Although the Federal Communication Commission’s implementation of Net Neutrality has earned a largely positive response, some were concerned that the move could cause Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to reduce their infrastructure spending. For Americans still waiting for their chance for broadband access, that’s bad news.
Is the FCC to blame?
On September 9, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spoke at an American Enterprise Institute discussion regarding broadband infrastructure investment. According to Pai, ISP infrastructure spending fell 12 percent in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014. And Pai blames the reduction in spending directly on Net Neutrality, “It’s the FCC’s decision to capitulate to the President’s demands and impose Title II public utility regulation upon the Internet that is playing a large role.”
Why would an FCC commissioner criticize FCC policy? A five-member commission leads the FCC, and when the organization passed its Net Neutrality policy, it did so by a 3-2 vote. Pai was one of the two commissioners who voted against the measure, so his stance isn’t a reversal: he’s been against Net Neutrality from the beginning and warned of consequences including less innovation and more cost for consumers.
Pai isn’t the only person in a position of power within the government who feels this way. During a hearing titled “Common Carrier Regulation of the Internet: Investment Impacts,” , chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, expressed his concerns that, though ISPs may continue to invest in broadband improvements, that investment may plateau or decline over time.
Is spending bouncing back?
Some evidence suggests that infrastructure spending may be increasing, not decreasing. Time Warner Cable spent an additional 10.1 percent on infrastructure from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015, and AT&T’s spending was also up slightly.
Is it just politics?
It’s worth noting that FCC Commissioner Pai and Congressman Walden are Republicans, and Net Neutrality is largely popular among Democrats, including President Obama. This political divide doesn’t automatically make one side right and one side wrong, but it does explain some of the disagreement.
Is it possible that both sets of numbers are correct, and that spending was down for the first half of the year, but up overall after three quarters? Sure. If so, it may be because the FCC voted for Net Neutrality in February, but the rules didn’t go into effect until the end of June. The industry could have been watching and waiting, as AT&T said it would, to see how Net Neutrality played out before committing a significant amount of money to its infrastructure.
But as Congressman Walden pointed out, ISPs aren’t going to stop investing in infrastructure entirely. The only question is whether they would have spent even more in the absence of a Net Neutrality policy.
How’s your broadband infrastructure?
America’s broadband infrastructure as a whole is important to everyone, but what should matter most to you is what it looks like in your area. The best way to see the whole picture is to enter your ZIP code below to compare the speeds and prices of the plans available in your area. You may be able to find a faster plan, even if your overall investment in broadband goes down.
Choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP) can be tough. You have to wade through confusing contract details, endless package choices, and tons of fine print—and you still might end up making the wrong choice!
If that’s something you want to avoid, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll walk you through the process of choosing an ISP from start to finish. Grab some coffee, and let’s dive in!
1. Find internet providers in your area.
The first step in choosing an internet provider is figuring out what’s available in your area. There are two reasons you need to do this first:
- Not every provider is available in every area. Coverage areas differ from provider to provider, so right out of the gate your choices will be limited to the providers that offer service in your area.
- Prices, speeds, special offers, and package lineups also vary by location. What you see advertised online is not necessarily what you can get. Always check the availability of a package in your area before you decide it’s the one for you. Along the same lines, many providers also have different pricing structures for different areas, so be prepared to possibly pay more—or less—after a move.
To find the best internet plans in your area, you can do one of two things: You can call providers for information and deal with the inevitable headache that comes with that—or you can use our Zip Finder. It pulls all the internet provider info from your area into one place to make it easy to compare and choose a provider.
Just enter your zip code and we’ll list all the providers in your area. Simple as that.
2. Compare plans, pricing, speeds, and more.
- Plans and pricing
- Installation and equipment costs
- Customer satisfaction ratings
- Data caps and overage fees
We’ll give you a brief overview of these things after you enter your zip code, but if you’re looking for a deeper dive, we’ve got that too. You can find all the details on these points in our provider comparison reviews.
HSI Provider Comparison Reviews
At HighSpeedInternet.com, we’re constantly measuring providers against each other to find out which is more deserving of your dollars. In the comparisons listed below, you’ll find overviews of each ISP’s plans, pricing, equipment, mobile apps, availability, customer experience, and more.
We’ll also throw in some interesting points of comparison along with specific recommendations for certain users. Of course, we back it all up with plenty of real-world use, hours of research, and loads of customer reviews.
Top-Ranked Providers to Look For
Some providers go far beyond the rest. Here’s info on top performers and what they’re known for, all based on HighSpeedInternet.com’s annual customer satisfaction survey. (Remember that some or all of these providers may not be available in your area. Use our Zip Finder to check availability.)
3. Find how much internet speed you need.
Once you know which providers offer service in your area and what packages are available, it’s time to figure out exactly what you need out of your internet service. In the end, a company can provide amazing customer service and have nationwide availability, but if the service isn’t fast enough for what you need, it’ll fall short.
There are several questions you should ask yourself when evaluating your speed needs:
How often do you stream HD video?
1080p video needs about 5 Mbps for good performance, while 4K will eat up about 25 Mbps.
How many people stream at once in your home on a regular basis?
You’ll have to multiply those speed requirements in the first question by the number of simultaneous streamers. You’ll probably want to leave yourself a little cushion as well.
How many smart home devices are connected to your internet?
These devices—especially security cameras that upload data continuously—can eat your bandwidth up real quick.
If all that math is too much to keep track of, use our How Much Speed Do You Need? tool instead. It will help you easily determine how much internet speed you need for your home or business. All you need to do is answer a few questions, and we’ll give you your recommendation.
4. Test your internet speed.
Now that you know what internet speed you need, test your current connection to see how it matches up. You probably already have an idea of how satisfied you are with your current internet. But testing the connection to see what your actual speed is will give you a benchmark to compare against other providers and packages.
5. Know if you’re switching providers.
If your answer is yes, are you currently under a service agreement? Otherwise known as contracts, these agreements could end up costing you hundreds of dollars in early termination fees (ETFs). Although many providers have moved to a contract-free model in the last few years, a few still require you to pay up if you break up:
|Provider||Early Termination Fees|
|AT&T||Charges up to $180.00 to terminate your contract, depending on how much time is left in the term.*|
|Frontier||Charges as much as $200.00.**|
|Xfinity||Can charge as much as $230.00.**|
*Prorated by number of months completed. **Varies by service and agreement.
Don’t plan on getting out of paying these fees, either. Most providers are pretty strict on enforcing them, though you can always give it a try.
