The median price for Internet access in the United States is about $75 per month. Yikes!
There must be less expensive options, right?
Everyone knows you can downgrade your Internet service to pay less... and get a slower speed. But if you're willing to switch providers, you might be able to keep, or even increase, your Internet speed... and pay less for it. It depends on where you live and what companies operate in your area, but it's definitely worth looking into.
Switching can be a big deal, so what's the best way to get started? You'll want to consider the Internet speed you're getting, whether Wi-Fi capabilities are included and whether you need to sign a long term commitment to get the lowest rate possible. These days, the fastest and most affordable Internet options typically use fiber optics. While the provider will typically provide a modem, you may also need to buy or rent a Wi-Fi router and signal extenders for your home.
You'll also need to consider the delivery method used by the provider. The latest option is 5G cellular, which is basically the same service you probably have on your smartphone, but it's provided via a cellular modem installed in your home. If you get your Internet from your cable TV provider, it likely comes via a coax cable or fiber optics. And if you live in a rural area, you might need to use satellite Internet service, but that gets costly.
Let's take a look at some of the lower-cost home internet-service providers, or ISPs. Keep in mind, only a few of these services operate nationwide.
Get home Internet without spending a fortune
Right now, some of the best Internet deals use 5G or fiber optic tech, but again, if you want the fastest Internet speeds, this will cost you more (sometimes much more) than an ISP's "basic" Internet service plan. So, since not all of these ISPs operate nationally and all offer a variety of plans, we've listed them here in alphabetical order.
Starting Price: $55/month | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 300 Mbps | Connection Type: Fiber Optics | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: No
Eligible new subscribers of AT&T Fiber get two months of free Internet service, plus a $50 reward card (when service is ordered online using promo code: EXTRA50). AT&T Fiber comes with the equipment needed to enjoy high-speed and reliable Internet at home using fiber optics. The equipment supplied will provide in-home Wi-Fi with a coverage area up to 5,000 square feet. There's no annual contract and the monthly price is locked in for 12 months. Subscribers also get AT&T ActiveArmor-–a suite of features that add online privacy and security.
The "basic" plan for $55 per month (plus taxes, when you sign up for autopay) offers equal upload and download speed (up to 300 Mbps), which AT&T boasts is 15 times faster than traditional cable. This plan allows you to connect up to 10 devices, including computers, mobile devices and smart home devices. For $65 per month, you can boost maximum Internet speed to 55 Mbps, but for $150 per month, you can enjoy connection speeds up to 2 gig. There's even a 5 gig plan for $250 per month.
Why we like AT&T Fiber: The Internet plans from AT&T Fiber are straightforward, have no data caps and include all the equipment you need.
Starting Price: $55/month | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 100 Mbps | Connection Type: Fiber Optics | Required Contract: No | Equipment Fees: Yes
CentryLink offers two affordable Internet plans designed for home use. The Simply Unlimited Internet plan ($55/month) has no annual contract and offers a connection speed up to 100 Mbps. For $75 per month, a fiber Internet plan offers a connection speed up to 940 Mbps and includes free installation and free Wi-Fi equipment. Using the company's mobile app, you can manage your Internet account, activate and adjust parental controls, create guest passwords and manage all connected devices. Both Internet plans include real-time cyber security features.
Why we like CenturyLink: You get unlimited data at the speed you select, for a flat monthly fee that requires no long-term contract. To get the best deal, you do not need to bundle other services.
Starting Price: $35/month (with Cox Mobile), $50/month (without Cox Mobile) | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 100 Mbps | Connection Type: Fiber Optics | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: Yes, 1.25TB per month | Equipment Fees: No
When you sign up for an Internet plan with Cox Communications, you get the required Optical Network Terminal (ONT) equipment and a Wi-Fi router for free. The basic plan starts at $35 per month (if you're a Cox Mobile customer or agree to become one), but if you just want the home Internet, the fee is $50 per month. There is no annual contract or cancellation fee. As a Cox Communications Internet subscriber, you also get free access to more than four million hotspots around the country.
Since 100 Mbps is not suitable for busy homes with a lot of connected devices, the company also offers a 250 Mbps, 500 Mbps, 1 gig and 2 gig plan, but depending on which you choose, any of these will increase your monthly bill, potentially to more than $100 per month. With these higher-end plans, you get more sophisticated equipment for free (with upgrades as needed), but only for the first 24 months of service. After the initial two years, you will be charged an equipment rental fee. The main drawback to Cox Communications' Internet services is that all plans have a data cap of 1.25TB. But that should be more than enough data for any household that doesn't do a lot of video streaming and gaming.
Why we like Cox Communications: The basic Internet plan is affordable and comes with no surprise fees.
