Cheap Internet Providers

Need to surf the web but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg? Find out how to get cheap internet at home.

Overview

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.

Cheap internet service providers comparison

ISPStarting priceBest forLearn more
AT&T$40/mo.*Affordable DSL optionsView plans
Verizon Fios$39.99/mo.**Reliably fast fiberView plans
Xfinity XFi$29.99/mo.†Fastest speed optionsView plans
CenturyLink$45/moPrice for lifeView plans
Spectrum$44.99/mo.†No-contract optionView plans

* 1-year contract required.
** For 1 year with autopay 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.

Find what's available in your area

Best affordable DSL options—AT&T

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.

ATT Logo

What we like

Low-usage plan

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.

Info Box icon

What the heck are “Mbps”?

If all these internet acronyms are confusing, you’re not alone. “Mbps” stands for megabits per second, which is the speed or bandwidth of your internet connection.

DIRECTV bundles

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.

Equipment included

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.

Light Bulb icon

What bandwidth do you need?

Streaming services like Netflix recommend at least 5 Mbps (that’s your bandwidth) for watching videos in HD—but don’t forget to factor in other family members or roommates who will be browsing the web too.

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.

Is AT&T available near you?

Get all the details

Still curious? Check out our full AT&T internet review or our Best DSL Providers review.

Best for reliably fast fiber—Verizon Fios

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 annual contract options

Verizon Fios internet is billed monthly, and you can choose not to be tied to a contract.

If you’re considering a triple-play package from Verizon, it may still require a 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 both ISPs vary depending on where you live).

Unfortunately, the higher-tier plans—up to 500 Mbps and up to 940 Mbps (whoa, Nelly!)—see a price jump from the 100 Mbps plan, depending on which higher-tier plan you choose.

Is Verizon Fios in your area?

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.

Best speed options—Xfinity

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

No-contract option

We love that Xfinity offers a no-contract option for all of its cable internet plans. Buuut 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.

Pin icon

Pro tip: When to go for that contract

There are many reasons why you might want to skip the contract. But the pros might outweigh the cons, especially since signing an Xfinity contract gives you a monthly discount. If you’re sure you’ll stick with Xfinity for at least a year, we say go for it.

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 crapshoot.

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.

Find out if Xfinity is available to you

Got a question?

Yo, we’ll solve it. Check out our Xfinity review while our DJ revolves it.

Best for price for life—CenturyLink

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.

Centurylink

What we like

Price-for-life guarantee

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!

No contracts

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.

Pin icon

Pro tip: When to go for that contract

There are many reasons why you might want to skip the contract. But the pros might outweigh the cons, especially since signing an Xfinity contract gives you a monthly discount. If you’re sure you’ll stick with Xfinity for at least a year, we say go for it.

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.)

Is CenturyLink internet an option for you?

Scope out our CenturyLink review

Need to get all the facts? Check out our full CenturyLink review and see for yourself.

Best no-contract option—Spectrum

No buyout fee, no higher monthly price, no early termination fees. Spectrum’s no-contract approach to internet is refreshing.

Spectrum logo

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 Rick and Morty or battle your way to Gold in League of Legends like the carefree internet user you are.

Pin icon

FYI: Your modem is free, but. . .

We’re also happy that Spectrum includes a modem with its internet service. That’s $10–$15 you won’t have to spend each month renting a modem.

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 his 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.

Find Spectrum in your area

Get the Spectrum 411

Make sure Spectrum’s the one for you in our full Spectrum review.

Recap

AT&TVerizon FiosXfinityCenturyLinkSpectrum
ATT LogoCenturylinkSpectrum logo
View plansView plansView plansView plansView plans
  • 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 fastest speed options: Comcast 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.

Pin icon

Mark a negotiation day on your calendar

If you know when your contract or promotional price ends, mark that date on your calendar. Then give your ISP a call a few days beforehand and negotiate your bill. Remember: be firm, do your research, and don’t bluff.

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.

FCC-recommended speeds based on internet activity

Internet activityMinimum download speed
Browsing the internet, social media, and email1 Mbps
Personal video calls (ex. Skype)1 Mbps
High-definition personal video calls1.5 Mbps
High-definition video conferencing6 Mbps
Student research, downloads, etc.5–25 Mbps
Working from home5–25 Mbps
Downloading files10 Mbps
Streaming standard-definition video3–4 Mbps
Streaming high-definition video5–8 Mbps
Streaming Ultra HD 4K video25 Mbps
Online console gaming*3 Mbps
Online multiplayer gaming*4 Mbps

* If you game online, you’ll also want to consider latency, or the amount of time it takes for data to travel from the game’s server to your computer and back. Check out latency ratings by ISP in our Best Internet for Gaming review.

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.

Sources

1. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “2016 Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report
2. FCC, “2016 Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report