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Last updated on Feb 04, 2020

The Best Cheap Internet Providers

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10 months of research

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7 top picks

The best internet service provider (ISP) will be different for everyone. Monthly price is directly linked to regional availability, data caps, and speed. Bundled services can also affect the final price, as most internet providers offer discounts if you get your TV, phone and internet service together.

The other major factor is promotional/introductory rates, which tend to jump after the first year of the contract. All of these elements combine to determine your internet price. We’ve updated this content to reflect current pricing as of Dec. 20, 2019 and will continue to update.

The 7 Best Cheap Internet Service Providers

The Best Cheap Internet Service Providers Comparison

AT&T Verizon Frontier Xfinity CenturyLink Spectrum Cox
Starting Price DSL:$40/mo. Fiber: $50/mo. DSL: $25/mo. Fiber: $40/mo. DSL: $28/mo. Fiber: $30/mo. Fiber: $40/mo. DSL: $50/mo. Fiber: $65/mo. Cable: $45/mo. Cable: $30/mo.
Best for Fast, affordable DSL No-contract fiber plans Low-cost equipment Fastest max speed Price for life guarantee Contract buyout offer Low sign-up cost
Connection type DSL, Fiber-Optic DSL, Fiber-Optic DSL, Fiber-Optic Hybrid Fiber Coax DSL, Fiber-Optic Cable Cable
Download speeds in Mbps DSL: 0.2-100 Fiber: 100-1,000 DSL: 0.5-15 Fiber: 100-940 DSL: 1-115 Fiber: 50-940 Hybrid Fiber Coax: 15-2,000 DSL: 1.5-100 Fiber: 40-1,000 Cable: 100-940 Cable: 10-940
Data cap 1,000 GB/mo. N/A N/A 1,000 GB/mo. 1,000 GB/mo. N/A 1,024 GB/mo.
Contract 1-2 year None None 1 year and month-to-month options None None None
ACSI Satisfaction (Rank) 69/100 (2nd) 70/100 (1st) 55/100 (9th) 61/100 (4th) 59/100 (T-6th) 59/100 (T-6th) 60/100 (T-5th)
Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans Shop plans

Data as of 12/20/19

If you’re searching for a “WiFi provider,” what you’re actually looking for is an internet service provider. WiFi simply converts your wired internet service into a wireless connection so you can access the internet on devices that aren’t plugged in. We looked at the best cheap internet service providers (DSL, fiber optic, cable) and their WiFi plans so you can decide which is the best fit for you.

AT&T — Fast, Affordable DSL

Best Fast, Affordable DSL
AT&T

AT&T Internet

Connection type DSL, Fiber-Optic

Pros

Broad coverage
Fast, affordable DSL
Equipment included

Cons

  • Confusing plan structure
  • Value of mid-tier plans
  • Volatile speed and pricing

Why we chose it

Broad coverage

AT&T is the second largest DSL broadband provider in the nation, delivering high-speed DSL to about 123 million people, and fiber-optic service to an additional 25 million, across 21 states. That broad coverage area is good news for consumers. Between AT&T Fiber, which offers speeds up to an incredible 1,000 Mbps, and AT&T Internet (DSL service), the company boasts plans for nearly every level of internet use and budget.

Fast, affordable DSL

Many cable and fiber ISPs offer DSL plans that are significantly slower — but priced similarly to — their higher-speed plans. AT&T Internet stands out with respectable DSL speeds of up to 100 Mbps. In fact, the AT&T Internet max speed tier overlaps with the baseline plan from AT&T Fiber: Both cost the same ($50/mo.) and get you up to 100 Mbps download speed, though the fiber plan offers much more upload speed (DSL: 12-20Mbps compared to Fiber: 80-100Mbps).

Equipment included

Whatever AT&T plan you choose, your router is included at no extra charge. That’s a fairly unusual benefit among major internet companies; you’ll usually pay $5 to $10 per month to rent your equipment (or a flat fee of around $50 to purchase it upfront).

Points to consider

Confusing plan structure

AT&T’s plan structure can be hard to navigate. Like most plans, AT&T’s are named for their speed tier (i.e., Internet 50, Internet 100), but AT&T Fiber and AT&T DSL plans overlap at 100 Mbps, so it can be unclear whether you’re looking at a fiber or DSL plan in the online cart. Check in with a chat agent or call before you order to make sure you understand what internet options are available.

