While low-income programs can enable participants to get necessities like phone and internet service at a reduced cost, cable companies do not offer these programs for TV service. Since you can access basic network channels — which provide local news and emergency information — free-of-charge with an antenna, cable TV is considered an entertainment luxury rather than a necessity.
However, cable companies do offer a range of packages and deals, including some with lower costs. There are also some free alternatives to cable TV that you can use to get access to more channels, movies, etc. For more about low-income cable options, see below.
Cheap Cable TV Options
Cable TV providers do not offer reduced rates for low-income households, specifically. We spoke to customer service representatives at several of the major cable companies, including Charter/Spectrum, Comcast/Xfinity, Optimum, Cox, and AT&T. While all of the representatives told us that their companies do not offer low-income programs, some do have inexpensive package options.
Charter has the most affordable option at $35 a month for a basic cable and internet bundle; the other companies’ prices range from about $50 to $65 per month for the least expensive options. Dish TV prices start at about $60 per month. Some companies also offer options with no deposit or credit check. Note that these lower-priced packages will include fewer channels, but are more affordable than premium cable.
If you are a senior citizen, there are a few wireless providers and cable companies, such as AT&T and Spectrum, that offer senior discounts. You may need to be an AARP member or receive Supplemental Security Income to take advantage of these discounts. For more information, see our list of senior discounts by age.
Most cable companies also offer other types of discounts, such as student discounts, discounts for TV and internet bundles, and various other promotions. Promotions change regularly; you can find your current options on the cable company websites.
Alternatives to Cable
If you’re unable to find a traditional cable package or discount that works for you, there are alternatives to cable that will allow you to access entertainment at home at a low cost. Below, we explain how over-the-air TV, internet, and streaming services can provide suitable alternatives to cable.
Internet & Over-the-Air TV
The best alternative to paying a monthly cable bill is paying for the internet and getting basic over-the-air channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and PBS for free. All you need to get over-the-air TV is an HDTV antenna — a one-time purchase of about $20 to $30 on Amazon — and you will receive all your local channels free of charge.
Many providers do offer low-income internet programs since the internet is seen as more of a necessity than cable TV. If you qualify for low-income internet (which usually costs about $10 per month), you can access additional free entertainment through sites like YouTube. If your TV has HDMI ports, you can connect your TV to your computer with an HDMI cable for around $10 or less to watch videos on a larger screen. Providers with low-income internet programs include:
Another low-cost alternative to cable is to use a streaming service. The following companies, while not traditional cable providers, do offer free or low-cost TV, movies, and/or cable channels. (Note that our list does not include options like Netflix, which offer a more curated selection rather than cable-equivalent.) Click each company name to find more information on its website. Note that you can sort the list by clicking the arrows at the top of any column.
Keep in mind that these options do require an internet connection, which (as noted above) will cost about $10 per month if you qualify for a low-income program.