It’s hard to imagine life at home without internet access. We know there are a few people out there who still resist, but between remote work, digital school assignments, and streaming entertainment, it probably can be described as a necessity. But which provider in your area offers the cheapest, most reliable service? That likely depends on which companies offer internet access in your neighborhood or municipality, yet plenty of national providers offer broad internet coverage that’s available to consumers on a consistent basis regardless of location.
Verizon came out ahead in our study due to the quality of their internet services, as well as rankings from third-party agencies like J.D. Power. However, we compared all the top providers that offer coverage on a national level based on pricing, customer service, reputation, and other important factors, and we include details on all the top plans you should consider below.
The Most Important Factors When Looking for Cheap Internet Service
- Speed of Service: Whether you’re a gamer who needs fast internet service or you simply hate waiting around for pages to load, internet speeds are one of the most important factors consumers should consider. Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it so the top cheap internet providers still offer connections as fast as 1,000 Mbps.
- Customer Service: Internet providers tend to have a poor reputation for customer service, which is why comparing companies in this category is so crucial. Fortunately, third party rankings from companies like J.D. Power can help you gain insights into each provider’s customer service standards.
- Reliability: Internet access is so integral for the way that we live that any interruption can become a problem in a hurry. Make sure to consider reliability as you compare and price out cheap internet plans in your area, but also know that reliability has improved with underlying technology advancements.
The Best Cheap Internet Providers of 2021
|Highly Rated||Get Started|
|Best Satellite Option||Get Started|
|Best for Cheap Plans||Get Started|
|Best Bundling Options||Get Started|
|Best for No Contracts||Get Started|
Best Cheap Internet Provider Reviews
The best cheap internet providers make it easy to set up access at home without any hassle or stress, yet they also tend to get high marks for customer service and reliability. While not all of these providers may be available in your area, the following cheap internet companies provide some of the broadest access for prices most people can afford.
Verizon Wireless — Highly Rated
Verizon Wireless promises lightning fast internet speeds, which they are able to deliver via fiber-optic light bursts to the home. They also promise a powerful connection that maintains its integrity with 10 or more connected devices at a time.
While the exact speeds you’ll enjoy depend on where you live and the plan you select, Verizon Wireless currently offers speeds up to 940/880 Mbps. Note, however, that plans with the fastest speeds typically cost more, and that their Fios connection with speeds up to 940 Mbps starts at $79.99 per month plus applicable taxes and fees. You may be able to get a price guarantee good for up to three years, however, so you could rest assured that your pricing wouldn’t increase for a while.
Why It’s Made the List: Verizon Wireless has received numerous awards for their internet access speeds and quality, along with customer service. This includes top rankings in several regions of the United States in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study.
What Holds it Back: Verizon isn’t overly transparent about their pricing for plans on a national level, although this is likely due to the fact that pricing can and does vary depending on where you live and the local infrastructure. You should be aware, however, that Verizon does require contracts for their internet plans, and that you may have to pay for an initial set-up fee.
DISH Network — Best Satellite Option
While most people think of DISH Network as a satellite television provider, this company also offers high-speed internet access. While not ideal for everyone, satellite internet is often one of a handful of options (or the only option) for consumers who live in an area where cable and fiber aren’t available. However, you should also be aware that, if you do live in an area with cable or fiber, DISH Network may partner with another provider to offer you faster internet speeds in a plan that is bundled with your satellite television service.
How much does DISH Network internet service cost? That depends on where you live, the plan you select, and whether you bundle internet access with other services. DISH Network also promises 24/7 customer service support and 99.9% reliability, and they make it easy to see their offerings in your area just by entering your zip code.
Why It’s Made the List: Not only is DISH Network more readily available than some other providers, but they make it easy to bundle television and internet for one low price.
What Holds it Back: DISH Network only offers internet speeds up to 40 Mbps, which is significantly slower than many competitors offer. This speed is likely sufficient for regular household internet use, but gamers and telecommuters may need to pay for a plan with faster service.
Comcast (Xfinity) — Best for Cheap Plans
While Comcast (Xfinity) has a fairly poor reputation for its customer service, this company may be turning things around. According to J.D. Power’s recent customer service satisfaction study, this company scored higher than the industry average in terms of reliability and customer service reliability in three regions nationwide — the North Central Region, South Region, and West Region.