Value of mid-tier plans

With speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, AT&T Fiber plans could be a great fit for power users or large families. However, if you don’t need that much speed, the mid-tier plans (like the 100 Mbps plan) are more expensive than those of competitors.

Volatile speed and pricing

Speed and pricing vary by location, no matter which ISP you choose. AT&T is no different. We were quoted $40 per month for 5 Mbps in Houston, Texas. However, for only $10 more, you can get 100 Mbps in Freeport, Texas. Your mileage may vary; check availability with your ZIP code to find the best internet deals in your area.

Verizon — No-Contract Fiber Plans

No-Contract Fiber Plans
Verizon

Verizon FiOS

Connection type DSL, Fiber-Optic

Pros

High-value fiber plans
Special offers
Waived or reduced installation fee
Savings for Verizon Wireless customers
Two-year price guarantee

Cons

Limited fiber availability
Value of DSL service

Why we chose it

High-value fiber plans

Verizon Fios, Verizon’s fiber-optic internet service, delivers reliable speed at a fair price (and upload speeds that match download speeds). Many other providers we considered offer 25 to 60 Mbps for a comparable price to Verizon’s 100 Mbps, and most require a one- or two-year agreement to boot.

Verizon doesn’t require a contract for stand-alone internet (fiber or DSL), which means you can move or switch providers without paying any hefty early termination fees (ETFs).

Special offers

Most internet companies offer discounts to entice new customers, and we’ve consistently seen strong promotions for Verizon Fios. These offers change frequently and may vary based on where you live or which plan you choose, but generally include a few hundred dollars credit or access to entertainment streaming services, like Disney+ or YouTubeTV. Check Fios availability to learn more about current offers and the best internet deals in your area.

Additional ways to save

At time of publication, the installation fee for Verizon Fios plans is waived for online orders (a $99 value). And if Verizon is your cellphone provider, you can save $20 per month on select Verizon Fios bundles.

Two-year price guarantees

Verizon internet offers one-, two-, and three-year price guarantees for new customers, which will lock in your monthly rate for the duration of your agreement. This is a much-welcomed option as many ISPs are known for hiking up their service prices when promotional offers expire after the first year of the contract. These plans are also contract-free — you can cancel at anytime.

Savings for Verizon Wireless customers

If Verizon is your cellphone provider, you can save $20 per month on select Verizon Fios bundles. Be sure to chat with an agent to uncover the latest deals and best ways to save.

Points to consider

Limited fiber availability

Verizon Fios is an excellent option — if you can get it. While the company boasts more than 4.3 million customers, its coverage area is limited ever since Frontier acquired its infrastructure in California, Texas, and Florida. Fios is available in eight northeastern states and Washington D.C..

Value of DSL service

Some customers without access to Fios can get Verizon High Speed Internet, with top download speeds maxing out at 15 Mbps. Because DSL requires home phone service, which can raise the total cost, the 1.1 to 15 Mbps Verizon High Speed Internet plan can cost almost as much as the 100 Mbps Fios plan.

Verizon’s baseline DSL plan offers just 0.5 to 1 Mbps download speed, the least impressive base-level DSL speed among our top picks at a comparable (or higher) price to what many competitors offer for more speed.

Frontier — Low-Cost Equipment

Low-Cost Equipment
Frontier

Frontier Communications

Connection type DSL, Fiber-Optic

Pros

Affordable plan options
Contract-free plans with price lock

Cons

Customer feedback
Value of DSL service

Why we chose it

Affordable plan options

At $40 per month, Frontier FiOS’ 500 Mbps plan is reasonable; we found that many cable internet providers charge more for half that speed. According to the FCC’s Household Broadband Guide, 100 Mbps is more than enough speed for four or more users and “advanced use,” which includes data-intensive activities like video conferencing and streaming HD video.

While they offer less speed, Frontier’s Vantage Internet (DSL) plans also offer some of the cheapest internet options: $28 per month for up to 6 Mbps, the lowest-priced plan on our list.

Contract-free plans with price lock

Another perk of Frontier internet is its contract-free plans, which you can cancel anytime without paying for early termination. But unlike other providers’ no-contract plans, most of Frontier’s come with a two-year price lock. Available plans and offers can vary by location.

Points to consider

Customer feedback

In 2016, Frontier acquired Verizon Fios’ fiber-optic infrastructure in Texas, Florida, and California. Service interruptions occurred during and after the changeover, and Frontier received a high volume of negative feedback. These interruptions have since been resolved, but some concerns remain; Frontier scored a 55 out of 100 on the 2019 American Customer Satisfaction Index. More recent feedback includes billing concerns and difficulty changing plans or canceling service.

