Internet access is a practical necessity these days, but in many areas, there are only a few choices of providers, all of which are expensive. Here are some ways you might be able to cut your Internet bill.
1. Get discounted or free Internet through the Federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
In 2022, congress passed President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with provisions for low-cost or even free Internet based on your household income or enrollment in an existing government program such as SNAP. Check the ACP website to see if you qualify.
Note that even if you qualify, and even if your Internet service provider supports this law, the customer support folks at those providers are sometimes clueless about these programs. Here’s an example of the hoops one customer had to jump through at Specturm. Keep poking around and don’t give up.
2. Threaten to Leave
Call your Internet service provider and tell them you’d like to stop their service because it’s too expensive. There’s a 90% chance they’ll come back to you with some kind of money-saving offer. It might involve signing up for a year, or other stipulations, but it could be worth it.
This worked for me with my cable company when I canceled my cable TV. They immediately offered to lower my rate if I signed on for a year. This is the most effective tactic I know of.
If they don’t offer any discount, you can always just change your mind and keep the service.
3. Switch to a Lower-Speed Plan
Ask your Internet provider about a lower-cost, lower-speed option. These are often not publicized. Time-Warner’s Standard cable Internet package costs $44.99 for 15Mbps, which is overkill for most home users, but that is what most people get because that’s what the cable companies push. Time Warner’s Basic package is $29.99 per month for 3Mbps and their Lite package is $19.99 for 1Mbps. That might sound slow, but when I had crappy DSL, which is only 1Mbps, I could still watch videos online (although they are sometimes sluggish).
So, even if you only go down to the Basic 3Mbps package, you will save $180 per year with probably no noticeable speed difference! If you go down to 1Mbps (which is what I used to have on DSL), you’ll more than cut your bill in half and save $300 per year!
Just for reference, Netflix requires a minimum speed of 0.5Mbps, so you still should be able to watch video with the lower speeds.
4. Switch Providers Often to Take Advantage of Introductory Rates
Internet Service Providers offer really good rates for the first year, then they jack up rates. If you don’t mind switching ISPs every year or so (yes, it is a pain), then you can take advantage of these good introductory rates.
5. Buy Your Own Modem (Don’t Rent)
Some Internet providers charge a monthly “rental fee” for the modem. This is really outrageous and you should protest and threaten to buy your own if they don’t waive this fee. Cable Modems cost around $60 so after a few years of rental fees, they will be making pure profit at your expense. So, go to your cable company’s website and look for a list of approved modems (or just Google it), then buy it yourself on Amazon and save the monthly fees!
6. Tether Your Cell Phone
If you have an Android or iOS phone with Internet access, you might be able to “tether” it to your computer, basically allowing you to get Internet access for your computer through your phone and not pay for home Internet access. I wouldn’t use this technique to watch a movie or anything like that. It will work for normal email and light web browsing. Check your carrier’s policies about bandwidth and total download amounts. You could eat through any limits pretty quickly by doing this and actually spend more if you have the wrong kind of plan. But, if you have a data plan with lots of GB of data, or unlimited data, it might be worth it.
Here is an article that describes how to do it on Android.
Check with your carrier and be careful about data limits that could really raise the cost.
7. Use Old-School Dialup Internet for Free
There are some Internet providers like Net Zero and Juno that give ten free hours of dialup access (remember that screeching noise when connecting?) per month. Obviously, these services are going to be slow because they are dialup, and they have big ads that make them even slower. They can be hard to connect to during peak times. Cancelling can be a bit of a pain, sometimes requiring a phone call. But, if you really can’t afford anything else, these services can be a last resort if you just want to hop on the Internet to grab your email and things like that. It won’t be very fun though.
Net Zero and Juno also have low-cost paid dial-up services that start at around $10 per month.
8. Go To Your Public Library
You could go to Starbucks for free Internet, but if you have to buy a coffee every time, that can be more expensive than just getting home Internet. Most public libraries offer free Internet access if you get a library card. Yes, it’s not home Internet, but it might work if you only need it occasionally and get Internet on your phone the rest of the time.
Of course, you can also get Internet at Starbucks, but you have to buy something so that cancels out the savings.
9. Find Low-Cost Internet at Everyoneon.com
Check out everyoneon.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find low-cost internet. Just type in your zip code and answer a few questions to get some possibilities.
10. Ask Your Cable Company About Low-Income Plans
Some cable companies have low-rate plans for people with low incomes. Comcast offers a $9.95 per month plan if you have a child eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Check with your local provider to see what they offer.
11. Use Free Community Wi-Fi
Some cities are starting to roll out free Wi-Fi to their residents. Check your city’s website to see if you’re one of the lucky ones. For example, the city of Santa Monica offers free Wi-Fi in many parks.
12. Cut Cable TV and Landline
You can cut the cable TV portion of your service while still retaining cable Internet. If you live in an area with TV broadcast stations within 30 miles, and you have a modern flat TV, you should be able to get most of the network channels for free using an antenna. Check out DisableMyCable.com for more info on this!
And yes, it’s true that “bundling saves money”, but not if you don’t use all of the bundled services. It’s also true that the cable companies are raising the cost of Internet-only service, so be sure to compare. It might make sense to bundle the first year, then drop TV and phone after.
13. Check out T-Mobile Home Internet
If you’re paying over $60/month for Internet, check out T-Mobile’s new home internet service which uses its 5G wireless network (yes, the same network that cell phones use). It’s ideal for rural locations that can’t get affordable cable Internet access.
Reviews so far have been good, although there are some caveats. The service is currently not compatible with Hulu+ Live TV. Check with the streaming services that you want to use before purchasing.
Any other ideas to save on Internet access? Please leave a comment. – Brian