How to Get the Best Deal for Internet without Cable
Frustrated with trying to get a fairly priced Internet connection?
You’re in the right place if you’re looking for some relief. And you should be a little aggravated.
Broadband is scarce in most of America, and competition is rare. Even worse, someone along the way thought it was a good idea to let cable companies become the dominant Internet service providers in the U.S.
I have some sure-fire tips so you can get the lowest Internet price possible no matter where you live in the U.S.
These strategies have been battle-tested by me for years, even recently as this month – in June 2018 – when I negotiated a $34.99 per month for 25Mbps download/5 Mbps up from Comcast.
If you want to get rid of cable and cut the cord like me, one of the most important things you can learn is how to negotiate a better price for Internet. Actually, it’s a skill you should pick up even if you’re not a streaming-only household.
Learning how to do this is not that hard, but it does require practice and a little tenacity. You need to learn to say no, and you need to realize that the first “deal” that your customer service agent just discovered while chatting with you isn’t the best one.
It’s probably about two or three deals after that. Maybe more.
Don’t believe me?
That’s fine. Former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill grilled some cable executives back in 2016 about the “secret rates” that cable companies maintain, but never advertise. Check out this video from C-SPAN. It’s on point with what I’m going to talk to you about.
Guess what? Those same secret rates run across the board – even to prices for Internet. Sen. McCaskill even wrote a big ol’ 61-page report about how those customer service agents are trained to upsell you whenever they can.
What if I don’t want to negotiate for Internet?
You’re going to need to set aside about an hour on the phone to get the best rate possible for an Internet only package. If you’re unable to set aside the time, here’s an updated list of broadband, fiber and DSL providers that people across the U.S. use to stream Netflix and whatever else they want to watch on TV or their iPhone. Some of these are introductory deals, like AT&T, and are only offered in 21 states across the U.S.
- AT&T Fiber Internet ($50 per month)
- DSL Extreme ($28 to $63 per month)
- Toast.Net ($45 per month for 50Mbps Fiber connection)
- T-Mobile phone plans with Netflix included (starts at $70 per month)
- Verizon phone plan ($75 to $85 for 1 line of unlimited data)
- Verizon Fios ($39.99 for 100/100 Mbps)
How to Access Secret Rates for Internet Without Cable
When I started my phone call to my local Comcast agent, I was told that the “best deal” for an Internet-only package was $79.99 per month. But I could get a slightly better deal if I bundled my Internet service with cable.
Bundling is a pretty typical sales strategy with most cable companies. It is part of what’s called “upselling” the customer – something that every major cable TV and satellite TV provider practices. It essentially means that customer service agents are trained to suggest upgrading to more services than what you’re looking for. Why? Because it reaps huge profits in the cable TV business, especially when those introductory rates expire.
Be Aware of Upselling: Strike a Millennial Pose
During my call to Comcast, I was asked a number of questions about how my wife and I use our Internet. Do you stream a lot? Are you a gamer? Do you work from home?
I said no, no and no…
The truth is I do all of those things and more. So why did I tell these little white lies? Well, a couple reasons.
It’s really nobody’s business what I use my Internet service for as long as it’s legal. More importantly, I know from McCaskill’s report that these questions are designed to probe for information so it can be used to upsell you more services that you’re not asking for.
So I had to stay firm: I was looking for an introductory rate without bundling any other service. Paying $80 per month was way too much, I said.
I was put on hold. A few minutes later, I was offered Internet service for $49.99 per month (60Mbps download/5Mbps upload), but it had to be bundled with phone service.
Nope, not interested. I guess I’ll call somewhere else, I told her. “I see that the introductory rate for RCN is about $29.99 per month,” I said.
That last statement prompted the agent to put me on hold again. Little did my customer service agent know: I had already checked out the local competitors in my area, and none of them had service at my new address.
When she came back, she “found” a new deal. There was a smaller Internet-only package of 25Mbps download and 6Mbps upload for $39.99 per month. This was closer to what I was looking for. The download speed was plenty for streaming on multiple devices and even gaming. But I still wasn’t done negotiating.
