The 5 Best Cheap Internet Providers 2020
We all want to watch The Mandalorian on Disney+ without waiting for the annoying buffering wheel. But at the same time, no one wants to pay a ton for our internet.
So how can you find the lowest price for the best speed without waving your arms to hail the incoming migraine? Easy. Check out our list of cheap internet service providers (ISPs) that give you a big bang for your buck.
|Monthly price||Download speeds||Data cap||Learn more|
|$40–$50*||5–100 Mbps||1 TB||View Plans|
|$29.99–$299.95†||15–2000 Mbps||1 TB–Unlimited||View Plans|
|$45–$85‡||10–1000 Mbps||1 TB–Unlimited||View Plans|
|$49.99–$105^||100–940 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|$5–$85^||25–1000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
Xfinity: Best overall
With a low starting price and tons of speed options, it’s no surprise that Xfinity is our top choice.
|Performance Starter||$29.99*||15 Mbps||View Plan|
|Performance||$39.99*||75 Mbps||View Plans|
|Performance Pro||$44.99*||175 Mbps||View Plan|
|Gigabit||$70*||1000 Mbps||View Plan|
|Gigabit Pro||$299.95°||2000 Mbps||View Plan|
- No-contract options
- Lots of speed options
- Questionable customer service
What we like about Xfinity
Balanced speed-to-price ratio
It’s hard to find prices that match most of Xfinity’s cost for the speed you get. And paired with its nationwide availability, this makes Xfinity our top choice for the cheapest internet.
Sure, you may find better deals here or there, but it’s hard to say whether those deals are available in a city down South, in the Midwest, on the West Coast, or in the Northeast.
We think the Performance Pro and Gigabit plans offer the best amount of speed for what you pay.
We love that Xfinity offers no-contract options for many of its cable internet plans. But we don’t love that you’ll pay more each month for slipping out of that contract.
But we guess it beats having to pay early termination fees if you move or decide to change internet providers.
Still, the pros of a contract might outweigh the cons. If you’re sure you’ll stick with Xfinity for at least a year, we say go for the contract and pay the lower monthly price.
What we don’t like about Xfinity
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. Talking in person usually gets you to a solution faster. If you can, schedule an appointment and try to avoid popular times like weekends.
Speeds and prices vary
Comcast Xfinity’s prices vary drastically based on where you live. For example, you currently pay $10 less for the Digital Starter package if you live on the west coast versus the east coast. So depending on where you live, you might get a deal or pay a premium.
Different areas get access to different speeds too, which makes pricing an Xfinity plan ahead of your cross-country move a crap-shoot.
Check out our Xfinity review if you want to get into the nitty-gritty (which you should before you sign a contract).
AT&T: Best bundle savings
Whether you bundle it with DIRECTV or U-verse, AT&T cuts you a deal when you pair its services.
|Plan||Price||Download speed||TV channel count||Details|
|DIRECTV SELECT All-Included Package + AT&T Internet||$89.99||Mbps||155+||View Plan|
|DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT All-Included Package + AT&T Internet||$94.99||Mbps||160+||View Plan|
|DIRECTV CHOICE All-Included Package + AT&T Internet||$99.99||Mbps||185+||View Plan|
|U-family All-Included + AT&T Internet||$89.99||Mbps||180+||View Plan|
|U-verse U200 All Included + Internet 300||$115||Mbps||360+||View Plans|
|U-verse U450 All Included + Internet 1000||$190||Mbps||550+||View Plans|
- Tons of bundle options
- Bundle savings of about $20/month
- Limited fiber availability
What we like about AT&T
You save about $20 a month with AT&T bundles
Good news, satellite TV lovers. AT&T’s bundling lets you grab up to 330+ DIRECTV channels plus DSL or fiber internet plans. Or you can go with its in-house U-verse service, which nets you more than 550 channels. Choices . . . choices.
The best part is that your monthly price with a bundle is actually cheaper than if you got a high-speed internet plan and a TV package and paid for them separately. More stuff for fewer bucks? That calls for a celebratory House Hunters binge session (one of our many guilty pleasures).
Good prices on internet-only plans
If you do decide to scrap the bundle and go for internet only, you’re still in pretty good hands with AT&T. Its Up to 100 Mbps plan isn’t the best-priced plan on the planet, but if you can get closer to that 100 Mbps top speed, it’s still worthwhile. (With this plan, AT&T matches you with the fastest speed, up to 100 Mbps, in your area.)
But AT&T’s fiber internet are what really shines when it comes to price.
If AT&T Fiber is in your area, we say go for that. Not only do you get a guaranteed 300 Mbps for the same price as the Up to 100 Mbps DSL plan, but you can boost your download speed up to 1,000 Mbps if you want. And AT&T’s price for its Internet 1,000 plan is one of the lowest we see around the block.
What we don’t like about AT&T
Limited fiber availability
If you like the sound of fiber-optic internet, you’ll want to double- and maybe even triple-check that AT&T offers it in your area. But let’s be real: compared to other fiber-optic internet providers, AT&T Fiber’s availability is pretty good.
We’re crossing our fingers this is something AT&T and other fiber providers improve in the future.
Get all the details
Still curious? Check out our full AT&T internet review.
