Cheap Internet Providers
Shopping for internet service isn’t nearly as fun as shopping for shoes… or surround sound systems… or, well, you get the picture.
Even comparing prices can be a real nightmare since prices can vary drastically based on where you live. But migraine-inducing comparisons aside, we’ve pulled together a list of our top five favorite internet service providers (ISPs).
Take a look and find out which one is best for your lifestyle—and your wallet.
|ISP||Starting price||Best for||Learn more|
|AT&T||$40/mo.*||Affordable DSL options||View plans|
|Verizon Fios||$39.99/mo.**||Reliably fast fiber||View plans|
|Xfinity XFi||$29.99/mo.†||Fastest speed options||View plans|
|CenturyLink||$45/mo||Price for life||View plans|
|Spectrum||$44.99/mo.†||No-contract option||View plans|
* 1-year contract required.
** Plus taxes, equipment charges, and other fees.
† For 12 months.
Data effective 8/26/18. Speeds, offers, and availability may vary by market and are subject to change.
AT&T: Best affordable DSL options
With a wide range of plans to suit almost anyone’s needs, AT&T is one of the few ISPs to offer low-usage plans.
What we like
If you need internet just to stay connected once in a while, AT&T has a plan that might catch your eye with speeds up to 5 Mbps.
If you need more bandwidth to rewatch Scrubs for the twentieth time on Hulu, you can pay about $10 more each month to get speeds between 10 and 100 Mbps. Basically, you’ll get the fastest speed (up to 100 Mbps) available in your area—so if 10 Mbps isn’t enough, check with AT&T to see how many Mbps you can get in your city.
Good news, TV lovers. AT&T’s bundling lets you grab up to 330+ DIRECTV channels plus a DSL or fiber internet plan.
The best part is, your monthly internet bill will be less than if you bought only internet. That calls for a celebratory House Hunters binge session. (One of our many guilty pleasures.)
Also, your internet bill will remain the same after your first year—but your DIRECTV bill will go up for that second year.
No need to shell out $15–$20 for a modem on top of your internet bill. AT&T includes a Wi-Fi Gateway (it works as both a modem and router) at no extra cost.
Remember, the more devices you have connected to the internet, the more bandwidth you’ll need.
What we don’t like
Limited fiber availability
If fiber is in your future, you’ll want to double- and triple-check that AT&T offers it in your area. Compared to other fiber internet providers, its availability is a little more limited.
Of course, we’re crossing our fingers this is something AT&T improves in the near future.
No upload speeds listed
We dug around a bit and couldn’t find any upload speeds listed for AT&T’s DSL plans.
While this isn’t uncommon among other internet providers, we still wish that AT&T and others would commit to more transparency.
Verizon Fios: Best for reliably fast fiber
A 100% fiber infrastructure means Verizon Fios speeds put The Flash to shame—with competitive prices to boot.
What we like
Fast and reliable speeds
Not all ISPs deliver the speeds they promise, but Verizon does.
In fact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that Verizon delivered speeds that were faster than what was advertised—that’s right, it delivered between 106% and 111% of the speeds it advertised.1 Sign us up.
No term contract
Verizon Fios internet is billed monthly, and if you sign up for an internet-only plan then you won’t be tied to a long-term contract.
If you’re considering a triple-play package from Verizon, it may still require a term contract. It’s always best to ask a Verizon representative and double-check the fine print just in case.
What we don’t like
Pricey higher-tier plans
Verizon starts out with a great price on its 100 Mbps plan. It’s actually the cheapest unless you can land a lower price from Comcast Xfinity (but prices for some products for both ISPs vary depending on where you live).
Unfortunately, the higher-tier plans—like the 500/500 plan through the 880/940 plan (whoa, Nelly!)—see a price jump from the 100 Mbps plan, depending on which higher-tier plan you choose.
Dig into the full review
Ready to go bananas with fiber speeds? Check out our full Verizon Fios review to find out if fiber is right for you.