Keep asking questions even you seem close to a deal
I had a question about data caps. Were there any in my area? What are fees associated with them? I was told that there was a fee – about $50 if I went over my monthly allotment of 1024GB. “No one has ever gone over it,” the agent reassured me.
I had some questions. So I was put on hold again so a manager could talk to me. What were the first words out of his mouth?
After quickly introducing himself, he said I was eligible for $99 per month deal for bundled TV and Internet. There was no mention of my question about data caps.
There was the upsell again.
I stopped him and asked for his name again. Names are important, but really what I’m doing here is reasserting my control over the conversation. This is a really important thing to keep in mind.
You need to maintain control of the conversation. And you need to understand that you’re dealing with highly trained people who are laser focused on upselling. So here’s what I did.
I explained why he was summoned to the phone. He knew why, of course. Then, I asked again my question about the data caps.
No one has ever gotten hit with an data overage fee, he said. “It’s impossible,” he added.
Impossible? Then, why have a fee to begin with?
The answer I got was some mumbo-jumbo about how it was developed back when DSL was offered. I knew there was a little bit more to the story.
After my conversation with the manager, there was no more upselling. Instead, I kept asking questions.
If you keep asking questions and maintain control of the conversation, your chances of saving money only goes up.
How I chipped off more fees for my low priced Internet
I knew that I would already be using my own modem and router. That saved me from rental fees tacked on my bill. Buying your own modem and router can save you another $11 per month, according to Motherboard.
But there is still more money to be saved.
I knew from doing a little research ahead of time that the people renting the condo that I was moving into were already Comcast customers. So I asked: Could I self install my Internet service instead of having a service technician come out?
Watching someone else hook up my equipment, and pay them to do it seems kind of silly. I still had to pay a $15 “activation fee”, which was complete bullshit.
But hey… it beats paying $90. The added savings actually came from my customer service agent. She told me that if I enrolled in autopay then a $5 credit would be applied to my bill every month. That got my monthly payment to $34.99 per month.
Now that’s a good deal – one I’ll keep for a year before I go shopping elsewhere.
5 Tips For Getting the Best Deal on Internet without Cable
1) Don’t bundle: Learn to Keep Saying No
Cable and satellite companies all work from a similar business model. They attract customers with an introductory rate that, for a time, may be a fair and competitive deal. That deal will change in a matter of months, and the price will go up (sometimes significantly). When you call back to get the price back down, you’re met with a calm, but firm resistance. I got an introductory rate for Internet that lasted me 12 months. I also knew exactly how much my rate was going to increase after it ended. So there are no surprises for me. I only got this deal because I refused to bundle, cited rates offered by competitors and continued saying no to deals as they got better. I accepted the fourth offer made to me. You can do the same exact thing. It’s not that hard.
2) You’re quoted a price, but not fees
Let’s say a local cable company is offering an introductory offer of 25Mbps for $39.99 per month. Sounds pretty good, right? It does until your first bill shows up in the mail or your inbox invoicing you for $50. What happened? Fees, my friend. Even if you’re just subscribing to Internet, make sure you ask about the rental fee associated with your cable modem. I recommend buying your own cable modem. You could save up to $11 per month from your bill. I personally found that my Internet speed improved substantially once I bought my own cable modem. I recommend the Netgear CM600 in my review of best cable modems.
If you do wind up subscribing to cable again to get the best deal on Internet, be aware that you’re going to get hit with even fees than for rental of a cable modem. You will see line items like “broadcasting fees” or “regional sports network” on your bill that no customer service rep ever told you about. Cable companies began creating new fees as a way to charge customers more money in a way that did not affect the base price of programming packages that are advertised to you and me. Sound illegal? Maybe it should be. What I can tell you is that many customers routinely get upset about this style of billing. Congress even held a series of hearings on the matter. You can read the findings of the Congressional investigation yourself. Check out this graphic from their report on what direction broadcasting and other fees have been going in:
3) Data caps are another ugly toll
These are just another sneaky way to levy more fees on users. Except this is specifically aimed at broadband users streaming content on Netflix or a web page they are visiting. Watch too much Netflix and you get whacked with an extra charge. There has been mounting public pressure about the practice of data caps as a way to toll customers. This is where knowing the lay of the land comes in. If you live in a market where say Charter is based, you may benefit from the fact that they’re not allowed to impose data caps for the next seven years. If you live in a Comcast-only kind of area, you might be screwed. Or maybe not. A site like Broadbandnow.com can point you to more of a Mom-and-Pop ISP that will do you a solid. I suggest that you also read a couple of articles, one in USA Today about why Charter dropped data caps when it acquired Time Warner Cable. The other story comes from Ars Technica, which has a story about how Comcast charged a customer $1500 for data they didn’t use. The Stop the Cap site is an informative read as well.
