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.

 

DSL or Fiber: Find the Right One for You

Internet 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 Overview

The 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.

DSL

DSL 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.

Fiber

Fiber-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 Setup

Many 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.

DSL

DSL 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.

Fiber

Fiber-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 Speeds

There 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.

DSL

Residential 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.

Fiber

Fiber-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 Availability

Not 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.

DSL

DSL 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.

Fiber

Laying 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 Costs

While 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.

DSL

Because 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.

Fiber

Because 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-Away

There’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. Internet is a must-have utility for most renters and homeowners, with  of the population regularly getting online. But as much as consumers rely on having fast Internet access, they also want to find the best deal to keep their bills low. (TWC) is one of the most popular Internet providers, offering several affordable cable Internet plans for a variety of needs. If you’re looking for  than DSL but a lower price tag than a fiber-optic connection, read on to learn more about TWC’s inexpensive Internet options.  

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 Internet

Cable 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 Hotspots

In 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 Basics

Unlike 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.  

Cable

Cable 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.  

Fiber

Fiber 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 Installation

Both 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.  

Cable

Cable 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.  

Fiber

Fiber 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 Usage

When 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.  

Cable

Cable 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.  

Fiber

Even 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 Options

It 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.  

Cable

Fortunately, 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.  

Fiber

Fiber 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 Reliability

Both 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.  

Cable

In 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.  

Fiber

Fiber 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 Bundling

No 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.  

Cable

Most 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.  

Fiber

Because 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.  

One Speed, One Option

Unlike most other Internet providers, Charter Spectrum advertises only one stand-alone Internet package — a plan with speeds up to 60 Mbps at $39.99 per month for 12 months. This one-tier approach may turn off some consumers, but it’s designed to provide fast Internet to all subscribers for one low monthly price. At this speed, multiple users can rely on the same connection to listen to music, stream videos, and download files. Despite being more expensive than several other companies’ basic Internet packages, Charter Spectrum’s Internet service provides several perks. In addition to receiving fast Internet, subscribers get free online protection through Charter’s Security Suite, which includes real-time protection against spyware and viruses, a secure firewall, and more. Charter Spectrum Internet™ plans also provide free access to EPIX online content and a free Internet modem, meaning you can save between $6 and $10 per month on equipment rentals.  

What’s the Best Package Deal from Charter Spectrum?

