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There is a silent divide not visible to the naked eye—the lack of easily-accessible cheap internet in New York City.

This invisible barrier separates those with access to the digital world from those without, impacting everything from education and employment to healthcare and social connections. 

Organizations dedicated to digital inclusion, like Human-I-T, are at the forefront of this fight, tirelessly working to dismantle the barriers that prevent many residents from accessing cheap internet in New York City.

Through innovative solutions, we are not just addressing the symptoms of the digital divide but are actively reshaping the landscape of connectivity in New York City. 

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Quick Answers About the Best Cheap Internet in New York City

The best cheap internet in New York City is provided by the non-profit Human-I-T, which offers income-qualified individuals speeds up to 150 Mbps for just $15 per month through its Gold Membership. For-profit options include Spectrum’s Basic Internet at $49.99/month with up to 200 Mbps, but prices may increase after the first year. Verizon Fios offers fiber optic service starting at $39.99/month with superior speeds, though it’s only available to 70.5% of NYC households and prices rise after the promo period. Astound Broadband has a $29.99/month plan for the first 12 months for up to 100 Mbps, but with limited coverage. T-Mobile Home Internet provides a flat-rate $50/month plan using 4G LTE and 5G networks, offering flexibility but with variable speeds. Starry Internet also offers $50/month for up to 200 Mbps, though its service is limited to select areas. Each provider has its own balance of cost, coverage, speed, and flexibility, suitable for varying user needs in NYC.

An Overview of New York City’s Internet Divide

While NYC projects an image of being one of the world’s most modern, connected cities, the data tells a different story for many residents. Lack of cheap internet in New York City, language barriers, and digital literacy gaps are combining to create a crisis that cuts across income levels, age groups, and neighborhoods.

The Bronx Disconnected

As New York City propels forward into the digital age, fueled by cutting-edge innovation and ever-evolving connectivity, an alarming truth remains – the Bronx is being left woefully behind.

The Bronx’s stark demographic realities alone illustrate the uphill battle, with a whopping 92% of its 1.47 million residents belonging to racial or ethnic minority groups, and a staggering 48% grappling with limited English proficiency – both representing the highest shares across New York City’s five boroughs. 

Compounding these challenges, 39% of Bronx households are classified as low-income, a status inextricably linked to reduced internet access according to surveys which revealed that 30% of those earning under $35,000 annually lack any home internet connectivity. Alarmingly, even among slightly higher income brackets of $35,000 to $75,000, over 1 in 10 households remain digitally disconnected. 

Beyond the issue of affordability, infrastructural gaps also persist with over 3% of broadband serviceable locations in the borough limited to internet speeds below the 100/20 Mbps threshold, inhibiting their ability to fully participate in bandwidth-intensive online activities.

The societal ramifications of this expansive digital canyon are both stark and multidimensional, touching virtually every facet of modern existence – from education and economic mobility to civic engagement and personal safety. 

In an era where remote and hybrid learning models have become deeply entrenched, the absence of reliable, affordable home internet renders academic achievement an uphill battle for Bronx students before they even begin, with 30% of low-income families unable to access the online resources and virtual classrooms that have become ubiquitous. The employment prospects for borough residents are equally imperiled, as 17% are confined to solely smartphone internet and 18% are entirely unconnected – barriers that fundamentally obstruct their ability to pursue online education, apply for jobs digitally, or even work remotely.

Access to basic civic services and critical public resources have also migrated online, yet this digitized landscape remains an unattainable luxury for far too many Bronxites, with that same 18% of households lacking any broadband connection, leaving the borough’s most vulnerable residents essentially fending for themselves. The vicious cycle only intensifies as marginalized groups like seniors, immigrants, and individuals with disabilities continually encounter language barriers and technical hurdles that hinder digital adoption, all while a looming undercurrent of cybersecurity and privacy concerns plagues 82% of residents. 