Comcast also posts transparent pricing on their website, although we recognize that plans and promotions change all the time. Currently, though, you can snag their basic “Performance Starter” high-speed internet plan with up to 20 Mbps for just $20 per month with a 12-month agreement and autopay. Meanwhile, a similar plan with speeds up to 100 MBPS starts at just $40 per month.
Why It’s Made the List: Comcast (Xfinity) has affordable plans for high-speed internet access, but they also make it easy to bundle your internet with television service to score even more discounts. They also frequently throw in gift cards and other “extras” in order to entice you to make the switch.
What Holds it Back: Comcast’s best pricing requires you to jump through some hoops. Not only will you have to sign a contract, but you will need to sign up for autopay and paperless statements.
AT&T — Best Bundling Options
AT&T is another “big name” internet provider that offers high-speed internet access in different parts of the United States. We like AT&T because they offer some of the most affordable and inclusive “bundling” options that can include internet access, cable television, and even phone service.
In terms of their internet coverage, AT&T reports their network has 99.9% reliability, and that their speeds are fast enough you can stream movies and download large files on multiple devices at once. They also offer a mobile app that lets you control your internet service and devices, including the application of parental controls, using your mobile device.
Plan speeds and pricing can depend on where you live, so you’ll need to enter your zip code on the AT&T website before you can shop around. However, it’s common to find internet-only plans in your area for as little as $49.99 per month with a 12-month agreement.
Why It’s Made the List: AT&T has a solid reputation for quality and even received the #1 ranking in J.D. Power’s residential internet study in both the South and West regions of the United States.
What Holds it Back: In some parts of the country, high-speed plans are limited to just 50 Mbps. Also be aware that pricing can vary widely depending on where you live, although you can typically save money by bundling your internet and television together in one plan.
Spectrum — Best for No Contracts
Finally, don’t forget to consider the lesser-known Spectrum, who actually receives high marks from third-party ranking agencies on a national level. Spectrum offers plans with speeds of up to 200 Mbps for as little as $49.99 per month, and they promise no data caps or speed throttling. However, they do offer plans that can vary depending on where you live, so make sure to enter your zip code on the Spectrum website so you can make a true price comparison.
Also note that, if you need television service or would consider bundling plans for more savings, Spectrum also offers Spectrum TV with thousands of movies and current seasons of your favorite shows.
Why It’s Made the List: Spectrum promises a 30-day money-back guarantee, as well as no contracts, no hidden fees, and no early termination fees.
What Holds it Back: Spectrum doesn’t offer as much availability nationwide as some other providers on this list. You’ll need to enter your zip code on the company website to see if Spectrum is available in your area.
How We Found the Best Cheap Internet Providers
The best cheap internet providers stand out due to the quality of their offerings and their reputation with current and past customers. Here are all the factors we considered as we compiled providers for this ranking.
Comparing pricing on a national level is tricky since most internet providers don’t offer standard rates that are available nationwide. For the purpose of this guide, however, we looked for national internet providers that advertise low or reasonable rates that are available to large swaths of the country.
Fast Internet Speeds
We looked for cheap internet providers that offer speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps. However, we also considered providers that offer lower speeds for a competitive price point or in areas where faster service may not be available. Also note that, according to the Federal Communications Commission, the current FCC broadband definition is a minimum of 25 Mbps download.
We also considered third party rankings from companies like J.D. Power, which spends time surveying internet customers nationwide to learn about their experiences. Fortunately, all the companies in our ranking received excellent or acceptable ratings from third party agencies.
What You Need to Know About Residential Internet Access
According to a 2019 report from Pew Research Center, as much as 90 percent of the U.S. adult population utilizes the internet for work or personal use. Further, 73 percent of U.S. households reported having home internet access as of February 2019. How has this changed over the years? In the year 2000, only 52 percent of U.S. adults used the internet at all, and only 1 percent of U.S. households had internet access in their homes.
This just goes to show how quickly we adopted internet usage in our daily lives, but it’s also the reason internet access and speeds have had to improve dramatically over the years. As more and more consumers have learned to use the internet over time, internet providers have rushed to improve their services and expand their networks to meet demand.
This is good news for consumers, and especially those who live in areas where multiple cheap internet providers are forced to compete. In any case, everyone should shop around and compare internet providers in their area to find the best deal. Make sure to compare not only on price, but also on internet speeds, customer service availability, and whether other services like cable television can be bundled for even more savings.
Also, check out our review on the best internet services for your business.
Summary: Best Cheap Internet Providers