Cheapest Internet Service Providers | 2022 Guide

Popular Internet Service Providers

High-speed internet access can seem expensive, especially when you combine monthly plan prices with equipment fees, data overages, and rate increases that often occur once the introductory rate expires. To help you find low-cost rates, we analyzed our Best Internet Service Providers of 2022 rating and chose the most affordable ISPs on the list. Top companies include Suddenlink, RCN, Mediacom, Frontier, and AT&T Internet.

Some ISPs offer lower-cost rates to certain households. Through the Federal Communications Commission’s new Emergency Broadband Benefit, households qualifying as low-income get a $50 monthly discount on their internet service. This is just one of several programs implemented to help make the internet affordable to everyone. Read on to learn more about plan features and availability of the Cheapest Internet Service Providers of 2022.

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Cheapest Internet Service Providers of 2022

RCN Internet »

3.8 out of 5

Monthly Cost $29.99 and Up
Connection Type Fiber, Cable
Download Speed (Mbps) 50 Mbps – 940 Mbps
See Review »

*Based on the lowest starting monthly cost

Most Affordable ISP 

Suddenlink is best for:

  • Budget-conscious shoppers

  • Those looking to customize their internet plan

Suddenlink is not recommended for:

  • People looking for consistent pricing

  • Those who want a lower-priced plan without data caps

Connection Type
Fiber, Cable

Download Speed
20 Mbps – 940 Mbps

Bundles
Internet, TV, or Phone

Suddenlink: This brand of cable provider operated by Altice USA ranks first in our Cheapest ISPs of 2022 list, selling its lowest-cost, contract-free plan via phone: $20 a month for 20 megabits per second (Mbps) downloads and 2 Mbps uploads.

The fine print on Suddenlink’s site states that “regular rates” apply after the first 12 months; a separate page of fine print lists a regular price of $29.99 for this plan and adds that in “select markets” it comes with a 150 gigabyte (GB) data caps. If you want unlimited data, the company offers additional plans at a higher monthly cost to meet your needs. Suddenlink charges $10 a month for a modem, but you can choose to buy your own.

See Full Review »

Monthly Cost

$29.99 and Up

Most Affordable 940 Mbps Plan 

RCN is best for:

  • Customers interested in the latest technology

  • People who want to use their own equipment

RCN is not recommended for:

  • Consumers who need true gigabit speeds

Connection Type
Fiber, Cable

Download Speed
50 Mbps – 940 Mbps

Bundles
Internet, TV, Phone

RCN: Princeton, New Jersey-based RCN, tying for second place in our Cheapest ISPs of 2022 rating, lists a $19.99 no-contract rate for the first 12 months for 100 Mbps downloads without a data cap – however the rate increases to $29.99 after the first year and the upload speed isn’t specified. RCN allows customers to bring their own router or modem, but also offers an optional eero Mesh system at an extra cost. RCN is only available in a limited service area: parts of Boston, Chicago, New York, the greater Philadelphia area, and Washington, D.C. The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

See Full Review »

Mediacom is best for:

  • Those who want consistently fast speeds

  • Households that want mesh Wi-Fi

Mediacom is not recommended for:

  • Those who don’t want a data cap

  • Customers who don’t want to pay higher prices after a year

  • People who expect top customer service

Connection Type
Cable

Download Speed
60 Mbps – 1000 Mbps

Bundles
Internet, TV, or Phone

Mediacom: This Blooming Grove, New York-based cable provider, ties for second place in our Cheapest ISPs of 2022 rating and the Fastest Internet Service Providers of 2022. It offers one of the cheapest starting rates around for broadband, just $19.99 a month for 60 Mbps downloads and 5 Mbps uploads. That includes an unusually low data cap of 200 GB, and after a year the monthly cost rises to $29.99.

Mediacom also charges $12 a month to rent a modem, but you can avoid that by buying your own from a list on its website. Currently serving 22 states, Mediacom is available mainly in the Southeast, Midwest, California, and Arizona.

See Full Review »

Best ISP for Gaming 

Frontier is best for:

  • Households that need lots of data

Frontier is not recommended for:

  • High-use internet households (if fiber internet isn’t available)

  • Households that need DSL speeds in excess of 115 megabits per second (Mbps)

Connection Type
Fiber, DSL

Download Speed
Up to 940 Mbps

Bundles
Internet, TV, or Phone

Frontier: Frontier places fourth in our rating of the Cheapest ISPs of 2022. Its DSL and fiber plans are available in 25 states, including parts of the West Coast, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast U.S. Frontier’s DSL plans start at $34.99 per month and increase to $44.99 for its premium DSL plan. Its fiber plans begin at $49.99 per month with download and upload speeds up to 50 Mbps. Frontier places No. 1 in our Best ISPs for Gaming of 2022 rating due to its low latency score for its fiber internet connections.

Like most of the ISPs in our rating, Frontier offers promotional lower-cost monthly pricing that’s time-sensitive. There are no data caps on any of its internet plans.

