Competitive rates for cable, but pricier than many fiber providers
Internet service is slightly below the industry average for customer satisfaction
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When Charter Communications launched Spectrum One at the end of October 2022, it essentially unveiled a bundle of Spectrum Internet (download speeds of either 300 megabits per second, 500Mbps or 1 gigabit), Charter's Advanced WiFi (featuring a Wi-Fi 6 router) and Spectrum Mobile with unlimited data. The first tier, featuring Spectrum Internet at 300Mbps, comes at a compelling promotional price of $50 per month for 12 months (for new customers), with no taxes, fees or contracts.
Then Spectrum gained some bragging rights in April of this year when Ookla speed test results named it the fastest US provider after it nabbed median download speeds of nearly 235Mbps in the first quarter of 2023. That vaulted it past Xfinity, which held pole position at the end of 2022.
Beyond all that, Charter can boast that 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 providers often make their offerings anything but simple.
Locating local internet providers
You get a choice of three different speed plans with Spectrum. The entry-level tier features a max download speed of 300Mbps, which is plenty fast for a provider's opening option. Comparatively, cable internet providers such as Cox, Xfinity and WideOpenWest offer plans that start at 25, 75 and 100Mbps, respectively.
Spectrum Internet serves about 30 million customers in 41 states, so there's a good chance it's available in your area or somewhere nearby. If so, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better cable internet provider, especially since Spectrum doesn't enforce a data cap like its biggest competitors, Xfinity and Cox. But suppose a 100% fiber connection is available at your address. In that case, you should strongly consider going with that instead of Spectrum for faster upload speeds and a more reliable connection overall.
Locating local internet providers
Spectrum Internet: Plans and pricing
Spectrum offers three plans at three separate prices. None of them includes data caps, and none requires you to commit to a contract. However, after 12 months, your monthly bill will go up by $30. Here are the specifics:
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 also provide faster downloads and equally zippy upload speeds. With cable internet plans like those offered by Optimum, Xfinity and Cox, your upload speeds will typically stay in the double digits.
According to a June 2022 report from the Federal Communications Commission, Spectrum's cable internet service is available to nearly 30% of the country, but 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 sizable percentage of our network is fiber, from our facilities down to the neighborhood, and virtually all of the 53 million homes our network passes can access gigabit speeds."
Yet the issue isn't about gigabit speeds -- after all, other cable internet competitors, like Cox and Xfinity, can boast of their Gig plans. It's all about the symmetrical speeds and better performance of a 100% fiber network. And that's something Spectrum doesn't have.
Spectrum Internet: Where can you get it?
Spectrum Internet serves 41 states across the country, so it's 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). If you live anywhere other than that, there's an above-average chance you're within Spectrum's coverage map or close to it.
That said, most cable internet providers struggle to offer service to rural areas with low population density, and Spectrum is no exception. If that's your situation, check out our rundown of the best rural internet providers.
Spectrum Internet: Straightforward terms
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 a no-data-caps-or-extra-fees approach. This is mostly accurate. On top of the lack of contracts or data limits, 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 monthly for the Spectrum router. Fortunately, like many other ISPs, Spectrum allows you to skip that extra fee by using your own, Spectrum-compatible equipment, with the caveat that you won't be eligible for Spectrum technical support.
One-time installation fees
Spectrum temporarily suspended all in-home professional installations during the pandemic, but professional, in-home installation is once again an option. The standard in-home installation fee is $60. However, most installations of Spectrum Internet can be done on a self-install basis. In those cases, you'll need to use a self-installation kit, which is $20 and can be shipped to your address or sent to a Spectrum store for pickup.
You'll also still need to pay a one-time charge of $20 for service 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), Spectrum does not impose data caps on any of its customers. That means you won't have to track your data usage for fear of throttling issues once you hit some arbitrary threshold.
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 they're out and about. The company features approximately 530,000 hotspots across its entire coverage map. To connect when you're in range of a network, sign in with your account username and password for unlimited access. Customers can also use the My Spectrum app for quick access.
Spectrum Internet vs. competitors: Customer satisfaction scores could improve
Over at the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Spectrum made a 7% jump in 2020 to score 63 points. Not great, but it's held that score consistently since that time, even when the industry overall saw dips in scoring. Spectrum made another step up in 2023, earning 64 points. Those 64 points are two points below the average of all non-fiber ISPs, which isn't great, but it's an improvement over last year's 63.
What's the final word on Spectrum Internet?
Spectrum Internet offers three high-speed tiers with unlimited data and no contracts. Customers are also spared some extra fees you might find with other ISPs. There's no additional monthly fee for the modem, for example.
But one thing Charter Spectrum has in common with most providers is it does bump up your monthly price after your initial promo period, so be aware of that pending change. Also, as a cable provider, Spectrum can provide fast download speeds, but the technology doesn't offer symmetrical upload speeds, which may negatively impact those working remotely from home.
Spectrum Internet FAQs
Is Spectrum the same as Time Warner Cable?
Essentially, yes. Charter Communications purchased Time Warner Cable in 2016, right around the same time 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 several Spectrum packages, including Triple Play (internet, TV and home phone) and Double Play (two of the services mentioned above) bundles. Most package options offer the 300Mbps plan. Those that feature Internet Ultra (500Mbps) are available only in certain areas. Depending on the Spectrum package you select, you can expect to save anywhere from $5 to $10 a month. Spectrum One, which Charter unveiled in fall 2022, combines internet, Wi-Fi and mobile service in one package price.
Is Spectrum Internet fast?
The quick answer is that 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 in the US. (AT&T, for example, offers a 5Gbps plan in select areas, and Xfinity has a 6Gbps offering.)
Ookla also noted that Spectrum was the fastest fixed broadband provider in 18 out of the top 100 cities in the country. That was first ahead of Xfinity, which claimed the title in 17 metro areas, and AT&T (11 cities).
Does Spectrum offer discounts for low-income customers?
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 household member needs to be a recipient of an assistance program, such as the National School Lunch Program.
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.
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Trey PaulSenior Editor
Trey Paul is a CNET senior editor covering broadband. His 20+ years of experience as a writer and editor include time at CNET's sister site, Allconnect, and working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. An avid movie fan, Trey's career also includes being a film and TV critic while pursuing a degree in New York.
ExpertiseHome internet and broadband, including plans, providers, internet speeds and connection types. Movies and film studies.Credentials
Master's degree in Cinema Studies from NYU and interviews with Conan O'Brien, Stan Lee and some of his biggest Star Trek childhood idols