials Pro provides 100/15 Mbps for $24.95 per month (excluding tax). Pro’s suitable for homes with around four users.

Both plans include a free Getting Started Kit and don’t require a contract. The kit has a gateway (modem/router combo.) and any cables you’ll need to set up your internet.

Not anyone can get this plan. You’ll need to live in an area where Xfinity provides services. And you have to qualify for certain government aid programs.

If you qualify for this plan, I have a surprise for you. You can get free internet. Find out how in the next section.

What Is the Affordable Connectivity Program?

The affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a program created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It helps low-income households afford internet, mobile data, and devices.

It gives eligible households a $30 ($75 if you’re in qualifying Tribal Lands) monthly credit toward your bill. Xfinity services the ACP covers include:

  • Xfinity Prepaid 30-day refills
  • Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Pro
  • Xfinity Mobile data usage
  • Leased equipment fees
  • Xfinity Internet monthly charges

If you bundle Xfinity Mobile and Xfinity Internet, the ACP discount will go toward your bill’s ‘internet’ portion. Any remaining credit will go toward the Mobile bill.

As I mentioned, the credit will lead to free (or heavily discounted) internet or data.

You’ll have to qualify for the ACP, though.

Fill out this form on the FCC’s website and test your luck. You can sign up through a dependent or a child if you don’t qualify.

You can only have one ACP credit per household. And you can’t transfer it to other providers.

Internet Essentials Features

Some of what you’ll get with Xfinity Comcast’s Internet Essentials includes:

  • Wi-Fi hotspots: access to over 20 million Xfinity wireless hotspots across the United States
  • Laptop discount: you can choose from a Chromebook or Dell laptop for $149.99 (plus tax)
  • Self-installation kit: includes a gateway (modem/router combo) and other cables you’ll need to connect your device
  • No credit check: don’t worry if you have bad credit
  • Internet Essentials online Learning Center: lessons on programming, personal finance, and more

Using the Wi-Fi hotspots doesn’t contribute to your data cap. So if you live by one of these, go wild with data usage.

The laptops aren’t anything fancy.

Both have 4 GB of RAM, 11.6” screens, and a small hard drive. But if you don’t have a laptop, it’s an excellent chance to get a new one that can perform basic online tasks.

Some of what you could do with these specs include:

  • Meeting with clients over Zoom
  • Word processing, and spreadsheets
  • Completing basic virtual assistant tasks

Don’t expect to edit videos with these laptops, though.

With most Xfinity plans, they’ll give you a Flex 4K streaming box. You DON’T get it with Internet Essentials (or Pro). You also won’t get Peacock Premium, NBC’s streaming service.

How To Qualify for Xfinity Internet Essentials?

You can’t use Internet Essentials if you’ve been a Comcast customer within the past 90 days.

Otherwise:

There are plenty of them that you can try. And you’ll have to qualify for AT LEAST one of these programs:

  • Veterans Pension
  • Survivors Benefit
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • NSLP/Head Start
  • MEDICAID
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); you’ll also know this as Food Stamps
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

You can also qualify if you’ve received the Federal Pell Grant during the current year.

You’ll need to prove you participate in any of these programs. There are a bunch of documents you can provide. A couple of examples include an approval letter or statement of benefits.

Qualifying for Internet Essentials if You Live in Tribal Lands

The qualifications almost remain the same. If you live in qualifying Tribal Lands, you should qualify for ACP and Internet Essentials from the above criteria or take part in:

  • Food Distribution Program on reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribal Temporary Assistance for needy Families (Tribal TANF)
  • Head Start

As mentioned, if you’re in tribal lands, you get $75 off internet plans.

What Is the Application Process for Internet Essentials Like?

To complete the Internet Essentials application, you’ll need to 

To apply for Xfinity Internet Essentials, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Qualify: ensure you meet one of their eligibility requirements
  2. Fill out the online application form: follow all of their prompts and provide the documentation they require
  3. Receive an approval notification: they’ll send you a text message, snail mail, or an email saying whether they approved your application
  4. Provide additional documentation: in SOME instances, they may require other documents; provide these

You can also call 855-846-8376 and apply over a call.

What Can You Do With 50/10 Mbps Speeds?

