When you signed up for home internet service, you had to choose from several options. Each plan promises certain download and upload speeds, but how do you know which one is right for you?
Those speeds are a big factor in how much you’ll shell out for the internet each month. Faster capabilities mean higher costs and you’ll pay less for slower speeds. But speed is just one factor when it comes to your internet bill. There are others you might not know about. Tap or click here to change this one setting for faster internet speeds.
Let’s dive into why certain plans cost more than others so you can find out if you’re overpaying for internet service. We’ll also compare options so you know what’s reasonable and where to turn for a better deal.
Choosing the right plan based on your needs
The first step in making sure you’re not overpaying for internet is selecting the right plan for your needs. The speed you need for gaming isn’t the same as the speed you need to check emails and browse the web.
If you’re paying top dollar for the highest speeds available and not utilizing it, you’re throwing money away. But how do you know which speed is right for you?
Here’s a good place to start:
- For those who connect with fewer than three devices and simply browse the internet, you can get by with a basic package that offers download speeds up to 10Mbps.
- If you don’t stream much but want to check email and download music and photos, a plan with speeds up to 25Mbps should work.
- Gamers and people who stream lots of content will need a plan that offers speeds up to 100Mbps.
And don’t forget about data caps. Most companies put a cap on the amount of data you can use each month. If you go over that amount, you’ll be charged extra fees. Tap or click here to avoid hitting your internet data cap while you’re streaming.
Now that you know what to look for in a plan, let’s see what your options are.
For home internet service you’re going to choose between DSL, cable, fiber, satellite or hotspot. Here’s what that means:
- DSL – This stands for Digital Subscriber Line and users get a high-speed bandwidth connection from a phone wall jack or an existing telephone network. It works within the frequencies your telephone doesn’t, so you can use the internet while making phone calls. Think of companies like CenturyLink, Frontier and AT&T when it comes to DSL.
- Cable – Cable internet service comes from the same coaxial cable network that is used with cable television. Cable TV uses a small portion of the cable’s bandwidth, which allows your internet service to work with it. (Note: You don’t have to subscribe to cable TV to have cable internet service.)
- Fiber – Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables instead of copper wires. It’s faster than DSL and cable internet, but it’s not available everywhere.
- Satellite – This is when internet access is provided through communications satellites. It’s not very common and is mostly used by people who live in rural areas that don’t have wired internet service available.
- Hotspot – To use 5G internet, you can set up a wireless hotspot. This converts the connection into ultra-fast Wi-Fi for your phone, laptop or other devices.
Since DSL and cable internet services are the most common, we’ll focus on those. Two of the major providers in the U.S. are Xfinity from Comcast and Cox Communications. For DSL, we’ll show you options from CenturyLink.
Note: Service providers and specific offerings will vary based on where you live. Not all plans and speeds are available in all areas. The plans below can give you an idea of the cost for some of the most common plans.
Xfinity from Comcast
Xfinity offers a few different plans.
- If you can get by with the bare minimum, the Performance Starter+ plan offers download speeds up to 25Mbps for $19.99/month for the first year. After that, you’ll pay $50 per month.
- Need even faster speeds? Xfinity’s Performance Pro+ offers speeds up to 200Mbps for $49.99/month for the first year. After that, you’ll pay $70 per month.
- Want to pay for your TV and internet at the same time? With Choice TV Select Double Play, you’ll get internet speeds up to 100Mbps plus over 10 TV channels, including locals where available, for $39.99/month for the first year. After that, you’ll pay $65 each month.
Prices may depend on your location. We found these deals by searching in Surprise, Arizona. However, when we searched using a Peoria address, we got a message saying, “Unfortunately, Xfinity service is not available at this address.”
Keep these factors in mind when you’re researching the best deal for your home. You know what they say: It’s all about location, location, location!
Cox Communications offers a wide range of plans with speeds from 10Mbps all the way up to 940Mbps. Here are the most common offerings:
- Cox Internet Essential 50 gets you up to 50Mbps for $39.99/month for 12 months with a 1-year service agreement. After that, the cost goes up to $66.99 per month.