Xfinity: Fastest speed options
Clocking in with speeds up to 2,000 Mbps and the lowest starting price, it’s no surprise that Xfinity is one of our top choices.
What we like
We love that Xfinity offers a no-contract option for all of its cable internet plans. But, we don’t love that you’ll pay more each month for slipping out of that contract.
Balanced speed to price ratio
Xfinity’s Gigabit Pro plan makes cruising the internet a NASCAR race. With speeds up to 2,000 Mbps, we couldn’t find another ISP that came close (yet).
Of course, you’ll pay quite a bit of money for that 2,000 Mbps package. But Xfinity’s lower-tier packages offer up quite a bit of zippiness for a reasonable price.
If you truly want to balance price with speed, the Performance Starter package offers enough to smoothly stream video at a price that won’t break the bank.
What we don’t like
Speeds and prices vary
We mentioned Xfinity’s blazing-fast speeds, and we also noted that the price for the 2,000 Mbps Gigabit Pro plan could be a gut punch to your wallet.
But another big issue we have with Comcast Xfinity’s prices is that they vary drastically based on where you live. What you’d pay on the East Coast will probably be a lot different than what you’d pay on the West Coast.
Different areas get access to different speeds too, which makes pricing an Xfinity plan ahead of your cross-country move a crap-shoot.
Ho-hum customer service
We hate to say it, but there’s a reason most people dread calling up Xfinity customer service. It seems to have one of the worst reputations in the internet provider industry, which is saying a lot since the industry as a whole doesn’t get great marks.
Our advice? Instead of calling, pop in to your local Xfinity store and get help face to face. If you can, schedule an appointment and try to avoid popular times like weekends. We’ve found that talking to someone in person is so much more helpful, even when we had to cancel our service when we moved out of state.
Got a question?
Yo, we’ll solve it. Check out our Xfinity review while our DJ revolves it.
CenturyLink: Best price-for-life
You’ve gotta hand it to CenturyLink: its price-for-life guarantee and lack of contracts make it an attractive choice for price-conscious internet users.
What we like
There’s more to CenturyLink’s competitive prices than meets the eye. It also offers a Price for Life promotion, which (surprisingly in this day and age) is exactly what it says.
According to CenturyLink, your Price for Life promotion won’t expire. This means the price you pay each month for internet now is the price you’ll pay always. Even if you move. Or change services. Or sign up for a different promotion. Score!
We love no-contract options, and CenturyLink must know it. It doesn’t even bother with the old-fashioned idea of having you agree to stay for a year or two—this goes for all of its plans. How refreshing.
What we don’t like
Unreliable download speeds
You can buy a CenturyLink plan with speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second (1 Gbps, or 1,000 Mbps), but once you start adding to your Amazon wish list, you may notice those speeds aren’t as fast as you’d like.
If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone. Data from the FCC’s latest report shows that CenturyLink’s actual speeds were between 80% and 95% of its advertised speed, on average.2 (OK, we don’t feel any better about it, either.)
Scope out our CenturyLink review
Need to get all the facts? Check out our full CenturyLink review and see for yourself.
Spectrum: Best no-contract option
No buyout fee, no higher monthly price, no early termination fees. Spectrum’s no-contract approach to internet is refreshing.
What we like
No contracts allowed
If chances are good you’ll be moving to a new location within the next year, Spectrum’s no-contract approach will make you smile from ear to ear.
Of course, even if you’re staying put, you can still enjoy not having to deal with being locked into one internet provider for the long haul. We can’t argue with that.
No data caps
While some ISPs will throttle your speed once you hit the data cap, Spectrum doesn’t even have a data cap to worry about.
So go on—stream the latest season of Stranger Things or battle your way to Gold in League of Legends like the carefree internet user you are.
But—and there’s definitely a but—Spectrum’s modem doesn’t come with Wi-Fi. So if you need a wireless connection, you’ll want to buy your own modem and router anyway. We recommend this Spectrum-approved modem/router combo from Amazon.