In addition to shelling out these termination fees, you’ll also be responsible for returning your old equipment, like modems and wireless routers. This is usually a simple matter of taking them to a designated drop-off point, but each provider has different instructions.
6. Choose your internet provider.
Now it’s time for the exciting part! Once you know how much speed you need and which providers offer service in your area, you can make an informed decision that you’ll be happy with. You can do this! You’ve done your research, and we’ve got your back every step of the way.
The Average Internet Package
The available internet packages will vary greatly by location but on average cost about $50.00 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 may not be available in your area. While 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 if no ISPs in your area offer such a package.
How much internet speed do you 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.
More to Consider When Choosing an Internet Package
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.
What types of services are available in your area?
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 can be the most cost-effective. For more on internet speed and the strengths of each type of service, check out our speed guide below.
Up-Front Costs (Installation, Setup, or Activation Fees)
Along with knowing the speed and price you should expect from your internet subscription, consider any up-front costs included with the agreement.
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. 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).
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 often the case with satellite providers, but other types of providers may 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, the cap is high enough that most users won’t get anywhere near it, but occasionally you may run into an internet service plan with a low data cap.
Contracts and Cancellation Fees
You should also 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 and take it into account 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.
Finding 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+ stand-alone internet packages offered by over ten of the country’s biggest Internet Service Providers to find what the average internet package in America 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, making it impractical.
Despite the limitations of this data, we can still draw some useful information from these averages. For example, looking at the mean, median, and mode of the promotional pricing information, we get $50.00, $45.00, and $57.00 respectively. These numbers are all close together. This means the average cost per packages offered and the average cost of packages available are similar.
On the flipside, the mean, median, and mode for the internet speeds offered are 1,000 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and 287 Mbps. That’s a wide range. This is where extrapolating this data becomes problematic.
While almost every major Internet Service Provider 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 or is often 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.
The Next Step
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.
Imagine you’re happily streaming your favorite show when your phone buzzes—it’s an email from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). You’re about to exceed your data cap. You didn’t even realize you had a data cap, and now you’re forced to make a choice: forego your weekend Game of Thrones binging for the rest of the month or pay to purchase more data. Or, even worse, you don’t find out until you get the bill and see the charge!
Many providers have data caps, but most tuck them away in the fine print. Wouldn’t it be nice to know this in advance? Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve got the caps for all the major providers right here. Read on to see what your provider’s data limit is.
|Provider||Type of Service||Data Cap||Monthly Data Cap||Overage Fees|
|AT&T||DSL, Fiber||Yes||1 TB–Unlimited||$10 per 50 GB|
|Xfinity||Cable||Yes||1 TB–Unlimited||$10 per 50 GB|
|CenturyLink||DSL, Fiber||Yes||1 TB–Unlimited||None|
|Cox||Cable||Yes||1 TB–Unlimited||$10 per 50 GB|
|Suddenlink||Cable||Yes||250 GB–Unlimited||$10 per 50 GB|
|Mediacom||Cable||Yes||350 GB–6,000 GB||$10 per 50 GB|
|HughesNet||Satellite||Yes||10 GB–50 GB||None|
|Type of Service||DSL, Fiber|
|Monthly Data Cap||1 TB–Unlimited|
|Overage Fees||$10 per 50 GB|
|Type of Service||Fiber|
|Monthly Data Cap||Unlimited|
|Type of Service||Cable|
|Monthly Data Cap||1 TB–Unlimited|
|Overage Fees||$10 per 50 GB|
|Type of Service||DSL, Fiber|
|Monthly Data Cap||Unlimited|
|Type of Service||DSL, Fiber|
|Monthly Data Cap||1 TB–Unlimited|
|Type of Service||DSL, Fiber|
|Monthly Data Cap||Unlimited|
|Type of Service||Cable|
|Monthly Data Cap||Unlimited|
|Type of Service||Cable|
|Monthly Data Cap||1 TB–Unlimited|
|Overage Fees||$10 per 50 GB|
|Type of Service||Cable|
|Monthly Data Cap||Unlimited|
|Type of Service||Cable|
|Monthly Data Cap||250 GB–Unlimited|
|Overage Fees||$10 per 50 GB|
|Type of Service||Cable|
|Monthly Data Cap||350 GB–6,000 GB|
|Overage Fees||$10 per 50 GB|
|Type of Service||Satellite|
|Monthly Data Cap||10 GB–50 GB|
Data current as of 1/23/2018. Not all offers available in all areas.
Get the details on each of the following provider’s data limit:
Does AT&T have data caps?
AT&T has a data cap of 1 TB for most plans, with an overage fee of $10.00 per each additional 50 GB. That’s par for the course with ISPs, and 1 TB is plenty for most people, though we always prefer unlimited where possible. AT&T will give you two warnings before you’re charged monthly overage fees, so you get a chance to figure out what’s using all your data if you’re going over unintentionally.
The exception is the AT&T Internet 1000 plan, which has unlimited data. That makes sense—this plan has speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, so you’ll want to use that as much as possible! Another option to avoid data caps that’s available if you have AT&T Internet is to pay $30.00 a month for an unlimited data allowance. You can also bundle AT&T Internet with DIRECTV or U-verse TV to get an automatic unlimited data usage allowance, which is essentially a built-in $30 discount.
Does RCN have data caps?
No, RCN doesn’t have data caps for any of its plans. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!
Does Xfinity have data caps?
Xfinity has a data cap of 1 TB per month, with an overage fee of $10.00 per each additional 50 GB. However, Xfinity will give you two months of overages before it starts charging fees. In other words, you can use over 1 TB of data in two separate billing periods with just a warning, but you’ll be charged on the third time. Xfinity also offers a handy usage meter for checking how close you are to your cap.
If you want the Unlimited Data Option, you can get it for an extra $50.00 per month. If you’re using more than 250 GB of extra data consistently, this option works out to be cheaper than paying the overages, so it might be worth
Does Frontier have data caps?
No, Frontier doesn’t enforce any data caps. Customers are free to use their service without worrying about using it too much—no strings attached.
Does CenturyLink have data caps?
CenturyLink has a 1 TB data cap in place for most plans. Business customers, customers on the 1 Gig plan, and CenturyLink Prism customers are not subject to this limit. So, if you fall in any of those categories, you’ll enjoy unlimited data.
What happens if you exceed CenturyLink’s 1 TB data cap? Well, for starters, the provider doesn’t currently charge overage fees. Instead, you’ll get a notice that you went over the limit along with suggestions on how to reduce usage, including alternate plans that might better accommodate your usage habits. Although these warnings don’t come with fees, you should still take them seriously. If you exceed your data cap more than three
Does Windstream have data caps?
