I’m going to show you how to quickly find a good deal on Internet without cable.
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.
Not everyone has the time or patience to hone their negotiation skills. So here is a list of your best options for getting a reliable Internet connection without breaking the bank. I’ll get into more detail about these Internet service providers further down.
Internet Without Cable: By The Numbers
Most, but not all, of these rates are promotional offers that are valid for 12 months. These prices are subject to change from time to time given how a number of ISP’s operate. If you decide to delve into the second part of this guide, I’ll teach you how to negotiate for a better rate on Internet when promotional rates end.
If you want some more details about these ISPs, you can jump down to sections on Verizon FiOS, Comcast/Xfinity, RCN, Starry Internet, Cox Communications,Toast.Net, AT&T Fiber Internet and DSL Extreme.
You’ll notice some familiar names here, including cable TV companies. That’s no mistake.
Cable TV companies knew years ago that consumers would eventually move into streaming, and that they would need still need an Internet connection.
This list is a compilation of mainstream and lower-cost options. And you’ll see some non-conventional options for Internet too. There are Mom-and-Pop businesses offering Internet.
In Denver, Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York City, you may have a shot at getting a very fast wireless Internet without any cable subscription for about $50 per month.
Rural Internet Service
Instead of relying on packets of data coming from satellite services that provide Internet, more people are relying on mobile data as a substitute for home Internet. With the right plan, and equipment, you can get around 30 Mbps download speed for about $35 per month. You can jump down to How to Get Rural Internet Service.
How to Use This Guide to Get the Best Deal for Internet
This guide has two parts. The first part dives into the various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) available for cord cutters, or cord-nevers alike. The second part is a tutorial on how to negotiate a better deal for Internet without agreeing to a bundle.
Whether you use some or all of this guide, it’s important to figure out your minimum requirement for Internet speed. Most people, in my experience, order something that’s way beyond what they actually need. Some ISPs like that because you pay more for it.
Knowing what you actually need 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 estimate as a baseline, a 10Mbps stream should serve you well if you have Hulu streaming in second room, and HBO Now in third. That’s assuming you are using DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem and a decent router. I recommend using Ethernet connections instead of WiFi whenever possible.
Keep in mind that streaming services want you to have a good experience. So their recommendation for speed is reliable and has been tested. It’s the best unbiased answer out there without doing your own testing at home.
|MINIMUM INTERNET SPEED REQUIREMENTS FOR STREAMING|
|NETFLIX||5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality|
|AT&T TV 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|
One more quick tip
Here’s something new I learned this year while I was in the middle of revising this guide for 2019. Don’t ever assume that you know what Internet Service Providers are available to you.
I just signed up for Verizon Fios, a year after being told service wasn’t available for my home. How did I find out about this new option?
I happened to check again on a whim – not because someone made me aware that Verizon’s service area expanded. I got 100Mbps for $39.99 per month.
When I moved a year ago, I was told that only one ISP was available to me: Comcast.
Companies large and small are acutely aware that streaming is the biggest development for TV in decades. So competition for Internet – both wired and wireless – is rapidly growing.
DSL is enjoying a bit of a comeback thanks to cord cutting. The same is true with the TV antenna. Smaller fiber optic providers are worth considering if they’re available in your area. And within the next year or so, you’re going to be hearing a lot more about 5G and wireless Internet. In fact, one of my top picks in this year’s guide is a wireless Internet provider called Starry.
Part 1: Internet Service Providers for Cord Cutters
Verizon Fios: Fast fiber optic for cheap
I’m currently using Verizon Fios ($39.99 per month with pre-pay): Verizon FiOS covers 9 metro areas of the U.S. The coverage area includes Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Providence, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington D.C.
You should look over the lineup of offers in your area. Some include covering your cost of Netflix for a year or two. But if you’re trying to keep your cost of Internet down, I recommend getting the $39.99 per month deal if it’s available. Be aware that you will likely have to rent your modem from Verizon – which is another $12 per month.
TIP: You are given the option to buy your own at any time. So instead of paying almost $200 for a new Fios modem, I found a highly rated seller of refurbished Fios routers on eBay.
Comcast (a.k.a. Xfinity) for Internet
Before my recent switch to FiOS, I was using Comcast Xfinity because it was the only provider available in my area.
I was happy with the rate for Internet only, but I had to explain to the agent that I only wanted Internet, and not the fastest package. By the end of our conversation, I was able to secure 50Mbps download for $39.99 per month.
Xfinity currently has a dedicated page to Internet only plans so I think you’ll have no problem with signing up. If your customer service rep keeps offering you a bundle, just be firm that you’re only looking for Internet. Check out the latest Comcast Internet deals.
RCN: Great Internet-only packages
When I finally cut the cord for good a few years back, RCN was my first provider for standalone Internet.
After using a number of ISPs for streaming, RCN remains one of my favorites because of the price and quality of service. At the time, I was paying $34.99 per month. I was able to save about $10 more per month from using my own router and modem.
RCN has service in Boston, Chicago, the Washington DC Metro region, Lehigh Valley, New York City and Philadelphia. I encourage you to see if RCN is available in your area, and check out their latest promotional deals.
Starry Internet: Fast Wireless WiFi in 5 Cities
Starry Internet is only three years old, and after successful trials In Boston, the company is now expanding residential service in Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C.
If you live in a building with at least 20 units, you can ask for Starry Internet service. Starry offers 200Mbps download and upload speeds for $50 per month. You’ll be using the company’s slick looking router, and the company handles bringing service to your building. That’s it.
