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Cheapest Internet Service Providers of 2021

Money matters. And overpaying for internet service is one way to wreck the monthly budget. Sure, an internet service provider (ISP) may offer premium plans to get you online, but sometimes the least-expensive option will suffice. It pays to be an informed consumer.

“ISP pricing can vary dramatically based on location and the number of competitors in a market. It’s definitely worth shopping around,” says Mark Lubow, a veteran cable and telecommunications expert who heads the Cloud11 consultancy in Atlanta.

But which internet providers igtarget have the least expensive plans? And are they fast enough and reliable enough to support your online activities? Read on to find out.

A woman typing on a laptop.
(DRAZEN_)

Our Cheapest Internet Service Rating
#1 RCN
#2 Optimum
#3 Xfinity
#3 Cox
#3 Mediacom

How Much Is High-Speed Internet?
COMPANY MONTHLY COST EQUIPMENT RENTAL FEE INSTALLATION FEE TERMINATION FEE
Xfinity Internet »
$29.99 and Up $14/month and Up Varies Varies
Verizon Internet »
$39.99 and Up $15/month and Up $99 and Up $0.00
AT&T Internet »
$35 and Up $10/month and Up $0 and Up Up to $180
Spectrum Internet »
$49.99 and Up Varies Varies $0.00
Cox Internet »
$29.99 and Up $0 and Up $0 and Up Up to $120

Expand List
The cost of high-speed internet varies by plan speed. Typically, the higher the speed, the more a plan will cost.

The least expensive plans are usually the slowest. They may not even be considered broadband, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines as having a minimum download speed to receive data of 25 megabits per second (Mpbs) and a minimum upload speed to send data of 3 Mbps. Mbps is the measurement of how fast data passes through an internet connection.

Our analysis found the Fastest Internet Plans of 2021 have download speeds of 940 to 2,000 Mbps and range in cost from $75 to more than $299 per month. By comparison, the cheapest plans offered by five of our top-rated internet providers have download speeds of 6 to 100 Mbps, but they also cost significantly less: between about $20 and $35 per month.

A lower speed plan may be all you need if you spend the majority of your online time emailing and browsing websites. Depending on where you live, affordable plans with prices around $30 a month are available for almost every connection type, including cable, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), and fiber optic connections. Satellite internet tends to be pricier. For example, the least expensive plan in our comparison of the Best Satellite Internet Providers starts at $40 a month.

Fees and taxes add significantly to your plan’s total price. A Consumer Reports investigation found fees add almost $450 to the average cable customer’s bill each year. “That’s a pretty significant hidden tax on consumers, especially when they don’t have to include these fees in the advertised prices of their cable plans,” says Lubow.

Fees are assessed for installation, equipment rental, and terminating a contract early, among other things. See the chart above for some fees. For a complete list, read the “understanding your bill” section on your internet provider’s website.

For more guidance on getting internet access that is both fast and affordable, see our What Cheap Fast Internet Plan Should I Get? section below.

The Cheapest Internet Service From Our Best Internet Service Provider Ranking
Cheapest Internet Service Providers of 2021

COMPANY MONTHLY COST CONNECTION TYPE DOWNLOAD SPEED (MBPS) LEARN MORE
RCN Internet »
3.9 out of 5
$19.99 and Up Fiber, Cable 25 Mbps – 940 Mbps See Review »
Optimum Internet »
3.4 out of 5
$24.95 and Up Fiber, Cable 10 Mbps – 940 Mbps See Review »
855-741-1615
Xfinity Internet »
4.3 out of 5
$29.99 and Up Cable 15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps See Review »
Cox Internet »
3.9 out of 5
$29.99 and Up Fiber, Cable 10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps View Plans »
844-913-7278
Mediacom Internet »
3.6 out of 5
$29.99 and Up Cable 60 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps View Plans »
855-740-0561
*Based on the lowest starting monthly cost

We analyzed our Best Internet Service ratings to create our list of the Cheapest Internet Service of 2021. Our rating is based on advertised prices, which may reflect discounts for new residential customers. As such, you may see the plan price increase when the promotional period ends, usually after one year. Look for a bundle — an internet package that comes with extras such as phone or TV service — which may reduce your overall costs more than if you pay for each service separately. While some internet providers offer contract-free plans allowing you to pay month-to-month, a contract may lower the monthly price.