What we don’t like
One internet-only plan
While most ISPs offer you at least a few choices for internet plans, Spectrum offers only one. Yup, it skates to one speed and one speed only: 100 Mbps.
We think that’s a pretty good speed for most internet users. (Unless you’re a power user or low-usage browser, that is.) But it’s kind of a bummer that you’ll need to bundle up with TV and phone service to get the lowest advertised price.
Get the Spectrum 411
Make sure Spectrum’s the one for you in our full Spectrum review.
- Best affordable DSL options: AT&T—AT&T internet’s at the top of the charts for DSL plans that won’t drain your bank account.
- Best reliably fast fiber: Verizon Fios—Sure, you can get fiber from other ISPs, but why would you? Verizon Fios boasts consistently fast speeds at competitive prices.
- Best for fast speed options: Xfinity—If you don’t need fiber speeds, Xfinity offers up a wide range of speeds that won’t make your pocketbook cringe.
- Best price for life: CenturyLink—You won’t watch your internet bill creep up and up and up with CenturyLink’s price-for-life guarantee.
- Best no-contract option: Spectrum—Don’t worry about early termination fees. Spectrum’s got your back with contract-free internet.
How to get cheap internet at home
Has your internet bill gotten too big for its britches? We’ve got five tips to help you lower that monthly bill—even if you’re staying with the same provider.
1. Negotiate your bill
Don’t be afraid to push back on how much your internet costs—even if you’re staying with the same company. If you have an offer from another provider that’s cheaper, let your ISP know.
We managed to negotiate our bill with Comcast Xfinity by letting them know we had a competing offer from CenturyLink. After doing the research, we knew what we could get for what price from both providers, and then we approached Xfinity.
The key to a successful negotiation like ours is to stay firm—and don’t bluff. You should also be prepared to actually cancel your service or go with another provider if the company you’re talking to just can’t match the better price.
2. Test your internet speed
Test your internet connection speed at a site like High Speed Internet and make sure you’re getting the speed you pay for. If you’re not seeing your connection hit speeds at or above what your ISP advertises, check out these easy tips to try to resolve the issue yourself.
If your connection is still slow as molasses after troubleshooting, give your ISP a call and see if it can resolve the issue. If it can’t, it’s probably time to switch providers.
3. Know how much speed you need
Do you need a 100 Mbps internet plan? And what’s the difference between that and a 5 Mbps plan?
Picking out the right plan without going overboard can be difficult, but you can get a good idea of what speed you need by figuring out what you usually do online. (Don’t forget to factor in what your other family members are doing online too.) Here’s what speeds the FCC recommends for certain activities.
|Internet activity||Minimum download speed|
|Browsing the internet, social media, and email||1 Mbps|
|Personal video calls (ex. Skype)||1 Mbps|
|High-definition personal video calls||1.5 Mbps|
|High-definition video conferencing||6 Mbps|
|Student research, downloads, etc.||5–25 Mbps|
|Working from home||5–25 Mbps|
|Downloading files||10 Mbps|
|Streaming standard-definition video||3–4 Mbps|
|Streaming high-definition video||5–8 Mbps|
|Streaming Ultra HD 4K video||25 Mbps|
|Online console gaming*||3 Mbps|
|Online multiplayer gaming*||4 Mbps|
4. Bundle up your services
You might get a lower price for your internet if you bundle it with other services like TV and phone. We managed to bundle our Xfinity internet with a cable TV package—both together cost less than if we just purchased internet.
5. Look for subsidies
Depending on your income, you may qualify for an internet subsidy.
To find out if you qualify and to find subsidized internet offers in your area, check out the nonprofit EveryoneOn. All you need to do is enter your ZIP code and answer an eligibility question to find low-cost internet in your area.
1. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “2016 Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report”
2. FCC, “2016 Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report”