4) Downloads, uploads & truthiness
ISP’s will brag about how much download speed they are capable of piping into your home. Good for them. They also may suggest to you that a baseline Internet package could slow you down and cause lags when you stream Netflix and so forth. The truth is download speed is the rate at which you can download something from a remote server. Most of the time, when a download slows down for you, it’s more likely the server — not your Internet connection. So getting a high speed Internet connection doesn’t actually speed up everything. Just remember, downloads are the rate you can download something from a remote server. Uploads is the speed at which you can post a photo on social media, or move some files to Google Drive.
5) Agents get incentives on “savings” and selling
Here’s the money saving part … There’s a lovely silver lining in the way many cable, satellite and ISP’s operate. They are terrified of losing you as a customer. They don’t want their steady stream of income (i.e. you) to go to someone else. That’s why the cable/satellite industry has both pooh-poohed the idea of cord cutting as a growing trend, and slyly got in the game of offering alternatives to traditional cable. (Hello, Sling TV!) There’s a ton of training that customer service reps (the pawns of the corporation’s chess board) undergo to keep you as a customer.
The knights of the board are called “retention specialists” and these guys are the ones with the juice to give you the best deals on Internet service without cable. How do we tap into their special powers? First we have to understand why they want to “help” you and I so much. Retention agents at major cable and satellite companies are evaluated and compensated based on how well they can sell you more, even when you are asking to downgrade your service. Commissions can be a significant portion of retention agents’ salary. These commissions range from approximately 25 percent to 40 percent of retention agents’ salaries at Charter, Comcast and Time Warner Cable and DirecTV. These figures were compiled by Congress as the TWC and Charter merger were underway, and they’re still very telling. Retention agents are able to access their performance metrics in real-time. Draw your own conclusions with how that affects you when you’re calling trying to cancel or downgrade service.
Becoming a “save” to save on Internet without cable
If you want to downgrade from a cable and Internet bundle to just Internet service without cable, the best way to do this is to initiate the break-up. Call and insist that your last day of service will be at the end of the month. Be firm. Mean it when you call. You’ll meet quite a bit of resistance. They’ll ask what the problem is. Why do you want to cancel?
Their training is kicking in. And you can look at this diagram I’ve included which illustrates it nicely. The diagram shows the top-down approach that Time Warner Cable was using to retain as much of your current cable/Internet subscription as possible. Generally, this is fairly successful because most people don’t really want to get rid of their cable. They don’t want the hassle of removing their equipment and returning it. They just want a better deal. The truth is the cable company doesn’t want you unhooking their equipment either.
But to get that best deal for Internet service without cable, you need to get to the bottom of the scale I’m showing you. Somewhere between the “final save” and “maintain relationship”. You need to learn about the secret rates.
I keep getting an introductory rate on my Internet if about $35 per month after being quoted much higher prices. What’s the best way to begin? If I already have Internet service from a cable company and I’m not moving, I start the call by giving them a date of when I’m ending service. I schedule my cancellation date about 30 days out. Once I make my intentions known, the probing questions start. I don’t give them info they can use to upsell me. I say I spend most of my time outside.
I end the call saying that I would only remain their customer, and think about returning to cable someday (lie) if I got the $35 per month rate. That was not an advertised rate. If I’m told no, then I end the call with my cancellation date hanging out there. Pretty soon, a retention specialist will call or email. Either way, do I end up with a lower price? Sure. Because I learned how to order off the menu, I was able to get a better deal and you can do the same exact thing.
