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How to Get Cheap Internet
Getting cheap internet can be as easy as selecting the lowest-cost plan—depending on the number and quality of internet service providers (ISPs) in your area.
But sometimes finding the cheapest internet plan or even the best value plan isn’t so straightforward. We’ll share some tips on how to compare cheap internet options, how to lower your internet bill, and where to find low-income internet plans.
Ready to save? Yeah, we are too. Let’s dive in!
How do you compare cheap internet options?
If you’re lucky enough to have more than one ISP to choose from—or if the one ISP in your area offers a few different low-cost plans—you might be stuck trying to figure out which cheap internet plan is best.
Having compared internet plans across the country, we feel you.
Here are three of the main things we look for when comparing cheap internet options.
1. The price for the download speed you get
You may stumble across a really low price for internet, but don’t get excited just yet. First, take a look at the download speeds you’d get for that price.
For example, take a look at Optimum's 500 Mbps internet plan compared to the CenturyLink Fiber Internet plan. Optimum'ss plan costs $50.00 a month, which looks like the better deal compared to CenturyLink’s cost of $65.00 per month.
But when you look at download speeds, you’ll see that the Optimum plan comes with 500 Mbps, and the CenturyLink plan comes with 940 Mbps. That makes the CenturyLink plan the better deal.
|Optimum Internet||500 Mbps Internet||$60.00/mo.*||Up to 500 Mbps||View Plans|
|CenturyLink Internet||CenturyLink Fiber Gigabit||$70.00/mo.†||Up to 940 Mbps||View Plan|
Of course, that’s only if you need those kinds of download speeds. Chances are you’ll find a better deal if you don’t need as much speed.
So before you shop for cheap internet, get a peg on how fast your download speeds should be to keep your house free of buffering icons. That way, you won’t overpay for speed you don’t need.
2. How much data you get
Most internet plans come with either unlimited data (whoop whoop!) or one terabyte (TB) of data. Either of those options will likely be more than enough to get you through a whole month of streaming, gaming, Facebook surfing, and Googling.
But some ISPs offer much less data. You’ll often find data caps of 100 gigabytes (GB), 50 GB, or even 10 GB with satellite internet and fixed wireless plans. And if you’re eyeing up a cheap cell phone data plan to use as a mobile hotspot, beware of data caps there too.
3. How soon your monthly price goes up
It’s no secret that most ISPs love their promotional pricing and contracts. We’re still at a loss for why these are still a thing since they drive the rest of us bonkers.
But since they are still a thing, it’s smart to check whether your internet price will go up after a year or two—or even a few months. Normally you can find this in the fine print, and if there’s no fine print to be found, you’ll want to ask a customer service rep.
And while we roll our eyes any time an ISP jacks up the price after a certain period of time, there are a few cases where it’s still a better deal than some of the competition even after the price hike.
For example, Viasat likes to boost its monthly price after three months of service. That is so not cool, especially compared to the other satellite internet provider, HughesNet, which keeps its prices the same.
But when you compare even the higher Viasat prices to the steady HughesNet prices, Viasat is usually the better deal when it comes to download speeds and data caps. (P.S. If you’re looking into satellite internet, we dive into this more in our Viasat vs. HughesNet review.)
Curious if you’re overpaying for internet? Well, if your bill is less than $61 a month, you’ve probably landed yourself a pretty sweet deal. Here’s how much the average internet bill costs based on connection type and speed.
Do bigger ISPs have better pricing?
Bigger ISPs don’t always have better pricing.
You’d think that, because they service larger areas, those big ISPs would have to lower their rates to compete. Sadly, there’s not much competition when it comes to internet service in the US. And sometimes, serving a larger area means those ISPs spend more on infrastructure and equipment to make sure customers get what they pay for.
To add to that, there isn’t much federal regulation regarding how much internet providers charge their customers.
Our advice? Make sure you compare all the internet deals near you. A tool like our zip checker can make that a bit easier for you. Just type in your zip code, and we’ll pull the internet providers that offer service in your area.
How can you reduce your internet bill?
You can lower your internet bill in a few different ways, but one of our favorite tips is to double-check how much download speed you need. If you’re paying for 940 Mbps but only need 300 Mbps, then you’ll likely save a pretty penny by swapping to a slower internet plan.
But what if you need all the download speed or can’t find a slower plan?
Well, you can also try bundling your internet with TV. Or stop renting your modem and router and buy your own instead—this often results in savings over the long haul. You can also potentially save some cash by checking out our best internet deals that we round up every month.
And if you feel up to it, you can always try negotiating your bill with your ISP’s Retentions Department.
Can seniors and low-income families get free internet?
Many large ISPs offer special low-cost internet plans for seniors and low-income families. And while these plans aren’t free, they’re far cheaper than what you’d pay otherwise.
Because these low-income internet plans are government subsidized, you’ll likely need to be enrolled in certain state or federal programs to qualify.
We’ve got details on several subsidized internet plans from ISPs like Cox, AT&T, and Mediacom in our guide to lowering your internet bill. You can also contact a non-profit like EveryoneOn for help finding and applying for a low-cost internet plan.
Can you get internet for free?
You can most definitely get free internet. Bet you never thought we’d say that, huh?
Sure, you can always bet on the free internet at the library or free Wi-Fi from Starbucks, but did you know there’s a site (and apps) called Wi-Fi Map that helps you find free Wi-Fi in your area?
And by free Wi-Fi near you, we mean free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world. Of course, we’re going to risk sounding like your mom here and remind you to stay safe while using public Wi-Fi. Not sure how to do that? We’ve got some Wi-Fi security tips we can share.
There’s also a legitimately free cell phone data plan out there too. From FreedomPop, this plan offers 200 MB of data per month for GSM phones and 500 MB of data per month for CDMA phones. That’s . . . not a lot of data, but it’s free, so we can’t complain, right?
See our picks for the best-value internet providers.