What’s the Best No-Contract Internet Provider?
Signing on to a multi-year contract with an internet service provider (ISPs) isn’t always the right move for everyone. College students, traveling professionals, or people who may need to relocate in the near term might not want to get stuck in a long-term arrangement with their internet provider.
The good news is that many top ISPs offer no-contract plans that get you the service you need without a commitment. Based on a review of available data, we’ve found that four ISPs: AT&T, Google Fiber, CenturyLink, and Verizon have no-contract options that are worth considering.
Who this is for
Every household has its own unique needs when it comes to the internet, so you should think through those first before you select a no-contract ISP. Usually, it boils down to availability, speed, and price as primary decision factors.
If you’re a remote worker, gamer, or streamer, fiber internet may be the best way to go. With speeds up to 1000Mbps or more, fiber internet can help you do it all — from streaming the latest shows in 4K to watching videos for work and school to competing in an online gaming tournament. AT&T, Google Fiber, CenturyLink, and Verizon all offer fiber plans with speeds at or approaching 1000Mbps, with Google Fiber offering a 2000Mbps plan, and AT&T offering 2000Mbps and 5000Mbps plans.
All four no-contract internet providers offer packages with costs tied to download speed. If you’re looking for fiber, AT&T’s plans range from $55/month to $180/month, while Google Fiber’s prices start at $70/month and go up to $100/month. CenturyLink comes at $50/month for DSL and $65/month for fiber, while Verizon Fios plans range between $39.99 and $89.99.*
When shopping around for no-contract internet options, what do you need to know? Monthly fees and download speeds are always important, but you should also check out additional expenses like installation fees and equipment costs.
AT&T’s Internet 300 package gives you fast fiber speeds for a low monthly rate. There are no data caps, and at $55/month for upload and download speeds of up to 300Mbps, it offers significant value for a no-contract plan. If you want more speed and have some flexibility in your budget, you can look at AT&T’s higher-tier fiber plans, costing $60/month for 500Mbps and $80/month for 1000Mbps. Also, in January 2022 AT&T launched new 2000Mbps and 5000Mbps plans for $110/month and $180/month, currently available in more than 70 metropolitan areas.
All AT&T plans offer symmetrical upload and download speeds and support streaming on multiple screens, with the top three packages including a subscription to HBO Max. One potential downside to AT&T is the limited availability of its fiber network—an issue also faced by most fiber internet providers. But if AT&T fiber is available in your area, it’s worth a look.
Google Fiber checks all the boxes for good no-contract internet service, but its availability is currently limited to 12 US cities. If you’re in the ISP’s service area, you can choose from two packages, 1000Mbps for $70/month and 2000Mbps for $100/month. Although those prices may look high, the cost per Mbps is five to seven cents and is quite competitive with other ISPs.
The good news is that Google Fiber offers speeds fast enough to cover every household’s needs, from multi-screen streaming to competitive gaming to smart home automation. With no data caps or contracts, you can get fast, reliable internet from Google Fiber.
Although DSL will never be as fast as fiber, it’s available in more areas throughout the US. In fact, CenturyLink has one of the biggest service footprints of any ISP, with a presence in 36 states. Another plus for CenturyLink: the ISP ranked #1 on the Best DSL Internet Providers list and #1 on the Best Internet Providers list by U.S. News & World Report. At $50/month for up to 100Mbps, with no contracts and a price-for-life lock-in rate, CenturyLink DSL is easy on the budget.
If you live in 19 select cities, you can sign up for CenturyLink fiber internet service. At $65 for up to 940Mbps, it’s one of the best values you’ll find for fiber internet service. However, there’s no price lock for CenturyLink’s fiber internet, so you may see your monthly bill go up over time.
If you are lucky enough to live in one of the cities where the Verizon Fios fiber-optic internet service is available, you’ll have access to a high-quality no-contract internet option. Fios fiber internet has three service tiers: 300Mbps for $39.99/month, 500Mbps for $64.99/month and the Gigabit Connection plan for $89.99/month. The Gigabit tier gives you up to 940Mbps download and 880Mbps upload speeds. All Verizon Fios plans have no data caps, but you will need to sign up for autopay to secure the advertised monthly prices.
Installation and set-up fees
For AT&T, you can choose professional installation for $149, or self-installation for $99. Verizon Fios has a professional installation fee of $99, but waives this fee if you sign-up online.
With CenturyLink, there is no installation charge if you sign up online. However, if you enroll via phone you may pay between $49 and $99 for professional installation.
While Google Fiber does not charge an installation fee for many customers, customers in select areas may be responsible for a $300 construction fee. If that construction fee applies, Google Fiber will inform you during sign-up and allow you to pay $25 for 12 months instead of paying the full fee upfront.
When it comes to equipment fees, Google Fiber and AT&T provide you with equipment at no charge. CenturyLink’s equipment lease fee is up to $15/month, but you can choose to buy a modem for $150 to $200 and skip the monthly charge. CenturyLink also gives new Fiber Gigabit customers a free modem along with free installation, a value of around $299.
Verizon has a $15 monthly equipment charge on their Fios 300 and 500 plans. If you sign up for Fios Gigabit, Verizon waives this monthly fee. You can also avoid the equipment fee by buying the router outright or using your own compatible router.
What others are saying
AT&T earns high marks for customer service from both J.D. Power & Associates and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI). J.D. Power’s U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study placed AT&T #1 in two of its four regions and second in a third. According to recent ASCI rankings, AT&T is #1 for overall customer satisfaction, tied with Verizon with a score of 71/100, exceeding the industry average of 65.
CNET praises Google Fiber for delivering fast speeds for a reasonable cost per Mbps in its small, but growing service area. What’s more, the publication gave Google Fiber a score of 7.4 out of 10, citing its included equipment and lack of data cap and contracts as key benefits.
According to U.S. News & World Report, CenturyLink’s clear, transparent pricing helps the ISP stand out from the pack. Its low-cost, price-locked DSL plan isn’t the fastest around, but the ISP’s reach makes it a viable option in areas with limited choices.
Verizon ties in the first position with AT&T with 71 out of 100 points in the ACSI 2021 ISP customer satisfaction rankings, the first time in six years that it has not exclusively held the first position. It also holds the #1 ranking on the J.D. Power 2021 residential ISP satisfaction study for the East region.
No-contract internet FAQs
Are no-contract internet plans more expensive than contract plans?
The only fees for the four no-contract ISPs we’ve profiled are on par with other ISPs that do have contracts, but other companies may charge more for their no-contract packages. The big benefit of a no-contract plan is that you get to avoid getting stuck with plans you don’t need and won’t pay early termination fees.
Will I need to pay any fees when I cancel the service?
While you won’t pay any early cancellation fees when you terminate a no-contract plan, you may still have to pay if you don’t return any provided equipment. Google’s fees vary, while CenturyLink charges you up to the full retail value of any equipment you don’t return, so those costs could be up to $200.
AT&T may charge a fee for certain equipment if you don’t return it within 21 days after canceling service but will give you a refund if you return the equipment within two months after service termination. Verizon has a detailed list of non-return fees, which range from $100 to $375 based on the equipment used. However, you can avoid this fee by returning equipment within 30-days after you cancel your internet service.
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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 2/16/22.
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.