For more information on this topic I recommend checking out: Cable & satellite TV employees trained to create fear, doubts in customers, and Inside the Box Customer Service and Billing Practices in the Cable and Satellite Industry.
Once you score the best deal on Internet service without cable, you might be wondering what kind channel bundles and streaming platforms are out there to replace your cable. Read my guide Cord Cutting 2018: the definitive guide for help.
Figuring out your need for speed
Get an idea of what kind of Internet connection speed you’ll want before you get on the phone with a customer service representative. Remember, they don’t want to help you. They want to sell to you (and they get bonuses for upselling). They’re trained specifically to do this, and they get hours and hours of practice every week at their job.
Knowing what you want in advance can have a huge impact on how much money you can save each year. Netflix has its own Internet connection speed recommendations. For HD quality, they recommend at least 5.0 Megabits (Mbps) per second. But I’m guessing you will want to be able to stream more than one device at a time. So using the Netflix as a baseline, a 10Mbps stream should serve you well if you have Hulu streaming in one room, and HBO Now in another. That’s also assuming you have DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem and a decent router.
|MINIMUM INTERNET SPEED REQUIREMENTS FOR STREAMING|
|NETFLIX||5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality|
|DIRECTV NOW||2.5 – 7.5 Mbps – Recommended for HD quality|
|VUDU||HDX (1080p) requires 4500 kbps|
|AMAZON VIDEO||High Definition (HD) videos: 3.5 Mbits/sec|
|SLING TV||Constant speed of 5.0 Megabits per second or more|
|* speeds represent single stream minimums|
Cable vs DSL, fiber optic: Internet speed comparison
There’s been a lot of marketing thrown at you to make you believe that broadband is the only viable solution out there. Talk to any customer service rep from a cable company and they will sound like if you don’t have say – 100 Mbps download speed – you’ll be starting at a frozen picture on your TV the next time you watch Netflix.
Did I mention that these same employees have been trained to instill fear and doubt into customers, who threaten to leave or change their service?
If you don’t want to play hardball with negotiating a lower rate like I demonstrate below, then you should seriously consider fiber optic or DSL. It may not even be available in your area. DSL is enjoying a bit of a comeback thanks to cord cutting. It’s similar to what’s happening with the TV antenna. There are also small fiber optic providers out there worth considering.
We already know from our chart above that you really don’t need that much speed to stream video in HD. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about watching Netflix or a live stream from Sling TV. But here’s something else that your cable/ISP provider doesn’t want you to know: DLS works for a lot of people and it’s cheaper.
I’m going to list my top picks for alternatives for you to explore in case you don’t come up with much on your own searches using the tools above.
DSLExtreme for fiber optic trueSTREAM or DSL
DSLExtreme: Despite its name, this California based company offers fiber optic Internet, and DSL service around the U.S. Prices start at $17.95 per month for 768Kbps. Personally, I would start shopping around the “Elite” 6.0 Mbps download package, which is around $33 per month. We know that Netflix requires a minimum of 5Mbps for HD quality. Same thing with Sling TV.
You can get 12Mbps download package, an 18Mbps package and so on.
Check to see if DSLExtreme offers DSL or fiber optic in your area. DSLExtreme requires that you use one of their modems. You can either rent one for $6.50 per month or buy it for $100. And their service must be professionally installed. Right now, the company is waiving the installation fee. I couldn’t tell you how long that offer will last. Generally, you’re getting a promotional rate with them, and you’ll probably have to sign up for a year of service.
But let’s do some quick math. I like to keep my Internet/streaming services under $100 per month. So right now, I’m paying $20 per month for Philo. My Internet just went up $10 to $45 per month, so I’m well under my $100 goal. During year one of cord cutting, I was saving $66 per month compared to cable. Now it’s up to $80. I know my ISP will raise the price another $10 per month next year. Before that happens, I either negotiate another price or I’m going elsewhere for a lower price.
Toast.net: another alternative for Internet without cable
My second pick for DSL or Fiber is an Ohio-based company called Toast.net, which has a wholesale agreement with AT&T in the same 21 states across the South and Midwest.