While the $39.99 package is the cheapest Internet-only option from Charter Spectrum, it isn’t necessarily the best for every situation. Most users find that bundled plans provide better prices and more expansive services than individual packages. When you bundle with other options, the price of Internet drops down to $29.99 — saving subscribers around 25 percent each month. If you need a phone line in addition to your network connection, for example, you’ll pay $29.99 for Internet and $19.99 for Charter Spectrum Voice™  monthly for 12 months. If you are looking to bundle Internet with Charter Spectrum TV™ instead, packages start at $89.98 per month for 12 months. That breaks down to $59.99 for cable — including more than 125 channels, free HD service, and access to more than 10,000 On Demand choices — and $29.99 for Internet. For an even larger package combining TV, Internet, and Voice, the best deal is the Charter Spectrum™ Triple Play Gold package. At just $40 more per month than the above-mentioned TV and Internet plan, the Triple Play Gold package provides 60 Mbps Internet, unlimited nationwide calling, more than 200 cable TV channels, popular premium channels — including HBO®, Cinemax®, Showtime®, Starz®, and others — and HD and DVR service.   Although Charter Spectrum advertises only one stand-alone cable Internet package, the company’s bundled deals will help you save on your monthly costs for a wide range of services. As you evaluate Charter Spectrum’s offerings, check to see which package offers the features you need, rather than choosing based on price alone. If service isn’t currently available to your home, search for another Internet provider that offers the plans you need.   *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. Some things are easier to shop for than others. Finding the right Internet Service Provider (ISP) can be one of the tough ones — but it doesn’t have to be. We know that you want to secure the best service at the best price. That’s why we’ve taken a close look at the top Internet providers across the country and compared them based on advertised plan variety, downstream speeds, price, and customer support and reliability. Review our findings and suggestions below, and say goodbye to those ISP shopping nightmares.   Plan Variety Internet habits and needs vary widely, so the number of plans available should be a big consideration when choosing an Internet provider. You need to know that your provider is able to deliver the services you want at a price you can afford. There are a few different types of plan that ISPs offer. Some are stand-alone Internet plans that provide only a connection to the Internet. Others are bundled plans, combining Internet with other services like television or a phone line. When it comes to which ISP offers the most advertised stand-alone Internet plan options, the leaders seem to be XFINITY® and Time Warner Cable®. Each company has as many as six widely advertised options, and that doesn’t include any bundled packages. Charter Spectrum falls at the other end of the scale, actively advertising only one stand-alone Internet plan. Most other Internet services, including AT&T and Cox have between three and five stand-alone Internet plans each. Nearly all providers have bundling options. It’s important to take inventory of your overall needs when shopping for Internet, so that you can choose the plan that makes the most sense for you from both service and financial perspectives. If you are already in a contract with another provider, some ISPs, like Charter Spectrum, have offers that will help buy out your current contract when you switch. Also keep in mind that not all plans are available in all areas. Providers may have more or fewer plans than advertised, depending on your location. Make sure you reach out to each ISP near you to learn what offerings exist in your ZIP code.   Speeds When it comes to the Internet, faster is usually better — but not always. With multiple people and devices accessing the Internet simultaneously, busy homes need speeds that can handle heavy traffic. A single person, on the other hand, might be satisfied with significantly less speed. If you’re not sure how much speed you need, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a guide to help you figure it out. You can also use an online speed test to see what speeds you are currently getting from your provider. Today, XFINITY has some astoundingly fast options. In certain areas, the company offers downstream speeds up to 2 Gbps as part of their Gigabit Pro plans. However, XFINITY’s lower tier options — ranging between 10 and 75 Mbps — are likely more cost-effective for normal Internet users. Cox and Windstream have plans available for up to 100 Mbps, but again, the availability of those speeds may be limited based on location. Time Warner Cable, AT&T, and CenturyLink provide speeds between 40 and 50 Mbps, which is plenty fast for most standard Internet activities.   Price It’s no surprise that the bottom line for choosing an ISP is often how much it’s going to cost every month. Internet plans vary widely, ranging from as little as $15 to over $200 per month. Factors that impact monthly costs include the type of service, speeds, and whether or not the service is combined in a bundle for a discounted rate. First-time customers also often have access to better prices than those available to people who already have an account. Most providers offer an introductory package at a reasonable price, usually starting at close to $20 per month. Time Warner offers one of the cheapest standard plans for just $15 per month. CenturyLink and Frontier both have Internet packages that start around $20 per month. XFINITY, Charter Spectrum, and Cox all start their basic stand-alone Internet plans between $30 and $45 for monthly service. Some of the most expensive plans on the market are from XFINITY, which has fast options available in limited areas for as much as $300 per month. Other typical plans across most fiber, cable, and DSL providers range from $30 to $80 per month, depending on the services included. Time Warner, for instance, has 16 different cable Internet package options that range from the aforementioned stand-alone Internet for $15 per month to a bundle with over 200 cable channels, phone service, and Internet downstream speeds up to 50 Mbps for around $130 each month. When it comes to price, the many variables of location, speed, and bundling can make a big difference. It’s smart to shop around and even check with your current provider to see if they will offer you a break to stay with them instead of losing you to a competitor. If you do sign up for an introductory rate, make sure to pay attention to when the deal expires so you can follow up and ask for an extension or find out what other offers you might be able to tap into.   