Starting Price: $40/month (with Auto Pay) | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 500 Mbps | Connection Type: Fiber Optic | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: No
Starting with a connection speed up to 500 Mbps with its Fiber 500 Internet plan, Frontier Internet includes an Amazon eero 6+ Wi-Fi router and has no data cap. If you subscribe to YouTubeTV through Frontier Internet, you get a discount of $15 per month off that subscription for one year. This gives you unlimited streaming access to more than 100 channels. Of course, faster speed Internet plans (up to 5 gig) are offered, but any of these will increase your monthly fee. With any plan you select, free installation is included. Frontier boasts 99.9% network reliability and uptime.
Why we like Frontier Internet: This is one of the few ISPs that offer affordable rates, with included equipment, no long-term contract and no data caps. There's also no need to bundle services to get the best deal, although you do need to sign up for auto pay.
Starting Price: $40/month ($35/month with a mobile plan) | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 300 Mbps | Connection Type: Cable | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: No
If you agree to sign up for autopay, Optimum Internet offers its basic plan for just $40 per month. With this plan, you get a maximum Internet speed of 300 Mbps. It also includes equipment and installation. For households that qualify for the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program, this plan is offered for free, because Optimum will cover the $10 per month price difference between the plan price and the subsidy provided by the government.
Meanwhile, if you sign up for the faster 1 gig plan ($70 per month), eligible new subscribers receive a $200 prepaid gift card as a bonus. Plus, if you're an Optimum Mobile subscriber (or choose to become one), you'll save an additional $15 per month on the 1 Gig plan and get a free month of service after six months of keeping the service active.
Why we like Optimum Internet: For households that qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, the basic 300 Mbps plan is free. Otherwise, it costs as little as $40 per month if you sign up for autopay.
Starting Price: $50/month | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 300 Mbps (up to 1 gig) | Connection Type: Fiber Optics | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: Modem is free, wireless router costs extra (or you can provide your own)
While the basic Spectrum Internet plan promotes a connection speed of 300 Mbs, the company does say it can go as high as 1 gig without upgrading your service plan. The $50-per-month plan includes a modem and anti-virus software, but not a wireless router. No contract is required and there are no data caps.
If you're interested in the Spectrum One plan, this includes the 300 Mbps Internet service plan, a Wi-Fi router and one unlimited 5G mobile line for a 12 month promotional rate of $50 per month. You can upgrade the Spectrum One plan to boost Internet speed up to 500 Mbps for $70 per month for 12 months, or choose the 1 gig plan for $90 per month for 12 months. Wireless coverage within your home can be expanded using Spectrum Wi-Fi Pods ($3 per month, per pod). And using the included Spectrum mobile app, you get control over your home network from anywhere.
Why we like Spectrum: The Spectrum One promotional plan gives you Internet with Wi-Fi, along with one line of 5G cellular phone service for a flat rate of $50 for 12 months. All Internet plans include a self-installation kit and a free subscription to Peacock Premium.
Starting Price: $30/month | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 5G | Connection Type: 5G Cellular | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: No
As a cellular service provider, T-Mobile offers a 5G network which has one of the very best coverage areas in the country. The company now offers home-based cellular connectivity with affordable, flat-rate plans. And when you switch to T-Mobile home Internet from another ISP, eligible customers will receive a $50 prepaid card. This is quite an attractive plan, given that there is no annual contract, no data cap, no added cost for equipment and no uncharge 24/7 support.
If T-Mobile 5G home Internet service is offered in your area and you sign up online, you'll receive a Wi-Fi Gateway device, which you can quickly and easily set up yourself using the T-Mobile app. If you're willing to switch your existing cellular service to T-Mobile, additional deals offer even bigger savings. At any time, you can cancel the Internet plan, but you're required to return the supplied equipment or you'll receive a bill for $370. The maximum Internet speed you'll achieve is based on what's possible using T-Mobile's 5G cellular-based service in your geographic area.
Why we like T-Mobile: You get 5G cellular Internet service at home, with the necessary equipment included, for a flat fee of $30 per month. There's no long-term contract or data caps.
Starting Price: $25/month (with autopay and a select 5G cellular phone service plan), $50/month (without a 5G cellular phone service plan) | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 300 Mbps | Connection Type: Fiber Optic | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: No
Where available within the United States, Verizon Fios offers fast and reliable Internet connectivity for the home using a 100% fiber optic network. You can subscribe to the Internet service on its own, or create a money-saving bundle that includes Internet, TV, cellular service and more. Whatever plan you sign up for, when it comes to the Internet service, there are no extra fees, no data caps and no annual contracts. Depending on the Internet plan you choose, the price stays locked for up to four years. Eligible new customers that sign up for the 300 Mbps home Internet plan get a $50 Verizon gift card after keeping the service active for at least 65 days.
