How to Get Cheap Internet: Save Big Money With These 5 Tips
The internet is as essential today as a mailbox was in Grandpa’s day. We use it to communicate across the country and across the globe, receive news and most importantly to pay bills!
All of that happens a bit faster than Gramps trying to find a stamp and get the check in the mail before 5, which proves we’ve made progress.
Of course, there are a few more perks too, but the essentials of the internet – speed and convenience – are the reason 77% of U.S. households have an internet subscription.
If you’re reading this, there is a very good chance you are in that majority and there is a real chance you might be paying more than you need to for internet service.
The median cost of broadband is $80 according to Point Topic, but the price is based on a few factors including speed, location and whether you’ve bundled internet into other bills. Highspeedinternet.com says the average internet bill should range from $35-$42 per month.
Here’s how to lower your cost.
5 Tips to Lower Your Internet Bill
1. Low-income subsidies
Internet access has become a basic need, and in 2016 the U.S. government ruled as much, classifying high-speed internet as a public utility. Even before that, low-income families had access to subsidies to help pay the bill, though they don’t always know they qualify.
Lifeline is one of those programs and offers at least $9.25/month toward either your phone or internet bill. Nearly 39 million households qualify for Lifeline, yet only 12.5 million households (about one-third) are enrolled in the program. Households with income at 135% or less than the poverty guidelines ($24,600 for a family of four in 2017) are eligible. So are families that are enrolled in a government program like SNAP, Medicaid or other assistance programs.
PCs for People offers inexpensive internet service for as low as $10/month to low-income families. They also sell discounted computers that have been donated. Households below the 200% poverty level or those enrolled in a government assistance program are eligible.
Some ISPs have their own subsidy programs. Comcast’s Internet Essentials provides internet for $9.95/month to families with at least one child in the National School Lunch Program. In 2015, they expanded the program to include eligible seniors and community college students in some markets.
2. Negotiate your plan
At the end of the day, you are the customer, and you have the leverage to bargain. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will cut deals if you threaten to take your business elsewhere.
ISPs have notoriously limited competition. However, alternatives to traditional internet providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable have slowly crept into the market. Phone companies like AT&T and Verizon offer internet packages. Satellite internet continues to be an option, albeit only beneficial for rural areas. New companies like Google Fiber, NetBlazr, Ting Internet and Webpass (now owned by Google) have sprung up in regions across the U.S. You can locate your options by searching your zip code on Broadband Now.
Before you call make sure you are prepared. Test your internet speed with www.speedtest.net, and compare the results with what was advertised.
Use this information to build your case:
- Current amount you pay per month
- Amount you paid when you signed up
- How long you have been a customer
- Any issues you have had with the service
- Alternative internet plans in your area
- Special offers or sign-up bonuses being offered by your provider
Talking to customer service can be a drag, but be as polite as you can, and they might end up lowering your bill. If you don’t want to go through the trouble yourself, there are actual businesses like BillFixers that will negotiate for you. Then again, you’re trying to save money, so it doesn’t make sense to give money to one company to save money from another.
3. Buy your own equipment
If you have ever changed providers, you know that you need to return the router and the modem. A little-known fact is that they charge you to rent that equipment. It may only be $5-$10 per month buried in your bill, but you can find a good router and modem for under $50 each. You’ll break even in less than a year, the rest is all savings. Just make sure the equipment you buy is compatible with the ISP you sign up for.
4. Cut the cord
Cable companies often hook customers with cheap promotional rates that bundle internet and TV packages. Then they hike up rates, and before you know it, you’re paying double or triple what you signed up for.
The average TV and internet bundle costs $132 per month according to research firm Mintel. Cut the cable out, and the savings will be dramatic. These days, there are plenty of alternatives for entertainment like NetFlix, Hulu and Amazon Prime TV. If you need live TV, consider an antenna, and you’ll get NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS and more for free. SlingTV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and Hulu Live are cheaper options for cable channels.
The tide has turned on cable companies with more and more customers “cutting the cord.” In 2014, more people subscribed to the cable internet than cable TV for the first time. That’s not including all the other ways users get their internet. The average cost of a TV subscription is $103.10, and with that amount of potential savings, the trend in Pay TV makes sense.
5. Switch to mobile hotspot
If you’re only using the internet to check emails, pay bills and read up on the news, then you might be able to get away with just a hotspot. That is a wireless device that creates a personal WIFI network through cellular data. You can purchase a stand-alone hotspot device or use your smartphone to transmit the signal. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint all have various plans that can be prepaid or added onto your cellphone plan. FreedomPop and Cricket Wireless are cheaper alternatives priced for around $10 per GB of data.
Future of Internet Providers
For now, that is the best you can do until more and better competition enters the market. The new companies mentioned above (Webpass and NetBlazr) are pioneering a new way to deliver an internet signal that is much cheaper and much, much faster.
Commonly referred to as wireless fiber, it’s also called fixed wireless internet, wireless point-to-point internet and microwave internet service. The idea is that the signal is transmitted by line of sight from antenna to antenna, which are mounted on the top of apartment buildings. It produces speeds as fast as fiber optic internet without having to lay new cables.
Cellular companies are working to develop their own forms of this service. AT&T is calling theirs Air Gig and Verizon is working on Wireless Fiber.
The ability to deliver ultra-fast broadband without the need to lay new cable is a big deal. The cost of installing fiber optic cables is what led Google to abandon their Fiber operation. In its place is the innovative WebPass, which is already delivering speeds of 100Mb-1Gb per second (10 times faster than traditional internet) for cheaper than traditional internet services.
You’ll have to sit tight until it makes its way into the mainstream, and that’s still years away.
United States Census Bureau (2017 September) Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2015. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/acs/acs-37.pdf
Weinschenk, C (2017 August 8) Report: U.S. Median Broadband Price is $80 Monthly. Retrieved from http://www.telecompetitor.com/report-u-s-median-broadband-price-is-80-monthly/
Kinnear, J (2015 May 19) How Much Should I Be Paying for High-Speed Internet? Retrieved from https://www.highspeedinternet.com/resources/how-much-should-i-be-paying-for-high-speed-internet-resource/
United States Court of Appeals (2016 June 14) On Petitions for Review of an Order of the Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved from https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/3F95E49183E6F8AF85257FD200505A3A/%24file/15-1063-1619173.pdf
White, M (2015 October 13) No ‘Bundle’ of Joy: Cost of TV, Internet and Phone Service Rising. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/no-bundle-joy-cost-tv-internet-phone-service-rising-n443646
Seward, Z (2014 August 15) For the First Time, More Americans Subscribe to Cable Internet Than Cable TV. Retrieved from https://qz.com/250254/for-the-first-time-more-americans-subscribe-to-cable-internet-than-cable-tv/
Leichtman Research (2016 September 23) 82% of TV Households Subscribe to a Pay-TV Service. Retrieved from http://www.leichtmanresearch.com/press/092316release.html