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Spectrum Internet® Review

Spectrum is a good cable-based alternative to fiber and DSL.

Spectrum

Price: $19.99–$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.

Speeds: 100–1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

Data cap: No cap

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Provider star ratings are based on user reviews and our independent customer satisfaction survey.

Our Spectrum Internet® review

Spectrum typically delivers cable internet in areas where it doesn’t overlap other cable providers. It’s faster than DSL internet from providers like AT&T, Frontier, and Verizon—but it’s not the best choice if the competition offers fiber internet.

Spectrum also has fiber-to-the-home internet. It’s installed in “green” locations within its coverage areas: New neighborhoods and business zones not claimed by competing fiber internet providers, like AT&T and Verizon. Spectrum does not install fiber internet service in its existing cable internet neighborhoods.

Overall, Spectrum’s a solid choice if you can overlook some of its questionable fees and lackluster customer support. But, before we begin, I’m a Spectrum customer—a longtime inherited Time Warner Cable customer, in fact. I will compare Spectrum against its competitors and tell you my personal experience as a customer.

 Pros

  • No data caps
  • No contracts
  • Rent-free modem

 Cons

  • Monthly WiFi fee
  • Lacking customer support
  • Price hikes after 12 mos.

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Compare Spectrum Internet® plans and pricing

PackagePriceSpeedView on Spectrum’s site
Spectrum Internet® Assist$19.99/mo.*Up to 30Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
View Plans
Spectrum Internet® 100$29.99/mo.*
for 24 mos.
Up to 100Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
View Plans
Spectrum Internet®$49.99/mo.
for 12 mos.
Up to 300Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
View Plans
Spectrum Internet® Ultra$39.99-$69.99/mo.
for 12 mos.
Up to 500Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
View Plans
Spectrum Internet® Gig$59.99-$89.99/mo.
for 12 mos.
Up to 1,000Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
View Plans

Our favorite plan: The base Spectrum® Internet is a solid choice if you only check email, stream a few videos, and post to social media. It’s relatively cheap for the speed you get and even supplies a rent-free modem or gateway to new customers.

Overall, Spectrum keeps your choices simple—there’s no scrolling through a long list to suss out the ideal plan. Spectrum has also tripled its starting speed from 100 Mbps to 300Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) for many areas, making its cheapest plan more enticing to customers on a budget.1

The Spectrum Internet® Ultra and the Spectrum Internet® Gig plans may offer 12- and 24-month promotions, depending on where you live. There’s no contract involved, and customers can cancel or downgrade at any time—there’s no catch in opting for the longer-term, cheaper pricing. Customer support says the 12- and 24-month options are just “two different promotions.”

Finally, the Spectrum Internet® Gig plan supports download speeds up to 1,000Mbps. The fiber plan has symmetrical speeds, but the cable internet plan can reach up to 500Mbps in limited areas. That’s the fastest upload speed we’ve seen to date for cable internet, making the Gig plan even more enticing now that it has a lower price. But in other areas, the cable upload speed remains at a maximum of 35Mbps.

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Spectrum’s speeds: What’s best for you?

Spectrum’s three plans offer a range of speeds that should meet the needs of most homes. The Spectrum Internet® Gig plan is probably overkill for most, but it’s ideal if you work from home and frequently download large files.

The Spectrum Internet® Ultra plan is good for households of around four, although you may feel a speed pinch if others download large files (game updates, etc.) while you stream content from Spectrum TV or some other service.

With the base Spectrum Internet® plan, there’s enough bandwidth for a few people to stream UHD content, play games online, and download media from your favorite services.

How fast are your Spectrum speeds?

Click below for a quick speed test and find out.

Download speed
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Upload speed
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Latency (ping)
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Jitter
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Spectrum’s data caps

Spectrum doesn’t enforce a data cap. It also doesn’t charge a fee for unlimited data, as seen with Xfinity—at least, for now.

In 2016, the FCC set a seven-year data cap ban as part of its approval of Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Spectrum can’t enforce a data cap or usage-based pricing until Charter’s agreement with the FCC expires on May 18, 2023.

However, in June 2020, Charter petitioned to enforce a data cap two years early, but then withdrew the petition in January 2021.5 6 Charter’s letter to the FCC in August 2020 suggests that some consumers who don’t use lots of data or those who want a cheaper plan may benefit from usage-based pricing and data caps.7

That said, Spectrum may discontinue its unlimited data in less than a year, taking cues from AT&T, Xfinity, and Cox. We provide a list of internet providers with data caps for more information.

Is Spectrum Internet® available where you live?

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Spectrum ongoing deals and promotions + bundles

Get a free Unlimited Mobile line for 12 months when you sign up for an internet plan with speeds of 300Mbps or faster.

