Spectrum Internet Review

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

Spectrum
Price
$49.99–$109.99/mo for 12 mos.

Speeds
200–1000 Mbps°
(wireless speeds may vary)
Internet type
Cable
*Data effective as of post date. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. °Speed based on wired connection. Available Internet speeds may vary by address. Gig capable modem required for Gig speed. For a list of Gig capable modems, visit Spectrum.net/modem.

Best Spectrum Internet plans

PackagePriceSpeedDetails

Spectrum Internet®

$49.99/mo. for 12 mos.Up to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

View Plan

Spectrum Internet® Ultra

$69.99/mo. for 12 mos.Up to 400 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

View Plan

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. Overall, Spectrum’s a solid provider if you can overlook some of its questionable fees and lackluster customer support.

Before we begin, I’m a Spectrum customer—a longtime inherited Time Warner Cable customer, in fact. I’m going to compare Spectrum against its competitors and tell you my personal experience as a customer.

Pros

  • Offers speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps
  • Doesn’t enforce data caps
  • Doesn’t enforce contracts
  • Supplies a rent-free modem to new customers

Cons

  • Charges a monthly WiFi fee
  • Lacks good customer support
  • Charges a hefty activation fee for gigabit internet
  • Charges a modem lease to legacy customers

Is Spectrum Internet available where you live?

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Spectrum Internet deals and promotions

Spectrum’s Double Play Silver bundle for $119.98 per month is a good deal if you love movies. The package bundles the Spectrum Internet plan with 200+ channels and premium content from HBO Max®, SHOWTIME®, and NFL Network®. If you’re on a budget, the Double Play Select bundle for $89.98 per month is your cheapest option offering 125+ channels only.

Compare Spectrum Internet plans and pricing

PackagePriceSpeedDetails

Spectrum Internet

$49.99/mo. for 12 mo.Up to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

View Plan

Spectrum Internet® Ultra

$69.99/mo. for 12 mo.Up to 400 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

View Plan

Spectrum Internet® Gig±

$109.99/mo. for 12 mo.Up to 1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

View Plan

Our favorite plan: Spectrum Internet is a solid plan 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 if you’re a new customer. There’s enough bandwidth for a few people to stream UHD content, play games online, and download media from your favorite services.

Overall, Spectrum keeps your choices simple—there’s no scrolling through a long list to weed out the ideal plan. Spectrum doubled its starting speed from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) at the end of 2020, 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 that the 12- and 24-month options are just “two different promotions.”

Spectrum TV and internet bundle deals

PackageInternet speedTV channelsPriceDetails

Double Play Select

Up to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)125+$89.98/mo. for 12 mos.

View Plan

Double Play Silver

Up to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)175+$119.98/mo. for 12 mos.

View Plan

Double Play Gold

Up to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)200+$139.98/mo. for 12 mos.

View Plan

Spectrum currently offers just three TV and internet bundles. Double Play Select is your basic package bundling the Spectrum Internet plan with 125+ channels.

If you love movies, Spectrum’s Double Play Silver bundle adds HBO Max®, SHOWTIME®, and NFL Network to the 175+ channel lineup. The Double Play Gold bundle tacks on STARZ®, STARZ Encore, and THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ to its 200+ channels.

Additional bundles based on the Spectrum Internet Ultra plan pop up every now and then, but the bundles listed above are generally what’s available throughout the year. Spectrum will create a custom bundle if you call.

Spectrum vs. the competition

SpeedPriceCustomer ratingDetails
Spectrum 200–1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)$49.99–$109.99/mo. for 12 mos.3.6

View Plans

AT&T75–940 Mbps$35.00–$60.00/mo.3.8

View Plans

Frontier 6–940 Mbps$32.99–$74.99/mo.N/A

View Plans

Verizon 200–940 Mbps$39.99–$89.99/mo.3.8

View Plans

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

If you need only 100 Mbps, then the Spectrum Internet plan with speeds up to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) is a decent option. Verizon offers a similar plan for $10 less per month that uses fiber instead of cable, so you’ll have the benefits of symmetrical upload and download speeds at a lower price. AT&T and Verizon do not offer DSL service to new customers, and Frontier’s two DSL plans are a mere 6 Mbps and 25 Mbps.

Customers who want gigabit speeds may want to shy away from Spectrum altogether if possible. In addition to the hefty activation fee, the Spectrum Internet Gig plan is more expensive than competitors’ similar plans. This pricing is likely due to fiber’s general unavailability, and Spectrum is the only cable internet provider in those markets.

Here’s a quick look at the gigabit plans:

ProviderPlanPrice

AT&T

Fiber Internet 1000$60.00/mo.

Frontier

FiberOptic Gig Service$74.99/mo.

