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Spectrum home internet service: What you need to know

Charter Communications offers Spectrum Internet service to over 33% of the population, servicing over 28 million customers in 41 different states.

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Charter Communications

Charter Communications boasts that its Spectrum Internet service features no contracts, includes no termination fees and provides new customers with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. Such a straightforward approach can be mighty appealing, especially when internet plans tend to be anything but simple. 

If Spectrum Internet is available in your area and perhaps you're considering switching from another provider, then let's explore what you might find when you get under the hood of Spectrum's internet coverage.

What are Spectrum's speeds, and what do the plans cost?

Spectrum currently offers three different plans at three separate prices. None of them include data caps, and none require you to commit to a contract. That said, after 12 months, your monthly bill will go up by $25 to $30, depending on which plan you've picked. Here are the specifics:

Spectrum plans and pricing

Plan First-year promo rate Standard rate (after promo period) Max download speeds Max upload speeds Term agreement
Spectrum Internet $50 $75 200Mbps 10Mbps None required
Spectrum Internet Ultra $65 $95 400Mbps 20Mbps None required
Spectrum Internet Gig $105 $135 940Mbps 35Mbps None required

*Pricing per month plus taxes. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing and promotional deals vary by location and availability. All prices subject to change. May or may not be available based on service address. As of April 7, 2021.

Your internet speed will also depend on the plan you select. For most of its serviceable areas, your options are download speeds of 200 megabits per second, 400Mbps or 940Mbps, which Spectrum calls its Internet Gig plan. A Charter spokesperson tells CNET that approximately 85% of Spectrum's service area will see the 200Mbps plan as their starting option, with most other areas featuring a 100Mbps plan as the lowest tier.

What type of internet connection is Spectrum?

Spectrum Internet relies mainly on hybrid fiber-coaxial cable connections to provide service to subscribers' homes. As you can tell by the three fast tiers offered by Charter, cable is a trusty method that offers download speeds better than those you'll get with DSL, fixed wireless and satellite. That said, fiber internet can provide faster speeds and symmetrical download and upload speeds. With cable internet plans like the ones offered by companies like Spectrum, Xfinity and Mediacom, your upload speeds will typically stay in the double digits at best.

According to a December 2019 report from the Federal Communications Commission, just under 1% of Spectrum's potential customer base is eligible for fiber. But according to our source, that's not true. While Charter does not release its fiber/HFC percentage publicly, the spokesperson said the FCC's info is outdated: "A sizeable percentage of our network is fiber, from our facilities down to the neighborhood, and virtually all of the homes we pass can access gigabit speeds via our network." 

Charter Spectrum's coverage (orange) extends across 41 states, including Hawaii.

FCC/Mapbox

Where is Spectrum Internet available?

Spectrum Internet is offered in 41 states across the country. It's actually easier to list the states where Charter Communications doesn't operate: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Utah (as well as Washington, DC). 

Are there other aspects of Spectrum Internet you should know?

Charter tends to keep its Spectrum offerings fairly uncomplicated, but let's burrow down to see what else you can expect with your service.

Additional monthly fees

As noted above, Spectrum prides itself on taking a no data caps or extra fees approach. This is mostly accurate. On top of the lack of contracts or data caps, each Spectrum plan comes with a free modem. However, if you want to connect to Spectrum's network wirelessly over Wi-Fi, you'll need to pay an additional $5 a month for the Spectrum router. That said, like many other ISPs, Spectrum allows you to skip that extra fee by using your own, Spectrum-compatible router, with the caveat that your equipment won't be eligible for Spectrum technical support. 

One-time installation fees

Spectrum has temporarily suspended all in-home professional installations, so the standard in-home installation fee of $50 -- or a hefty $200 for the Internet Gig plan -- does not currently apply. Instead, you'll need to use a self-installation kit, which can be shipped to your address or sent to a Spectrum store for pick up. 

You'll still need to pay a one-time charge of $10 for the self-installation activation and an additional $10 charge for the Wi-Fi activation fee.