Let’s cover Internet Essential’s speeds first. Here’s a chart that shows recommended download speeds for various every-day online tasks [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]:

TaskDownload Speed (Mbps)Upload Speed (Mbps)
Casual Gaming (PC)30.5
Competitive Gaming5010
High-definition Audio Streaming (Lossless)20.5
*Live Streaming on Twitch720p 60 FPS: 4.5Video: 2.5–4
Audio: 1.6
Online Gaming While Streaming24.59.24 (with speed buffer)
Watching Netflix & Disney+Standard Definition: 1
1080p HD: 5
4K Ultra HD: 25
NA
Web Surfing21
Zoom Video ConferencesGroup calling 1080p: 3.8
1 on 1 1080p: 3.8
Group calling 1080p: 3.8
1 on 1 1080p: 3.8
**4G Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)1 concurrent call: 51 concurrent call: 5

This table shows recommended download and upload speeds for different online tasks.

50/10 Mbps (download/upload) doesn’t give you much to work with. But I want to create a story to paint what I’m trying to type.

An average American household has 2.63 people (I’m going to round to 3) [6]. In this scenario, it’s two parents and a teenager

The teenager likes to game online. One parent likes to binge Netflix documentaries in 4K. The other parent prefers streaming various Star Wars series on Disney+.

With 50 Mbps, both parents could watch 1080p HD content while the teenager’s online games (around 38 Mbps download speeds used). That gives room for anyone in the household which needs to run background tasks.

Whether one partner’s browsing social media while watching a series. Or if the teen needs to download background data. You’re not going to download files quickly, though.

I think you get the picture.

Aside from the above scenario, Comcast Xfinity claims their Performance Starter (50 Mbps plan) can run four devices at the same time. That’s technically true.

But:

Various scenarios can occur to make it whether you can run more-or-less devices simultaneously. For instance, you’ll find many factors that could lower your Xfinity internet speed. These include:

  • Wi-Fi physical and wireless interference
  • Old modem or router
  • Outdated modem
  • Network outages

Use the above chart and scenario as a reference. Not a definite answer.

What Can You Do With 100/15 Mbps Speeds?

If you’re going to pay the extra money for Internet Essentials Pro, you’ll need to know whether it’s worth upgrading. You’ll have twice as much download and five additional megabits of upload speeds.

Let’s use the same family from the scenario above. This time, the teen wants to game competitively. While download and upload speed don’t matter for gaming (ping does), I found a source that claims it is.

In one of the links above the table in the 50 Mbps section, a Major League gamer CLAIMS you need 10 Mbps upload speeds for competitive online gaming. I don’t know the source’s legitimacy, but it’s a factor to consider.

Anyway:

He’s using 25/10 (upload/download). The same parent watching 4K earlier can keep doing so (extra 25 Mbps download). And the third parent has 50 Mbps of wiggle room.

With upload speeds and download speeds. So they could hop on a group Zoom call or watch a 4K movie. Meanwhile, there’s still leftover bandwidth.

This helps you account for peak hours, background downloads, and other factors into consideration.

Xfinity claims their Performance (Connect More) plan can handle four light internet users at the same time.

This scenario sounds like it meets their claims.

If you have more than three users in your home, you’ll want to consider monitoring what resolution they watch their videos in. 1080p only requires 5 Mbps (download) and 720p requires 1 Mbps.

If you have disposable income, I’d recommend upgrading to Internet Essentials Pro. You’ll have more flexibility for bandwidth use. And you won’t have to worry much about network congestion during peak hours.

Does Xfinity Internet Essentials Have a Data Cap?

Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Pro have a 1.2 terabyte (TB) data cap. Once you pass this bandwidth cap, you’ll need to pay $10 per 50 GB of data they add to your account.

Other plans have a $100 max data overage charge (per month). However, with Internet Essentials (and Pro), you’ll pay $30 max.

You get a 1-month grace period, though. That means you can use however much data you want for a month without facing the data overage fee. Use that month to test how much data your household uses.

Unless you watch a lot of 4K content, or if you download A LOT of files, you’ll have a hard time passing the data cap.

Here’s an example of how many hours you can spend online before exceeding the cap:

TaskHours
Online Gaming1,650+
Music Streaming8,500
*Online Browsing2,000+
1080p Video Binging350

This table shows how many hours you’ll need to spend on a single online task before using 1.2 TB of data.