Customer Support and Reliability It doesn’t matter if you found the best deal or the fastest speeds if the provider isn’t reliable. Equally important is the availability of support when something goes wrong. Most ISPs provide 24-hour support available via phone, email, or online chat. AT&T offers a fee-based service that guarantees personalized service with no wait to customers who select that option. XFINITY and Cox both offer live chat, as well as online troubleshooting guides. Time Warner has extensive online support tools, too. In rare instances, a technician may need to be dispatched to your home to assist with a technical problem. Most providers have qualified technicians available in all areas where their services are offered, but it’s a good idea to check before signing any contracts. In regard to connection reliability, XFINITY, Time Warner, and AT&T have all performed well on third-party tests. These companies experience limited downtime and experienced speeds are generally close to what is advertised. If you’re in a fairly rural area, wired connections may not reliably reach your home. In that case, you may want to consider a satellite Internet connection. Though costlier than most traditional wired connections, HughesNet is one of the most reliable satellite ISPs — as long as you can access the southern sky, you should be able to connect.   The Takeaway It can pay to do your homework when it comes to Internet service. As you shop around, consider the speeds that you need, the possibility of bundling with other services like TV and phone, and the price you’re willing to pay. Remember that new customers are usually able to take advantage of introductory rates or special discounts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a deal if you’re a long-term customer. It’s time to stop thinking about getting a better Internet deal, and start finding one. Use this information to help you secure an Internet deal that keeps you online without breaking the bank.   *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. Everyone loves a great deal, especially when it comes to monthly services. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) understand this principle, which is why many of them offer free equipment or other perks when you sign up for service. If you’re not sure what perks your current ISP offers, or if you’re shopping for a new ISP altogether, this guide will help you figure out which provider is offering a deal that you simply can’t refuse.   XFINITY You’re probably familiar with some basic XFINITY® offerings, including fast speeds and a rapidly expanding service area, but what you may not know is that every XFINITY customer also has access to an additional service called Internet on the Go. With Internet on the Go, subscribers have free access to over 8 million hotspots nationwide. This extensive coverage, paired with the XFINITY Connect™ app, makes it easy to keep track of appointments and check email away from home. Another perk is Constant Guard® by XFINITY. All XFINITY Internet customers receive basic online security protection via the Norton™ Security Suite, which provides protection against viruses and spyware. The company also makes it easy to add upgrades to regular monthly bills.   Charter Spectrum Charter Spectrum is one of the only ISPs that provides customers with a free modem across most plan offerings — including bundles. This helps reduce overall monthly costs, as it saves users from paying a rental fee for this necessary equipment. Another feature that Charter Spectrum offers is month-to-month service. Customers can enjoy reliable, fast Internet without being tied down to a contract. This gives users flexibility and freedom to choose the Internet plan that makes the most sense for them, even if their needs change. In fact, Charter Spectrum is so committed to abolishing contracts that certain new customers may qualify for up to a $500 buyout to help them get out of a current contract with another provider.   CenturyLink All CenturyLink Internet plans include basic protection from CenturyLink @Ease® online security by Norton™. Customers can adjust their level of security coverage and take advantage of the peace of mind that comes with Identity Guard for an additional monthly fee. The company also offers a 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee for new Internet customers, a policy that ensures any user who is not satisfied with their CenturyLink service can cancel within 30 days and receive a credit for all Internet service charges, modem or router charges, shipping fees, activation fees, and any other applicable taxes or other surcharges. As an added bonus, subscribers can avoid installation fees by opting for CenturyLink’s self-installation kit, which includes everything necessary to get an Internet connection up and running. Plus, customers who order a CenturyLink bundle online may qualify for a prepaid Visa card worth up to $150. The company also offers prepaid Visa cards for customers who refer friends and family members to CenturyLink.   Cox Subscribers enjoy a variety of free services with their Cox High Speed Internet™ plan. The company starts things on the right foot by waiving installation fees, but it doesn’t stop there. Cox gives customers a free Cox email account with Cloud storage, which is protected by free security through the Cox Security Suite powered by McAfee®. The Security Suite also provides antivirus protection and an online app that customers can use to check the security of their home wireless network. Additionally, Cox gives High Speed Internet subscribers access to Music Choice, a portal that offers a wide selection of music channels, videos, and original programming. Customers can listen to more than 50 pre-made channels or create their own music channels and video playlists.   Windstream Windstream offers its subscribers the ability to sign up for High Speed Internet without the hassle of a long-term contract. Very few other ISPs provide such a winning combination of flexibility and security. Windstream’s solid plan offerings are backed up by an extensive 24/7 help network. In addition to a large library of online support resources, Windstream also provides real-time assistance via their virtual agent, Wendy. Customers can chat live with Wendy, email questions to support, or call the help line directly at any time, day or night.   