See Full Review »

AT&T Internet is best for:

  • People who need fast upload speeds

  • Shoppers looking for the fastest possible connection

  • Residents of urban areas who can get its fiber service

AT&T Internet is not recommended for:

  • People living in rural areas or planning to move there

  • People looking for bundled deals on internet and TV

  • Shoppers seeking download speeds beyond 1 Gbps

Connection Type
Fiber

Download Speed
0.8 Mbps – 940 Mbps

Bundles
Internet, TV

AT&T: AT&T places fifth in our rating of the Cheapest ISPs of 2022 and ties for second in the Best Internet Service Providers of 2022 rating. AT&T is available in 21 states and offers fiber, mostly in urban areas, and hybrid-fiber plans elsewhere. Its cheapest fiber plan, Internet 100, starts at $35 per month and has equal download and upload speeds of 100 Mbps along with unlimited data.

AT&T offers various packages and alternative pricing for one- or two-year contracts. It’s one of a few ISPs that requires you to lease its modem for internet service.

See Full Review »

Available in:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

See all

Finding which companies service your current or future abode can be challenging. Our map and the Fixed Broadband Deployment locator provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can help by showing which ISPs provide connectivity near a given location. But to know for sure which plans are available, you’ll have to go to each ISP’s site and plug in the address. Sometimes the site will request you call to receive this information.

Among the providers in our Cheapest Internet Plans of 2022 rating, Frontier is most likely to cover your neighborhood, with service in 25 states. Mediacom offers service in 22 states and AT&T, in turn, is available in parts of 21 states. The other ISPs in our rating have more limited coverage. Once you’ve determined which ISPs are available in your area, you’ll have to see which offers the cheapest plan that meets your requirements.

Ideally, saving money on your broadband would only require trading slower speeds for lower prices. But evaluating the cheapest options at major providers also generally requires considering data limits (for basic plans data caps can be stringent). And many of the plans in our ratings come with significant rate increases after the first year or two, as introductory rates expire. Suddenlink and Mediacom impose the gentlest second-year increases, adding just $10 to their starting rates.

In general, you should hold out for a service offering at least 25 Mbps downloads – the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband – and a data cap of at least 1 terabyte (TB). A higher data cap should take precedence over faster speed. Lower-resolution video streaming and longer download times should hurt less for cost-conscious shoppers than seeing the meter running on your internet bill for exceeding your data cap each month.

Pros:

  • Many online apps don’t require a fast connection

  • Reducing online distractions

Cons:

  • Rates often increase after a year

  • Slow download and upload rates

If you’re on a tight budget, trying to save money on broadband – an essentially unavoidable utility – makes sense. The challenge is finding a service that is not frustrating to use and does not stop being a bargain after add-on fees and/or second-year rate hikes.

The least-painful compromise in cheap internet should be slower speeds. Netflix only requires a speed of 5 Mbps for high-definition (HD) streaming, and even the slowest plan profiled here offers download speeds four times faster than that. The upload speeds of our covered plans aren’t nearly as fast, but a longer wait to post a photo or video from your computer doesn’t ruin your ability to share files.

Data caps, however, can cause serious problems if they force you to choose between holding off on downloading critical security fixes – Apple’s can easily exceed 1 GB each – or watch your account get dinged for $10 or more in overage fees. Be wary of any plan with a data cap lower than 1 TB, especially if it’s 250 GB or less.

You also have to watch out for a plague common in more expensive plans: “exploding” rates that increase after the first year or two of service. Internet provider plans can be vague about these post-promotional rate hikes. But, if you know you’ll be moving in a year, you can set aside this concern.

  1. Choose an Internet Provider: Narrow your search by seeing which providers from our rating offer service in your area – if none are, use our map to see which other providers can connect you – then plug in your address at their sites to see which plans are available.
  2. Pick a Plan: Select a plan that fits your budget, provides enough download speed for your most common online activities, and does not impose a data cap that will be impossible to stay under.
  3. Buy and Install: If your provider allows it, buy the modem or gateway instead of renting it, then set it up yourself to save on installation fees. Get more tips in our How to Save Money on Internet Service section below.
  4. Explore Free Options: If paying $20 to $35 is still outside of your budget, see what free services are available. We cover these below in our How to Get Free Internet Service section.

