Don't break the bank for decent internet. Here are our top picks for the best cheap internet providers.
Gigabit internet is great if you're in need of high-speed internet. But it costs a lot. If you're more concerned with your budget than megabits per second, a cheap internet plan might serve you better. You don't need to waste your money on high-priced, high-speed plans when all you need is a simple connection for light browsing and streaming. Many of the top internet providers offer plans starting in the $30- to $50-a-month range with plenty of speed for a variety of online activities. Your options will vary based on the available providers in your area, but low-cost internet plans aren't as rare as they can seem.
This list of the best cheap ISPs is a good place to start if you're shopping for low-cost, high-value internet plans. The cheap internet providers highlighted here were chosen for their high nationwide availability and customer-friendly perks such as unlimited data or low equipment costs, as well as low pricing. We update this list periodically.
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In mid-January of 2022, AT&T launched two multi-gig plans that, combined with its existing tiers, now give the company the lowest cost per Mbps for fiber internet of any major provider. Across five tiers, the cost per Mbps for AT&T Fiber plans is 10 cents. That includes unlimited data and no additional equipment rental fee either. A few other providers might approach that cost per Mbps with their promo offers, but even then, after you factor in the monthly modem rental fee, AT&T will end up being cheaper.
If you don't need multi-gig speeds, AT&T Fiber's cheapest plan still comes with plenty of speed with max download and upload speeds of 300Mbps. The plan also comes with no added equipment costs and unlimited data, as do all AT&T Fiber plans.
One note of caution: Around 70% of households in AT&T internet service areas are not eligible for AT&T Fiber. Cheap broadband service may still be available from AT&T, however, as its DSL-based service offers speeds up to 100Mbps starting at $45 a month.
Sometimes going with a cheap plan comes with sacrificing speed, but not with Frontier FiberOptic. Its cheapest plan comes with symmetrical upload and download speeds of up to 500Mbps starting at just $50 a month when you enroll in autopay. Your equipment rental and unlimited data is also included in the price.
An all-in starting cost of $50 (remember to sign up for autopay) a month is cheaper than or on par with many major providers, including AT&T, CenturyLink and Spectrum, who also have entry plan starting rates of $50 to $55 a month. Not only are those plans more expensive and may come with equipment rental fees, they're also slower than the 500Mbps you'll get with Frontier.
Mediacom doesn't boast the same customer reach as larger competing cable providers such as Spectrum or Xfinity, but that can largely be attributed to the internet provider's service areas. Residents of rural areas throughout the Midwest and South as well as parts of Arizona and California can rely on Mediacom for cheap broadband service starting at around $20 a month for speeds up to 60Mbps.
The one downside to Mediacom's cheapest Wi-Fi internet plan is the 200-gigabyte monthly data cap, which many households are likely to exceed (and incur an overage fee of $10 per 50GB block of data, up to a maximum of $50). Streaming HD video can use 3GB or more per hour, so streaming TV just a few hours a day can quickly put you over the cap. For more monthly data, consider higher-tiered Mediacom plans, which come with up to 6 terabytes a month.
Xfinity speeds and pricing vary by market, but the cheapest plan you'll find from the provider is Xfinity Connect. At $25 to $30 per month depending on your location for download speeds up to 75Mbps, it isn't the best internet deal you're likely to find, but it is one of the cheaper broadband options available throughout much of the US.
Be prepared to keep your data usage under 1.2TB a month to avoid overage fees. Like Mediacom, Xfinity charges $10 per each 50GB block of data, but with Xfinity it could add a maximum of $100 to your bill.
Cox internet plans are priced a bit on the high side. In fact, the cheapest internet plan from Cox has one of the highest costs per Mbps of any plan featured on this list.
Still, Cox made our list of the best cheap internet providers thanks to its budget-friendly prepaid service. For $50 a month, Cox StraightUp Internet comes with up to 100Mbps, a free router/modem device, free installation and a three-year price guarantee. The plan is ideal for those who may have less-than-perfect credit or simply want a pay-as-you-go service.
Spectrum has one of the highest-priced internet plans on our list, but the provider makes up for it with fast download speeds -- up to 200Mbps -- and cheap Wi-Fi equipment fees. Spectrum internet service comes with a free modem and the router rental fee is only $5 per month.
With an all-in monthly price of around $55, download speeds up to 200Mbps, unlimited data and no contracts, Spectrum Internet rivals any provider on this list. While the starting price is a bit higher than other cable internet providers including Xfinity, Cox and Mediacom, the speeds and transparent pricing are well worth paying a little extra for.
|Provider||Starting monthly price||Max download speeds (Mbps)||Cost per Mbps||Equipment fee|
|Frontier Fiber||$50 (with autopay)||500||$0.10||None|
These national providers also have broadband service starting at or below $50 a month, but did not make our list of the best cheap ISPs due to high cost per megabit per second, inconsistent pricing or limited service areas.
When shopping for cheap internet, it's a good idea to take a look at more than just the advertised price. Here are some other factors you'll want to consider before signing up for the absolute cheapest plan.
Dial-up is the cheapest internet connection available, with plans starting under $10 a month from providers such as AOL, EarthLink and NetZero. In spite of the low cost, we wouldn't recommend dial-up service. Dial-up speeds are painfully slow and will not support a Wi-Fi connection or nearly any online task more demanding than sending an email.
Another phone-based internet service, DSL is a popular go-to for cheap internet. Providers like Frontier and Verizon offer DSL plans ranging from $25-$35 a month, but these plans typically come with sub-broadband speeds.
Cable and fiber internet are likely to be your best cheap internet options. While plans can be a bit more expensive than dial-up or DSL service, the speeds and connection quality that you get are well worth the added cost.
The Federal Communication Commission's Lifeline program provides a monthly credit of up to $9.25 that qualifying consumers can apply towards their broadband bill. To qualify, applicants must have a household income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or qualify for other government assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income or the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit.
Many internet providers, including AT&T, Cox and Xfinity, also offer a discounted internet program. Plans typically cost between $5 and $15 a month and come with speeds of 10-30Mbps. Qualifications are similar to those of the FCC's Lifeline program.
President Joe Biden's recently passed infrastructure law promises to help make fast, affordable internet even more accessible, setting aside roughly $65 billion for broadband expansion and further assistance for low-income households. It could be years before real headway is made on bridging the digital divide, however, so what you pay each month for internet service is largely dependent on the available ISPs in your area and the plan you choose.
There are a few ways you may be able to get cheaper internet. Common ways to lower your internet bill include using your own equipment, negotiating a lower cost with your provider and switching providers.
View our guide on how to save on your internet bill for more details about how you can lower your monthly internet costs.
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