How Much Should I Be Paying for High-Speed Internet?
Internet is one of those things you really need but really wish you didn’t have to pay for. That’s just one reason why people living in Google Fiber trial cities lunged at the opportunity for free internet service back in the day. (Anyone else remember those installation wait lists?)
Although free internet is hard to come by (unless you win free internet from us), there are ways to make sure you’re not paying too much for the speeds you need.
Our data analysts at HighSpeedInternet.com ran the numbers on all available internet plans nationwide to give you some averages to use as a starting point. Compare them to what you’re paying now to see if it’s time to make a change.
Learn more about our methodology below.
What’s the average internet plan like?
The available internet packages vary greatly by location but on average cost about $50 per month for about 100 Mbps of speed. When you opt for less-expensive packages, you tend to get fewer Mbps per dollar. Higher-end packages will cost you more but tend to deliver more Mbps per dollar. Think of it like buying in bulk. To understand where these numbers come from, see our methodology below.
Keep in mind that these national averages might not apply to you, depending on what’s available in your area. While getting 2 Mbps per dollar spent is a good baseline to start with, a better deal than that (or even one that good) may not be available to you if no internet service providers (ISPs) in your area offer it.
While almost every major ISP offers an internet package of 1,000 Mbps or higher, most customers don’t usually subscribe to that package because it isn’t always available where they live or is just too expensive.
So, while the average speed of internet packages offered in America is about 290 Mbps, the average speed of internet packages customers subscribe to is actually closer to 100 Mbps.
How much internet speed do I need?
Now that you know what kind of pricing to expect, you’ll need to find how much internet speed you need. To do this, you should focus on two factors: the number of devices using your internet connection at the same time and the activities those devices will perform.
Once your internet reaches your home or business, the connection is shared with all the devices connected to your network. The more devices you have, the more speed you’ll need.
How you and your household use the internet also makes a big difference in how much internet speed you need. Activities that require a lot of data, like HD streaming, require a faster internet speed to work properly.
Logically, these two factors can cause your speed needs to add up quickly. Three people streaming in HD will require a lot more speed than one person streaming in HD, even if that one person is also browsing social media at the same time.
With so many variables, determining the right internet speed for your household can be difficult. We’ve simplified the process: leave the calculations to us by using our “How Much Speed Do I Need?” tool.
Other things to know when buying internet
Of course, monthly price and speed are most people’s primary concerns when deciding which internet service to order, but there are a few other factors that deserve consideration as well. We’ll cover the basics of each of them.
What types of services are available in my area?
All internet is not created equal. And all internet does not work the same way. Different types of internet have different strengths and weaknesses. Fiber internet is usually the fastest, satellite internet has the widest area of availability, and cable internet and DSL internet can be the most cost-effective.
For more on internet speed and the strengths of each type of service, check out our consumer’s guide to internet speed.
What about installation, setup, and activation fees?
They’re sneaky but they’re not invisible: you should know any up-front costs included with the agreement before you commit. Depending on what they are, they could drastically change pricing.
For example, if you’re comparing a 55 Mbps plan that’s $40.00 per month to a 70 Mbps plan that’s $50.00 per month, you may think you’re saving a lot of money by sacrificing a little speed. But if the $40.00 plan has a $100.00 installation fee and the $50.00 plan comes with free installation, you’ll save only about $20.00 the first year by going with the slower plan. Getting an extra 15 Mbps of speed each month for the whole year might be worth the extra $20.00 (about $1.67 per month).
Do I need to worry about data caps?
Some ISPs limit the amount of data you can use in a month or at particular times of the day within a month. This is usually called a “data cap” or “data threshold.” They’re always used with satellite providers like HughesNet or Viasat, but other types of providers also set data caps.
Be sure you know if your internet service agreement includes a monthly data cap before you sign it, especially if you plan to do a lot of HD streaming.
In many cases with landline connections, the cap is high enough (about 1 TB) that most users won’t get anywhere near it, but occasionally you may run into an internet service plan with a low data cap. That’s when you need to be careful—unless you’re itching to pay overage fees.
What happens when I sign a contract?
Before you put your name on any dotted line, consider the length of the agreement. Some ISPs require a one- or two-year agreement to get optimal pricing. In some situations, it’s worth paying a little extra per month to maintain the option to cancel at any time.
If you’re considering signing a contract agreement, make sure you understand the early termination fee (ETF) before making your decision.
With some ISPs, you can use the contract agreement to your advantage. If you find contracts that guarantee your price won’t increase, you may save yourself money over the long term. Some ISPs offer to lock in your price for one, two, or even three years. Some offer the same price for life. You can also find internet providers that will buyout your contract from your last provider if you sign with them. It’s all a matter of how you play your cards.
Get the best broadband deals
ISPs are almost always offering introductory promotions on internet specials. Taking advantage of these cheap internet plans is a great way to save money on internet service. Because these offers generally run for only the first year of service, switching providers after your promotional period ends can keep your internet costs down. Also, sometimes just threatening to leave will be enough for your ISP to offer you another promotional deal.
But before you switch providers, factor in any cancellation fees on your current agreement and any installation or setup fees on your new service. You don’t want hefty fees to spoil the savings.
If you don’t have the option to switch, you can usually knock a few bucks off your internet bill by bundling internet service with TV. If you’re considering this strategy, keep in mind that bundling saves you money only if you were planning to get TV service anyway. However, bundling isn’t the way to go if you need only internet. A bundle will make the internet portion of your bill less expensive, but the added expense of TV service will usually cost more than what you’ll save.
We analyzed 100+ standalone internet packages offered by over ten of the country’s biggest internet service providers to find what the average internet package in the US looks like. Keep in mind that these averages were calculated from an array of packages offered by ISPs. We weighted each package evenly and without regard for its availability. This means that a package that may be available in only one ZIP code was given the same weight as a package that’s available in almost every ZIP code.
Because of this, the averages expressed above reflect the average package offered, not necessarily the average package available. The availability of different packages and their corresponding ZIP codes varies to such a degree that to calculate a true availability average would require a massive data-gathering operation. We’ve got time to research internet but not that much time. Despite the limitations of this data, we can still draw some useful information from these averages. We hope you’ll use it to make sure you’re getting a good deal on internet.
Get the best package for you
Now that you know what an average internet package looks like, you’re ready to compare packages from internet providers available in your area. Enter your ZIP code below to get started.
Author - John Dilley
With over five years writing about the internet industry, John has developed a deep knowledge of internet providers and technology. Prior to writing professionally, John graduated with a degree in strategic communication from the University of Utah. His education and experience make his writing easy to understand, even when covering complex topics. John’s work has been cited by Xfinity.com, PCMag, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and more.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.