Get a free mobile line with unlimited talk, text and data and free Advanced WiFi for enhanced network security when you sign up for Spectrum One Stream and get 300Mbps Spectrum Internet®. You can also get a free Xumo Stream Box when you add Spectrum TV®.

Get the Deal

 

Free internet opportunities in NYC

Qualifying NYC residents can enroll in Big Apple Connect for a free plan up to 300 Mbps.

Spectrum internet fees

Cost
Equipment Fee
  • $5.00/mo. for WiFi (no charge with Internet Gig plan)
  • $3.00/mo. per Spectrum WiFi Pod
  • No charge for modem or gateway
Installation Fee
  • $59.99 for pro install
  • $24.99 for self-install and service activation
  • $49.99 for WiFi Pod install
Other Fees
  • $9.99 service activation fee
  • $8.95 late payment fee (after 21 days)
  • $25.00 insufficient funds fee
  • $5.00 phone payment processing fee
  • $9.99 reconnection fee (internet)
  • $4.99 reconnection fee (TV)
  • $19.99 equipment upgrade fee to Internet Gig plan

As a customer, the one fee that’s a real eyesore each month is Spectrum’s WiFi charge. At first glance, it appears to be a monthly lease for its standalone routers. After all, customers don’t lease Spectrum’s modems or gateways.

But no, that fee also applies to its wireless gateways. Customers essentially lease the convenience of WiFi. Plus, if you want to use its WiFi Pod mesh system, you must pay an additional $3 for each unit every month. That can add up if you need whole-home coverage.

We go into more detail in the Why does Spectrum charge a WiFi fee section.

Another eyesore not listed above is the modem rental fee for customers on legacy plans, which persists even though Spectrum advertises free modems. Yes, new customers won’t see the monthly lease—at least for another few years. However, if you were a Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks customer and never manually switched to an official Spectrum plan, you will continue to pay $10 or $4 per month, respectively, until you do so.

For more information about this fee, jump to the Why do I still see a modem fee on my bill section.

Spectrum internet installation, equipment, and contracts

Spectrum gives you options to self-install internet (if possible) or have a technician come out to get you set up. But you definitely need a pro install if you don’t have existing cable TV lines in your home or building.

Spectrum installation and equipment

Spectrum encourages new customers to opt for self-install over a pro install. You can pick up the equipment from a local Spectrum store or have Spectrum ship the devices to your address. After that, you can find instructions online on how to activate the modem.

But don’t worry—Spectrum’s pro install is still available for new installations for $59.99. Spectrum provides you with a separate modem and router or a single wireless gateway, depending on what’s available at the time.

Spectrum charges $49.99 per hour for any additional labor, and another $49.99 to make a special trip.

Spectrum Internet contracts

Spectrum doesn’t enforce contracts. Instead, it provides discounted pricing for the first 12 or 24 months of service, depending on the plan. You must keep the service for at least one month to get the discounted price. Once the promotion ends, prices increase by at least $20 per month.

Spectrum Internet customer satisfaction ratings

OverallReliabilityCustomer ServiceSpeedPrice
Spectrum rating*3.73.73.73.93.3
Average rating*3.73.73.63.83.4

Our latest customer satisfaction survey shows Spectrum ranking seventh out of 15 internet providers for overall satisfaction, falling behind heavy hitters like Verizon, Xfinity, AT&T, and Cox. New to our list is T-Mobile’s 5G internet, which takes the top spot in three out of five categories in our most recent survey.

Speed satisfaction is Spectrum’s best ranking, indicating that most customers are fine with the speeds they get for the money. However, Spectrum’s weakest link is in price satisfaction, as it just can’t compete with the other internet providers in our survey that don’t raise prices after 12 months.

To be fair, Spectrum’s price increase is $25 at the most, which is far better than the eye-opening hikes you can get from Astound Broadband, Mediacom, and Optimum.

See what other Spectrum customers are saying

We value your feedback, so please go over to our Customer Review form and let us know about your experience with Spectrum—and check out what others have said.

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How Spectrum compares to the competition

ProviderPlan price rangeSpeed (range)User rating*Order online
Spectrum $19.99–$89.99/mo.
for 12 mos.
100–1,000Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
3.7View Plans
$55.00–$250.00/mo.25–5,000Mbps3.9
Frontier $44.99–$154.99/mo. §500–5,000Mbps (fiber only)3.5View Plans
$49.99–$94.99/mo.#**300–2,300Mbps3.9

Spectrum’s direct competitors are AT&T, Verizon, and Frontier—all four can overlap in some service areas. Of the four, Spectrum is the middle ground provider with cable internet, while the other three serve faster fiber and slower DSL connections.

