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How to Lower Your Internet Bill
The average American spends $61 on internet each month. Compared to the days of the AOL free trial CDs, that’s a lot of moolah.
Of course, today’s internet is much faster than dial-up, but we’re right there with you when it comes to slashing that monthly cost.
Turns out, there are eight easy ways to lower your internet bill:
1. Reduce your internet speed
One way you might be paying too much for your internet? You’re paying for more speed than you actually use.
Let’s say you fork over $65 a month for CenturyLink’s 940 megabits per second (Mbps) plan, but aside from a security system and smart TV, the only other time you and your partner use the internet is to watch The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.
You could probably get away with 100 or even 50 Mbps download speeds.
An easy way to figure out your minimum viable download speed is to check out our Mbps guide. Once you’ve got an idea of how much speed you need, look for internet service providers (ISPs) that offer plans in that Mbps range at a low price. (We even recommend some ISPs, like Spectrum, Xfinity, and AT&T, in our list of the cheapest internet providers.) Also, keep in mind that there are things you can do to prevent your internet from lagging without having to shell out more money for a more expensive plan.
Bonus tip: Lower your data usage
Some providers, like Xfinity, let you pay more per month to earn more data. Similarly, other ISPs will charge you a fee if you go over your data limit—usually around 1 terabyte (TB). (And you generally get one to two warnings before they charge you.)
But if you’re not using more than 1 TB of data each billing cycle, there’s no need to pay extra.
Here’s a quick list of some popular web activities and the amount of data you’d use for each one. If you find yourself chomping up data faster than Pac-Man chomps up those bonus fruits, see if you can save some downloads or high-data activities for next month.
Checking e-mail, searching Google
Browsing social media sites
Streaming SD (480p) video
Streaming HD (720–1080p) video
Streaming 4K video
2. Buy your own modem and router
Most ISPs let you rent a modem and router for a small monthly fee. Gee, isn’t that nice?
Okay, yes, it is. But that extra equipment rental charge quickly adds up. And if you’re planning to stay connected to the internet for a few years, it’s cheaper to buy your own modem and router in the long run. Plus, you can take it with you if you decide to swap providers.
Monthly modem rental cost
Rental cost after 1 year*
Modem buyout cost
ARRIS Surfboard cost**
*Data effective 12/15/2020. Prices and availability subject to change.
**Amazon price of $149.00 as of 12/15/2020 3:14 PM MST. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Reviews.org utilizes paid Amazon links.
Speaking of modem and router combos, stay away from any rental equipment that’s just a modem.
If you end up with one of these, you’ll need to buy a router to hook additional computers or devices with a wired internet connection. At that point, it’s probably best to just buy your own modem-and-router combo.
3. Bundle your internet with TV service
Sure, people say bundling is a money-saver, but how much does it really save you? Get this: most companies will reduce your bill—some by up to $20 or even $40 a month—if you bundle your internet with TV.
Some high-speed internet Wi-Fi providers that save you money with bundles include:
If you do bundle, take a good, hard look at any additional streaming or TV services you’re still paying for. If they offer the same channels, networks, or shows as your newly bundled TV service, hit the cancel button and tell ‘em goodbye.
Be sure to also compare the cost of bundling to the cost of buying each of your services separately. Not all bundles are created equal, and some offer services you won’t use, channels you won’t watch, or prices that aren’t any good.
4. Shop around and compare prices
If your contract is up soon or you’re lucky enough to not have a contract to begin with, don’t be afraid to shop around.
You’ll often find that most ISPs offer pretty low introductory rates to new customers. And if you can get a price lock guarantee like the ones CenturyLink or Optimum (formerly Suddenlink) offer, even better.
Need an easy way to check out possible savings from ISPs in your area? Just type in your ZIP code below and we’ll make a list for you.
5. Negotiate your monthly bill
If you’re stuck in the middle of a two-year contract and have just about had it with your ISP, you can still shop around.
See what other internet providers in your area charge for the same or similar download speeds you’ve got now. You can use this info later to negotiate a lower price—especially if your provider isn’t delivering the download speeds and performance it promised.
An easy way to check this is to take a speed test. We recommend our internet and Wi-Fi speed test.
How to negotiate with your internet provider
Need some tips for negotiating with your ISP? Start here:
- Find out which service you have now so you can compare. Look at your download speed and, if you bundled TV service, the number of channels you get.
- Be willing to cancel your service. If worst comes to worst, be ready to hit that button and be done with your ISP. Let them know you mean business.
- Find out what competing internet providers charge in your area. If you’re signed up with the only provider in town, you’ve still got a leg to stand on. After all, your ISP makes $0 if you cancel and go without their internet. The thing is, they don’t know you won’t just sign up for satellite internet or swap to your cell phone’s 4G LTE service instead so you can get your Schitt’s Creek fix. (And we won’t tell them.)