Windstream doesn’t have any data caps or usage limits in place. This is a refreshing stance in an industry that usually has fine print and hidden clauses.
Does Spectrum have data caps?
Spectrum does not enforce any data caps—but this may not be by choice. When the FCC approved the merger of Charter, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House into the single brand of Spectrum, it ruled that the new provider couldn’t charge overages or impose data caps for at least seven years. Although it may not last forever, that’s great news for consumers now.
Does Cox have data caps?
Cox has a 1 TB data cap for all internet plans. 1 TB is fairly generous, although it’s still possible for heavy streamers to exceed this. If you do, you’ll pay the industry standard of $10.00 for each 50 GB of extra data you use.
If you think you’ll regularly use more than the 1 TB of data provided, Cox has a couple of bonus data plans you can subscribe to. You can get an extra 500 GB for $29.99 per month or go unlimited for an additional $49.99 per month. Those extra fees could really add up, but if you’re constantly racking up additional charges from exceeding your data limit, you might actually end up saving money going this route.
Does Optimum have data caps?
Optimum does not have data caps. The New York–based provider is part of a growing breed that doesn’t limit your data usage. The company does reserve the right to limit use that it considers “excessive,” which could include downloading unusually large numbers of files or other activities that might impact network performance in a negative way. For most users, though, it’s unlimited all the way.
Does SuddenLink have data caps?
SuddenLink has one of the lowest data caps of any provider these days: it’s a mere 250 GB for many plans. There was a time when 250 GB sounded like a lot, but with streaming and binge-watching becoming more popular than ever, it’s possible to burn through a 250 GB cap in no time. However, some of SuddenLink’s faster packages, like the company’s 400 Mbps service, include unlimited data. The lack of a data cap ensures you can make the most of the faster speeds you’re paying for.
As with most providers with data caps, SuddenLink charges a fee of $10.00 per 50 GB over the cap.
Internet 60: 400 GB
Internet 100: 1,000 GB
Internet 200: 2,000 GB
Internet 500: 4,000 GB
1Gig: 6,000 GB
Overage fees: $10 per 50 GB
Does Mediacom have data caps?
Yes, Mediacom has data caps. They vary widely from package to package, but are generous overall. For some plans, the cap is so high it might as well be unlimited. Just as a reference for comparing these data caps to other providers, 1,000 GB is equal to 1 TB. Mediacom charges $10.00 per 50 GB of data over the cap. While we at HighSpeedInternet.com prefer no caps, this is one we could live with.
Does HughesNet have data caps?
Yes, HughesNet has data caps. However, it works a bit differently than other providers. No matter what plan you get with HughesNet, your speed remains the same (25 Mbps). What does change from plan to plan is the amount of monthly data you get, starting at 10 GB and going up to 50 GB.
Another unique thing about HughesNet is that you won’t be charged an overage fee for exceeding your limit. Instead, the provider throttles your connection speed down to 1–3 Mbps. Whether this is better than paying a fee for more data at full speed is a matter of opinion, but 3 Mbps is pretty slow.
Does Buckeye Broadband have data caps?
Yes, but the complete answer to this is a little more complicated. Each of the Buckeye Broadband plans has a different data cap, starting at 100 GB for the lowest-end BEXCONNECT package. The cap increases with speed, with the faster plans like BEX100 (100 Mbps) having a 1 TB data cap.
Buckeye also offers customers the option to purchase unlimited data for an additional $30.00 per month, regardless of your plan. Whether that’s worth it or not depends heavily on your usage.
Exceeding the data limit on your plan will cost you $10.00 per 100 GB. That’s half the price of nearly every other provider.
Which providers have data caps?
The following providers offer data caps of differing amounts along with overage fees of varying degrees.
- Buckeye Broadband
Which providers don’t have data caps?
The following providers currently have no data caps on any of their plans:
These providers have some packages with unlimited data or offer it at an additional monthly charge:
- Buckeye Broadband
What are data caps and how do they work?
A data cap is basically a limit on how much data you can use through your internet connection in a month. Every time you visit a website, upload a photo, or stream your favorite movie, you’re using data. Your internet provider monitors your usage, and when you exceed the cap for your plan, they may send you a warning, charge an overage fee (similar to cellular providers), throttle your internet connection to lower your speed, or (in extreme cases) disconnect your service.
Typically, providers send warnings via email when you’re approaching your data limit, and again each time you incur a charge, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises. Some providers also allow you to set up data alerts via mobile apps or text messaging if you don’t check email regularly. Additionally, most ISPs provide a way for customers to monitor their own usage, either via an app or a web tool
What is bandwidth throttling?
Bandwidth throttling is the practice of lowering internet speed (often significantly) for certain users or certain types of traffic. This is typically done when an individual is using excessive amounts of data in a single monthly period. Due to customer backlash, it’s not a very common practice because it involves getting less service than you’re paying for.
Throttling is also sometimes used to manage network load during peak times. In these cases, providers may lower bandwidth of some (or all) users slightly to ensure that the network functions as expected for most customers. This is one reason why you may see a lower-than-advertised speed when using a speed test.
It’s refreshing to see so many providers offering unlimited data as an option for customers—even if you do have to pay extra for it. We’re hopeful that unlimited data plans will become ubiquitous in the future, but until then, this guide should help you be more aware of your data cap situation.
Looking for a provider with no data caps? Enter your zip code to find the ones listed in this article in your area.
4 Simple Steps to Cutting the CordAre you cut out for cord cutting? There has never been a better time to take the leap and ditch your cable service. With so many streaming devices and services, you can get many channels and shows online without the hassle of a cable company. Cord cutting is not for everyone, though. Some channels and shows aren’t available through streaming services, and if you aren’t careful, you may end up spending more than you were with your cable company. With the right planning, cutting the cord is one way to save some money and no longer have to deal with your cable subscription. We are here to give you a few easy steps to follow to make a smooth transition when cutting the cord. We have also compiled a massive list of streaming devices and the channels you can get on each one, so you can make sure you are making the right decision before you cancel any plans with your cable company.