How to Save Money on Internet Service

  • Know your usable speed: Evaluate your most common online activities so you can choose a plan with appropriate internet speeds and data limits. “Appropriate” usually means any real-time streaming at your regular sites will be free of buffering or stuttering; it doesn’t have to mean that every download must complete in five minutes. If you aren’t sure, see What Internet Speed Do I Need? in our Fastest Internet Plans rating.
  • Shop around: Compare providers, plans, and prices to find the best deal. Remember to look up post-promotional rates, modem-rental costs, and data-overage fees if applicable.
  • Ask for discounts: Before calling customer service, see if there are specials and promotions. You can also ask a customer agent about available discounts, and even check to see if the company will honor a rival’s discount.
  • See if you qualify for ISP assistance programs: Many providers offer discounted internet service for qualifying households – receiving state or federal income assistance usually suffices, although some also cover households with school-aged children as well as veterans and seniors. These typically offer the speeds of each provider’s cheapest plan at a fraction of the cost. See, for example, AT&T’s $10 Access, and Altice’s $14.99 Advantage Internet.
  • Check bundled and unbundled rates: Buying more than one service from a provider may offer temporary discounts – but never sign up for a bundle without seeing what extra fees come with the TV part of a bundle and checking the rate you’ll pay after the first year. It’s possible that getting internet service alone will be cheaper.
  • Apply for the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit: The FCC’s new Emergency Broadband Benefit, a $3.2 billion pandemic-relief measure included in a sweeping appropriations bill passed at the end of 2020, allows a wide variety of lower-income households to apply for $50 monthly discounts ($75 on qualifying tribal lands) from participating providers. But don’t count on getting those discounts forever; as the FAQ notes, this program “will end once the program funds are exhausted, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic, whichever comes first.”
  • Apply for the FCC’s Lifeline program: Low-income households that qualify – the criteria are stricter than for the Emergency Broadband Benefit – can get a $9.25 monthly discount on either broadband or phone service through the FCC’s Lifeline program.
  • Buy equipment: Buying a modem, gateway, or router will almost always cost less than renting from the provider – the one major exception being if you plan to change ISPs in the short term.
  • Negotiate: New residential customers usually get a discounted promotional rate for a year, after which rates can shoot up. When that happens, call to see if you can negotiate a lower price.
  • Explore free alternatives: Even the least expensive plans can be too costly for some students and low-income households, but you do have options for no-cost connectivity. Read our How to Get Free Internet Service section below.

How to Get Free Internet Service

If the available budget for broadband drops to zero (or, for that matter, your regular connection suffers an outage), you still have options.

  • Your local public library: If you have a library card, you can use public computers to access the internet (although you may need to make a reservation). You also can bring your own device and connect to the library’s Wi-Fi, if available; during the pandemic, many libraries have expanded their wireless networks to cover their parking lots.
  • Other public hotspots: Coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, airports, retailers, and even some cities offer free Wi-Fi in public areas. Note, however, that using a computer in public may make it too easy for passersby to see what’s on your screen. Meanwhile, other people on the same wireless network may be able to snoop on your traffic unless you connect to a site that protects your activity with encryption. You may also consider one of the free VPNs we rated. VPNs can help keep your information private and may be useful with public internet connections.

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Other Internet Service Providers

Other Guides from 360 Reviews

Other Products to Consider

In addition to the companies in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers, here are some others to consider:

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing internet service providers to guide prospective consumers.

1. We researched the companies and products people care most about.

U.S. News analyzed and compared a variety of publicly available data, including internet search data, to determine which internet service providers consumers are most interested in. We found 25 companies that stood out for further evaluation using the volume of searches and consumer research. After conducting a thorough analysis, we were able to condense the initial list to the 12 overall Best Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Taking a step further, out of the top 12 ISPs, we determined which is best by connection type, the best for gaming using latency (provided by the Federal Communications Commission) as a parameter, the best for rural areas, the best prepaid plans, and the cheapest in terms of the lowest regular rate. Fastest ISPs was also another sub-category to consider, but without the proper speed testing platform, this could not be captured appropriately. 360 Reviews instead offered consumers the fastest publicized ISP plans provided by our overall Best Internet Service Providers. With the companies determined, we researched their most important features to create a general layout of what consumers should know to assist with their purchasing decisions.

We compared the various plans, along with the monthly costs and associated fees that each company provided relative to its customers’ needs. The plans highlighted features such as connection type, download/upload speed, and data caps. We also considered the latency, consistency, and packet loss data provided by the Federal Communications Commission in regards to connection type and ISPs for gaming. With these factors in mind, we created a thorough set of guides that provides a 360 overview of what consumers should consider.

2. We created objective 360 Overall Ratings based on an analysis of third-party reviews.

Our scoring methodology is based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on the personal opinions, tests, or experiences of U.S. News. To calculate the ratings:

(a) We compiled two types of third-party ratings and reviews:

Professional Ratings and Reviews: Many independent evaluating sources have published their assessments of internet service providers and products online. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be reputable and well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contradict one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are considered and analyzed collectively with an objective, consensus-based methodology.

Consumer Ratings and Reviews: U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of internet service providers. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer ratings and reviews were included in our scoring model.

Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Therefore, some sources were excluded from our model.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

The third-party review source data were collected in a variety of forms, including ratings, recommendations, and accolades. Before including each third-party data point in our scoring equation, we standardized it so that it could be compared accurately with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.

The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each company that a source rated was scored in comparison to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:

Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point’s relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it’s above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it’s equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a company, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all companies evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the mean from the company’s rating and divided it by the standard deviation to produce the Z-Score.

Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.

Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted average model.

We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight less than 2 was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each product, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

https://www.usnews.com/360-reviews/services/internet-providers/cheap-internet-providers

About: Bunga Citra