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If you’re like me, you’ve noticed how much more you’re using your internet ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started. There’s always a laptop in my hand and a phone in another with Netflix playing somewhere in the background. It’s safe to say my internet usage has increased to the point where I need a faster plan. However, this pandemic has also highlighted how important it is to stick to a budget.
With that said, internet providers that are equally fast, reliable, and affordable can be tricky to find. The average monthly cost for internet service in the U.S. is $68.38, which can be pretty steep depending on the providers available near you.
If your household relies on the internet to perform their everyday tasks, we want to help you save money. We chose five widely available internet service providers that offer plans with speeds of at least 50 Mbps for less than $60 per month, including additional monthly fees. We’ll give you the inside scoop on what to expect with these providers, where they’re available, their cheapest plan, why you might like that plan, and any drawbacks the provider may have.
(for the first 12 mos. w/ 1-yr. agreement)
(for the first 12 mos. Plus taxes & equip. fee $10 per month)
(w/ Auto Pay + taxes & equip. fee $10 per month)
(for the first 12 mos.)
(for the first 12 mos. + equip., install, & taxes)
Xfinity is currently the largest cable company in the US as of 2021, offering service to a little more than a third of the population. The Xfinity brand, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, is one of the most popular and widely trusted names in the industry.
For those who don’t mind signing a contract, the Xfinity Performance Select plan offers cable internet with download speeds up to 100 Mbps. The plan costs $34.99 per month for the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement. After the first year, you’ll pay $55 per month. And right now, Xfinity is giving away its new streaming device and service —Xfinity Flex — with internet-only plans at no additional cost.
This plan is a solid choice for families or medium-sized households who plan on streaming, downloading shows, music, or photos, and working from home. It’s important to mention Xfinity has a 1.2 TB (1,200 GB) data cap, but it’s unlikely most households will use more than 1 TB per month. Plus, you can pay extra for unlimited data if you find yourself exceeding your data cap frequently. In my opinion, the only real drawback of Xfinity is their 1-year contract. However, Xfinity gives you a no-contract option for each plan. You’ll miss out on the promotional rate, but it’s an option if contracts are a deal-breaker for you.
AT&T Fiber is the largest fiber internet provider with service available in 21 states. If you live in a major city or metropolitan, there’s a good chance you’ll have AT&T Fiber available to you.
AT&T Fiber’s Internet 100 plan offers download and upload speeds up to 100 Mbps for $35 per month for the first 12 months, plus an additional $10 per month for the equipment rental. At a total of $45 per month, this fiber plan is not only one of the cheapest, but also one of the best plans on the market.
If anyone in your household plans on gaming in real-time, streaming HD videos, or browsing the web on multiple devices, the AT&T Internet 100 will satisfy your expectations. Fiber internet is the best internet connection available thanks to its upload speeds — you’ll have fewer delays uploading files and playing first-person shooter games with fiber internet. AT&T does charge a one-time installation fee of $99, which can be off-putting. However, you can opt for self-installation, which brings that fee down to $35.
Unlike Xfinity and AT&T, Verizon Fios’ internet service is not widely available across the US. Their coverage spans just nine states, with the strongest service in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
If you’re lucky enough to be within the Verizon Fios coverage area, you’ll benefit from one of the fastest and most reliable internet providers in the US. Verizon Fios’ fiber internet is highly-rated among customers and one we recommend without hesitation for their prices, cord cutter-friendly perks, and high-speed internet. Falling in at third on our list, the Fios 200/200 plan has download and upload speeds up to 200 Mbps for $39.99 per month with AutoPay plus taxes and equipment fees.
Like AT&T Fiber, Verizon Fios charges a one-time $99 installation fee, but it can easily be waived if you order the service online. They also charge an additional $15 per month for a router rental, or you can buy it outright for $149. (We recommend purchasing your own router or Verizon Fios’ router if you plan to stay with them for a year or more.)
You can find Mediacom cable internet, TV, and phone in 22 different states in the US, with the best coverage in Illinois, Iowa, and Georgia. For $49.99 per month, the Mediacom Internet 100 plan gets you download speeds up to 100 Mbps and upload speeds up to 10 Mbps. Compared to the other providers on our list, this ISP does sit at a higher price tag. But is it worth it?
If you live in the Midwest or Deep South, it’s likely many of the top internet service providers neglect your area. Mediacom’s Internet 100 plan is a great choice if you’re in a less-serviced area and aren’t bothered by a 1-year contract. This plan offers enough speed for multi-device streaming and is perfect for small families and single professionals. You’ll save more money if you catch one of Mediacom’s deals, like free installation w or a signal-boosting service free for three months.
A big drawback for some people may be Mediacom’s data caps. The Internet 100 plan has a 1 TB (1,000 GB) data cap which is more than enough for most households. Still, it might be a problem for some that Mediacom doesn’t offer an additional unlimited data plan. Instead, Mediacom requires you to upgrade to a faster plan to get a larger data cap.
Spectrum offers cable internet to city-dwellers and people living in the suburbs. More than 102 million people across 44 states have access to Spectrum internet. Although Spectrum came in last for this list, their price is worth it since they have one of the fastest plans on the list.
The Spectrum Internet plan offers up to 200 Mbps download speed for $49.99 per month. Your money goes a long way thanks to the features Spectrum offers with each internet plan like free internet security and nationwide hotspot access. A significant advantage Spectrum has over the other cable providers we’ve mentioned is that they do not have any data caps. This makes Spectrum an excellent choice for binge-watchers and streamers.
Compared to the rest of the internet providers we’ve discussed above, Spectrum’s only drawback is its lackluster deals. Xfinity, AT&T, and Verizon Fios offer free streaming devices and/or services with their plans. Mediacom has an edge over Spectrum with their Xtream WiFi 360, which can extend your WiFi to more than 3,000 sq. ft. Still, if you need as much speed as possible for a low-price, Spectrum is one of the better options.
Now that you know which internet service providers make a more affordable option, here are some extra tips on what you can do to get the best value from your internet service.
Opt for self-installation: One way to save on installation fees is to opt for the self-install option. Most providers offer self-installation even though they don’t advertise it. Just ask when you sign-up for service. This simple step can save you around $30 in up-front fees.
Use your own equipment: Most internet service providers charge, on average, $10-15 per month to rent their equipment. If you stay with a provider for two years, that's around $240-360 you didn't have to spend. You can pay less for a modem/router, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Check out our guide on how to decide if you should buy or rent internet equipment to see what will benefit you.
More often than not, new customers get better deals than existing customers. Even if you're a second-year customer, it's worth calling your provider's retention department to get a new customer deal. In the long run, it's better for a provider to cut you some slack if it means signing you on for another year. If they aren't budging, it may be useful to check out other ISPs near you.
Knowing how much speed you need will help you know which plans are right for you. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of having gigabit speeds, but you could end up spending more money than necessary. If your internet usage is limited to streaming on a few devices or working from home with the occasional Zoom or Slack call, any of the plans listed above would be suitable for your needs.