Step 1: Make sure you have high speed Internet service.Once you cut the cord, one of the main things to consider is that all of your viewing activities are reliant on having a fast internet connection. We recommend testing your current connection first. You can use HSI’s Speed Test tool, or one of the many others on the web. Not getting the speed you pay for? It may be time to call and see what you provider can do to increase your speed or search for a new ISP. Then if you want to get an idea of how much speed you are going to need, jump over to our Speed Calculator and answer 7 simple questions to find out how much speed we would recommend in your house. When you get to question 6, just make sure you answer “All of Time” for how often you stream video. Once you cut the cord, you will most likely increase your video streaming considerably. We also recommend taking into consideration the requirements of some of the more common streaming services like Netflix (which recommends at least 3 Mbps) and Hulu (which recommends at least 1.5 Mbps). If you don’t think your current service will give you enough speed, then start the search for a new provider, just input your zip code here on HSI and see who else you have in your area. Already with the fastest company? Call and see if there is a different package you can upgrade to for more speed. [zipfinder]
Step 2: Choose a streaming device.The number of streaming devices are plentiful these days. Many TVs even have streaming built into them. Choosing the best device for you is critical. Some are cheaper than others and some offer channels others do not. We recommend balancing price and channel availability, along with other uses the device may serve. Here are the ones we would recommend. Roku 4 ($120) – Roku has a wide range of devices to choose from. Our top choice not only in the Roku family, but in the device category, is the Roku 4. With 4K capabilities and over 2500 channel choices, you won’t find another device that can beat it for streaming all of your favorite channels. If you want to jump into the Roku family a little cheaper, give the Roku Stick ($40) a shot. It won’t be quite as feature packed, but may get you far enough to begin with. Google Chromecast ($35) – When it comes to price, there isn’t a better deal than the Chromecast stick. With over 1000 channel choices, it isn’t exactly lacking in the entertainment department either. Amazon Fire TV ($100) – If you use Amazon for most of your media purchases, then this might be the choice for you. 4K ready, over 800 games (optional game controller), and access to Amazon Video and Music make this an avid Amazon user’s dream. They currently have over 1000 channels to choose from as well. If you want to get into the Fire TV family at a lower cost, they too have the Fire Stick ($40). Apple TV ($150) – This is the best choice if you are a cross-platform Apple user. It will play your music and videos you house in iTunes, plus connect you to over 1000 channels to stream from. Siri integration also means voice search is more advanced than some of the options on this list. NVIDIA SHIELD ($198) – Nvidia created something of a gaming system/streaming system hybrid with the Shield. It does have a lot of online games you can download and play on the console, but if you are looking for a true gaming system, this isn’t for you. It is, however, a great choice if you want something that is going to be a little more than just a streaming device. Unfortunately, it is fairly lacking in the channel department and only has around 30 options to choose from. Xbox One ($320) – The latest installment by Microsoft, the Xbox One comes with a hefty price tag and is one of the most expensive devices for streaming. Since it’s primary purpose is for game play, the number of channels available is also limited to just over 50. That being said, it isn’t just used for streaming but can be a full entertainment system, including playing DVDs and Blu Ray. Xbox 360 ($170) – If you want the features of the Xbox, with a lesser price tag, you can pick up its predecessor for about half the price. You will not be able to play the most up to date games, but you will still have many options to choose from, plus all of the video streaming capabilities of the Xbox One. PS4 ($350) – Much like the Xbox One, the PS4 is not just a streaming device, but more of an all encompassing entertainment system. With its own range of games and online services, the PS4 has plenty to offer someone looking for more than just a streaming device. Want to see which channels are available on each device? Go ahead and jump to our Go ahead and jump to our comparison chart of devices and available channels.
Step 3: Choose your streaming services.This might be the most complex part of cutting the cord. There are some streaming services that have been around for a while, like Netflix. Others are newer, like CBS All Access. Luckily, many channels are launching their own streaming channels like CBS, so cutting the cord is easier than ever. Some of our recommendations include: Hulu ($8-12/month) – Truly the grandfather of streaming services, Hulu has it down to a science. With their recent upgrade to no-commercial access, you can watch many of your favorite shows without interruption. They also recently started allowing a Showtime Add-on ($9/month) which makes their selection even more enticing. Some companies have started restricting show access on Hulu though, so make sure to check on the shows you love before investing. The ones we know of are: NBC, FOX, and ABC have their most recent seasons locked. CBS has started restricting access as well with the launch of their own channel, CBS All Access. Netflix ($8-12/month) – If you are a movie buff, then Netflix is a must. They do have a large range of television shows, but Hulu still reigns supreme when it comes to rapidly updating episodes of TV shows. For a few dollars more, you can also add a DVD subscription, which makes Netflix an even better deal for movie watchers. Amazon Prime ($99/year) – With a large library of movies and TV shows (rivaling that of Netflix), this is a great option especially if you are going to utilize the other Prime services (free 2 day shipping anyone?). Prime also allows you to rent and buy movies and shows and stream them, which makes this one of my favorite services. Recently, they have also added a Showtime add-on ($9/month) and a Starz add-on ($9/month) which makes it an even better deal if you want to have premium channel access. If you buy these streaming channels on their own, they run about $11/month. HBO NOW ($15/month) – An important note here. HBO GO is tied to your HBO subscription through a provider. HBO Now is standalone, meaning you get HBO services without the cable subscription. HBO Now allows you to stream all of your favorite shows, plus has a pretty vast collection of movies to choose from as well. Really, if you are an avid Game of Thrones fan, then the HBO Now app has to be on your list of streaming services. Still there are other services that allow standalone payments and streaming. These include: NFL Sunday Ticket ($50/moth) – 2015 was the first year DirectTV allowed NFL Sunday ticket to be streamed outside of a DirectTV package. This is a huge break for anyone who doesn’t want a year long subscription but loves the NFL season. This stand alone service only lasts for 4 months out of the year, meaning a $200 investment, but that is a lot cheaper than having a year long TV subscription because you want to catch all of your favorite NFL games. CBS All Access ($6/month) – CBS is the first major cable channel to break into the stand alone streaming space, and at $6/month it is doing so quite successfully! If you have shows that you really enjoy on CBS, then the $6/month price tag isn’t so bad. One thing to keep in mind is that since the launch of this service, CBS no longer makes their shows available to stream via Hulu. Disney Life ($15/month) – Although not currently available in the United States, this standalone streaming service is being test driven in the UK right now. Once you pay, you have access to the suite of Disney movies and shows. For anyone with several kids, the subscription also allows for up to 10 devices to stream at the same time. Additional Premium Channel Streaming: Showtime ($9-11) – Similar to the HBO Now subscription, you can now access your Showtime shows, plus a wide range of movies. Showtime can also be added on through Hulu or Amazon for only $9, but by itself it will cost you $11. Starz ($9/month) – The only way to get this “standalone” services is through Amazon right now, but if you already have Amazon prime, then this is a great deal! Really more of the same as far as movie selection goes, but if you have a show you can’t live without, then you may want to look at investing in Amazon Prime and the Starz add-on. If you still aren’t getting what you want from these major streaming services, there are plenty of others to pick from. The only issue with most of these streaming channels is that they are cable-authenticated, which means you have to sign in with a username and password. From our research, there is not very much restriction on sharing of usernames and passwords, so if you have a friend or family member who already has a cable subscription and is kind enough to loan it to you, you could have access to many, many more channels. You can see these and cross reference device compatibility in our comparison grid at the bottom of this article.