Yet, beneath the grim realities exists a faint glimmer of hope – while a mere 52% of eligible Bronx households have enrolled in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program aimed at subsidizing internet costs, this modest statistic reveals an opportunity for meaningful progress. Furthermore, while virtually the entire borough technically has access to broadband infrastructure, the prohibitive costs create de facto digitally-barren zones blanketing entire neighborhoods. 

Brooklyn’s Uneven Access

Brooklyn stands out for its diverse population, with a significant proportion of racial or ethnic minorities, low-income households, and individuals facing language barriers. This diversity, while a strength, also highlights the challenges in achieving digital equity. With a population of 2,712,400 people living in 985,100 households, the digital divide in Brooklyn is not just a matter of connectivity but a reflection of underlying socioeconomic disparities. The median household income sits at $67,800, yet a staggering 31% of households earning under $35k a year do not have internet access, compared to 14% of those earning between $35k and $75k, and only 5% of households earning over $75k. This discrepancy underscores how economic factors play a critical role in digital access.

Despite an 85% broadband internet household penetration rate, slightly below the New York State average, Brooklyn’s digital landscape reveals deeper issues of affordability and quality. With the median household spending between $70 and $90 monthly on internet services, the cost remains a significant barrier for many, especially when 42% of eligible households are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, indicating a reliance on assistance for internet affordability.

Moreover, the infrastructure itself does not uniformly meet the needs of Brooklyn’s residents. A concerning 1.5% of broadband serviceable locations have internet speeds below the FCC’s benchmark of 100/20 Mbps, highlighting areas where improvements in digital infrastructure are sorely needed. The reliance on cable internet by the majority of households with access reflects limited options in service types, which can affect both the quality and cost of internet service.

Device accessibility further compounds the digital divide. With 10% of households lacking a computer and 8% being smartphone-only internet users, the gap in digital access extends beyond internet service to include essential tools for participating in the digital world. This lack of access is felt acutely in the realm of digital literacy, where uneven experiences and limited English skills pose additional barriers to fully leveraging online resources.

The concerns around privacy and cybersecurity, with 88% of residents expressing apprehension about digital safety, illustrate the complexity of navigating the digital landscape safely and securely. These concerns are particularly pronounced among older adults, underscoring the need for targeted training and resources to enhance digital safety awareness and practices.

Access to public resources online presents another layer of challenge. With 36% of residents rating their past experiences with online government services as fair or poor, and focus groups highlighting the difficulty of navigating government sites, especially for non-English speakers, the digital divide also manifests in the ability to access critical services and information.

Manhattan’s Haves and Have-Nots

With over 1.6 million residents, Manhattan stands as a microcosm of broader national and global challenges related to digital access and literacy. Despite its global reputation as a center of wealth, culture, and innovation, the statistics about digital access reveal a different story for many of its inhabitants.

Manhattan’s demographic composition is unique, with a higher percentage of racial or ethnic minorities and low-income households than seen across other regions of the state. Approximately 53% of its residents belong to racial and ethnic minority groups, compared to 45% statewide, highlighting a rich cultural diversity that unfortunately correlates with disparities in digital access and literacy. Low-income households, constituting 22% of the population, face particular challenges in accessing broadband internet, essential for many aspects of modern life.

Internet affordability and availability stand out as critical issues. While Manhattan boasts a 100% availability of broadband serviceable locations with speeds above 100/20 Mbps, an 11% gap exists for households without any type of broadband internet. This discrepancy is stark among income levels: 28% of households earning under $35,000 a year lack internet access, showcasing how financial constraints severely limit connectivity. Even more, the median household expenditure on internet service in Manhattan is $65-80 per month, a figure that, while slightly lower than the statewide average, remains a significant burden for lower-income families.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, designed to mitigate such financial barriers, has seen enrollment from 55% of eligible households in Manhattan. Yet, this leaves a considerable number of residents without access to subsidized broadband, underscoring the need for increased awareness and enrollment efforts.

