wireless Internet router

How to Save Money on Internet Access

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. 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.

2. Switch to a Lower-Speen Plan

Ask your Internet provider about a lower-cost, lower-speed option. For example, 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.

3. 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 ISP’s every year or so (yes, it is a pain), then you can take advantage of these good introductory rates.

4. Buy Your Own Modem (Don’t Rent)

Some Internet providers charging 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!

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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 Starbuck’s, but you have to buy something so that cancels out the savings.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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

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32 Comments

  1. It’s interesting that a basic package that has 3Mbps could be adequate for an apartment. I want to try and save money for the next couple of months on my internet since it always costs a lot of money. Thanks for the tips and I’ll be sure to try other ways to save money.

  2. Hi, Brian, I had the basic 15 mbps from Xfinity. I bought my own router and modem. My bill was just over $50. I recently checked Xfinity’s “deals”. They are now selling 25 mbps for $40 a month for one year, increasing to $50 after a year. I expected I wouldn’t be eligible, but surprisingly I was able to sign up on their website no questions asked. I think they are probably replacing the 15 mgbs with the 25, but they certainly didn’t volunteer that information. Anyone who has the basic 15 might want to check on this. It still says in the fine print offer only for new customers, but I guess they are waiving that. I got an email confirming all the details and an instant upgrade in speed (I did a speed test). Regards, Gail

  3. I like how the article explains that you can save money on your internet plan by getting a lower speed plan if you don’t use very much internet. My husband and I aren’t home very much and when we are home, we aren’t really on the internet. Maybe because we don’t use the internet very much, we could switch to a lower speed plan to save some money.

    1. Hi Mia,

      Yes, give it a try! You’ll have to call your cable company because often those lower cost plans are not advertised.

      Best,
      Brian

  4. Maybe switching to a lower speed plan would help us save once we find a good internet service provider. Thanks for the tip that we should buy our own routers so that we won’t have to pay for renting it. I think tethering our phone would also help cut costs since we’ll be bundling them to get two services for one price.

  5. I tried that and it worked–once. Then after a year charter (now Spectrum) bumped me back up to $54 /mo. I threatened to leave again, and they said goodby.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Yes, some of these tips are one-time only, or you might have to switch providers every so often to get the lowest rates.

      Best,
      Brian

  6. I like that you mention asking your cable company if they have any lower-income plans. because there are so many different ways to save on internet costs, it’s worth trying a few. It’s important to me that I find an internet provider that is trustworthy and reliable while still charging a fair price.

  7. i connected a 1980/s round antenna and when i hung it from the centre of my aluminum frame front window and rotated it a bit i got 7 channels

  8. If you do have Internet and you have neighbors that can’t afford it , give them your password. If they abuse it cut them off by changing your password.
    We should all help each other and this is one way you can help.

    1. Hi Fred,

      That is a nice gesture, but it could be against the terms of service of your Internet provider. Check with your contract to be sure.

      Best,
      Brian

  9. Probably should let you know that WiFi sharing is a direct violation of your tos and possibly a felony depending on where you live.

    1. Many wireless services, including Verizon, allow and even encourage WIFI tethering. They sell MIFI devices in their stores. Some will charge a fee, Straight Talk and Family Wireless also have MIFI plans. Freedom wireless offers 500 MB of data free if you purchase their MIFI device for $19.95. Some local providers provide inexpensive WIFI access. In my area (Jefferson County Ohio)unlimited data service is provided from sites on water towers for $32/mo.

    1. Hi Camille,

      You can get DSL from a phone company. Other than that, certain cities are rolling out free civic Wi-Fi. Check with your city to see if yours is one that is doing that.

      Brian

  10. I like to watch TV when I want it so use TIVO. Is there any way to use the internet for recording both internet and local TV? Any “box” to intergrate Internet, Local and TIVO?