- Cox Internet Preferred 150 with Panoramic Wifi and Cox Complete Care gives you up to 150Mbps of speed for $79.99/month for 12 months with a 1-year service agreement. After that, you’ll pay $87.99 per month.
- For higher speeds, choose Cox Internet Ultimate 500 with Complete Package to get up to 500Mbps for $91.99/month for 12 months with a 1-year service agreement. After that, it’ll cost $99.99 per month.
As with Xfinity above, prices for these packages may vary depending on your location, so keep that in mind while you’re rooting around for prices.
CenturyLink, a DSL internet service provider, is pushing its “Price For Life” offer. That means if you sign up for internet service, you can guarantee the same monthly rate year after year as long as you don’t cancel.
At the moment, you can get up to 100Mbps for $49/month. It’s normally $65/month, but CenturyLink is offering a special promotion that lets you sign up for any speed available in your home, up to 100Mbps, for $49/month.
The bad news is CenturyLink doesn’t offer 100Mbps in every area of the U.S. The top speeds available depends on your location. You’ll have to check with the company to find out what your options are.
The best way to find out what is available in your area is to go to centurylink.com. Once on the site, select “Residential” and then click on “Internet.” On the next page, enter your home address and click on “See Offers.” This will show you which speeds are available to you and how much it will cost.
If you would rather speak to a rep on the phone, call 866-449-1979. But the company does say the best deals can be found online, so give that a try first.
Look for available deals
Most companies offer a discounted rate for your first year of service. When the first year is over, you can expect to pay significantly more each month. How can you get around that? Call your service provider and ask for a new deal. If they don’t offer you one, look into switching companies.
Another way to save money is to look for a bundle deal. Most companies offer savings when you sign up for more than one service.
For example, Xfinity has a bundle called X1 Saver Pro+ Triple Play that includes download speeds up to 300Mbps, more than 140 TV channels and a phone landline with unlimited calls for $104.99/month for the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement. After that, it’ll cost $120/month. If you paid for these services individually, you’re looking at about $145 per month.
The Cox Communications Bronze Bundle includes download speeds up to 150Mbps, plus more than 140 TV channels and a phone landline, for $109.99/month for 24 months with a 2-year service agreement.
As you can see, bundling gives you a nice break on costs. But don’t jump on a deal if it includes services you won’t actually use.
What if you use 5G?
The 5G network is most famous for helping mobile users, but you can also set it up for your home. You can often get a good deal if you package your phone and internet together.
- Are you a Verizon user? You can sign up for 5G home internet for $50/month, as long as you have a mobile plan of $30/month or more. Don’t have a qualifying mobile plan? You can still get 5G home internet. You just need to shell out $70/month. Make sure to check if your home is compatible first. Tap or click here to see if your home address is qualified for Verizon’s 5G home internet.
- What if you use T-Mobile? Right now, T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G home internet plan is still in progress. You can spend $50/month for unlimited data in the home that runs at a speed of around 25Mbps. If you want to grab fast, reliable 5G home internet, tap or click here to sign up on T-Mobile’s list so you’ll know when it’s available.
- AT&T users: You can’t exactly buy a home plan that runs on 5G — but you can use this data as a mobile hotspot. Just drop $50/month for AT&T’s 5G DataPro plan. Tap or click here to sign up.
Want to hear more about 5G? There’s a free online map that lets you know where 5G services are available. Tap or click here to find the nation’s biggest 5G hotspots and service providers.
Are you getting what you pay for?
Once you choose a provider and a plan, you need to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. If you’re paying for download speeds of 100Mbps, but only getting around 50Mbps, you’re overpaying.
You can find out with a simple speed test right through Google. Just type the phrase “Speed Test,” two words by the way, into the search bar and hit enter. Click “Run Speed Test.” Be sure to test your speed at different times of day to average it out, and compare it against your internet plan.
If you’d rather use a site designed to test speeds, we’ve got a few options to recommend. Tap or click here for four sites that check your internet speed for free. And if you discover you’re not getting what you’re paying for, call your provider and complain. They will have to figure out why your speed is lagging and make it right.
We’ve gone over a few things to look for with home internet service to make sure you’re not overpaying. Keep an eye out and if anything is out of line, don’t be afraid to confront your company or look into switching to a different service. Competition is always good for consumers.