CenturyLink: Best value
CenturyLink offers a Price for Life guarantee and no contracts.
|Price for Life 15 Mbps||$49**||15 Mbps||View Plan|
|Price for Life 20 Mbps||$49**||20 Mbps||View Plan|
|Price for Life 40 Mbps||$49**||40 Mbps||View Plan|
|Price for Life 80 Mbps||$49**||80 Mbps||View Plan|
|Price for Life 100 Mbps||$49**||100 Mbps||View Plan|
|Centurylink Fiber Internet||$65||940 Mbps||View Plan|
- Price-for-life guarantee
- No contracts
- No Price for Life on the 940 Mbps plan
- Unreliable download speeds
What we like about CenturyLink
Price for Life guarantee
There’s more to CenturyLink’s competitive prices than meets the eye. It also offers a Price for Life guarantee, which (surprisingly in this day and age) means exactly what you think.
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. . . until the end of time (or until you cancel, swap services, or don’t pay your bill).
Don’t think about it too much or else you might have an existential crisis. But hey, affordable internet for life. That’s cool!
No-contract options make things so much easier if you ever plan on moving. Or just get tired of your internet service.
CenturyLink 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 about CenturyLink
No Price for Life on the fiber plan
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. And CenturyLink decided to cut its 940 Mbps fiber internet plan out of its Price for Life guarantee. That’s a huge bummer, but considering the massive cost of fiber internet infrastructure, we guess we understand.
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 streaming Stranger Things in Ultra-HD 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
You won’t get cold feet or early termination fees with Spectrum.
|Spectrum Internet||$49.99††||100 Mbps||View Plan|
|Spectrum Internet Ultra||$69.99||400 Mbps||View Plan|
|Spectrum Internet GIG||$105||940 Mbps||View Plan|
- No contracts
- No data caps
- Only three speed options
- Ridiculously high GIG plan price
What we like about Spectrum
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 your life significantly easier. You won’t have to incur the wrath of expensive early termination fees.
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. You can switch providers if something else catches your eye.
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—binge-watch Stranger Things or battle your way to Gold in League of Legends like the carefree internet user you are.
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 on Amazon.
What we don’t like about Spectrum
Few speed options
The bare-minimum internet speed with Spectrum bottoms out at a measly 100 Mbps. Oh wait, sarcasm doesn’t always come across well on the internet—for comparison, CenturyLink’s slowest internet speed is 15 Mbps.
Spectrum caters to customers who want fast internet speeds at a reasonable price. If you don’t want anything near 100 to 940 Mbps, you’ll probably find lower prices with another ISP.
Outrageous GIG plan price
Speaking of Spectrum’s prices, that 940 Mbps plan though . . . Its price is skewed toward the top-end of prices ISPs charge for gig speeds.
If you want to push the limits of your download speed to 940 or 1,000 Mbps, we recommend Xfinity, AT&T Fiber, or Verizon Fios instead.
Okay, but is Spectrum good?
It depends what you want. Check out our Spectrum review and see if its a good fit for you.
Windstream: Best for cheap internet in the country
Prices for Windstream internet vary a lot, but most of its plans are cheap and available in the country.
|Plan||Price||Download speed||Data cap||Details|
|High Speed Internet 25 Mbps||$26‡‡||25 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 50-100 Mbps||$36‡‡||100 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 200 Mbps||$41‡‡||200 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 300-400 Mbps||$46‡‡||400 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|High Speed Internet 500 Mbps||$46‡‡||500 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
|Kinetic Gig||$56‡‡||1000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plan|
- Availability in often overlooked areas
- Unlimited data
- Lots of download speed options
- Prices change based on location
- Issues delivering speeds it promises
What we like about Windstream
While it’s available only in 18 states, Windstream focuses on rural areas and counties.1 That’s a huge deal, especially considering 19 million Americans still don’t have internet speeds that hit 25 Mbps.2 Let alone anything faster.
We love it when we hear the words “no” and “data cap” in the same sentence.
Sure, most ISPs give you 1 terabyte (TB) of data each month, but if you love to download new games on Steam or work with large files from home, that cap looms large by the end of the month.
What we don’t like about Windstream
Prices change a lot based on where you live
It’s hard to gauge how much Windstream will cost you since the ISP has different prices for its plans for different areas of the US.
Windstream does solve for this by checking what speeds are available at your address, but we don’t love that extra step. And there’s just something about entering our address online that gives us the heebie-jeebies.
Windstream doesn’t always deliver on speed
We’re disappointed to see Windstream still struggles to deliver the speeds it promises. This is based on the latest Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report, which outs Windstream for delivering an average actual speed that was only 95.6% of the speed it promised.3
For example, if you paid for Windstream’s 200 Mbps and it delivered only 95.6% of that speed, you’d end up streaming The Great British Baking Show at 191.2 Mbps.
Dig into the full review
Curious if you should get Windstream internet? Check out our full Windstream internet review to find out if it’s right for you.
Recap: The 5 best cheap internet service providers
- Best affordable internet: Xfinity. Xfinity offers up a wide range of slow and fast download speeds that won’t make your pocketbook cringe. Plus it’s available nationwide.
- Best way to save on bundles: AT&T. AT&T lets you bundle its fairly priced internet service with either DIRECTV or U-verse. And both options save you about $20 a month.
- Best price lock option: 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.
- Best cheap rural option: Windstream. With speeds up to 1,000 Mbps and unlimited data to boot, we think Windstream’s prices are perfect for the rural areas it serves.
|Provider||Xfinity Internet||AT&T Fiber||CenturyLink Internet||Spectrum Internet||Windstream Internet|
|Download speeds||15–2000 Mbps||100–1000 Mbps||10–1000 Mbps||100–940 Mbps||25–1000 Mbps|
|Learn more||View Plans||View Plans||View Plans||View Plans||View Plans|
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 HighSpeedInternet.com 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. Windstream, “Coverage Map”
2. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Eight Broadband Progress Report”