Samsung Unpacked Livestream Wednesday New Wordle Strategy Nest vs. Ecobee Thermostat Best Deals Under $25 Fitness Supplements Laptops for High School Samsung QLED vs. LG OLED TV Samsung Unpacked Predictions
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you
Accept
Why You Can Trust CNET
We handpick the products and services we write about. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement | How we test ISPs

Spectrum Home Internet Review: Keeping Cable Internet Simple

Charter Communications' broadband offering aims to win customers over by cutting to the chase.

7.2

Spectrum home internet

Like

  • Straightforward pricing
  • No data caps on any plans
  • No contracts required for internet service
  • Free access to Spectrum's nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots

Don't Like

  • Competitive rates for cable, but pricier than many fiber providers
  • Internet service is slightly below the industry average for customer satisfaction

In this article

In March of this year, Charter Communications announced it had raised the starting speeds for its Spectrum Internet service to 200 megabits per second. Before you blink, it may be upping the speeds again. But more on that when we get to the plans and prices.

Charter Communications also made news late in 2021 when it announced a partnership with Peacock Premium to give Spectrum customers free access for three to 12 months, depending on eligibility. Charter can also 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 plans tend to be anything but simple. 

You get a choice of three different speed plans with Spectrum, and the entry-level tier now features a max download speed of 300 megabits per second, 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, 50 and 100Mbps, respectively.

Spectrum Internet serves approximately 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 the faster upload speeds and a more reliable connection overall. 

Spectrum speeds and plan costs

Spectrum offers three different plans at three separate prices. None of them include data caps, and none require you to commit to a contract. However, after 12 months, your monthly bill will go up by $25. Here are the specifics:

Spectrum Internet plans and pricing

Plan First-year promo rate Regular rate Max speeds Equipment fee Contract
Spectrum Internet $50 $75 300Mbps download, 10Mbps upload Modem free; $5 for router (skippable) None
Spectrum Internet Ultra $70 $95 500Mbps download, 20Mbps upload Modem free; $5 for router (skippable) None
Spectrum Internet Gig $90 $115 940Mbps download, 35Mbps upload Modem free; $5 for router (skippable) None

Your internet speed will depend on the plan you select

For many of its serviceable areas, your options are download speeds of 300 megabits per second, 500Mbps or the Spectrum Internet Gig plan, which clocks in with max download speeds of 940Mbps. Charter announced in March that every market within Spectrum's service area would see the 200Mbps plan as their starting option. But already, it's bumped that up to 300Mbps for most of its 41-state footprint. 

A quick word on cable

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 companies like Optimum, Xfinity and Cox, your upload speeds will typically stay in the double digits.

According to a December 2020 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 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 -- but it's all about the symmetrical speeds and better performance of a 100% fiber network. And that's something Spectrum doesn't have.

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

FCC/Mapbox

Coverage across much of the country

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 in 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's strong suit: 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 taking 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 router, with the caveat that your equipment 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 $50 -- or a hefty $200 for the Internet Gig plan. 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 can be shipped to your address or sent to a Spectrum store for pickup. 

You'll still need to pay a one-time charge of $20 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), 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. 

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 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.

ACSI rankings for US customer satisfaction with internet service providers
ACSI

Customer satisfaction scores could stand to improve 

The good news? Charter's Spectrum service is doing better now 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 2021, Spectrum was consistently below US regional averages except in the West. Spectrum earned its highest score in the South region, capturing 725 on a 1,000-point scale, but that still placed it behind AT&T and Xfinity in that same area. 

Over at the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Spectrum's 2022 numbers held steady with 2021, which is impressive considering the industry, as a whole, dropped by a point. However, with 63 out of 100, Charter Spectrum still ranked one point below the average for all ISPs and placed behind Verizon Fios, T-Mobile, AT&T and Xfinity. 

To sum it up

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?

An assortment of Spectrum packages is available, including Triple Play (internet, TV and home phone) and Double Play (two of the services mentioned above) bundles. Most package options offer the 200Mbps plan (or 300Mbps, if offered in your area) and those that feature Internet Ultra (the 400 or 500Mbps plan) 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. 

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.) 

Overall, when looking at ISPs across the country, Ookla determined that Spectrum was the third-fastest provider in the US, with a median download speed of approximately 183Mbps during the second quarter of 2022. That puts Spectrum behind only Cox (197Mbps) and Xfinity (184Mbps). 

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 notched a strong second-place finish at 90.6%, falling just slightly below Xfinity's 90.7%. 

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 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 participating in the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides eligible households a credit of up to $30 a month.

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.

Unavailable