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We review Spectrum’s latest speeds, prices, & availability for Internet, Television, & Phone Services in 2020
Spectrum, formally known as Charter Communications, is the second-largest cable internet provider in the US. Spectrum currently offers cable internet service to over 102 million Americans across 46 states, falling just shy of XFINITY from Comcast (which is available to over 111 million.)
Spectrum has some strong selling points, even though Charter, the company that owns them, hasn’t always had the best reputation for customer service. However, since acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks a few years ago, the company has made some seriously impressive strides.
Spectrum has greatly expanded its network and is continuing to do so throughout 2020. Spectrum’s internet service is also rated highly by the FCC for its accurate speed advertising (actually delivering the internet speed advertised — which is unfortunately rare among Internet providers.)
If you’re choosing between Spectrum and traditional DSL services like AT&T or CenturyLink, Spectrum is a solid choice — especially if you stream videos or do other activities online that require heavy data usage. Spectrum’s internet service is free of data caps, making them a strong choice for cord-cutters who use streaming services like Netflix and Hulu without a traditional cable TV plan.
Our Spectrum review will focus on internet service, but we will also include information on their TV service and bundle options.
Spectrum is currently offering to pay early termination fees for subscribers who want to switch to Spectrum but are trapped in a contract by another provider. They will pay up to $500 to buy you out of your existing contract, provided that you sign up for a qualifying Spectrum Triple Play or Double Play bundle.
Spectrum tends to offer a small number of plans in each service area. Most providers offer a wide range of internet speeds, with more affordable plans for lower speeds and more expensive plans for higher speeds. Spectrum typically offers one or two speed options at most in each location.
Although the company’s smaller plan selection might not work for techies or extreme users, it should be perfectly fine for the average subscriber. Spectrum’s “basic” internet plan has speeds starting at 100 Mbps, which is enough to handle HD streaming and browsing on multiple devices. Spectrum is also continuing to expand its network throughout 2019 and 2020.
They spice things up a bit when it comes to TV plans, offering several bundle packages to choose from. These may or may not be worthwhile, depending on how many channels you need and whether you plan to cut the cord sometime soon.
Plan details change frequently, always verify plan details with the Charter Spectrum directly before purchasing service.
If you're looking to compare plans, make sure to check out our detailed guide on the latest Charter Spectrum deals and promotions.
Spectrum has one of the widest coverage footprints among US cable providers. They currently offer coverage to over 102 million residents across 46 states, with the greatest coverage in California, Texas, and New York. The company’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks expanded Spectrum’s territory dramatically, and they’ve been working to improve and standardize network performance since the acquisition.
Spectrum speeds hit the “Goldilocks” mark: not too slow, but not too fast.
Of course, power users are likely to be happier with pure fiber from a specialty provider. For the rest of us, though, Spectrum’s base plans of around 100 Mbps are just right for a busy household of gaming, streaming, and surfing the web.
Real-world speeds of Charter Spectrum service based on IP verified users in various cities. This data is based on 11,320,413 speed tests.
Perhaps the largest advantage Spectrum holds over other providers is that they don’t have data caps.
This is a great perk for Netflix junkies and streamers who want to enjoy entertainment through the Internet without worrying about getting slapped with a monster overage fee if they go over their data usage. Many other cable providers start charging after a terabyte or so of usage, but Spectrum offers unlimited data on all their internet plans.
Many internet providers claim to offer speeds of “up to” a certain amount, but in reality, those speeds are rarely reached. Spectrum subscribers will be glad to know this typically isn’t the case for them.
Spectrum has a strong reputation compared to most cable providers when it comes to delivering speeds as advertised. The FCC consistently rates Spectrum highly in its annual report on fixed broadband in the US. According to a recent report, 85% of test Spectrum users were able to achieve 95% of the advertised speed for their area or greater. So even though Spectrum doesn’t offer much variation in speeds to begin with, the company does actually deliver on the speeds it promises. Of course, there are always a few things you can do to optimize your Wi-Fi connection even further.
We had someone on our team run speed tests while transferring their Spectrum service from one city to another. The results were similar, with speeds taken on a weekday morning in two major metro areas yielding results within 5% or exceeding the advertised speed:
Not all customers are happy with having their Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks internet plans changed over to Spectrum. It can’t be avoided, though, and it’s actually a good thing for some customers, as Charter is making an effort to eliminate hidden fees and contracts in favor of one-size-fits-all pricing.
