Internet for Apartments: How to Get Wi-Fi Where You Live
Moving into a new apartment takes a lot of work. After you’ve signed the lease and hauled in all your boxes, you still have to figure out utilities like gas and electric. And of course, you’re going to need Wi-Fi.
Some apartment buildings—especially newer ones and luxury units—come with internet service included. Homeowners associations also occasionally provide cable internet and TV to condo owners through a pre-arranged partnership with a cable company. But, more often than not, you’ll be on your own when it comes to getting internet for your apartment.
To help you get that all-important internet access, we put together a step-by-step guide. Below, we explain how to find internet service providers (ISPs) in your area, what to consider when it comes to internet speed and type, and whether you’re better off getting your own internet even if your landlord provides Wi-Fi.
Y’all ready for this?
Does your apartment come with internet?
When you’re shopping for apartments, make sure to ask the landlord or broker about the Wi-Fi situation. Here are some examples of what you should ask about:
- Is internet available in the unit or do tenants have to buy their own separately?
- If there is Wi-Fi, what is the provider? How fast are the speeds? And is there a data cap?
- Will the internet service be included with the monthly rent, or does it cost extra?
- If so, how much does it cost?
It’s likely that you won’t have internet built in, but your lovely new abode could come “cable-ready,” meaning that the previous tenant had cable internet installed and so the place is ready to go for a cable TV and internet link. This would save you time and effort because it means you won’t have to bring in a technician to do any drilling and install wiring or other infrastructure.
How do you get internet for your apartment?
When you’re figuring out your Wi-Fi situation at home, you’ll want to see which internet providers offer service in your area. Enter your zip code into our tool below to get a quick rundown of your local options:
It’s easy to run a quick search, eh? This gives you an idea of the options available when it comes to internet providers, internet speed, bundle packages, and pricing.
Apartments that come with Wi-Fi
If Wi-Fi comes with your apartment, the easiest and most convenient thing to do is just stick with what’s already provided. That way you won’t have to go through the trouble of shopping for an internet provider and forking over cash for a monthly plan.
However, the easiest option may not always be the best option. Your apartment’s preferred internet service could be great—or it could be slow, have security issues, or be built on outdated equipment.
Make sure to check with your landlord to see if your lease requires that you stick with the building’s chosen internet provider. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure the service will meet your needs.
Getting Wi-Fi for your apartment
It’s worth considering getting your own internet if you work from home, do tons of online gaming, love to binge-watch Netflix, and depend heavily on fast and reliable internet access for your day-to-day life. After shopping around, you can easily sign up online to get internet for your apartment. The internet provider will ensure that you get everything you need in a timely fashion.
Choosing your own plan allows you to be more selective about things like price, speed, and internet type. It also gives you more freedom to choose your own router and configure your home network in the way you like.
To help weigh your options, use our “How Much Speed Do I Need?” Tool to get an idea of how much internet speed you use on a daily basis.
As you shop around, you’ll notice that internet service comes not just at different speeds and prices but also as different types—that is, the type of connection used to deliver the Wi-Fi we all love. The most common types of internet you’ll see are fiber, cable, DSL, and satellite.
The galloping gazelle of internet types, fiber-optic internet is the finest, rarest, and fastest of the bunch. Running on optical signals over fiberglass cabling, fiber tends to be more expensive than the rest. And it can be difficult to come by, since it’s so costly for ISPs to build fiber infrastructure.
But fiber-optic internet delivers record speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (aka 10 times faster than DSL), and it has an extremely reliable connection with minimal interference. So it’s well worth the investment if you want silky-smooth Wi-Fi.
Cable internet runs over the copper wiring of a coaxial cable company. It gives you fast download speeds—equal to fiber in many cases—and a solid connection.
However, cable doesn’t deliver the same, ultrafast upload speeds as fiber internet. Most internet users spend most of their time downloading data, which is what happens when you check emails, stream video, or download files, so you likely won’t notice the difference. Uploading data comes when you upload files to a server or make video calls on Skype or Zoom. Having slower upload speeds could be a drawback if you spend a lot of time doing upload-heavy tasks like these.
Read our guide to download and upload speeds for a breakdown of what uploading and downloading means and what speeds work best for you.
Another potential drawback with cable is that you may experience a drop in your internet speed during peak-use hours. Cable internet runs through a neighborhood-wide network, and other users can impact your connection.
However, there’s an added convenience if you find one of those cable-ready apartments we mentioned earlier. If the coaxial cabling is already set up in your place, then installation will be much easier, saving you some headaches.
DSL internet operates over your old landline phone network. The domesticated pigeon of internet, it’s not the fastest (it hits top speeds of only around 100 Mbps). But it’s available basically anywhere and is a great budget option, with prices that tend to be lower than fiber and cable options. You won’t get the fantastic speeds of fiber or cable—but you also won’t get cable’s neighborhood-wide slowdowns since a DSL connection is linked directly into your domicile.
Satellite internet relies on a signal that gets beamed down from space. It’s slow and expensive, so we recommend choosing satellite only as the fallback option if you live in a remote or rural area and there are no other internet types to choose from.
Most internet companies like to show off how fast their internet goes, so they wave around bigger and bigger numbers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be getting something you actually want.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines high-speed, broadband internet as anything that delivers 25 Mbps download speeds or faster. Some internet users (particularly those living in rural areas) would cry tears of joy to get Wi-Fi that fast. Many seasoned internet geeks, however, are used to exponentially faster internet speeds—up to 1,000 Mbps, which is 3,900% faster than 25 Mbps to be exact!