Device accessibility further compounds the issue. Seven percent of households lack a computer, and 6% rely solely on smartphones for internet access. This reliance on mobile devices for internet use, preferred by 35% of survey respondents, hints at a broader trend of digital interaction but also signals the limitations faced by those without access to a full range of devices. Fourteen percent of residents report not having all the devices their household needs, a gap that critically hinders educational, employment, and social opportunities.

Digital literacy emerges as another facet of the digital divide. While many Manhattan residents are confident in online banking and job-related digital tasks, focus group participants have voiced concerns over the adequacy of resources for English learners and people of color. This lack of confidence in digital skills is closely tied to fears around privacy and cybersecurity, with 88% of Manhattan residents concerned about digital safety. Such fears not only deter online engagement but also perpetuate a cycle of digital exclusion, particularly among the elderly, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

The accessibility of public resources online further reflects disparities. A notable 39% of residents rated their past experiences with online government services as fair or poor, highlighting challenges in equitable access to information and services that are increasingly moving online.

The Language Barrier in Queens

Queens, home to over 2.39 million people across 807,500 households, showcases larger shares of racial or ethnic minorities and individuals with language barriers than other regions of the state. Such diversity, while a strength, also highlights unique barriers to digital equity, from high costs for unreliable home internet services to website accessibility concerns for older adults and people with language barriers.

Despite nearly all broadband serviceable locations in Queens having internet speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps available, 12% of households do not have any type of broadband internet. However, this impact is not shared evenly across income strata. In Queens, 28% of households earning under $35k/year lack internet access, a figure that drops to 12% among households earning $35k-$75k/year, and further reduces to 5% for those earning over $75k/year. This gradient of internet accessibility aligned with income levels paints a troubling picture of digital inequity where the less fortunate are disproportionately impacted.

The median household in Queens spends between $60 to $90 per month on the internet, which is slightly less than the statewide average. However, the burden of this expense is felt more acutely in lower-income households, where internet costs consume a larger portion of their monthly budget. The Affordable Connectivity Program, with 53% of eligible households in Queens enrolled, has been a crucial step towards mitigating this burden, yet the enrollment rate also suggests that nearly half of eligible households might still be struggling with internet affordability.

Of course, digital equity is about more than just the ability to afford and access the internet; it also involves having the tools and skills needed to navigate the digital world effectively.  In Queens, 7% of households lack a computer, and 10% are smartphone-only internet subscribers. Additionally, with 80% of Queens residents concerned about digital safety, the need for comprehensive digital literacy that includes cybersecurity awareness is undeniable. These statistics are more than mere numbers; they represent a segment of the population that is sidelined in an increasingly digital world.

Additionally, the accessibility of public resources online and the navigability of government websites, especially for individuals with disabilities or limited English proficiency, remain significant challenges. The report indicates that 34% of Queens residents rated their past experiences with online government services as fair or poor, emphasizing the need for user-friendly digital platforms that can serve all community members effectively.

Staten Island’s Low-Income Gap

In the fabric of Staten Island’s community, accessing cheap internet is tough. This borough, home to 493,200 residents across 169,500 households, demonstrates a unique digital landscape as outlined in the State of New York’s Digital Equity Plan from November 2023. 

Staten Island’s median household income stands at $89,400, yet disparities in internet access and digital engagement persist, particularly among low-income households. This analysis delves into these disparities, offering a lens through which to view the current state of the digital divide in Staten Island and its broader implications for social equity.

Staten Island showcases smaller percentages of populations covered under the Digital Equity Act compared to other regions, indicating unique challenges in achieving digital equity. Among these challenges, low-income households exhibit a lower rate of internet adoption compared to their counterparts in other parts of the state, with 35% of households earning under $35k/year without internet access. This statistic underscores a critical barrier to participation in the digital economy, further exacerbated by the fact that only 86% of households have any type of broadband internet. This figure slightly falls below the state average, reflecting a gap in connectivity that hinders educational, employment, and healthcare opportunities for its residents.