Step 4: Look into more traditional TV-like options.If you still can’t completely break away from your traditional TV habits, you have a few other options you can look into. If you don’t want to add any additional monthly subscriptions to your accounts, try getting an HD antenna, like the Mohu Leaf. You can usually get around 15 – 20 HD channels depending on your area. Most of these will be your main cable channels and local channels, but it still lets you channel surf every now and then. If you want another streaming option, Sling TV is a great way to fill the TV void. For $20, you can get their base package of channels which includes: ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, Food Network, A&E, History, TNT, El Rey, HGTV, IFC, Disney Channel, Polaris+, Maker, TBS, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, CNN, H2, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Lifetime, Galavision, and Bloomberg Television. They also allow you to add other packages on for an additional $5/month. Our favorites are Sports Extras and Kids Extras. There are also three Spanish specific packages, which is great for anyone looking for Spanish channels. Most of our streaming options are lacking Spanish speaking options except for Hulu, which has a large selection of Telemundo shows. Once you sign up for the base SlingTV package, they also have some additional Spanish add-ons that are even heftier for $15/month each. HSI’s Overall Recommendation Ultimately, cutting the cord is really about buying and watching exactly what you want without the hassle of a cable subscription. This doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. If you are wanting to make the smoothest transition, we would recommend subscribing to: Netflix or Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Sling TV. If you get Amazon Prime and are a major movie buff, go ahead and pay the $18/month for Showtime and Starz. If you are into sports, go ahead and add the Sports Extra for Sling or the Kids Extra if you have kids. This will give you access to almost all of the programming you would have previously had, without needing the cable subscription. And as we noted above, we recommend the Roku 4 for your streaming device. Another thing to consider is music streaming. Although this is not the main concern of this article, it is a factor when picking a device. Many only stream services internal to their brand, while others (like Roku) have several different music services available. So what does this look like head-to-head with your cable bill? Ultimately, only you can compare what your needs are, but the package we suggest above would come out to $36/month base, and then the potential of $18/month for movie add-ons or $10/month add-ons for Sling TV. Get it all and you are looking at $64/month plus your internet bill. Like we noted in Step 1, make sure you have the best possible provider and package before you to cut the cord. All of the suggestions above use a large amount of bandwidth and you don’t want to make the transition only to have a slow connection. Get started with a provider search right here on HSI: [zipfinder] For an in-depth look at what apps and devices are compatible, we have created the streaming device comparison grid below, with app compatibility noted.
Streaming Device and Channel Comparison ChartChannel Color Key: Red – Standalone Streaming Channels, Green – Free Streaming Channels, Blue – Combination of Free and Paid Content, Black – Cable Authenticated Streaming Channels
DSL or Fiber: Find the Right One for YouInternet access is crucial to modern life, but finding the right service can be complicated and confusing. There are lots of different options to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. While there is no perfect Internet plan for everyone, there are options to meet the needs of every lifestyle and every kind of user. To find the best option in your area, check out this side-by-side comparison of two popular types of Internet: DSL and fiber.
Network OverviewThe fundamentals of data transmission are the same for both Internet types: information is sent back and forth between the user and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) via a network of wires. However, the type of wires carrying the data and the way signals get transmitted differ from service to service.
DSLDSL stands for “Digital Subscriber Line,” which essentially means that the service uses copper phone lines to transmit electronic data between your computer and the wider Internet. There are two variants of DSL: ADSL (asymmetric) and SDSL (symmetric). ADSL — the most common connection type for residential setups — allows you to use your telephone line for both landline calls and Internet access, while SDSL uses the whole connection for Internet access, resulting in faster upload speeds at the expense of voice services. It is worth noting that DLS’s electronic signals can degrade as they travel, meaning that service quality may be affected by the distance between the ISP’s hub and the user-end termination point. Further, any electromagnetic interference or damage to phone line infrastructure may cause interruptions in the connection.
FiberFiber-optic Internet is currently one of the most advanced Internet services available in the United States. Instead of using copper cables to transmit data, fiber-optic cables are made up of ultra-thin glass or plastic strands that carry light instead of electricity. These light pulses transmit messages between your computer and the rest of the world. Because light can travel quickly through fiber-optic cables, fiber networks can carry substantial amounts of data over long distances without any service degradation. Additionally, because light signals are less affected by power surges, fiber connections don’t generally suffer from interference during electrical events.
Equipment SetupMany people tend to assume that all in-home Internet arrangements use the same equipment, regardless of connection type. However, because DSL delivers data via electronic signals while fiber makes use of light waves, the two connections actually require drastically different equipment setups and installation processes.
DSLDSL follows the model that most Internet users are used to: a modem/router combination that transmits and broadcasts Internet for both wired and wireless connections throughout the home. Further, because DSL has been around for so long, there are plenty of equipment options, ranging from standard ISP-provided devices to high-end customizable setups. And while it may be more convenient to use the equipment that comes with your service contract, you can save a few dollars each month by buying your own modem or router instead of renting one from your provider. When it comes to installation, most DSL connections run through already-placed telephone lines, meaning that the service is easy to install and likely won’t require professional help. In fact, many DSL ISPs even supply simple self-installation kits. If you’re hesitant to install your own service, or you have a unique wiring situation in your home, you can also opt for a professional installation — though you may be charged an additional fee.
FiberFiber-optic Internet connections do use routers, but that’s where the similarities with DSL end. Because data is delivered via light, traditional modems won’t work with fiber Internet. Instead, you’ll need to use a more complex setup — including an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) — to convert the light signals into usable digital data. Because fiber technology is still young, there aren’t many third-party equipment options, so you’ll have to rely on your fiber ISP to supply you with most of the equipment you need. If you do opt to use your own router, you’ll need to verify that it can handle the speed capacity that your fiber plan advertises. Due to the more complex installation process, fiber Internet is typically set up by a professional. Self-install kits are rare, and they are usually only available for homes that have previously had fiber installed.