AT&T AT&T U-verse® Internet plans include up to 11 email accounts and 2 GB of secure online storage. In addition, U-verse customers have access to AT&T’s extensive network of public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country and internationally. Users can consult the company’s Wi-Fi location map to find hotspots, whether they are close to home or on vacation. This allows U-verse customers consistent access to their Internet service and other network resources. U-verse also offers one particular benefit that most other ISPs don’t: a battery backup. This device will keep customers’ Internet services up and running, even if the power goes out. The backup only extends power for a few hours, but that can be the difference between saving a current project and losing hours of work. For customers who live in areas where severe weather often affects power, this perk could be a lifesaver.   In addition to all of these great perks, several of the above listed companies offer further discounts for subscribers with limited financial means. So no matter what your situation, if you need Internet service, there are ISPs that can provide the benefits you want. Now that you know the kinds of perks that are out there, it’s time to stop browsing and start shopping. Check out providers in your area today. We love the freedom Wi-Fi provides: once you get a taste of being able to connect to the Internet wirelessly, it’s hard to imagine going back to being tethered to a desk. But just because you’ve set up a home Wi-Fi network doesn’t mean it’s working as well as it could be.   The Lamp Test Placing your router right next to your desktop computer may sound like a good idea, but the computer itself can actually block the router’s signal. Hiding your router behind the TV or in a cabinet can have the same effect. Wi-Fi works best when you have direct line-of-sight between your router and your connected device: anything that gets in the way can lower the strength of your signal. Imagine your router is a lamp and its signal is the light emitted by the lamp. Any “shady” areas will probably experience worse Wi-Fi reception than those in direct light. You’ll still have a signal in those shady areas, just as you can still see in the shade, but the signal won’t be as strong.   Electrical Enigmas A wall and a couch can impede Wi-Fi signals, but electrical appliances can play a more active role: one of the main contributors to poor Wi-Fi performance is electrical interference. Your home is full of possible culprits, but many of the worst offenders are the ones that, like your router, produce radio waves: baby monitors and cordless telephones. Microwaves are another common source of Wi-Fi interference — they’re capable of degrading Wi-Fi speed by as much as 50 percent. Some of the factors that can reduce Wi-Fi performance are fairly obvious, but others might come as a surprise. For example, a fish tank: it’s harder for Wi-Fi signals to pass through water than air, so don’t put your fish between your router and a spot where you’ll frequently use your Wi-Fi. Lamps are another surprise offender: fluorescent lights can interfere with your Wi-Fi signal.   Location, Location … Elevation Even if there’s nothing nearby to block your router’s signal, its location still matters. Placing it in one far corner of the house might be the most convenient location, but the most convenient location and the best location aren’t always the same thing. Every Wi-Fi router’s performance degrades with distance. If it’s in one corner of the house and you’re in another, your Wi-Fi may not be as fast and reliable as it could be. To get the best performance out of your Wi-Fi, place the router either in a central location, providing maximum coverage for your home, or close to where you actually use it most often. You can also unknowingly limit the quality of your Wi-Fi network by placing your router too low. Don’t leave it on the floor, or even worse, in the basement. Instead, place it as high as you reasonably can: the higher it is, the fewer obstructions the signal will have to pass through. If you live in a multistory home, place the router on the level where you’ll use it most frequently, or consider getting a Wi-Fi extender.   Not sure if you have a problem? If you suspect your Wi-Fi should be faster than it is, there’s an easy way to test it. First, make sure you have a relatively new Wi-Fi router and know how much speed it’s capable of. If your equipment is up to date, try connecting your computer directly to your cable or high-speed modem using the Ethernet cord. If it’s dramatically faster than your Wi-Fi, you may have an interference problem. If your Internet is still too slow when connected via cable, maybe what you really need is a new Internet Service Provider (ISP). Enter your ZIP code below to see which ISPs offer service in your area and to compare their plans. From DSL to cable to fiber, Internet subscribers are faced with seemingly endless choices when it comes to connection options. While DSL and cable are widely popular services, fiber Internet is unfamiliar territory for many. Despite its smaller user base, fiber-optic Internet actually offers many unique benefits compared to DSL and cable. If you’re considering switching to fiber Internet, this is the guide for you.   What is fiber Internet and how does it work? Unlike DSL or cable, fiber Internet relies on optical cables that are composed of thousands of thin strands of glass that contain three parts — the core, the cladding, and the buffer coating. The cable transmits data via light signals that travel through the core, and the light is reflected back by the cladding, allowing signals to travel along the cable.   What are the benefits of fiber Internet? The greatest advantage of fiber Internet is its speed. It’s the fastest Internet option available because its optical cables can quickly carry large amounts of data over long distances. Some fiber connections offer downstream speeds of up to 1 Gbps, which is over 50 times faster than the national average of 18.2 Mbps. If you frequently download music, use Internet-based programs, or stream movies, you’ll quickly notice the difference between fiber Internet and cable or DSL. Another big benefit is that fiber Internet is very reliable. The system network doesn’t generate or carry electricity, meaning your fiber Internet connection is less likely to be interrupted during a power outage. As an added bonus, this also reduces risk of electrical or fire damage. Finally, fiber Internet is private. A dedicated network is installed in your home so you don’t have to share the Internet with any neighbors. This makes your Internet connection somewhat more secure from network traffic lags.   