Value of DSL service

Frontier provides service in 29 states, but if Frontier FiOS isn’t available in your area, you may have access to Vantage Internet, the company’s DSL service. These plans have affordable internet options, too — but you’ll get significantly less speed. In some areas, you’ll pay about the same price as the 50 Mbps Frontier FiOS plan for 18 Mbps Vantage Internet. That’s likely enough speed for casual users and small households, but it doesn’t offer the same bang for your buck as FiOS by Frontier.

Xfinity — Fastest Max Speed

Fastest Max Speed
Xfinity

Comcast XFINITY

Connection type Cable, Fiber-Optic

Pros

No-contract option
Low starting price

Cons

Upload speed
Value of lower-tier plans

Why we chose it

No-contract option

If you don’t like to commit to any one internet service, Xfinity has you covered. Its prepaid internet option that might appeal to customers who don’t have a bank account or who want to avoid a credit check. However, this plan is also more expensive per month than contract plans and offers less speed ($45/mo for 20 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, plus $35 one-time equipment and start-up fee).

Low starting price

Among our cheap internet finalists, Xfinity quoted us one of the lowest prices for its base-level, stand-alone internet service. Granted, there’s a tradeoff with the amount of speed you’ll get compared to our other top picks, but 15 Mbps could be ample for small households or casual users who don’t do a ton of streaming or other data-intensive activities. If you’d like more speed, $40 per month will get you 100 Mbps.

Points to consider

Upload speed

Xfinity’s economical 15 Mbps plan will suffice for people who truly don’t need much speed. But it’s worth noting that while 15 Mbps download speed is adequate for light to moderate use, you’ll only get 2 Mbps upload speed with this plan. This means it will take longer to share large files, video conference, and game online.

Value of lower-tier plans

Xfinity’s baseline plan is pricey compared to competitors’ offerings in this speed tier, because it is contract-free (15 Mbps for $50/mo.). For a similar price, Frontier FiOS customers get 200 Mbps while Xfinity customers get 15 Mbps. However, if you chose to go the contract-route, Xfinity offers 200 Mbps for the same $50/mo. price. As usual, we suggest comparing multiple internet companies and plans in your area to make sure you’re getting the best internet deal.

CenturyLink — Price for Life Guarantee

Why we chose it

Price for life guarantee

Many internet companies offer a promotional rate for new customers, which is a nice perk — for the short period that rate lasts. CenturyLink improves the system with a bona fide Price for Life guarantee. Your monthly rate will stay the same indefinitely “unless you change your services, including change of address, and/or sign up for a different promotion.” While you do need to keep the same plan and place of residence, you don’t have to sign a contract to get the price lock.

No contracts required

CenturyLink plans are month-to-month. That means there’s no early termination fee if you cancel your service — good news if you have an upcoming move or simply prefer a little flexibility with providers. Note that Price for Life plans do require prepayment each month, and your service will renew automatically until you cancel.

Points to consider

Speed versus price

CenturyLink service is an appealing option for customers on a budget, with a low starting price that’s locked in for life. However, CenturyLink offers less speed than competitors in both fiber and DSL plans. For less than what you’ll pay for a 40 Mbps CenturyLink fiber plan ($50/mo.), you’d get over 100 Mbps with both Xfinity and Frontier FiOS. 40 Mbps is adequate for moderate use, but gamers, telecommuters, and large families might prefer a plan that offers more speed.

Confusing plan structure

Since CenturyLink’s fiber-optic and DSL plans overlap at 40 Mbps in some areas, it can be unclear which plans you’re looking at in that speed range. If you check availability online, fiber-optic internet options are marked with an “Advanced Fiber Technology” badge in the quote. You can always call to speak with a sales representative if you’re unsure of your options.

Spectrum — Contract Buyout Offer

Contract Buyout Offer
Spectrum

Charter Spectrum

Connection type Cable

Pros

Highest speed in its price range
Low startup costs
No-contract plans with buyout offer

Cons

Price increase after first year
Speed (and value) may vary
Unspecified upload speed

Why we chose it

Highest speed in its price range

Spectrum stands out when it comes to speed for price. Depending on your city, you can get twice as much speed as a similar plan from Verizon Fios for just $5 more per month. While Spectrum’s pricing is not the lowest on our list, it’s a good value considering its above-average speeds.

That said, keep in mind that our comparison is based on a promotional price for new customers. Your monthly plan cost will increase after 24 months — still a better deal than the 12-month increase of many competitors.