Connection SpeedsThere are few things more frustrating than slow Internet speeds — from start-and-stop video streams to choppy Skype calls, download speed makes a huge difference in the way you use the Internet. Fortunately, DSL and fiber Internet each provide a wide range of speed tiers for different types of users.
DSLResidential DSL services don’t necessarily have the fastest speeds on the market, but most plans offer enough bandwidth for basic Internet usage. Advertised download speeds usually range from 1 Mbps to 20 Mbps, while upload speeds rarely get above 1 Mbps. As with most Internet connections, you likely won’t receive advertised speeds all the time — several different factors can affect the quality of your connection. For example, because DSL service quality deteriorates over long distances, Internet speeds may differ if your home is located far from your provider’s exchange point. DSL is also susceptible to traffic-based slowing during peak usage times, so streaming Netflix on a weekday evening may prove challenging.
FiberFiber-optic Internet is the fastest, most reliable Internet available in the United States. Speeds generally stay fairly stable, regardless of regional traffic or distance from the ISP. Additionally, most fiber Internet providers boast equal upload and download speeds, and some top-tier fiber plans can range up over 1 Gbps. Those high speeds translate into a lot of connectivity potential — families can stream HD video on multiple devices at once, make seamless video-calls, and play online games without any stuttering or slow buffering. Heavy uploaders also benefit from fiber-optic Internet’s equal uploading capacity, and Cloud storage and video uploading are much more effective than they would be on a slower connection.
Area AvailabilityNot all providers have access to the same networks. Some regions have limited Internet access in general, while others have one or two dominant providers that bear the Internet load of the entire area. As a result of these varied infrastructures, your Internet service options may vary quite a bit.
DSLDSL is available to roughly 90 percent of the United States, making it one of the most common types of Internet available. As DSL connections utilize phone lines to transmit data, most houses will already have the wiring installed and ready to go. Additionally, because DSL has been around for such a long time, there are a decent number of providers who offer Internet services. Unless you live in a very rural location with little infrastructure, you should be able to get some level of DSL connectivity in your home.
FiberLaying down fiber-optic cables can be prohibitively expensive for many ISPs, so only a small portion of the United States currently has access to fiber Internet. However, as more users demand faster speeds, fiber technology is starting to gain momentum. So while the United States may still be a far cry from fiber-savvy countries like South Korea, the overwhelming positive response toward fiber Internet will surely speed up technological advancement in the coming years.
Monthly CostsWhile download speeds and availability are important, price is generally the most important aspect of an Internet plan. Though total costs will ultimately vary depending on your location and plan, certain service types — usually the more high-tech or faster options — do tend to cost more than others.
DSLBecause DSL tends to be slower than other types of Internet, it also tends to be cheaper — there are several affordable plans that cost less than $50 per month. Compared to cable and fiber Internet, DSL is a great budget option. If you’re looking for even more affordable services, don’t forget to look at bundled packages. Combining your Internet service with a landline phone plan, for example, can also net you some extra savings.
FiberBecause fiber uses cutting-edge home Internet technology, it is one of the more expensive ways of getting online. If you’re looking for gigabit speeds, for instance, you should expect to pay around $100 or more per month, depending on your provider. Some fiber providers also offer TV or voice services, so it’s worth checking out the bundles available in your area.
The Take-AwayThere’s no objective answer as to which connection type is better than the other — everything boils down to your connectivity needs. If you have a lot of devices connected to the Internet, or if you do a lot of bandwidth-heavy processes at home, fiber-optic Internet will likely be worth the money. Those who prefer a low-budget option with wide availability and basic functionality will likely prefer a DSL plan. Whatever your preferences are, you deserve to have an Internet plan that caters to your specific usage patterns. Determine the speed you want and take a look at what’s available in your neighborhood. MLB season is upon us, and the cord-cutting trend means more people than ever are looking for ways to watch games outside of their normal cable subscription. There are several ways to catch your favorite team on the diamond this year, and we are here to help you choose the best solution for you.
What Is TWC’s Cheapest Package?Cable Internet from TWC starts at just $1499 per month for speeds up to 2 Mbps. At around faster than dial-up, 2 Mbps is sufficient for light Internet use, including web browsing, emailing and minimal music streaming. This speed will take significantly longer to handle large file transfers, video streams or online gaming.
Will the Cheapest Package Work for Me?If you only use the Internet sparingly, the cheapest Internet package may suffice. However, it’s not the best option for all consumers. If you’ve recently cut the cord, for example, you won’t be able to enjoy streaming services very easily. Your connection will also exponentially slow down if you have multiple household members using the Internet at the same time. So before you opt for the cheapest plan, it’s a good idea to assess exactly you really need.
Are There Better TWC Deals?If you’re only looking for Internet, the package that offers both speed and affordability is the Turbo Internet package, which provides speeds up to 20 Mbps for just $4499 per month for 12 months. That’s 10 times the speed of the lowest package for just three times the price. With , most users can accomplish what they want online — whether they’re downloading large files, streaming movies or gaming with friends — without worrying about lag or the number of connected users.
What If I Want Cable TV, Too?For an even better deal, bundling multiple services with TWC usually results in substantial savings. The Double Play bundle, for instance, which runs just $11499 per month for 12 months, offers Internet speeds and cable TV channels that suit most consumer needs. With this package, you get up to 20 Mbps of download speed — just like the Turbo Internet package — and more than 200 cable TV channels and 18,000 On Demand titles. Even better, the Double Play package also includes DVR capabilities and access to select premium channels like HBO®, Showtime® and Starz® free for 12 months. The savings from the DVR services alone give this plan an edge over other cable and Internet provider offerings. Paired with the additional savings on premium channels, this is one of the better deals on the market. Time Warner Cable offers plenty of cable Internet and bundled packages. As you make your choice, however, don’t just opt for low prices — check to see which package offers the features you need to comfortably use the Internet at home. And if Time Warner Cable isn’t available in your area, search for another Internet provider that offers the service you need. *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. Cox® is one of the leading providers of Internet service and for good reason — the company provides a wide range of High Speed Internet packages with a long list of added features. Whether you’re a casual web surfer or serious Internet user, there’s a suited for everyone.
The Benefits of Cable InternetCable Internet is the ideal Internet option for many users. Unlike dial-up, is always connected and isn’t prone to spontaneous disconnections. While it won’t beat the speeds of fiber-optic Internet, cable Internet is significantly faster than DSL or satellite Internet. In terms of pricing, you’ll spend more than you would on DSL, but less than for fiber-optic.