What companies offer fiber Internet? There are more than two dozen fiber Internet providers, from the popular AT&T to local companies such as Cincinnati Bell. Google Fiber is one of the newer providers on the market and is working on expanding its network beyond the three locations it currently services.   Is fiber Internet available in my area? In order for fiber Internet to work, the Internet provider has to build a network infrastructure in each geographic area it seeks to service. That’s why fiber Internet isn’t readily available across the country and is especially lacking in rural areas. For comparison, 89 percent of the U.S. has access to cable Internet providers, whereas only 25 percent can use fiber Internet. However, fiber Internet’s availability is quickly expanding into more markets. The best way to find out if fiber Internet is available in your area is to check with individual Internet providers. Many providers make it easy for you to check availability by looking up your ZIP code.   What equipment do I need for fiber Internet? Fiber to the Home (FTTH) services — where fiber cables run from the provider to your residence, instead of terminating at a remote hub — do not require a separate modem. Instead, they use a terminal to translate light pulses into electric signals that your computer can recognize. You may still need a router to provide a wireless access point to your Internet connection. Some providers offer routers with their fiber packages, but if you want to purchase your own, you’ll need to make sure it’s capable of handling the speeds you’ve subscribed to. As a general rule, your fiber Internet provider will be able to supply some of this basic connection hardware, though you’ll want to confirm if there will be any associated costs beforehand.   Should I switch to fiber Internet? Fiber Internet can save you hours of wasted time downloading large files, loading Internet-based programs, or streaming video or music. And as industry competition increases, prices are becoming more reasonable. If you want a reliable Internet connection that offers the fastest speeds available, fiber Internet is your best option. Start researching local fiber providers to make the switch. Are you on the hunt for a cheaper Internet Service Provider (ISP)? If you aren’t, you should be. Internet is a necessity in the modern American home, and it’s a service that many consider a basic human right in this day and age. The U.S., however, is not known for great data prices. In fact, the U.S. has been lagging behind the rest of the globe on Internet speeds for several years now. CNN even dubbed America the “Bastion of mediocre Internet speeds.” But even if you can’t get a world-class deal on Internet service, you may still be able to save by switching plans or providers.   Where Do I Start? As Internet costs continue to rise in the wireless era, you should be searching for the most reasonable price based on where you live. Your ZIP code matters. The Cost of Connectivity report from the Open Technology Institute recently studied the cost and speed of Internet in 24 cities around the world. The organization found that for a plan up to 50 Mbps, you’ll pay under $50 a month in Kansas City, whereas in Los Angeles, you’ll pay near $70 for that same plan. If you’re researching lower-cost ISPs available in your area, you should be able to find a few different options. Although some areas are dominated by a single provider, there are often a lot of smaller providers available that you may not be aware of — and they’re likely offering cheaper service plans. Switching ISPs — or even just switching your plan — could save you quite a bit.   What Factors Affect Provider and Plan Costs? Internet prices vary depending on a variety of options. Here are some of the biggest factors to look at before deciding on a plan.
  1. ISP Type
DSL, cable, fiber-optic, and satellite Internet vary in cost and availability. Generally, cable offers the most expensive plans, while DSL offers significantly cheaper options. Satellite is a great option for rural subscribers, while fiber-optic Internet is available only in select cities. You’ll have more luck finding a cheaper plan if you go with an ISP type that has an established infrastructure in your area.
  1. Downstream Speed Options
If your Internet needs are simpler and you don’t stream videos or share files, you can save by choosing an ISP that offers slower plans. Plans that offer speeds up to 10 Mbps will end up costing significantly less than those advertising speeds of 100 Mbps or more, so don’t pay for more than what you need.
  1. Bundled Packages
Bundled Internet packages that combine your TV and home phone services can equal big savings. Factor in all of your communication and entertainment needs when you’re searching for a provider.
  1. Equipment Fees
Pay attention to any required equipment fees with potential ISPs. Some providers will waive equipment costs for certain plans, and you may also be able to avoid fees by purchasing your own equipment.
  1. Contract Length
Many providers offer discounted services to customers willing to sign a longer contract. However, you’ll have more room for negotiations with current and potential ISPs if you aren’t locked into a service agreement. Weigh the pros and cons of these two options carefully.
  1. Promotional Offers
Take advantage of ISP promotional offers, including low introductory rates. Don’t hesitate to haggle with your provider, either. Many ISPs will drop costs rather than lose a paying customer.
  1. Fine Print
Read the fine print to discover if you could save by installing your own modem or performing repairs by yourself. Additionally, take the time to understand any contractual obligations — some ISPs have hefty cancellation fees if you break your agreement before the term is up. Regardless of where you fall on the Internet-use spectrum, you don’t have to settle with your current monthly Internet costs. Take some time to explore other local plan and provider options. To easily search nearby providers, check out this Internet provider guide, which lists ISPs based on your ZIP code, compares providers side-by-side, and includes customer reviews.
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