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  • Best Speeds
    • Best speed ratings according to our Customer Satisfaction Survey
    • Data caps
    • Speeds: 75–1,200 Mbps
    • Prices: $20.00–$80.00/mo.
  • Most Flexible
    • No contracts or data caps
    • Price hikes
    • Speeds: 300–1,000 Mbps
    • Prices: $49.99–$89.99/mo.
  • Best Value
    • Low Prices
    • Price hikes
    • Speeds: 100–1,200 Mbps
    • Prices: $20.00–$70.00/mo.

About cable internet

Capable of download speeds over 1,000 Mbps, cable internet is one of the fastest internet types in the US. And because cable internet uses the same infrastructure as cable TV, it’s widely available with about 88% of Americans having access via the 200+ cable ISPs spread across the country.1 This combination of speed and accessibility makes cable internet the most practical internet type for many.

Cable internet’s biggest con is its upload speed, which is slow compared to fiber internet. But, this isn’t an issue for most households due to the majority of our daily internet activities using primarily download speed, not upload speed.

Cable internet is much better than DSL or satellite internet—and you are more likely to have cable internet in your area than fiber internet. Cable internet is often easy enough to install yourself if you already have cable TV lines.

Use our guides on DSL vs. Cable and Fiber vs. Cable to see if cable internet is right for you. For a more broad overview, see our comparison of internet provider types.

 

Are you looking to bundle cable internet and TV?

Check out our listings of the best TV and internet bundle deals from Cox, Optimum, Spectrum, Xfinity, and more.

Popular cable internet providers

ProviderCable speeds up toPrices starting atCustomer rating*AvailabilityOrder online
Xfinity 1,200 Mbps$20.00/mo.3.9/540 states and DCView Plans
Spectrum Up to 1,000 Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
$49.99/mo.
for 12 mos.
3.7/541 statesView Plans
Cox Communications 2,000 Mbps$49.99/mo.3.7/518 statesView Plans
Optimum 940 Mbps$30.00/mo.3.3/521 statesView Plans
1,200 Mbps$20.00/mo.3.6/510 regions
Mediacom 1,000 Mbps$19.99/mo.3.4/522 statesView Plans
WOW! 1,200 Mbps$19.99/mo.3.6/59 statesView Plans

 

Many cable internet providers started as cable TV providers that began offering internet service once the technology was available. These providers often still offer TV along with other products, making cable internet ideal for those interested in bundling services. Plan pricing can range from as low as $20 per month to over $100 per month for the fastest speeds.

The most important part of picking a cable ISP is finding one in your area—you likely only have access to one. Use our quick zip code search tool below to see which cable ISP is available in your area.

HSI badge deals

Top cable internet promotions and offers

Add Xfinity mobile and get $25 a month off internet faster than a gig. Also, get unlimited data and Wi-Fi equipment for 24 months.

 

Get the Deal

Sign up for Spectrum One and get Spectrum internet with speeds up to 300Mbps, free Advanced Wifi, and one Unlimited Mobile line free for 12 months.

 

Get the Deal

Get free Panoramic wifi equipment rental for 24 mos with any Cox internet plan. No contracts required.

 

Get the Deal

Find cable providers in your area.

Pros and cons of cable internet

Pros:

  • Wide availability
  • Fast download speeds
  • TV and internet bundle deals
  • Easy self-installation

Cons:

  • Slower upload speeds than fiber
  • Can be expensive
  • neighborhood-level network congestion (increasingly rare)

Pros of cable internet

Wide availability—Cable companies have been around for decades. In that time, they’ve established wide cable networks across the US, covering just over 88% of the population.1 A lot of houses and buildings are already wired for cable TV, so getting an internet connection often doesn’t require laying any additional cable or wiring. This gives cable internet an edge over fiber internet because fiber is available to only half as many people. In many areas of the country, cable is the best type of internet you can get.

Fast download speeds—Cable internet can reach speeds just over 1,000 Mbps—that’s comparable to fiber internet. And while not all cable internet plans are quite that fast, not everyone needs gigabit internet. Cable providers generally offer a wide range of plans that cater to different internet speed needs and budgets. See our guide on internet speed to learn more about the benefits of higher download speeds.

Bundle deals—Since cable internet and cable TV use the same coaxial cables, it’s really easy for internet service providers (ISPs) to provide both, so they incentivize you to bundle services with discounts. It’s a good setup if you want both internet and TV because you can keep it down to one bill through one company, and you’ll end up paying less than subscribing to each thing separately.

Easy self-installation—Cable internet is typically very easy to install yourself. Unlike fiber installations, which often require a technician appointment, nearly all cable internet providers have the option to install services yourself, saving you time and money.