What Cable Internet Packages Does Cox Offer?Cox’s advertised cable Internet plans start at $36.99 per month for 12 months with the Essential package, which includes speeds of up to 15 Mbps for downloads and 2 Mbps for uploads. Although this is the cheapest advertised package, it’s not necessarily the best choice for users who stream and download large files, or for households with multiple users. At $54.99 per month for 12 months, the Preferred Internet package is just $18 more for over three times the downloading speed — 50 Mbps, plus 5 Mbps for uploads. This speed is typically sufficient for most households, as you can upload and download large files, stream movies and music, and play online games. If you’re a heavier Internet user or have a large household using the same Internet connection, Cox also offers a Premier package — 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speed for just $64.99 per month for 12 months — and an Ultimate package — 150 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speed for just $69.99 per month for 12 months. As you can see, you get significantly more Internet for minimal price increases.
What Are the Free Benefits of Cox Internet Packages?All Cox High Speed Internet™ customers receive a premium version of the McAfee® Security Suite, providing anti-spam software, identity protection, and firewall coverage for as many as five devices in your home. Customers who have the Preferred or Premier Internet packages also receive PowerBoost™ for free. This proprietary technology offers a short burst of added speed when downloading large files. Preferred customers can expect to see a , and Premier customers can anticipate a 25 percent boost. Other free features include up to 10 email addresses and online Cloud storage space.
What Cox Internet Package Is Right for Me?When it comes to Internet, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all package, which can make the decision challenging for many customers. As much as you want cheap Internet, you don’t want to experience lags. On the other hand, you also don’t want to pay for excessive speed or bandwidth that you don’t need. The best way to determine what Cox Internet package is right for you is to determine how much Internet you need. Use an Internet speed survey to evaluate your speed needs. From there, you can select a package from Cox, or from another Internet provider if Cox service isn’t available in your area. *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.
New York City to Spread Wi-Fi with Rat-Carried Mobile HotspotsIn an effort to amplify the reach of free Wi-Fi, New York City officials have unveiled an unorthodox new plan—strapping tiny Wi-Fi boosters to the city’s rats. While it may seem outlandish, the plan has gained serious traction after several successful small-scale test runs. Manhattan residents reported “noticeably faster speeds” in parks and public places after the rats were released in their neighborhoods, with download speeds peaking the night before garbage collection days. “I think it’s a genius idea,” said 28-year-old Harlem resident Linda Chen, one of many satisfied residents. “After the bubonic plague, I feel like rats have an awful reputation, but they’re not all bad. They can be very useful.” “And free Wi-Fi, you know, makes a huge difference,” Chen added. The program follows on from earlier, successful experiments in rural locations in the UK, in which sheep fitted with cameras offered television viewers unique angles of the Tour De France. While leading technological advocates have considered turning the livestock into walking mobile hotspots, the plan has since failed to gain traction in Europe. New York City has capitalized on the idea, fitting the city’s enormous rats with Wi-Fi boosting collars. Animal rights activists have condemned the operation, reportedly accusing city officials of “leveraging the city’s universal disgust towards rats” in order to push forward the potentially inhumane Wi-Fi collars. “The collars are absolutely safe,” said Rhonda Lombardino, a city spokesperson, who described the Wi-Fi enabled collars as a “technological breakthrough” that could do for New York City rats “what rabid grizzly bears did for Leonardo DiCaprio—that is, put them on the map.” For a city project, the response has been unusually positive. Native New Yorker and NYU Humanities graduate Bryan Andrews, who lives in the test zone, called the program “a runaway success”. “After a long day of bussing tables, I’d usually have to resort to the Starbucks near my apartment if I wanted free Internet, which is totally corporate and not punk at all,” he said. “These rats are amazing. I’ve been leaving food in the hallway of my apartment complex, whole raw chickens and everything, so that I can attract more rats and better download speeds.” When asked about the potential for disease and public health concerns, he responded with free high-speed Internet being “a fair gamble” for another outbreak of the Black Plague. “I can stream HD video on three different devices,” he continued, while also noting that he would be more than willing to “lose a few lymph nodes to the plague” if his Wi-Fi service was uninterrupted. Some residents are not as pleased. When asked about the new program, Bay Ridge grandmother Sandra Jackson called the effort “a waste of time and ridiculously stupid.” “Rats are dirty, awful creatures,” she said. “And who needs the Internet?” When pushed about the potential benefits for her tech-savvy grandchildren, she called the Internet both “dangerous” and “confusing.” Public health and disease management expert Debbie Howard called the public’s response to the program “troubling.” “You really have to wonder about a city that’s willing to let themselves be bombarded, literally, with animal poop, so that they can stream 1080p Netflix exclusives,” she said. “We could stick the Wi-Fi boosters on cabs, or on pigeons, or on streetlamps. Everyone’s so excited at the prospect of free, fast Internet that they’re completely closed off to any other possibilities.” “I’m not complaining, though,” she added. “I mean, we’re due for another major epidemic soon anyway. I just didn’t think it would be because of The Walking Dead.”
Cable Internet v. Fiber Internet
It’s great to have choices; but the more options you have, the more difficult it can be to make a decision. When it comes to the Internet, especially, the wide variety of service types and providers can make it hard to know if one kind of connection is better than another.Whether you’re getting Internet service for your home or your business, you need a connection that’s fast, reliable, and affordable. To help you make the best Internet choice for your unique needs, we’re breaking down two of the most popular types of Internet: cable and fiber-optic.
Connection BasicsUnlike dial-up connections, cable and fiber Internet are both considered “always on” services, meaning that there’s a constant open link to the provider’s service hub. That’s where the similarities end, though, as the network makeups differ significantly between the two connection types.
CableCable Internet is offered through coaxial cable networks, just like cable TV services. Subscribers can usually choose between purchasing cable Internet as a stand-alone product or bundling it with other services, including TV, phone, and even security monitoring, from the same company. Additionally, cable Internet connections are shared among all subscribers within a specified service area — there’s very rarely a designated connection. This can make for some congestion during high-use periods.
FiberFiber Internet uses fiber-optic cables to deliver Internet data. Information is carried via modulated light along a thin glass strand. Each of these lightweight fibers can be as small as a single human hair, and they’re able to deliver digital information over extremely long distances. Most fiber connections, regardless of whether they terminate at a node in the neighborhood or directly in your home, see significantly less traffic-caused slowing during busy times of day. If you live in a particularly crowded area, fiber will likely be more consistent.