No data caps

In contrast to some ISP rivals (we're looking at you, Cox and Xfinity, among others), Spectrum does not impose data caps on its customers. That means you won't have to track your data usage for fear of throttling issues once you hit some arbitrary threshold. 

charter-spectrum-hotspot-map

Spectrum customers enjoy free access to more than 500,000 public hotspots across all regions where Spectrum internet is available.

Charter Communications/Google

Free access to nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots

In addition to connecting at home, Spectrum Out-of-Home WiFi is available to customers for free whenever you're out and about. The company boasts more than 500,000 hotspots across its entire coverage map -- to connect when you're in range of a network, just sign in with your account username and password for unlimited access. Customers can also use the My Spectrum app for quick access.

Does Charter Spectrum offer a low-cost internet service?

Spectrum does have a program for eligible, low-income households. Spectrum Internet Assist features an affordable, broadband plan (30Mbps download, 4Mbps upload) with similar terms as the other internet plans -- no data caps, no contracts and a free modem -- for a discounted rate of $18 a month. You'll need to apply to determine eligibility. For example, at least one member of the household needs to be a recipient of an assistance program, such as the National School Lunch Program.

Separate from that offer, Spectrum is also currently offering two free months of internet service to households with students required to do remote and online learning.

isp-customer-satisfaction-2020
American Customer Satisfaction Index

How does Spectrum rate on customer satisfaction?

The good news? Charter's Spectrum service did better in 2020 with customers than it has since it acquired Time Warner Cable in mid-2016. But there's still work to do. 

For example, when you look at the J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study for 2020, Spectrum was consistently below US region averages. Spectrum earned its highest score in the South region, nabbing 732 on a 1,000-point scale, but that still placed it behind AT&T, Xfinity and Cox as well as the region average of 738. 

Over at the 2020 American Customer Satisfaction Index, Spectrum's numbers were up by 7% over the previous year. However, with a 63 of 100 score, Charter Spectrum still ranked two points below the average for all ISPs and placed behind Verizon Fios, AT&T, Xfinity, CenturyLink and Optimum. Also of note, Spectrum fared a little better with the ACSI for its internet equipment, notching 70 of 100, which tied it for fourth place behind only Verizon Fios, Xfinity and Cox. 

Spectrum Internet FAQs

Is Spectrum the same as Time Warner Cable?

Essentially, yes. Charter Communications purchased Time Warner Cable back in 2016, right around the same time that Charter also acquired Bright House Networks. At the time, those two moves made Spectrum the second-largest US internet service provider and third-largest TV provider. 

Are there Spectrum packages available?

There are an assortment of Spectrum packages available, including Triple Play (internet, TV and home phone) and Double Play (two of the aforementioned services) bundles. Most of the package options offer the 200Mbps plan, and those that feature Internet Ultra (the 400Mbps plan) are available only in certain areas. You can expect to save anywhere from $5 to $10 a month depending on the Spectrum package you select. 

Is Spectrum Internet fast?

The quick answer is, it depends on what plans are available in your area. The Spectrum Internet Gig plan is plenty fast, at 940Mbps, but is not the fastest residential plan available across the US. (Xfinity, for example, offers a 1,200Mbps plan as well as a 2,000Mbps plan in select areas.) 

Overall, when looking at ISPs across the country, Ookla determined that Spectrum was the fourth-fastest provider in the US, with an average Speed Score of 116.29 during the fourth quarter of 2020. That puts Spectrum behind Verizon (142.66), Cox (142.64) and Xfinity (129.51). It should be noted that Ookla's Speed Score does not represent straightforward Mbps, but rather a weighted scoring system that looks at download and upload speeds.

That said, when looking at Ookla's most recent Consistency Score -- a different metric that measures how regularly providers deliver broadband speeds to their customers -- Spectrum came in a very solid second place at 87.5%, narrowly missing out on a first-place finish to Verizon's 87.6%. 

Will Charter Spectrum pay me to change from my current provider?

Spectrum does offer a Contract Buyout option for eligible new customers. You can get up to $500 toward the Early Termination Fee from your previous provider. As you might expect, there's some small print involved as well, but to our eyes the biggest restriction to this offer is it's not available to those looking just for internet service. Instead, you must order one of Spectrum's qualifying Triple Play or Double Play bundles.