* The calculator I used said the average person uses 15 MB per hour when browsing the internet. This rate will vary by activity.

When watching 4K content on a streaming platform like Netflix or Disney+ (and maybe YouTube), it’ll take you 60 hours to reach the data cap. So pay attention to what resolution you use when watching videos.

If you can’t resist watching 4K videos, you’ll want to consider paying $25 monthly for the xFi Complete gateway (modem/router combo). It removes the data cap. I wouldn’t recommend that, though. Because then you’ll have to deal with returning the hardware to Comcast later.

But it’s an option.

Xfinity Comcast offers an Unlimited Data Option add-on. But that’s $30. The same as what you’ll pay for the data overage fee.

At that point, you may save money by paying the overage fee (because of taxes for the add-on). You’ll also have all the advantages of having your own modem and router. For instance, they’re cheaper to replace.

Where Is Xfinity Comcast Internet Essentials Available?

Internet Essentials is available wherever Xfinity Comcast is available. That means it’s available within these states:

AlabamaArizonaArkansasCalifornia
ColoradoConnecticutDelawareFlorida
GeorgiaIdahoIllinoisIndiana
KansasKentuckyLouisianaMaine
MarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesota
MississippiMissouriNew HampshireNew Jersey
NevadaNew MexicoNew YorkNorth Carolina
OhioOregonPennsylvaniaSouth Carolina
TennesseeTexasUtahVermont
VirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsin

This table shows what states Xfinity offers internet services in.

They don’t support every city in each state, though.

Their availability may also change at any time. I suggest contacting a customer service representative on Xfinity Assistant (their chatbot). Ask them whether Xfinity offers Internet Essentials in your area.

You can also call them at (800) 934-6489 between 7 am to 9 pm (Monday–Saturday). Eastern Time Zone.

How Internet Essentials Compares To Other Low-income Internet Plans

Don’t apply for Internet Essentials yet. Check out whether other low-income internet plans will give you a better value:

Provider*Plan Price (per month)Speeds (Download/Upload) MbpsData Cap
Internet EssentialsRegular: $9.95
Pro: $24.95
Regular: 50/10
Pro: 100/15
1.2 TB
AT&T (Access)$10Up to 100150 GB–1 TB
Verizon (Lifeline Discount)$0300–940/880NA
Frontier (Fundamental Internet)$19.99Cable: 3–12/1
Fiber: 50/50
NA
Cox (ConnectAssist)$9.95–$30100/31.25 TB (after 12 mo.)

This table compares the internet speeds, prices, and data caps of various low-income internet plans. Internet service providers in this comparison include Frontier, Verizon, AT&T, Cox, and Xfinity.

* These prices don’t include state and local taxes.

Right off the bat, AT&T only offers internet service in around 21 states.

Cox has significantly less upload speed than Internet Essentials.

Verizon seems like the clear winner. Over 300 Mbps for free sounds amazing. Plus, they’ll give you Disney+ for free (for six months). But you have to qualify for the Lifeline Discount Program.

It’s a program just like the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

And you’ll need to live in a location that supports fiber optic internet.

Frontier’s only available in households in California that qualify for:

  • CalFresh
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medi-Cal

With those download and upload speeds, you’re not missing out on much.

Xfinity offers the most flexibility regarding availability. It also provides decent upload speeds compared to other plans.

FAQ: Xfinity Internet Essentials

Hold up.

Before signing up for Internet Essentials, check out these frequently asked questions. You may find an answer that’ll change your mind about subscribing.

Can I Get a Flex Box With Internet Essentials?

You do not get the Flex 4K streaming box with the Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Pro plans.

Is Peacock Premium Included With Internet Essentials?

Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Pro does not include the Peacock Premium streaming service.

Wrapping Up

Internet Essentials and Pro act as Xfinity Comcast’s way of providing affordable internet to low-income individuals.

You can get a steeper discount with your Xfinity internet services by enrolling in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

If you have the money or qualify for ACP, I recommend upgrading to Internet Essentials Pro.

Check whether you qualify for Comcast’s low-priced internet.

If you don’t qualify, check what other plans Xfinity has available.

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