Use our speed test to see how much bandwidth you’ve got going on with your current plan. You can also use this test to make sure your internet provider isn’t cheating you on the speeds you’re paying for.
Here’s a quick rundown to see the most common speed ranges and what you can do with them. For more information, take a look at our internet speed guide.
0.5 Mbps–25 Mbps
This is what you’ll get on lower-end DSL plans. It’s good enough if you’re living by yourself or in a small household. You’ll be able to download small files, stream music and movies, and video chat on apps like Facebook Messenger and Zoom. If your speed is closer to 25 Mbps, then it’s a solid speed and could work well for two or more people rather than just one.
But most internet providers offer much faster speeds than this. And they usually come at the same price or just a bit higher, so we recommend avoiding anything this slow if you can.
25 Mbps–100 Mbps
Most apartment dwellers will be happy with an internet plan that falls within this speed range. A download speed of 25 Mbps is plenty to let you stream movies in 1080p on multiple devices, download files that are 1 GB or bigger in a reasonable time frame, and operate smart home devices.
Consider aiming more towards the 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps range if you live with a partner, have multiple roommates, or want to stream movies in 4K on multiple devices with minimal buffering.
100 Mbps–800 Mbps
Ooh, now we’re talking! Most cable internet providers offer plans in this range of speeds—and they usually don’t charge much more for this than they would for slower speeds.
Speeds in the ballpark of 100–300 Mbps will be awesome for multiple people who love binge-watching, marathon gaming, downloading, uploading, and more on multiple devices all at the same time. An internet plan in the range of 500–800 Mbps will really come in handy if you work from home and do bandwidth-heavy tasks like content creation and working over cloud servers.
Also, keep an eye out for “symmetrical” speeds (i.e., internet plans in which upload and download speeds are the same). Upload speeds tend to be a lot slower than download speeds, so having a symmetrical plan makes it a lot easier to do things like uploading big files to a website or teleconferencing with large groups.
Looking for the fastest internet speed possible? Read our fastest internet providers guide to get the scoop.
1,000 Mbps and faster
This is the white whale of internet speeds that seemingly every fiber and cable internet provider has been hitting (or at least aiming for) lately. Some of them will hedge their bets by advertising 940 Mbps and then offer promotional prices to get you interested.
Having 940–1,000 Mbps speed lets you basically do anything over the internet quickly and easily—so it’s the go-to if you’re a professional gamer, full-time Bitcoin miner, freelance writer, or YouTube personality who’s uploading new videos every day.
Not surprisingly, these speeds come at a higher price. Do you need gigabit internet? Not necessarily. Do you want it? You do you, apartment dweller. The choice is yours.
Buying or renting modems and routers
Modems and routers are pieces of hardware that get your Wi-Fi going and allow you to connect a signal to your many devices. If you have Wi-Fi service in your apartment, then you won’t need to worry about getting these, since it’s already likely supplied. If you sign up for a plan with an internet provider yourself, you can rent a gateway device (which is essentially a modem and router combined into one) from the ISP.
If you plan on sticking with your provider and settling into your new place for a long period, you may want to consider buying your own gear. It takes more effort to shop for gear and costs more money upfront, but it saves you money in the long run because then you won’t be racking up rental costs for all eternity. You can also be more picky about your setup when it comes to speed capabilities, security, and signal range.
If you live in a place with lots of rooms, take a look at our guide to long-range routers or mesh networks. One of these bad boys can help to expand your Wi-Fi range and cut down on internet dead zones.
FAQ about internet for your apartment
Here are some answers to common questions that folks have about internet when they move into a new apartment. If you’re curious for more information, we go into more detail on these topics above.
Do apartments come with Wi-Fi?
Apartments typically don’t come with Wi-Fi. As the tenant, you’re usually responsible for getting your own service set up through an internet provider.
Sometimes an apartment building comes with Wi-Fi service included as part of your utilities. Some homeowners associations (HOAs) work out “bulk” contracts with cable providers to supply cable and internet to tenants and owners of condominiums. In that case, it still may be worth looking into other possible options. But you’ll have to check with your landlord or HOA to see if getting your own internet is allowed in your contract.
Can I get my own internet in my apartment?
Yes, you can get your own internet in your apartment. Most apartments require you to get your own internet. Once you’ve signed the lease and moved into your new digs, shop around to see which internet service providers offer Wi-Fi options in your area. You can then choose a plan that fits your needs, sign up online, and arrange to have the necessary equipment and cables installed.
If your apartment already comes with internet, ask the landlord about what type of internet it is and whether you can get your own. It can be a lot easier to stick with what’s already included on site, but it’s also good to explore your options.
How do I get internet in an apartment?
To get internet in your apartment, you’ll need to figure out which internet providers have service where you live and then sign up for a plan that’s right for you. Type in your zip code below to get a readout of all your available Wi-Fi options along with prices and speeds. Easy peasy.
What does high-speed internet access mean?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines high-speed, broadband internet as any internet with speeds of 25 Mbps or faster. Most internet providers in highly populated areas offer speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps, but 25 Mbps is enough speed for most people. It’s fast enough to let you download large files, stream movies on multiple devices in 1080p, and play online games.
What does “cable-ready” mean?
“Cable-ready” means that your apartment is set up to receive cable internet and TV. It has the proper wiring and outlets available, so it doesn’t require major installation or infrastructure changes from a technician when you sign up for your internet.
Author - Peter Holslin
Peter Holslin has spent more than a decade writing for Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless other publications. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008. Since then, he has roved from city to city and lived overseas, mastering his craft as an editor, staff writer, and freelancer while also acquiring ninja-like skills to address feeble Wi-Fi speeds and other internet challenges.
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.