Verizon

Fios Gigabit Connection$89.99/mo.‡

Spectrum

Spectrum Internet Gig$109.99/mo. for 12 mos.

Even when you look at other comparable plans, Spectrum is generally more expensive. For example, AT&T’s Fiber Internet 300 is $35 per month and provides 100 Mbps more download bandwidth than the Spectrum Internet plan, which costs $49.99 per month (for 12 months). Even Verizon’s similar fiber plan is $10 cheaper each month.

Read our full reviews of Spectrum versus its main internet competitors

Spectrum internet customer ratings

SpeedPriceReliabilityCustomer serviceOverall
Spectrum customer satisfaction rating3.7/53.2/53.6/53.6/53.6/5
Average rating*3.8/53.3/53.7/53.7/53.7/5

Spectrum ranked in the bottom half of each category in our annual customer satisfaction survey, along with cable internet providers Optimum and Xfinity. Overall, few positives favor Spectrum, but you can find a few golden nuggets when you dig into the data.

Reliability

While Spectrum ranked relatively low in overall reliability satisfaction, 64% of those surveyed said that they experienced outages Not Often or Never. That’s more than any other provider included in our survey, which suggests that Spectrum service is actually quite reliable for most customers.

Connectivity issues typically appear in instances that are out of Spectrum’s control, like bad weather, power-related issues, or an accident that takes out a coupler or amplifier.

If you jump on social networks like Nextdoor, you’ll see complaints about Spectrum’s reliability. But look closer and many of these issues may be user-related (nipped cabling while weed-eating), nature-related (roots growing into the buried cable), or issues stemming from technicians (he disconnected your cable to fix the neighbor’s).

Overall, the number of Spectrum customers who reported outages was lower than any other provider in our survey.

Speed

Spectrum ranked below average in speed satisfaction. To be fair, the top-ranked providers in our survey all offer faster fiber internet, so we expect better responses from those customers. However, cable internet providers Cox, Xfinity, and Optimum also outranked Spectrum, and a deeper examination of the data leads to confused head scratching.

According to the Spectrum customers who took part in our survey, 60% were Very Satisfied or 100% Satisfied with the speeds, and just 10% said they were Very Unsatisfied or Not Satisfied with their speed. Around 87% said their speeds Usually or Always met their needs.

The key takeaway from this data is that generally, Spectrum customers are satisfied with their speeds even though Spectrum ranked extremely low on the speed satisfaction list. As a paying customer, my household sees the speeds we expect from our plan—slightly lower than the maximum, presumably due to issues in the service area. We even see normal speeds during peak times when the whole neighborhood is on the internet.

Customer support

Spectrum’s low customer support score in our annual survey is understandable. Getting answers to pricing and plans can be a frustrating experience, whether you call, use the My Spectrum app, or the website. I avoid calling due to Spectrum’s frustrating automated system—there are just too many hoops to jump through to get the help you need.

The online chat service is problematic as well. For example, I recently chatted with one agent online to discuss my bill. The agent went silent as she investigated my issue, but then another took over, forcing me to restart the whole billing query. But even getting to that point is just as frustrating as Spectrum’s phone service, as you must type to a chatbot before any human answers your questions.

Things we like about Spectrum Internet

  • Spectrum doesn’t lock customers to contracts. Instead, it offers 12- to 24-month discounts on internet plans and bundles.
  • Spectrum doesn’t enforce a data cap or charge extra for unlimited data like Xfinity.
  • Spectrum doesn’t charge a modem rental fee to new customers. That saves you roughly $120 per year.

Things we don’t like about Spectrum Internet

  • Charging $5 per month for WiFi on the wireless gateway doesn’t make sense. You’re not renting a standalone router.
  • Spectrum’s activation fee for the gigabit plan is extreme. The problem is, you probably don’t have access to other gigabit plans in your area.
  • Customer support can be a headache, especially when you use the online chat client.

Spectrum Internet availability

Spectrum typically operates in areas where other cable internet providers do not. In those areas, it primarily competes with AT&T, Verizon, and Frontier, which provide both fiber and DSL internet.

To give you an idea of its footprint, Spectrum serves over 31 million customers across 41 states.3 According to the FCC, Spectrum provided services to 33.46% of the US population as of June 2020.4

It’s available primarily in the Northeast, Ohio, North Carolina, and portions of the South. There are also scattered spots in Texas, California, Oregon, around the Great Lakes, and other states connecting Missouri to Washington.

Is Spectrum Internet available where you live?

Enter your zip code below to see a listing of the top internet providers available in your area.