Low startup costs

Spectrum is the only one of our top picks that includes a modem for free with all plans. That easily knocks a combined $100 off of your initial costs, although their WiFi services are an additional $5 per month, unless you have your own router. And at just under $60 total, its installation and activation fees are also lower than the industry average.

No-contract plans with buyout offer

You don’t have to sign a contract to get Spectrum internet. Even better, the company will pay your current provider’s early termination fee (up to $500) if you break your contract to switch to their Triple Play or Double Play bundle (availability based on location)..

Points to consider

Price increase after second year

The regular price for Spectrum’s 200 Mbps plan is $15-$20 more per month after your second year. That’s a bigger jump in price than that of all other providers we researched, save for Mediacom (also $20-$30 more per month). Depending on where you live, there are likely more affordable internet options once the promotional rate ends.

Speed (and value) may vary

For most households, 200 Mbps is more than fast enough. But as with all providers, where you live impacts what plans you can get and what you’ll pay for them. For example, a Spectrum customer in Los Angeles, California could pay the same price as a Spectrum customer in Charlotte, North Carolina, but for half the speed.

Unspecified upload speed

Spectrum is cagey about how much upload speed you’ll get with any given plan. It was tough finding information on Spectrum’s website or in our quotes. (In fact, we found the online ordering process difficult to navigate in general.) After a lengthy introductory script, a chat agent informed us that we would get up to 10 Mbps upload speed with the 100 Mbps standard internet plan, 20Mbps upload speed with the 400 Mbps Ultra Internet plan, and 35 Mbps with their 940 Mbps Gig internet plan, but the lack of transparency is frustrating when researching plan options.

Cox — Low Sign-Up Cost

Low Sign-Up Cost
Cox

Cox Communications Internet

Connection type Cable

Pros

Affordable baseline plan
Lower-than-average installation fee

Cons

Price increase after first year
Value

Why we chose it

Affordable baseline plan

With stand-alone internet starting at $30 per month, Cox was on the low end of quotes we received. It’s true that the speed you’ll receive (10 Mbps) reflects that — but light users and small households on a budget may find the speeds adequate.

Lower-than-average installation fee

It’s common for internet installation and activation fees to hover around $100. Cox charges $20 for self-installation, which helps keep your startup cost low.

Points to consider

Price increase after first year

The 10 Mbps plan is advertised at $30 per month but jumps to $45 per month after the initial 12 months. Cox’s terms of service mention a 24-month Price Lock Guarantee, but when we checked with a chat agent, we learned that it’s only available for internet, TV, and phone bundles. If you want the low monthly price for internet alone, you’ll have just those first 12 months to enjoy it.

Other Cheap Internet Service Providers to Consider

Mediacom

With a promotional rate of $40 per month (regularly $70 per month), Mediacom’s quote wasn’t too far down the lower end of the price spectrum. However, that low monthly price is a bit misleading because the fine print requires an $100 installation fee, $10 activation fee, and a monthly fee $11.50 for a modem, plus a $10 ding for every 50GB when you exceed the plan’s GB per-month plateau. Furthermore, it offered fiber speeds up to 1,000 Mbps.

While other providers have no data cap or provide a sky-high 1,000 GB per month limit, Mediacom’s highest data cap is for 600 GB per month; this could be an issue for heavy streamers, gamers, or those with many web-connected devices. Its availability also seems limited to bigger cities, despite being advertised as offered in 22 states.

HughesNet

Because it’s powered by satellite rather than earthbound infrastructure, HughesNet is available in places many internet companies aren’t. HughesNet plans look more like a cellular provider’s than a traditional ISP’s: All plans offer the same 25 Mbps download speed, so you choose a plan based on a monthly data allotment, ranging from 10 to 50 GB per month. Compared to cable and fiber providers, prices are higher for the speed and amount of data you’ll get. But if you live in a remote location, satellite internet may be your best option.

How We Chose the Best Cheap Internet Service Providers

Coverage

Other than satellite internet providers like HughesNet that are able to transmit internet anywhere there’s a view of the sky, all ISPs serve limited coverage areas. But where they offer coverage, they hold monopoly. In fact, 85% of Americans have access to two or fewer internet service providers at low speeds, and that percentage increases as speeds get faster — which means your address is the main deciding factor in what provider and plan you get. We started our research with the 12 largest providers in the U.S. because they’re the ones you will most likely work with.