The cost of internet service in Staten Island varies widely, with households spending between $60 to $120 per month, revealing a financial strain on families striving to stay connected. Despite nearly all broadband serviceable locations offering speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps, a notable 14% of households do not have any type of broadband internet. This gap in access is paralleled by concerns over the affordability and reliability of these services.

Device accessibility remains a pivotal aspect of the digital divide. In Staten Island, 7% of households lack a computer, and 6% are smartphone-only internet subscribers. The reliance on smartphones for internet access, as indicated by 36% of respondents, underscores a dependency that may limit the range of digital activities residents can engage in, from job applications to educational learning. Additionally, 9% of respondents feel their household does not have all the devices it needs, highlighting a gap in digital readiness and participation.

Digital literacy emerges as a critical area for improvement, with respondents expressing confidence in online banking yet displaying apprehension toward protecting their privacy online. Perhaps this is why privacy and cybersecurity concerns are notably high among Staten Islanders, with 83% expressing worry over digital safety. This anxiety is not unfounded, as residents navigate a digital landscape fraught with potential risks to personal information and security. 

The accessibility of public resources via the internet presents another layer of challenge, with 37% of residents rating their past experiences with online government services as fair or poor. This dissatisfaction points to a disconnect between the provision of these services and their usability, particularly for those with limited digital skills or access.

With these analyses in-hand, it’s clear that the idea of cheap internet in New York City is a complex issue. With the average cost of broadband services at $50/month, a significant financial barrier is placed on millions of households who say broadband internet isn’t affordable. This cost is prohibitive for many, especially when considering that only 5% of low-income families can afford high-speed internet without financial assistance. This statistic not only highlights the economic disparities within the city but also suggests the urgent need for more inclusive affordable internet options in New York city. 

Exploring the Options for Best Cheap Internet in New York City 

Looking at what’s available, it’s clear there are a variety of ways to access cheap internet in New York City for people with different needs and budgets. Yet, for low-income families, the quest to find truly high-quality, cheap internet in New York City is challenging. Let’s explore a breakdown of various internet plans, highlighting their price points, benefits, and limitations, to uncover the realities of digital accessibility in the city.

Spectrum’s Basic Internet Plan

  • Price Point: $49.99/month
  • Pros: Broad coverage across NYC, offering a no-contract option that appeals to those wary of long-term commitments.
  • Cons: The price increases after the first year, and there are additional fees for equipment, which can accumulate, making it less affordable over time.
  • Contracts and Coverage: Month-to-month flexibility, with 82.5% coverage in NYC, suggesting a wide but not universal reach.
  • Setup Information: Offers a self-installation kit, potentially saving on initial setup costs.
  • Speed: Up to 200 Mbps, suitable for most household needs but may not meet the demands of high-bandwidth users.

Spectrum’s plan, while initially appearing accessible, may not be sustainable for low-income families due to the eventual price hike and additional costs.

Verizon Fios’ Fiber Optic Plan

  • Price Point: Starting at $39.99/month for the first year.
  • Pros: Offers symmetrical upload and download speeds, essential for remote work and learning, with no data caps.
  • Cons: Limited to 70.5% of NYC households, highlighting a significant accessibility gap. The price increases after the promotional period, adding a financial strain.
  • Contracts and Coverage: Requires a 1-year commitment, which might deter those looking for more flexibility.
  • Setup Information: Professional installation required, which could introduce additional fees.
  • Speed: Superior fiber optic speeds, offering a robust solution for high-speed internet needs.

Verizon Fios presents a high-quality option with its fiber optic service, yet its limited availability and cost increase post-promotion period pose challenges for widespread adoption among low-income families.