- Make sure you talk to your ISP’s Retentions department. These are typically the people with the power to make you the best offers, but don’t play ball with them until they offer to lower your bill without downgrading your service.
- Build rapport and play nice with your customer service rep. Rumor has it that ISP’s reps can’t give a better offer to “irate” customers. If that’s not reason enough to polish your manners, we don’t know what is.
- Be clear about what you want and the offer you found from a competitor. Don’t be afraid to ask if the offer on the table is the best your rep can do. If it’s not, tell them thanks, hang up, and try again later.
Again, we can help you create a list of what prices and speeds are in your neighborhood. Just enter your ZIP code below.
6. Cancel your cell phone data plan
This strategy might seem like a curveball, but if you look at the monthly cost of unlimited phone plans, you might change your mind.
Most of us don’t use anywhere near the “unlimited” data that companies like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile offer. (Which is technically not unlimited, since your speed drops drastically if you hit a certain data threshold your service provider sets.)
One way to better estimate how much data you need each month is to switch your phone’s settings so it uses Wi-Fi whenever a wireless connection is available, then track your data use.
iPhones and iPads have built-in tracking under Settings → Cellular, while most Android devices also have data tracking under Settings → Connections → Data usage. You can also check data usage with an app like My Data Manager, which is free for both iOS and Android.
Once you figure out how much data you use on average each month, look for a data-free plan and rely solely on Wi-Fi or swap to a low-data plan that matches your needs to lower your Wi-Fi bill. We’ve got some picks you might like in our list of the cheap cell phone plans.
Checking data use on my Samsung Galaxy S10.
7. Ask about discounts and promotions
The easiest internet discount just about anyone can get comes from ordering your service online. If you order online, usually an ISP will waive the installation or activation fees.
If you don’t currently have internet access, you might try to negotiate for this discount over the phone. Or you can ask a friend you trust if you can borrow their Wi-Fi, or order service on your phone with a secure wireless connection.
And if there’s a holiday coming up (or you can hold out until, say, Black Friday), keep an eye out for additional promotions.
Clothing and electronics stores aren’t the only shops that like to offer deals year-round. Some ISPs will offer gift cards, freebies, or contract buyouts for Labor Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s. We've also got a list of the best internet deals we find each month—check it out to see if you can save some cash or get a freebie.
8. Look for subsidies
If your family is enrolled in certain federal assistance programs, you might qualify for subsidized, low-cost internet. These programs can include the following:
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
- Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch Program (CEP of the NSLP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Public Housing (HUD)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Pell Grant
- Senior and/or veteran government assistance
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) gives eligible households a $30 monthly subsidy for any internet plan. (Or a $75 monthly subsidy if you live on Tribal lands.)
Check out our ACP guide for more info on whether you can get this $30 subsidy and how to apply.
You’ll find that most large internet providers have some sort of low-income internet plan they offer to those enrolled in certain assistance programs. Here’s a quick look at those low-income internet plans from some of the larger ISPs.
Access from AT&T
768 Kbps–10 Mbps
Up to 25 Mbps
NSLP, SNAP, TANF, HUD
Internet Essentials (Comcast Xfinity)
NSLP, HUD, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and more
Up to 10 Mbps
Spectrum Internet Assist
NSLP or CEP of the NSLP, SSI
In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Xfinity boosted speeds of its Internet Essentials plan from 15 Mbps to 25 Mbps. The company said this boost is permanent, so if you're a current customer, those faster speeds are here to stay.
Xfinity is also offering two free months of service for new Internet Essentials customers through June 30, 2021. Read more about Comcast's Internet Essentials updates and its full response to COVID-19.
State programs that may qualify for internet assistance
A number of states offer programs that could also qualify you for a lower internet bill. Here are some examples:
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- California’s Medi-Cal program
- Senior Citizen Low-Income Discount Plans offered by local gas or power companies
- Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP)
- Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Refugee assistance
If you qualify for these or other assistance programs, your best bet is to call your internet provider to see if it can enroll you in a low-income internet plan.
If this seems overwhelming, we feel you. The nonprofit EveryoneOn can help you find low-income internet plans in your area and help you navigate the eligibility requirements. (Plus, it can match you with low-cost laptops and desktops.)
Lifeline internet discount
Many ISPs also honor the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Lifeline program, which gives you a monthly discount on your internet bill.1
Up to $9.25/mo.
Income at or below 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines OR enrolled in federal assistance programs
Recap: How can I lower my internet bill?
A few easy steps, like reducing your download speed, buying your own modem and router, and comparison shopping, can help you lower your internet bill.
On top of that, there are a few other tricks you may not have thought of, like canceling your cell phone data plan or bundling your internet with TV service. And if you’re a low-income family, you might also qualify for low-cost internet service through the Lifeline program or your local internet provider’s own low-income internet plans.
See our picks for low-cost internet service.