Price

Monthly pricing is important, and for a lot of us, the bottom line will sway our opinion more than any benefits. But intro/promo prices don’t tell the whole story. We requested quotes from each provider on our list to compare current rates, installation and equipment rental fees, minimum contract terms, and discounts.

The average cost for internet service in the States is about $50-$100 per month, but a variety of factors affect the final cost. Speed is the primary factor, with faster speeds costing subscribers more per month. Bundled services can also affect the final price, as most providers offer discounts if you get your TV, internet, and sometimes phone service together. The other major factor is promotional rates: Companies tend to advertise and offer promotional rates for the first year or two, after which prices will jump. All of these elements combine to determine your internet price.

Speed

If any consideration holds a candle to price, it’s speed. Unfortunately, chasing the “best” of either one means abandoning the other. And while we are all for a great deal, choosing an internet plan based on price alone can lead to a connection too sluggish to serve your needs.

Old-school dial-up internet is inexpensive or even free, but in the age of streaming, gaming, uploading, and smart-home gadgets, you will likely feel hamstrung without broadband (high-speed) service. Our top picks offer multiple internet options that provide 25 Mbps or more — the FCC’s threshold for broadband internet — so you’re sure to find the speed you need.

Customer Service

Customer service is quite mediocre and inconsistent across internet companies, so it’s best to look at providers’ scores relatively. As an example: AT&T scored 749/1,000 for the South region in J.D. Power’s Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking. That’s a customer satisfaction score of about 75%, which, in industries like banking or insurance, would be below-average. But that’s actually the top score for internet providers in the South region. When evaluating customer service, we compared providers to the rest of the industry and gave preference to the ones that did better than average.

Guide to Cheap Internet

How to get online without blowing your budget

Check coverage

The first step in choosing an internet service provider is to check which are available in your area. Satellite providers like HughesNet can reach most anywhere, but all other internet providers are confined to the states where they’ve established infrastructure. For the most part, where they own the wires, they own your internet. Plans, pricing, and current promotions can also vary widely depending on where you live — a good thing to keep in mind if you’re inspired to sign up by an advertised boon.

Take a close look at pricing

The monthly cost of a plan is important, but there are a lot of other figures to consider. Does this price hold out for just the first three months, the first year, or beyond? What will you pay after the introductory period? Should you expect more rate increases moving forward? And, importantly, can you incur any extra fees while establishing or exiting the plan?

Factor in fees and expenses

Plenty of services and penalties can increase the amount of either your first bill or monthly bill. Common fees and expenses include:

  • Installation and activation fees
  • Monthly equipment rental fees or one-time purchase cost
  • Taxes
  • Early termination fees (ETFs) if you cancel a contract

Make sure to factor these into your calculations as you determine the cheapest plans in your area.

Consider possible savings

Because the internet industry is highly competitive, many providers offer promotions to entice new customers and keep existing customers from leaving. Keep an eye out for these offers:

  • Discounts for autopay or paperless billing
  • Discounts on select plans or bundles
  • Signup bonuses (Visa® gift cards, a free year of Netflix, etc.)
  • Credits to offset the costs of switching from another provider

Compare future price changes

The price you see when you set up your internet service could change based on the terms of your agreement. Be sure to compare:

  • Promotional cost at sign-up versus regular “market” cost (sometimes displayed as a strikethrough price)
  • Cost of a no-contract plan (if available) vs. the same plan with a contract

Decide how much speed you need

Price is important — but it’s equally important to choose an internet plan that offers adequate speed. Larger households and those with lots of devices (computers and smartphones, but also streaming devices and voice assistants) require more speed. And while a basic plan is enough to check your email, activities like gaming, streaming entertainment, and video conferencing demand more of your connection. The FCC’s Household Broadband Guide recommends at least 25 Mbps for households with four or more users or devices, as well as individuals who use the internet for more than one “high-demand application.”

Factor in equipment costs

Once you choose an internet plan, you’ll need a modem and router (or combination of the two) to log on. There are a few different options for this equipment:

  • Rent equipment from your provider
  • Buy your equipment from your provider when you set up your service (if available)
  • Buy your equipment elsewhere

Compare the costs of these options before you decide. If you’re bringing your own equipment to the table, contact your provider to make sure it’s compatible with the provider’s network before you purchase.

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About the Authors

Danika Miller

Danika Miller Internet & Entertainment Writer

Danika Miller has been writing for Reviews.com for three years, where she specializes in streaming, internet, and TV topics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in creative and technical writing from Western Washington University.