Toast.net has lower price points for its DSL service and no data caps. So you can stream as much as you want without penalty. The company has been promoting itself lately as a cord cutting alternative to larger and much pricier internet service providers.
I spoke to someone at Toast.net to find out how they operate. Here’s what I found out. You won’t be able to use your own modem or router, a method I prefer to avoid rental fees.
Instead, you will end up buying a new modem-and-router combo unit from the company. It’s brand new and comes out of the box when DSL gets installed at your home. It’s yours to keep since you are buying the unit from Toast.net, so you’re not paying any kind of modem or router rental fee. Usually, the company will outfit you with an Arris or Motorolla unit with a four-port switch.
Their service has a no hassle 30-day money back guarantee. This is a family-owned operation, basically the kind of mom-and-pop business that I was talking about earlier. If you have any kind of gripe, you’ll end up speaking to someone in their Toledo office.
The infrastructure is fiber running to the modem, and copper line going to the house.
Their service isn’t available everywhere. Your location will depend on what kind of plan that you can get. Their most popular plan is 18Mbps download/1.5Mbps upload for $49.99 per month. The next step up is 24Mbps download speed for $59.99 per month.
You will have to use their availability checker on their site to see if you can get Fiber or DSL service in your area. In case you do go this route, it’s a 12-month contract. Afterward, your subscription runs month to month and the rates stay the same. Also be aware that if you sign up for a plan online, installation is half off ($50 vs paying $100).
AT&T Fiber Internet
If you’re someone who feels like they can keep their data consumption in check, AT&T Fiber Internet may offer you some real value. Sure, AT&T is a big company, but it’s a big company that competes with Comcast and Spectrum. Use that to your advantage.
AT&T offers download speeds of up to 50Mbps for about $50 per month. The only downside? There’s data caps, so you could face spending some cash if you don’t watch it. You get 1TB per month. That said, some people are able to use this because they are a one-TV home that also makes the most out of their TV antenna. This isn’t a bad deal if you know that you only use a little chunk of data per month.
There’s an “unlimited” option to get around the data caps, but that costs about an extra $30 per month. AT&T only offers service in about 21 states (see below), so you might want to look over what lineup of Internet-only plans are available in your area.
Any deal you get with AT&T will last for 12 months under contract. Pricing with AT&T can vary from region to region, so it’s best to investigate what plans and pricing is in your area.
AT&T will supply you with a WiFi Gateway Router, and you’ll have to pay an installation fee that could be up to $99. Internet plans for 75Mbps and 100 Mbps are also available to qualifying AT&T customers.
After the 12 months are over, this promotion price will no longer be applied to your bill, so you should expect a rate increase. But once it’s over, you’re free to take your business elsewhere.
Internet-only subscriptions are currently available in 21 states. The states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina , Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Read over the details about getting AT&T Fiber Internet if you live in one of those states and want to learn more.
Streaming by phone: T-Mobile and Verizon
There’s a growing trend across the U.S. particularly in rural areas where people simply forgo broadband or DSL and get an unlimited phone plan. These are largely in areas where there’s no competition and nothing to prevent companies from charging high rates. So another option to consider is trying out a plan from T-Mobile or Verizon. Plans for a single phone with unlimited data is around $70 to $85 per month. You might already be paying that for the phone plan that you have right now.
What are the best Internet without cable deals?
Hopefully, some of the tools and techniques above will put you on the road towards getting a better deal for Internet without a cable subscription. There’s no doubt that where you live may have an impact on what’s available for service and price. And you may have to go hunting for a lower price after a 12-month promo rate is over if you decide to take advantage of one.
If you can get service in your area, I would first check out Verizon fios for $39.99 per month. That price is guaranteed for a year.
[Related: Why Verizon Fios is Ideal for Cord Cutters]
You can also see if you live within the 21 state footprint where AT&T Internet has service. Toast.net offers Fiber and DSL service in those areas as well without any data caps. DSLExtreme and trueStream broadband is also worth checking out if you just want an Internet connection for streaming movies and playing games.
Good luck and be sure to tell fellow readers in the comments below how you ended up getting a better deal for Internet service without cable.