  11. This is a year without internet. I quit before i found this site. You have given me a lot of new ideas and most are easy to do. I have a roku running plex and can get some content that way, plus amazon prime. I wish i had saw the site for antennas i bought a very large one and get about 32 channels off the air. if i put a turning device on it i could get maybe10 more. i spent about 200 bucks total and the only thing i pay for is the internet and amazon. i had twc and they just went up to 49.99 and that’s with me buying my own router. but i’m saving 70 bucks a month now over cable tv. Thanks for all your help and incite. It really has helped me tweek things. i used a dish mounting after i removed the dish and inserted a 12 foot fence pole. Work great but the trees get in the way in the summer.. i found on amazon a digital converter with a pvr Homeworx HW 150pvr, with a 1080 hd pass thru for 35 bucks
    . It works great and no monthly fees. after setting it up it has worked like a charm. it records to a usb or hard drive thru a usb port. It might help someone else. looking for a cheap way to record ota tv. Thanks for all your helpful ideas

  12. Thanks for your wonderful website! You’ve inspired me to stop complaining and start saving. Just ordered a Mohu leaf for the tv. Next, call verizon. Thanks again!

  13. Brian, I have lupus, so I am often sick, huge medical bills, but I work full time, race in triathlons, and love only the first dozen channels on tv. My goal is to brutally slash expenses to pay off our student loans and retire with tiny expenses. I only use the internet to look up stuff, listen to pandora, Facebook, email, and watch Netflix, and for lupus support groups. No gaming or art. And I want to get rid of our home phone. We both have cell phones. We live in Summerfield, NC, and my mission is going to be zapping my time warner Bill, which is now 203 per month for phone, internet, and cable. No more! Anyway, sorry for the length of my post. I just wanted to thank you, because at least now I know where to start.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad the site was helpful, and I wish you all the best in your quest to save money!

      Thanks,
      Brian

  14. Brian,

    Thanks for a great site with so much research and well outlined opinions on this very popular topic.

    I have been doing my own research and have one “smart” TV and another with a Ruko 3 unit. The smart TV was a great appetizer but the Ruko has me thinking I might be able to ditch my cable service and just use Comcast for internet.

    Here is my question, I just can’t see myself without CNBC and/or Bloomberg Financial in the morning. Because CNBC is Comcast content I can’t expect them to ever broadcast over the internet, but if there was somewhere else I could get a live feed similar to these channels I think I can work around all the other details.

    I used some of your suggestions to see what my TVs would pickup without the cable boxes and I was shocked at how many HD channels come flying in without anything between the cable and my TV. I am in a rural area where over the air is not really an option. I would still like to try a Chromecast and see if my laptop can give me the quality I demand. I have a 47 and a 55 flat panels and unless the quality is at least 720 it really looks like crap. My laptop is 3 years old and I didn’t expect to ever watch movies on it so I didn’t get one with top tier video support so I am not sure if this will limit the quality of media streamed from it to the Chromecast unit.

    Thanks a lot for all the work and for putting together a great site.

    JP

    1. Hi JP,

      Thanks for sharing your story and for your kind words! It just so happens that Bloomberg has a live stream on their website. Go to my Internet TV remote, scroll down, and click the Bloomberg button:
      http://disablemycable.com/remote_control.html

      Chromecast does go up to 1080p resolution, so it’s worth a try. My understanding is that most of the data doesn’t actually go from your laptop to Chromecast. Rather, your laptop tell Chromecast where to get the data, and it gets it through WiFi and your internet connection. So, I think it’s worth trying out with your big TVs.

      Thanks and good luck!!
      Brian

  15. HI Brian- I am sick of paying so much for cable but live in the boonies of New Hampshire-I have apple products (iphone and Ipad) and I wondered if I bought Apple TV, can I still get news coverage? I love to watch the local and national news every evening at home.
    Thanks. Teresa

    1. Hi Teresa,

      I hear you. So, I assume you’re too remote to get broadcast TV? Jump to the Station Finder and enter your zip code to see how many channels you can get: http://disablemycable.com/#station_finder

      Apple TV doesn’t have any news channels besides Wall Street Journal Live. But, if you have other Apple devices, you can “mirror” the display of those onto your TV screen using Apple TV, using your WiFi network. Here’s how:
      http://disablemycable.com/blog/mirror-your-ipad-to-your-tv/

      You can then watch news from various websites.. It’s not the same as streaming live TV, but it’s something.

      Thanks,
      Brian