Astound Broadband’s High-Speed Plan

  • Price Point: $29.99/month for the first 12 months.
  • Pros: Competitive introductory price and no contract required, offering flexibility for budget-conscious households.
  • Cons: Coverage may be limited to specific areas, and speeds decrease during peak usage times.
  • Contracts and Coverage: No long-term commitment, but limited to certain neighborhoods, affecting its accessibility.
  • Setup Information: Self-installation option available to avoid setup fees.
  • Speed: Up to 100 Mbps, catering to basic internet usage and streaming needs.

Astound Broadband’s offering stands out for its affordability and flexibility, though its limited coverage and potential for slowed speeds during high-usage periods might not meet everyone’s needs.

T-Mobile Home Internet

  • Price Point: $50/month, including all taxes and fees.
  • Pros: Utilizes T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and 5G networks, providing a unique alternative to traditional broadband with straightforward pricing.
  • Cons: Speed and reliability heavily depend on location and network congestion.
  • Contracts and Coverage: No annual contracts, offering nationwide coverage that leverages T-Mobile’s extensive cellular network.
  • Setup Information: Easy setup with a provided gateway device, no professional installation required.
  • Speed: Variable, based on 4G LTE and 5G availability and network traffic.

T-Mobile Home Internet’s plan is an innovative solution that could appeal to those seeking simplicity and coverage flexibility, though its variable speeds may not suit all users.

Starry Internet

  • Price Point: $50/month for up to 200 Mbps.
  • Pros: Simple, flat-rate pricing with no hidden fees and high-speed internet suitable for most online activities.
  • Cons: Currently available only in select apartment buildings and neighborhoods, limiting its reach.
  • Contracts and Coverage: No long-term contracts, with service focused in specific urban areas.
  • Setup Information: Includes a Starry Station router at no additional cost, with a straightforward self-setup process.
  • Speed: Up to 200 Mbps, providing robust performance for streaming, gaming, and work-from-home needs.

Starry Internet offers an attractive package for urban dwellers within its service areas, though its limited availability restricts its impact on bridging the citywide digital divide.

As we consider the broader implications of these findings, it becomes evident that addressing the affordability and accessibility of high-speed internet is paramount in closing the digital divide. This exploration sets the stage for a deeper discussion on potential solutions and strategies to ensure that every New Yorker has access to the digital world.

Human-I-T’s Options for Accessing Cheap Internet in New York City

In cities like New York, where the digital divide mirrors broader socio economic challenges, Human-I-T’s mission is particularly resonant. 

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a cornerstone of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, was pivotal in making high-speed internet accessible and affordable across the United States, including New York. As of February 2024, the ACP has helped approximately 23 million households nationwide save on their internet bills, with over 1,771,571 households in New York benefiting from the program. 

As the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) approaches its conclusion, the imperative to find lasting solutions for internet access becomes increasingly critical. Human-I-T responds to this challenge with a suite of services designed to ensure that affordable internet and digital resources remain accessible to those most in need.

At the core of Human-I-T’s response is our offer of cheap internet in New York City for a significantly reduced cost of $15/month for our income-qualified Gold Members. This offer is aimed at ensuring that individuals and families can stay connected without financial strain.

However, our approach to cultivating digital equity in New York City goes well beyond just internet access. We also sell and distribute low-cost or refurbished devices directly to New Yorkers via our online store – Human-I-T Online. We then pair those devices with one year of free technical support, as well as access to our free digital skills training platform.

Through these comprehensive services, Human-I-T not only offers a lifeline in the wake of the ACP’s conclusion but also lays the groundwork for a more digitally inclusive future. By providing a pathway to affordable internet, low-cost devices, and the skills needed to navigate the digital world, Human-I-T ensures that the advancements in connectivity and digital literacy made possible by the ACP continue to benefit New Yorkers and beyond.

You have the opportunity to be part of this transformative journey. If you or someone you know is struggling to afford internet in New York City, don’t let this chance slip away. Fill out the form below to get connected to Human-I-T’s low-cost internet in NYC and unlock your full potential online.

Get Cheap Internet in New York City with Human-I-T

Liz Cooper

About Liz Cooper