What’s the Best Cheap Internet Plan?

Do you have a limited budget? The good news is you don’t have to pay a lot to get high-quality internet service. Optimum, CenturyLink, and Xfinity are internet service providers (ISPs), offering affordable internet plans that can suit the needs of many households.

Before you sign on with a new ISP, you should get familiar with the best cheap internet plans. Our comprehensive guide outlines key facts about three top ISPs offering low-cost internet service.

The big players

Three of the biggest players in the cheap internet plan game are Optimum, CenturyLink, and Xfinity. Even though all three provide cost-friendly high-speed internet, there are a few key differences, especially when it comes to pricing and availability.

Optimum

Optimum offers customers 300Mbps for $49.99/month. With this speed, you can get enough bandwidth to support several users, even if they are all streaming high-definition content at the same time. However, if you find that you need higher speeds the price goes up significantly, with Optimum’s 1 Gig plan costing $84.99/month.

Xfinity

Xfinity has a similar offering, with their 300Mbps internet plan costing between $49.99 and $55/month, depending on your service region. Xfinity offers a number of other packages, including Gigabit service, which provides speeds up to 1200Mbps for $70 to $89.99/month.*

CenturyLink

CenturyLink is a bit of an outlier in that they currently only offer two internet plans. These include their 100Mbps plan, called Simply Unlimited Internet, and the 940Mbps plan known as Fiber Gigabit. The Simply Unlimited Internet plan costs $50/month, and the Fiber Internet plan is $65/month. Even though you only have two options with CenturyLink, you can get speeds up to 940Mbps for a relatively low fee of $65/month, making it an attractive option.

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Key considerations

What do you need to keep in mind when choosing a cheap internet plan? Price, availability, and added fees should be important factors in your decision-making.

Price

One of the key considerations you may want to keep in mind while making your decision is price. In short, Xfinity and Optimum have very similar pricing for their 300Mbps plans. Optimum’s 300Mbps plan costs $49.99/month and you’ll pay between $49.99 and $55/month for the same speed with Xfinity, depending on where you live.

While CenturyLink’s entry level plan has a similar price of $50/month, you’ll only get 100Mbps of download speed which could be a deciding factor depending on your bandwidth needs. However, when it comes to higher-speed plans, CenturyLink evens the playing field.

With CenturyLink, you can get up to 940Mbps for $65/month, which is one of the best rates you’ll find for high-speed fiber internet. Comparable packages from Optimum and Xfinity cost between $70 and $84.99/month, so CenturyLink is the better deal for speeds around 1000Mbps.

Availability

Availability is another significant factor and depending on where you live, can be a deal-breaker. For instance, Optimum internet is only available in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Your chances of having access to Xfinity and CenturyLink internet plans will likely be higher, because they offer internet service in 40 and 36 states, respectively.

Additional Fees

For Optimum, you will have to pay an extra $5/month if you choose not to enroll in auto pay. Similarly, Xfinity automatically increases your monthly bill by $10 if you opt-out of or discontinue either paperless billing or automatic payments. CenturyLink also charges a fee if you choose not to use paperless billing or automatic payments, but they don’t reveal how much it is.

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What others are saying

CenturyLink

CenturyLink has earned praise for being available in many states, making it a viable option for a wide swath of users. However, the service falls a little short, at least at times, when it comes to delivering on the speeds they advertise.

For example, one CNET reviewer noted that CenturyLink’s speeds achieved an “average score of 65.33” Mbps. While that’s still fast enough for many users, it’s significantly slower than the average of Verizon, Cox, Spectrum, AT&T, and fellow budget-friendly choice, Xfinity.

Optimum

Optimum has a significant upside, with a CNET review noting that it’s “one of the better internet options in the NYC area for fast speeds.” Their offering tends to lack consistency, though. The same review pointed out that “Optimum’s 100Mbps plan is not available in all areas, and some sites will only be eligible for 200Mbps instead of 300Mbps, or 400Mbps in place of the 500Mbps plan.”

Xfinity

Xfinity earns accolades for fast, cheap internet service that’s available in many areas. But some reviewers have also noted that prices can go up significantly after one year of service. For instance, a review by CNET pointed out that prices can experience “a bounce of nearly 33%” after your first year, which is important to know if you’re considering Xfinity internet.

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Cheap internet plan FAQs

Will a cheap internet plan be fast enough?

For most customers, you can find inexpensive options with internet speeds starting at 100Mbps. This is plenty fast enough to stream high-definition video and play some online video games.

If you have several people in your household, can you still get a cheap internet plan that’s good enough?

Yes, because as long as you have enough bandwidth, multiple users can be online simultaneously. Some inexpensive internet plans offer speeds as fast as 300Mbps for only $49.99/month, which is fast enough for a family of users.

Can I get cheap internet near me?

Generally speaking, it depends where you live, but in most states you’ll be able to find reliably fast internet plans for less than $50/month.

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*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our internet service page. Prices as of 3/3/22.

Disclosure | Updater articles are based on our own data and research, independent from partner relationships. We are not compensated by partners for information and opinions presented here. Our Editorial Terms of Service can be found here.