Generally, Spectrum’s prices are more expensive when you look at other comparable plans. For example, AT&T’s Internet 300 plan is $5 more per month than the base Spectrum Internet plan, but there’s no promotional pricing with AT&T, making it the better deal. Verizon has a similar plan at the same price, but again, there’s no price hike with Verizon. Plus, fiber has symmetrical speeds, which cable does not.

Customers who want gigabit speeds may now find Spectrum’s Internet Gig plan more appealing. The company recently dropped the price by $30 per month and discontinued the hefty $199.99 installation fee. The only drawback is that Internet Gig costs $114.99 a month by the third year of service, making it the most expensive long-term gigabit plan compared to the competition.

Read our full reviews of Spectrum vs its main internet competitors

Is Spectrum Internet® right for you?

Spectrum is a good cable internet alternative if you don’t have access to fiber internet. It’s an even better choice than DSL, which can reach only half the speed offered by the Spectrum Internet® plan.

Depending on your monthly download needs, your best bet is either the 300 Mbps or the 500 Mbps plan. The 1,000 Mbps plan is a good deal, too, although you may find cheaper options elsewhere. The average user probably doesn’t need gigabit speeds, but at least Spectrum’s Internet Gig service is now a more affordable option if you want all the speed you can get from Spectrum.

Interestingly, in addition to gigabit download speeds, Spectrum’s Internet Gig plan boasts an upload speed of up to 500 Mbps in limited areas. That’s ideal if you need to upload large files quickly or stream your gameplay to Twitch. We provide a guide—Mbps vs. Gbps: Do You Need Gigabit Internet?—to help you determine if Gigabit Internet is right for you.

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FAQ about Spectrum

What are the best routers for Spectrum Internet?

Spectrum’s fastest plan reaches up to 1,000 Mbps, so you need a router with a 2.5 Gbps WAN port to get that speed. Otherwise, a router with a 1 Gbps WAN port tops out around 940 Mbps in speed. Does that extra 60 Mbps make a difference? That depends on your needs.

Get a Wi-Fi 6 router with lots of streams to support multiple wireless connections. Plus, Wi-Fi 6 is just more efficient and faster than the older Wi-Fi 5 standard. Also, get one with a 2.5 GbE WAN port if you opt for Spectrum’s gigabit plan.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Are Spectrum’s modems really free?

Spectrum does not offer a free modem or gateway for you to keep forever and ever. It lends you a modem or gateway rent-free until you cancel your cable internet service. If you disappear into the night with the device, never to be seen again, expect to see an unreturned equipment fee of up to $61 on your final bill.

Part of Charter’s agreement with the FCC when it merged with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks was to eliminate modem rental fees. If you’re a new Spectrum customer, you won’t see a modem rental charge on your monthly bill—just the $5 WiFi access fee.8

Why do I still see a modem fee on my bill?

You may see a monthly Internet Modem Lease charge if you never migrated your Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks plan to an official Spectrum plan. Even if you received a new modem within the last few years from Charter, you will continue to pay the Internet Modem Lease fee until you change plans. If you have a Spectrum router or wireless gateway, you will pay the monthly WiFi fee on top of the modem rental, totaling up to $15 per month ($180 annually).

For a bit of context, I’m a former Time Warner Cable customer. While I generally don’t look at my bill each month and just hand over my money, I was curious to see if I was still paying for a modem lease after seeing Spectrum’s “free modem” advertisement. Sure enough, the fee was still there, and a little research conjured up a few questions.

The legal text says that free modems are for new customers, but Charter’s deal with the FCC indicated that it would never impose modem leases—at least until 2023.

So I asked several Spectrum representatives why I still paid for a monthly modem lease. The bottom line is that I’m an old Time Warner Cable customer and not a new Spectrum customer. I still had a legacy plan and needed to migrate to an official plan to eliminate the monthly modem lease.

When I asked why I still paid this fee even after receiving a new Spectrum modem last year, the representative said it was because of my plan. Does that make sense? Absolutely not. “I don’t have a Time Warner modem. I have your Spectrum modem,” I argued to deaf ears.

In a nutshell, Spectrum never converted my internet plan, nor was I invited to do so. Instead, Spectrum quietly charged a monthly fee while advertising free modems. It’s shady business, to be honest, as is the following fee on our list.

Pro tip:

Check your bill if you were a Time Warner Cable or Bright House Network customer to see if you still lease a modem. If so, contact Spectrum to migrate to a new plan.

Why does Spectrum charge a WiFi fee?

Spectrum charges a monthly WiFi Service fee whether you have Spectrum’s standalone router or its wireless gateway.

This fee is highly annoying because it’s unnecessary for customers who use the wireless gateway. A technician simply switches WiFi on or off. Nothing about this WiFi access affects your neighbors’ bandwidth, the service area, or Spectrum itself to require financial compensation each month.