Cons of cable internet

Slower upload speedsThe speed cable ISPs advertise for specific plans is the max download speed available for that plan—upload speeds are different. Upload speeds for cable internet are usually only one tenth of the download speed. Most of us are download-heavy users and get by just fine with cable internet’s limited upload bandwidth.

Can be expensive—Cable internet plans can get expensive, though this is largely dependent on your region and which ISPs you have to choose from. If you’re in an area with only a single ISP,  rates could be higher due to a lack of competition. Also, some ISPs are just plain pricey for what you get.

Network congestion—This issue is mostly a thing of the past, but there may be areas where cable internet customers still experience slowdowns due to high internet activity in their neighborhoods—like during the evening, for instance. Cable lines can handle a lot of bandwidth, but they all converge to a node that feeds internet into the neighborhood. To help ease congestion, cable internet providers like Xfinity and Spectrum are adding more and more nodes. So, while it does happen, network congestion isn’t usually a huge problem for cable internet customers.

Want to know what plans are available in your area? Enter your zip code into our search tool to find out.

Best cable internet plans

Best cable internet plans

PlanDownload speedPricesOrder online
Xfinity Connect More200 Mbps$35.00/mo.*View Plans
Spectrum Internet®Up to 300 Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
$49.99/mo.
for 12 mos.
View Plans
Cox Go Faster250 Mbps$69.99/mo.View Plans
Optimum 300 Mbps Internet300 Mbps$30.00/mo.§View Plans

How cable internet works

Cable internet uses a network of coaxial cables (the same cables used for cable TV) and fiber-optic cables to bring internet signals to and from your home. Even though it’s called cable internet, cable ISPs actually use extremely high-bandwidth fiber lines for the central parts of their networks. The coaxial cable is only used to get the signal from the home to one of these fiber lines that serve as internet superhighways. By using these hybrid coaxial-fiber networks, cable ISPs bring excellent high-speed broadband connections to much of the country.

Internet signals travel on the surface of the copper-clad cores in the coaxial cables. The modem in your house is equipped with an advanced protocol called DOCSIS that translates the signals received from the coaxial network. 

DOCSIS stands for data over cable service interface specifications, and basically, it’s the technology that has allowed the use of existing coaxial networks for high-speed internet. DOCSIS has been around since 1997 and gone through several major advances, each one drastically increasing the abilities of cable internet. The current iteration, DOCSIS 3.1, is responsible for the gigabit (1,000 Mbps) speeds we’re now seeing from cable ISPs.  

Once the signal is translated by your modem, it’s sent to your router via an Ethernet connection. From this point on, all internet types function essentially the same. The signal can be broadcasted by the router as Wi-Fi for devices to connect to wirelessly or through another Ethernet cable to a device with it’s own Ethernet port (typically a computer).

The next DOCSIS version, DOCSIS 4.0, is already being deployed by some of the country’s top cable ISPs. DOCSIS 4.0 will increase the capabilities of cable internet even further, and possibly even close the gap between fiber and cable internet. 

Cable vs. fiber

Fiber internet has a leg up on cable internet when it comes to speed and reliability. Fiber’s edge comes from its use of high-bandwidth fiber-optic cables and long-persisting light pulse signals. Fiber internet also comes with symmetrical bandwidth, meaning that the upload speeds are just as fast as the download speeds.

But just because fiber internet is technically “better” than cable internet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that fiber is the best choice for you. Sure fiber is faster, but cable internet is still capable of multi-gig speeds, and the average household can’t utilize more than 200-500Mbps speeds anyway. And fiber’s superior upload speeds may not have a big impact on your experience either, as almost everything the average person does online is far more dependent on download speed.

What we’re getting at is that, even though fiber internet is faster, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t even notice the difference between cable and fiber internet. Because fiber and cable internet are both more than capable of delivering top-notch internet service, be sure to incorporate price, speed, and plan policies in addition to the internet type when choosing between the two.

See our full cable vs. fiber guide for more info.

Cable internet FAQ

Can I get cable internet without TV?

You can certainly get cable internet without also getting cable TV, and vice versa. While bundling both services together can be a great deal for some, those savings are wasted if you don’t use both services frequently.

If I already have cable TV, can I simply add internet?

Almost always! Unless you have a very obscure provider, you can feel confident that your cable TV provider will make it easy for you to bundle TV and internet. They can usually throw in phone service too.

What are the advantages of bundling with cable companies?

Cable companies tend to make bundling TV, phone, and internet easy, which means lots of savings for you. Not only are bundles cheaper than buying the services individually, but they’re also convenient because you don’t have to deal with more than one supplier—that cuts out hassle and paperwork. Use our site to compare prices and check for providers offering phone, internet, and cable bundles.

Looking to bundle up? Find the best internet and TV package in your area.

Source

  1. Federal Communications Commission. “Compare Broadband Availability in Different Areas,” June 2020. Accessed 2 September 2020.
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