What’s the Best Cheap Internet Provider?

Are you looking for the best cheap internet providers (ISPs)? The most affordable ISPs offer great deals, no price increases, and minimal extra fees. While dial-up is the cheapest internet connection available for $10/month or less, it’s the slowest, least reliable service and likely not an appealing option for most households.

The good news is that you can find plenty of fiber, cable, and digital subscriber line (DSL) internet options for a reasonable monthly fee. AT&T, CenturyLink, Optimum, and WOW! all offer cheap internet plans at or under $50/month.

Who this is for

Individuals and families with limited internet needs, college students, and anyone who loves to save money may want to find a cheap internet plan. Here are a few ISPs that stand out for offering quality internet options for the lowest cost:

AT&T offers affordable service and excellent customer service, but availability of its fiber plans can be limited.

Any remote worker, streamer, or YouTuber needs reliable internet with fast download and upload speed, and AT&T fiber fits this bill. With AT&T fiber internet, you can share large files with ease and attend video meetings without any lag.

At $55/month for 300Mbps and no data caps, AT&T offers one of the most affordable fiber plans around. Add unlimited data and a low equipment rental fee and this makes the service even more appealing. However, only around 30% of households in AT&T service areas are currently eligible for AT&T fiber.

Can’t get AT&T fiber internet where you live? The company also has a cheap DSL internet plan that offers speeds up to 100Mbps starting at $45/month. This DSL plan would work well for those looking to browse the web and stream TV.

CenturyLink offers affordable plans, no price increases, unlimited data, and wide availability for its DSL internet, but speeds may vary by address. CenturyLink’s entry-level Simply Unlimited internet plan offers 100Mbps for $50/month. This cheap internet plan is great for web surfing, watching movies online, posting on social media, and taking online courses.

Optimum offers a low-cost internet plan with high speeds, a free WiFi extender, and free installation. If you’re in the market for cheap internet service, Optimum delivers with a 100Mbps package for $30/month for 12 months. This internet plan works well for people that want to browse the web, check email, or watch movies online.

Gamers, remote workers, streamers, and others who need faster internet can opt for a higher-tier plan that still won’t break the bank. With the Optimum Gigabit internet plan, you get speeds of 940Mbps for $49.99/month for one year. If you have a big household and stream on up to nine devices at once, the Optimum Gigabit plan can meet your needs.

WOW! is a cheap internet provider that offers contract-free cable internet plans with unlimited data. This budget ISP may work for you if you rely on your computer for personal use, video meetings, and entertainment but don’t need high-speed internet. The lowest cost WOW! plan offers 100Mbps and unlimited data in some areas for $29.99/month.

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Key considerations

What else do you need to know and consider before selecting a cheap internet provider?

Installation fees

AT&T and CenturyLink each charge a $99.99 installation fee for their internet service, while Optimum and WOW! offer free installation.

Equipment fees

AT&T and Optimum have a low equipment rental fee of $10/month. WOW! offers a free modem for the first three months, and after that, the equipment fee is $14/month. CenturyLink plans have an equipment fee of $15/month, although purchasing a modem for $150 to $200 to avoid paying a monthly lease fee is an option.

Early termination fees

AT&T doesn’t charge a cancellation fee for their internet plans, and, as a no-contract provider, CenturyLink won’t charge early termination fees either. By comparison, if you decide to cancel your plan early, Optimum will charge you up to $354, and WOW! charges up to $345.

Equipment non-return fees

When it comes to equipment fees, AT&T has the lowest non-return fee at $150, followed by CenturyLink at $200 and WOW! at $300. Optimum has the highest non-return fee at $750.

Data overage fees

CenturyLink, Optimum, and WOW! offer unlimited data on their internet plans, so you won’t have to pay data overage fees. But, CenturyLink will throttle your speed if you use more data than the 1TB monthly allowance included in their DSL plans. AT&T doesn’t have a data cap for fiber but has a 1TB data cap for DSL. If you have AT&T and don’t want to pay for data overages, you have two options. You can bundle AT&T and internet to gain unlimited data. Alternatively, you can purchase unlimited data for a fee of $30/month.

Bundles

If you bundle AT&T internet and DIRECTV services, your cost is reduced by $10/month for 12 months. Plus, AT&T offers free unlimited data and free installation to their bundle subscribers. At CenturyLink, internet and phone bundles range from $90/month for 100Mbps to $105/month for 940Mbps, with internet-only plans ranging from $50 for 100Mbps to $65 for 940Mbps. Optimum offers bundles combining internet, TV, and home phone for $74.99/month to 129.99/month. WOW! offers Triple Play Bundles that give you internet, TV, and phone services with no data caps, unlimited local calling, and free installation for $124.98/month to $164.98/month.

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What others are saying

AT&T

AT&T tied for second in the U.S. News & World Report ranking for Best Internet Service Providers and Best Fiber Internet Providers. According to CNET, AT&T’s fast, cost-friendly fiber internet is a good value if it’s available where you live.

CenturyLink

CenturyLink earns praise for providing a lot of value for low prices, according to U.S. News & World Report. The publication rated CenturyLink #1 on its list of Best DSL Providers and #2 on its list of Best Internet Providers for Rural Areas.

Optimum

CNET praises Optimum for keeping costs affordable by being free of data caps and contracts and having low monthly equipment fees. Although only 10% of Optimum customers can currently get fiber, the company feels that fiber is the future and is actively working to bring it to more households.

WOW!

WOW! stands out as one of the most affordable cable internet options, according to CNET. Other pros of WOW! internet are: the company doesn’t force you into long-term contracts and won’t raise prices significantly after your promo period ends.

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Cheap internet provider FAQs

What is the lowest cost internet option?

At $19.99/month, WOW! is the cheapest internet plan on the market and offers free installation, unlimited data, no contract, and no hidden fees. Plus, you can avoid the $14/month modem fee and $10/month router fee by using your own equipment.

What is the best cheap internet option for families?

Optimum offers a Gigabit plan for $49.99/month for 12 months. You get free installation, a free WiFi extender, and a free Optimum Stream device. Plus, you can avoid modem and router fees by bringing your own equipment.

A Gigabit plan offers fast internet speed and is perfect for small families that need to connect up to 10 devices at once. 

Do cheap internet plans have overage fees if you use too much data?

CenturyLink, Optimum, and WOW! offer unlimited data on their internet plans, so you don’t have to pay a data overage fee. But, CenturyLink will throttle your speed if you use more data than the 1TB monthly allowance included in their DSL plans.

AT&T does charge DSL customers an overage fee if they exceed the monthly 1TB data cap. However, you can opt for a TV and internet bundle to avoid this fee. Another option to prevent overage fees is paying a flat monthly fee of $30 for unlimited data. Also, AT&T fiber doesn’t have data caps, which means no overage fees.

What else can you do to save money on monthly internet costs?

Getting your own modem and router is one of the best ways to save some money on your monthly internet costs. Also, make sure you get enough data to cover your needs to avoid having to pay any surprise overage fees.

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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 2/2/22.

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.