For slightly more money, you can upgrade the Internet plan and get a connection speed up to 500 Mbps for $70 per month (without a 5G cellular phone plan), or enjoy 1 gig Internet speed for $90/month. The higher-end plans include free account activation and a free wireless router. With the highest 1 gig plan, eligible new subscribers will receive their choice of a free Apple HomePod or a $200 Verizon Gift Card, along with a six month subscription to Disney+ (with no ads) and 2TB of Verizon Cloud storage.
Why we like Verizon Fios: Based on your home Internet needs, a variety of affordable plans are offered. However, you can build a bundle that includes cellular service and/or home phone service to save even more. Verizon's Fios Internet service has no minimum contract and no data cap.
Starting Price: $35/month (with autopay and a qualifying 5G cellular phone plan), $60/month (without a cell phone plan) | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 5G (cellular) | Connection Type: Cellular | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: No
While Verizon offers Fios Internet service that can be combined with the company's TV, cellular and home phone services, yet another option is Verizon 5G home. This wireless Internet option uses a 5G cellular modem that you self-install. To get the best deal on Verizon 5G Home, you'll need to be a Verizon cellular customer (or agree to become one). However, qualified new subscribers who sign up for this plan will receive an Apple HomePod or $200 Verizon gift card as a bonus.
The $35 per month plan is for 5G Home, which includes high-speed downloads, 1080p HD video streaming and a two year price guarantee. The required 5G modem/router is included. If you do not want to use Verizon as your cellular service provider for your phone, the 5G Home monthly cost increases to $60. There's also the 5G Home Plus plan ($45 per month with cellular phone service, or $80 per month on its own). This plan also offers high-speed downloads, and you gain the ability to stream Ultra HD 4K video. You also get a more advanced Wi-Fi 6 router and 5G receiver with your plan.
Why we like Verizon 5G Home: If you live in an area that gets a strong 5G cellular signal from Verizon, choosing Verizon 5G Home Internet can be a cost effective option, especially if you use Verizon Cellular with your smartphone or are willing to switch service providers.
Starting Price: $25/month (for one year) | Max. Download Speed (for "basic" plan): 200 Mbps | Connection Type: Cable | Required Contract: No | Data Caps: No | Equipment Fees: Yes
While Xfinity's basic Internet plan starts at $25 per month (which is guaranteed for the first year of service), for an additional $25 per month, you can add xFi Complete, which gives you unlimited data and equipment upgrades (after three years) at no extra cost. Starting at $35 per month, you can upgrade Internet speed up to 400 Mbps, or choose from one of three higher-end plans that provide Internet speeds up to 1200 Mbps ($80 per month). If you subscribe to the highest cost GigaByte Extra plan, new and eligible customers will receive a $450 Visa paid card.
To get even bigger savings on Xfinity Internet, consider bundling your cellular, home phone, TV and/or home security services. If you want to add a modem/wireless router to your Internet plan, the added cost is $15 per month.
Why we like Xfinity: Especially if you have your own modem and router, the $25 per month basic Internet plan from Xfinity represents a really good deal.
Still have questions about high-speed internet?
We have the answers.
What is an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
A company that provides access to the Internet for a monthly fee. Most ISPs offer a variety of Internet plans, with the monthly cost related to connection speed. The lowest price plans typically have the slowest connection speeds and are suitable for basic web surfing and providing Wi-Fi connectivity to a limited number of devices. The slowest connections are typically not suitable for serious gamers or for streaming 4K resolution video.
What's the best Internet option for low income households?
For qualifying lower-income households, the Affordable Connectivity Program (under the FCC) guarantees a discount up to $30 per month on home Internet service for work, school, healthcare or other essential purposes. This discount can be used with any Internet Service Provider within the United States. Also, be sure to ask the Internet service provider about discounts for students, seniors, first responders and military personnel.
Can I use my smartphone as an Internet hotspot at home?
Depending on your cellular service plan, you could potentially use a personal Wi-Fi hotspot generated by your smartphone within your home. However, there are some drawbacks to this option. First, after using a predetermined amount of data via your smartphone or Wi-Fi hotspot, many cellular service providers throttle speeds. Also, if you're using any smart devices in your home, they'll only fully operate when your smartphone is within the 33-foot (Bluetooth) signal radius of a smart device, and when the phone's personal Wi-Fi hotspot is turned on. If you leave the area and bring your phone, your home will no longer have Wi-Fi until you return.
Is 5G cellular Internet connectivity a viable option for a home?
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