Spectrum Internet fees

Cost
Equipment feeRent-free modem for new customers; $4.00–10.00/mo. for legacy customers.
Installation fee$49.99 for standard; $9.99 for self-install
Gigabit activation fee$199.99
WiFi fee$4.99/mo.
Late payment fee$8.95
Reconnection fee$8.95

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

But no, that fee also applies to its wireless gateways. Customers are essentially leasing the convenience of Wi-Fi.

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

Another eyesore is the modem rental fee, 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 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.

Finally, the Spectrum Internet® Gig plan requires a hefty $199.99 activation fee for new and current customers. This fee supersedes any other regular install charges. I dive a little more into this fee in the Why does Spectrum charge a gigabit activation fee section.

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. Once the promotion ends, prices increase by at least $20 per month.

Spectrum Internet data caps

Spectrum doesn’t enforce a data cap. It also doesn’t charge a fee to enable 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 elapses 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 that 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 two years, taking cues from AT&T, Xfinity, and Cox. We provide a list of internet providers with data caps for more information.

Spectrum Internet installation

Spectrum provides professional installation for $49.99 (TV and internet), or you can self-install cable TV and internet for $9.99 if additional cabling isn’t needed. In both cases, Spectrum will provide you with a separate modem and router, or a single wireless gateway, depending on what’s available at the time.

For a self-install, Spectrum provides instructions online on how to activate the modem. Customers can pick up the devices from a local Spectrum store or have them shipped to their address. Activating Spectrum’s gigabit service is an additional $199.99 one-time fee.

Is Spectrum Internet right for you?

Spectrum is a good 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 200 Mbps or the 400 Mbps plan. We can’t honestly recommend the Spectrum Internet® Gig plan, given your first month will run you at least $310. The average user probably doesn’t need gigabit speeds anyway, and Spectrum likely realizes that and enforces this one-time setup fee to discourage customers from signing up for the fastest plan when they really don’t need it.

Of course, my opinion would be different if Spectrum’s plan used fiber and didn’t have the hefty setup fee, especially if you need fiber’s upload speed to move large files 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.

FAQ about Spectrum

Are Spectrum’s modems really free?

Spectrum does not offer a free modem for you to keep forever and ever. Instead, it lends you a modem rent-free until you cancel your cable internet service. If you disappear into the night with this modem, never to be seen again, expect to see its full price added to 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 $4.99 Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi 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 I 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 to an official one, 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 router lease 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 Wi-Fi on or off. There’s nothing about this Wi-Fi access that affects your neighbors’ bandwidth, the service area, or Spectrum itself to require financial compensation each month.

In other words, gateway users must pay for Wi-Fi because non-gateway users lease their routers. Moreover, you can’t choose between the two setups—you get whatever the Spectrum technician has on hand in the van.

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

Why does Spectrum charge a gigabit activation fee?

There’s no official explanation as to why Spectrum charges this hefty one-time fee. A quote posted on Reddit indicates that the cost is financial compensation for the plan’s added stress on the service area.9 In turn, the $40 extra per month (over the Ultra plan) ensures that the customer receives a higher boost in bandwidth.

This fee is likely in place to prevent customers from jumping onto a plan they probably don’t need and tying up bandwidth they’ll never use. After all, Spectrum may need to upgrade its equipment if an entire neighborhood decides to switch to the Gig plan.

Spectrum Internet and Spectrum Internet Ultra are solid plans for any household, whereas the Spectrum Internet Gig plan may be costly overkill for your needs.

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

If you have Spectrum Internet, you may never see speeds as fast as your plan’s maximum for many reasons.

Unlike with fiber and DSL, houses with cable internet on your street share a connection—there’s no direct line to the premises as seen with fiber and DSL.

Technically, Spectrum uses fiber up to a point where it connects to nodes scattered throughout each neighborhood. From there, coaxial cable takes over because it’s an existing network that previously supplied cable TV. Spectrum incorporates a splitter (RF directional amplifier) at each node that feeds coaxial cabling to multiple streets. Amplifiers in the node and along the lines maintain the signal strength.

Fun fact: Spectrum uses unused digital cable TV channels to deliver internet through coaxial cable.

The overall network design and possible hardware issues along the way can prevent you from seeing the maximum speeds advertised with Spectrum’s plans. Buried cables might be damaged, or there may be an issue with your connection at the utility pole. And because the infrastructure stuffs multiple homes into service groups, internet speeds can slow during peak times as all those connections merge at the splitter and flood the node.

Wireless speeds fluctuate no matter what you’re getting from an internet connection. Typically, you have more theoretical bandwidth than an internet connection, but many variables can cause your speeds to fluctuate:

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

Methodology

Our HighSpeedInternet.com editorial team bases our analyses on customer input from our annual customer satisfaction survey, speed test tool results, 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.