In the short term, no. In the long term, probably, assuming you’re on some sort of promo rate from Time Warner Cable or Bright House that has a time limit. (New customer promos, special rates, etc.)
Many customers of Time Warner Cable and Bright House have gotten used to being able to call up their provider every year and argue for a better rate. This is great for the customers who are willing to spend a few hours on the phone every year, but it’s bad for everyone who would rather just pay one fair rate that they understand with no haggling.
Charter Spectrum isn’t grandfathering in all of those “extended promo” rates customers argued for over the years, and instead requires customers to pay the sticker price if they want service.
This is a bummer for budget shoppers and deal hunters — but it’s a good thing for the average customer who doesn’t want to get gouged while their neighbor pays half the rate for the same service.
You can still try to get a deal for current Spectrum customers if you’re willing to hop on the phone. Remember to be firm, yet polite, and you may just score yourself a bargain.
In short, no. The only real “hidden” fee we found with Spectrum was the router fee. Otherwise, the pricing is reasonably straightforward and they list out extra items up-front. Spectrum does raise its rates after the first year of service, but this is fairly typical for a national cable provider. Just make sure to take note of this before you sign up so you don’t get surprised when your bill goes up a year later.
Every home Internet connection requires two things to function: a modem and a router. The modem transforms cable signal into digital data, while the router creates your Wi-Fi bubble and routes traffic to your various devices. Spectrum includes the modem for free with Internet service. The router, however, costs an extra $5/month. For this reason, customers who plan to use Charter for more than a year are probably better off buying their own router from a third party outright. To save you the hassle of researching, we’ve put together a list of the 6 best Spectrum routers in 2019.
Spectrum gets high marks for their surprisingly high base speed — usually in the neighborhood of 60-100 Mbps (your mileage may vary, depending on service area.)
This high base speed is thanks to their hybrid fiber-coaxial cable network. Unlike DSL, which pipes Internet through phone lines, cable providers like Spectrum use higher-bandwidth coaxial cables from TV networks. This isn’t as ideal as 100% fiber, but it’s usually the best choice for the average household.
Because cable networks are underground rather than on phone lines, they’re less susceptible to storm damage and other outages, resulting in a more reliable and secure connection.
We found that Spectrum’s installation fees vary by location. According to some customers, you can even talk your way out of installation fees if you’re willing to negotiate with Spectrum over the phone. This may change soon, as Spectrum is generally strict on pricing.
Compared to other cable providers, Spectrum’s fees are lower than average — which is surprising considering that they offer contract-free service.
They also stick to a punctual installation schedule, advertised as a “one-hour appointment window”. This is a nice perk for those of us who don’t have time to wait for the cable guy all day.
TV is another area where Spectrum distinguishes itself, although their plans can be pricey compared to satellite options even when bundled.
If you’re a sports fan, be sure to check the seasonal sports and sports package bundles from DirecTV and DISH before you make the call. In all other departments, we found Spectrum’s value to be strong.
Spectrum TV comes in three main packages: Select, Silver, and Gold.
On the lower end, you’re looking at 125+ channels. To Spectrum’s credit, that is much more variety than what many companies offer with their “value” tier. On the higher end of the spectrum (pun intended), you get closer to 200, including sports must-haves like NFL RedZone.
Here is a breakdown of some of the sports offerings included in each tier:
Pricing for Spectrum’s TV plans tends to run a bit steep, especially for standalone offers. That said, the price comes down dramatically for bundled Internet/TV/phone deals. Just keep an eye out for the final pricing once the promotional period runs out, particularly if you plan to subscribe for multiple years.
Spectrum’s DVR service is decent and comes in at $11.99/month for one DVR and $19.99/month for additional units. The DVRs themselves vary in make and model depending on your service area and when you sign up, but considering the price is a third of what some competitors charge, we consider it a good deal for a flexible setup.
To sum it up, Spectrum hits a lot of the sweet spots for home Internet service: no contract, no data caps, no hidden fees, reasonable pricing, and efficient installation.
They don’t offer a wide range of plans, but what they lack in plan flexibility they make up for in perks and pricing. Hardcore techies might find some of the specs lacking, but for the 99% of us that just want to get online and be done with it, Spectrum makes it easy and affordable to do so.
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