I haven’t used Starry (yet), but I hope to as the company expands.
Wireless internet is pretty much going to be the future. I’ve been following Starry for a while now, and I’m pretty convinced they are poised to be a big player in the wireless Internet space.
The company recently reached out to me to offer an exclusive coupon code for my readers. Check to see if Starry is offered in your area. If it is, then type in the code CCR and get two months for free (a $100 value).
Cox Communications: Offering “flexibility” and Internet without cable
Cox Communications offers Internet without cable in 18 states. (See list below.) And despite being a cable company, it now takes some credit for providing some of the premium plumbing that has made the streaming revolution possible.
Cox CEO Pat Esser had a pretty interesting interview in 2016 with CNBC at a trade show in Boston. Esser said Cox has played an important role in the streaming revolution by providing high quality broadband.
“Don’t forget, this all happened because companies like Cox invested billions of dollars in our network to create this disruption,” Esser told the network. “And many times, we are the ones bringing the disruption and innovation to the marketplace.”
He added about cord cutting: “If it’s such a bad space, why does everybody want to get into it? There is (sic) more consumers consuming video in this county than ever in the history of the country. We think we’ll have to evolve our packages as time goes on. We’re doing that and we’ll have to bring to the market packages and services of content that our customers want.”
In a second interview with CNBC last year, Esser seemed to not fear the term cord cutting or streaming when asked about how the industry was changing.
“I think you have to accept the fact that the marketplace as it relates to video product is in full disruption,” Esser said.
I’ve never been a Cox customer but only because they don’t offer service in my area. But I have been following Esser closely in the news these past couple of years, and I’m impressed with what he’s been saying.
Cox says it services customers from Connecticut to California and lists 22 cities below.
- Palos Verdes
- San Diego
- Santa Barbara
- Las Vegas
- Kansas City
- Oklahoma City
- New Orleans
- Baton Rouge
Even if you don’t see your city listed, there might be service offered nearby. I suggest checking to see if Cox offers service in your area.
Toast and AT&T
For those living in the Mid West, Southern or Western parts of the U.S., you should consider using either Toast.Net or AT&T.
The availability of these prices may depend on where you live in the U.S. and where the company offers service. AT&T and Toast.net cover 21 states – the same ones – because they are relying on the same network.
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.
Toast.net: an alternative for Internet without cable
The advantage of Toast.Net is that there are no data caps. Toast.net is an Ohio-based company that offers fiber and DSL.
The company 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.
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
AT&T Fiber Internet offers download speeds of up to 50Mbps for about $50 per month.
There are data caps, so you could face spending some cash if you’re not careful.
You get 1TB per month, which should be plenty. A one-TV home that makes the most out of their TV antenna should be just fine. While subscribing to Comcast, I also had a 1TB data cap and got by just fine while using three TVs and a number Internet-connected devices such as computers, smart speakers and phones.
If you already use a major provider for Internet, then you can probably already see how much data you are using per month. Ask a customer service rep for help if you need to figure out how to check your data consumption.
There’s an “unlimited” option with AT&T to get around the data caps, but that costs about an extra $30 per month.
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.
Read over the details about getting AT&T Fiber Internet if you live in one of those states and want to learn more.
DSLExtreme for fiber optic trueSTREAM or DSL
DSLExtreme is a California based company offers fiber optic Internet, and DSL service around the U.S.
Fiber optic plans start at about $33 per month. We know that Netflix requires a minimum of 5Mbps for HD quality. Same thing with Sling TV.
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.
RURAL AREAS: Netgear Hotspot router with AT&T, Verizon
A common complaint among people living in rural areas is that Internet options are scarce. Using a low-cost mobile data plan with a hotspot router is becoming a popular option.
The frontrunner as a viable substitute home Internet is using a Netgear Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router. The M1 (MR1100) model is a gigabit-class LTE mobile mobile hotspot router. It’s designed for a maximum download speed of 1Gbps. Buying an unlocked one will give you the most flexibility.
This portable router functions just like any other dual-band router operating on a 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequency.
AT&T offers a pre-paid unlimited data plan for $34.99 per month. The plan is for unlimited MB for 30 days. But after 22GB of data usage, AT&T may slow your speeds. The plan automatically renews.
You’ll need an AT&T SIM card ($9.99 at Target) for this device – not the one currently in your phone. People often look at unlimited plans that are offered by resellers of AT&T that still rely on AT&T’s network.
If Verizon is more widely available in your neck of the woods, then you should consider perusing their variety of data plans.
Part 2: How to Negotiate for Internet without bundling cable
How to Access Secret Rates
About a year ago, I called Comcast for Internet service because I saw a deal online for $34.99 per month. 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.
To level the playing field a bit, I am going to tell you about secret rates that are never advertised. Watch this video for a minute because it’s on point with what I’m going to show you.
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 a government 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 when 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.
Always maintain control of the conversation
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
Some 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.
I’ve always used Internet speeds around 25 to 50Mbps and rarely have a problem. Just remember: download speed is the rate at which you can download something from a remote server (e.g. watching a movie on Netflix).
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. Sometimes, you may also encounter lag or hangups because of shared bandwidth. 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 broadband and 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.
What are the best Internet without cable deals?
I keep getting an introductory rate on my Internet — about $35 to $40 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. So 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.
Once you score the best deal on Internet service without cable, read my guide Cord Cutting: The Definitive Guide for help.