Equipment and InstallationBoth cable and fiber connections rely on a network of wires or fibers to deliver data between subscribers and providers. But the in-home equipment used to transmit that data — and the installation process for that equipment — varies quite a bit.
CableCable Internet requires a modem that subscribers can lease from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) or purchase on their own. Most cable Internet comes with specific requirements for modems, so consumers should check for compatibility before buying their own device. The same goes for routers. In terms of installation, cable customers may have the option to set up their own connection using a self-installation kit provided by the cable company. If a house or apartment hasn’t had cable before, however, the cable company will probably need to set up a time to have the cable line run and installed by a professional. In general, cable installations are usually pretty straightforward and shouldn’t require a large investment of either time or money. Some providers even offer discounts on installation for new customers.
FiberFiber connections also require a modem of sorts, but instead of translating electric signals into readable computer data as a traditional modem does, a fiber modem works to translate light signals into readable information. Because fiber technology is newer and more complex than cable technology, your provider will likely require you to rent or purchase a service-specific modem with your fiber plan. When it comes to installation, most fiber Internet connections are set up by a professional. Some companies do offer self-installation options, but it may impact the terms of the service contract. If a new fiber connection doesn’t need to be installed, the setup should be fairly simple. However, if there’s no existing infrastructure at your home or business, it can take up to several weeks for the provider to run lines and install the necessary wiring.
Download Speeds and UsageWhen it comes to an Internet connection, speed is usually a top priority. Depending on how many people and devices are using the Internet connection, fast speeds can be a necessity. Fortunately, both cable and fiber connections offer download speeds that are fast enough to accommodate the Internet needs of an average household or small business.
CableCable Internet providers offer speeds that range from 20 Mbps to 250 Mbps. Those speeds are fast enough to keep an average home of casual Internet users online around the clock. However, a household of four that wants to be able to surf the Internet, update social media, stream videos, and play online games all at once should look for packages at the higher end of those speeds.
FiberEven though cable Internet is fast, fiber is usually faster. Users can get download speeds ranging from 150 to 1000 Mbps from fiber-optic Internet. Upload speeds are faster too — usually 65 to 100 Mbps. With speeds that fast, you could stream HD content in multiple rooms at the same time, including online games and movies.
Availability and Provider OptionsIt might seem like the Internet is everywhere, but that’s not actually the case. There are still areas across the country with limited access to Internet providers and connections. Depending on where you’re located — i.e., if a given service isn’t available in your area — limited accessibility may eliminate one service option entirely.
CableFortunately, cable Internet is one of the most widely accessible Internet options. If your home or business can receive cable TV, you can probably also access cable Internet. You may be somewhat limited in terms of which providers actually offer services to your residence or business, as the current cable industry has effectively drawn up turf boundaries from area to area. Despite this lack of options, though, as long as you live in a populated, non-rural locale, you’ll likely be able to find a plan that meets your basic connectivity needs.
FiberFiber is becoming more prevalent, but it isn’t currently available in as many places as cable. Because fiber Internet requires the installation of fiber-optic cables, its reach will remain limited until new lines are put in. Luckily, many more providers are exploring fiber offerings as demand for fast speeds grows. Before setting your heart on fiber Internet, though, be sure to find out if fiber-optic Internet is available in your area.
Safety and ReliabilityBoth cable and fiber Internet options provide more reliability than other options out there — satellite Internet can be fickle about equipment angle, and dial-up connections aren’t functional unless there’s an accessible phone line. However, there are some small differences in terms of overall safety and reliability between the two service types.
CableIn general, cable Internet service is considered highly reliable. Just like with cable television, sometimes there are outages due to technical problems or weather interference, but issues are fairly limited. Because of the possibility of an outage, businesses that rely on their Internet connection to operate should have a backup in place just in case. Additionally, there is some risk of surges during electrical storms, as coaxial cable is a good electrical conductor.
FiberFiber Internet is just as reliable as cable, with one distinct difference: Fiber-optic Internet is a passive system, which means it doesn’t operate using electric signals. That means that outages are less likely. In addition, because the conductor is glass, it doesn’t generate electricity. Thus, fiber is less vulnerable to interference from high-voltage power lines or equipment, and subscribers can enjoy an added layer of protection against damage from power surges.
Price and BundlingNo matter what bells and whistles an Internet plan promises, money is often the ultimate deciding factor when it comes time to pick a package. Shrewd homeowners and business managers need to provide the best Internet connection without blowing the budget out of the water. While pricing for both cable and fiber Internet varies based on location and the plan selected, there are some general distinctions you can expect.
CableMost homes and businesses can find cable Internet packages ranging from around $20 to as much as $100, depending on the speeds and any other promotions or offers. As you’re looking at prices, don’t forget to find out about installation fees, as those can add to your upfront costs. Equipment rentals — including modems, routers, and set-top boxes, where applicable — can also run the monthly payment up. Faster speeds tend to cost more, and contract lengths can make a difference as well. In general, cable is usually an affordable option that can meet the requirements of nearly any budget, but consumers can save even more depending on if their selected plan is bundled with TV or phone packages. Bundles usually end up saving money, so they’re worth looking into.
FiberBecause faster speeds means a bigger bill, it’s no surprise that fiber-optic Internet — with its higher speed capacities — is usually more expensive than cable. Most fiber Internet plans start around $50, though some stand-alone fiber Internet plans can top out over $100 per month. In addition, fiber Internet usually requires extensive installation, which adds to the overall price you’ll pay. Fiber Internet providers also offer contracts and introductory specials and discounts for customers. It may be worthwhile to commit to a two-year contract if it keeps your monthly bill from increasing. In addition, look for promotions that may reduce or completely eliminate the installation and activation fees. Bundles, though often less extensive than cable bundling options, do exist and can help cut costs further. After weighing the benefits and drawbacks of both options, it’s time to make a decision. Determine what’s most important to you, figure out what kinds of speeds make sense for your household or business, and start shopping for providers in your area today.
When you think of high-speed, affordable Internet, you’re usually thinking of cable Internet. Using a coaxial connection, data is transmitted over a cable-based network, making this connection type faster and more reliable than DSL. And while you may not get quite the speed capacity of fiber Internet, cable Internet is typically much less expensive.Although not as well-known as some of the bigger names in the cable industry, Charter Spectrum provides reliable Internet to more than 6 million customers in 28 states. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at Charter Spectrum’s fast and affordable Internet service.