Here are the Cheapest Internet Services of 2021, starting with the least expensive plan:

RCN Internet »

RCN Internet
360 OVERALL RATING
3.9 out of 5

MONTHLY COST
$19.99 and Up
CONNECTION TYPE
Fiber, Cable
DOWNLOAD SPEED
25 Mbps – 940 Mbps
BUNDLES
Internet, TV, Phone
SEE REVIEW
RCN: According to our research, RCN has the least expensive base plan from our rating of the Best Internet Services. RCN offers internet in six major metropolitan markets: Chicago, Boston, Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Plan prices and speeds vary by market. RCN uses a combination of cable and fiber optic technologies to connect you to the internet. Its least expensive plan costs as low as $19.99 per month and has a download speed of 25 Mbps. Upload speeds aren’t published. You don’t have to sign a contract and discounts like free equipment installation or a free month of service may be available. Plus, its customer service is U.S.-based and available 24/7. For more information, see our RCN internet review or check out the top RCN coupon codes.

Optimum Internet »

Optimum Internet
855-741-1615
360 OVERALL RATING
3.4 out of 5

MONTHLY COST
$24.95 and Up
CONNECTION TYPE
Fiber, Cable
DOWNLOAD SPEED
10 Mbps – 940 Mbps
BUNDLES
Internet, TV, or Phone
SEE REVIEW
Optimum: Optimum comes in second on our list of the Cheapest Internet Service of 2021. It offers a plan called Optimum 10, a hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) plan costing $24.95 a month. For that, you get 10 Mbps of download speed and 1 Mbps up upload speed. There’s no data cap and no contract. The service is available in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Installation normally is $99, although the company runs frequent online specials that reduce or eliminate installation fees. Read more in our review of Optimum internet.

Xfinity Internet »

Xfinity Internet
Best ISP Overall

360 OVERALL RATING
4.3 out of 5

MONTHLY COST
$29.99 and Up
CONNECTION TYPE
Cable
DOWNLOAD SPEED
15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps
BUNDLES
Internet, TV, Phone or Home Security
SEE REVIEW
Xfinity: Owned by Comcast, Xfinity ties for third our rating of the Cheapest Internet Service of 2021. Its entry-level Performance Starter plan provides cable internet for as low as $29.99 per month. This plan features a download speed of 15 to 25 Mbps, an upload speed of 2 Mbps, and a 1.2 TB data limit. Equipment rental fees start at $14 a month. You don’t need to enter a long-term contract but doing so could save you money. The fee varies for ending such a contract early. Discounts also are available for autopay/paperless billing and for installing the equipment yourself. Plus, you get free online security software and access to a nationwide network of Wi-Fi hot spots. Xfinity offers service in 39 states and Washington, D.C. Read more in our review of Xfinity internet or check out the top Xfinity promo codes.

Cox Internet »

Cox Internet
844-913-7278
View Plans
360 OVERALL RATING
3.9 out of 5

MONTHLY COST
$29.99 and Up
CONNECTION TYPE
Fiber, Cable
DOWNLOAD SPEED
10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps
BUNDLES
Internet, TV, Phone or Automation/Security
SEE REVIEW
Cox: In our review of the Cheapest Internet Service, Cox tied for third for low-cost internet service. Its Internet Starter plan is the company’s least-expensive plan. It starts at $29.99 per month, and has a download speed of 10 Mbps and an upload speed of 1 Mbps, and protects you with free antivirus and anti-malware software. You aren’t required to enter into a long-term service contract, although doing so could save you money. Ending a contract early, however, will cost up to $120. Your data use is capped at 1.25 TB. Cox is available in 13 states. For more information, see our Cox internet review or check out the top Cox promo codes.

Mediacom Internet »

Mediacom Internet
855-740-0561
View Plans
360 OVERALL RATING
3.6 out of 5

MONTHLY COST
$29.99 and Up
CONNECTION TYPE
Cable
DOWNLOAD SPEED
60 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps
BUNDLES
Internet, TV, or Phone
SEE REVIEW
Medacom: Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 plan costs $19.99 month for the first year, after which the price increases to $29.99 a month. This cable internet plan provides up to 60 Mbps download speeds and up to 5 Mbps upload speeds. Data is capped at 60 GB, but no contract is required. Mediacom cable offers coverage in 22 states. Note that the early termination fee is relatively high at $200. Read more in our review of Mediacom internet.

Cheap Internet Available in My Area
SELECT COMPANY

RCN Internet
Available
Available in

District Of ColumbiaIllinoisMarylandMassachusettsNew YorkPennsylvaniaVirginia

To find which internet providers offer service in your area, consult our map. Another useful tool is the FCC’s Fixed Broadband Deployment locator. If our Cheapest Internet Plans of 2021 are not available in your area, you may need to subscribe to a slightly more expensive plan.

Even when an internet provider operates in your zip code, it doesn’t mean every plan, speed, or price is available to you. To check what the company offers in your neighborhood, enter your home address on the ISP’s website. Most have a button or form to do this.

The internet providers in our rating of the Cheapest Internet Service are available throughout the U.S. Xfinity operates in 39 states and Washington, D.C. Cox provides service in 13 states; Frontier in 33. RCN is available in six major metropolitan markets in the Northeast and Chicago.

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