In other words, gateway users must pay for WiFi because standard modem users lease Spectrum’s standalone routers. Moreover, you can’t choose between the two setups—you get whatever the Spectrum technician has on hand in the van.

To get around Spectrum’s monthly fee, install one of the best Wi-Fi routers. Just have Spectrum come out and turn off WiFi in the gateway or take back the standalone router. Both scenarios save you money over time.

Why do Spectrum’s plans say “up to” in terms of speed?

Spectrum displays “up to” next to its plan’s speed because the maximum isn’t guaranteed for several reasons.

Technically, Spectrum uses a hybrid fiber-coaxial infrastructure to deliver internet to homes and businesses. In other words, Spectrum’s core network uses fiber until it reaches a node where existing cable TV lines take over, generally at the front and back of a neighborhood. Cable TV lines provide speeds equal to fiber, so it’s cheaper for Spectrum and its customers to use the existing lines versus installing new fiber lines.

The days of peak hour slowdowns are mostly gone, but the equipment that delivers internet to your home can cause issues. Spectrum incorporates a splitter (RF directional amplifier) at each fiber node that feeds coaxial cabling to multiple streets. Amplifiers in the node and along the lines maintain the signal strength.

So, if a component somewhere along the line fails, you could see a slowdown or a complete disruption of service. Plus, buried cables might be damaged, or there may be an issue with your connection at the utility pole. Many factors can prevent you from getting your plan’s maximum speed.

Also, the local infrastructure’s total bandwidth can reduce your speed. Spectrum states that “speeds vary by location.” In fact, the Spectrum Internet plan advertises speeds up to 300 Mbps, but you may see a 100 Mbps or 200 Mbps maximum in certain areas.

Overall, the location-based speed variations and possible technical issues are why you see Spectrum use the “up to” disclaimer.

Why do wireless speeds vary?

Wireless speeds fluctuate no matter what you get from Spectrum’s connection. You may get 650 Mbps in one second and 600 Mbps in another during a single sitting. Plus, your speed drops the further you move away from a router or gateway, similar to how radio stations fade as you drive away from a tower. So, yes, unlike a wired connection, wireless speeds will vary because it’s the nature of WiFi.

Here’s a brief list of variables that cause your speeds to fluctuate:

  • Interference from other wireless networks and devices
  • The distance between you and the router
  • Obstructions like walls, furniture, floors, and so on
  • Home network traffic that can overload the router’s CPU and memory

Is Spectrum’s gigabit internet really 1 Gbps and not 940 Mbps?

Wired connections have hardware and software overhead that reduces your maximum bandwidth. Technically, a Gigabit Ethernet port has a theoretical speed of 1,000 Mbps, but after overhead, you get a sustained speed of around 940 Mbps. This is why you see some “gigabit” plans listed with speeds up to 940 Mbps—the modem, gateway, ONT, or router only use Gigabit Ethernet.

Spectrum now deploys modems and gateways with a 2.5 GbE internet port. The real-world speed after overhead can be around 2,125 Mbps, so Spectrum has plenty of bandwidth to achieve actual 1,000 Mbps speeds. But you’ll see the reduced speed if you don’t have a modem or gateway with the 2.5 GbE WAN port.

Methodology

Our HighSpeedInternet.com editorial team bases our analyses on customer input from our annual customer satisfaction survey, results from our speed test tool, and proprietary internet provider data on speeds and pricing. To strengthen our research, we look closely at provider contracts to get hard-to-find information on price hikes, data caps, and extra fees, and we keep tabs on the latest news reports and online reviews. When applicable, we also rely on our personal experiences testing these services.

Sources

  1. Charter Communications, “Spectrum Doubles Spectrum Internet Starting Speed to 200 Mbps in 17 Markets,” December 17, 2020. Accessed August 17, 2021.
  2. Charter Communications, “Advanced Home WiFi Puts Customers in Control of Their Spectrum Internet®,” August 9, 2021. Accessed August 17, 2021.
  3. Charter Communications, “About Charter,” Accessed August 19, 2021.
  4. Federal Communications Commission, “View Service Provider Details,” June 2020. Accessed August 19, 2021.
  5. Federal Communications Commission, “Petition of Charter Communications, Inc.,” June 17, 2020. Accessed August 20, 2021.
  6. Federal Communications Commission, “Charter Communications, Inc. Withdraws Petition to Sunset Merger Conditions,” January 19, 2021. Accessed August 20, 2021.
  7. Federal Communications Commission, “Reply of Charter Communications, Inc.,” August 6, 2020. Accessed August 20, 2021.
  8. Federal Communications Commission, “Memorandum Opinion and Order,” May 10, 2016. Accessed August 20, 2021.
  9. Reddit, “Why Is the Gig Speed Internet Installation Fee So High?” Accessed August 30, 2021.

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