Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


The best cheap internet providers: Affordable ISPs compared

We reviewed the top cheap internet providers in the country based on coverage, price, speed, and customer service. We identified the best cheap internet providers to help you find the fastest speed for the lowest price from the results.
Written by Reviews.com Staff, Contributor
AT&T Internet | Best overall plan
AT&T Internet
Best overall plan
View now View at AllConnect
Comcast XFINITY | Best for fast download speeds
Comcast Xfinity
Best for fast download speeds
View now View at AllConnect
Verizon Fios | Best for non-commitment plans
Verizon Fios
Best for non-commitment plans
View now View at AllConnect
Frontier ™ | Best for unlimited data
Frontier ™
Best for unlimited data
View now View at AllConnect
CenturyLink Internet | Best cheap internet for reliable pricing
CenturyLink Internet
Best cheap internet for reliable pricing
View now View at AllConnect
Charter Spectrum | Best for switching providers
Charter Spectrum
Best for switching providers
View now View at Allconnect
Cox Communications Internet | Cheapest startup costs
Cox Communications Internet
Cheapest startup costs
View now View at AllConnect
Show more (2 items)

If the last year has taught us anything, it's just how valuable an internet connection is. No matter how essential an internet connection is, though, no one wants to break the bank just to get online. We've taken a close look at the internet providers across the country to find the best options for cheap, fast internet

We let price take priority, but we aren't interested in cheap internet that doesn't provide good service -- high speed and reliability are also crucial. We looked at data caps, connection type, and other factors to review the best cheap internet providers of 2021.

Compare the Best Cheap Internet Providers

ScoreJ.D. Power Customer SatisfactionPriceTop Download SpeedASCI Rating
AT&T4.2751$35–$60/mo.940 Mbps70
Verizon4.2769$39.99–$89.99/mo.940 Mbps77
Frontier3.8646$49.99–$154.99/mo.2000 Mbps62
Comcast3.6730$29.99–$79.99/mo.1,200 Mbps72
Century Link3.4710$50–$85/mo.940 Mbps69
Spectrum3.2712$49.99–$109.99/mo.1,000 Mbps70
Cox3.4723$29.99–$99.99/mo.1,000 Mbps71

Score: 4.2 | Starting Price: $35/month | Maximum Download Speed: 940Mbps | ACSI Score: 70 |

AT&T offers nearly nationwide coverage, affordable pricing, and solid download speeds  -- though navigating the company's labyrinth of plans can feel unnecessarily complicated.


  • Second-largest DSL internet provider in the country
  • Affordably priced plans for solid download speeds
  • Equipment cost included
  • Fiber internet options for higher speeds
  • Phone and TV bundles available
  • 1TB data caps on DSL plans


  • Broad coverage
  • Reliably fast DSL
  • Equipment included


  • Limited availability for fiber
  • Volatile speed and pricing
  • Data cap costs more or requires bundled services


  • Internet Basic (0.8–5 Mbps): $45/mo.
  • Internet 10 (10 Mbps): $45/mo.
  • Internet 18 (18 Mbps): $45/mo.
  • Internet 25 (25 Mbp)s: $45/mo.
  • Internet 50 (50 Mbps): $45/mo.
  • Internet 100 (100 Mbps): $45/mo.
  • Internet 300 (300 Mbps): $35/mo.
  • Internet 500 (500 Mbps): $45/mo.
  • Internet 1000 (940 Mbps): $60/mo.

Score: 3.6 | Starting Price: $29.99/month | Maximum Download Speed: 3000Mbps | ACSI Score: 72 |

Comcast XFINITY offers high-speed options for people who need them and affordable fiber internet options on a budget, though the best prices require at least a one-year contract.


  • Fiber internet connection available
  • Phone and TV packages available
  • Fastest available download speeds
  • Widespread availability in 39 states
  • 1.2TB data caps


  • Large coverage map
  • No contract options are available
  • High-speed plans available


  • Hidden fees
  • Slower upload speeds
  • The contract required for best prices


  • 50 Mbps: $65.00/mo.
  • 100 Mbps: $83.95/mo.
  • 200 Mbps: $29.99/mo.
  • 400 Mbps: $69.99/mo.
  • 600 Mbps: $74.99/mo.
  • 800Mbps: $69.99/mo.
  • 1200 Mbps: $84.99/mo.

Score: 4.2 | Starting Price: $39.99/month | Maximum Download Speed: 940Mbps | ACSI Score: 77 |

Verizon Fios offers a fast, reliable fiber internet connection for a price that won't break the bank with no monthly contract. The only downside is that it's available in only certain parts of the country.


  • Fiber internet option available
  • No advertised data caps
  • No annual contract required
  • Lots of special offers with Verizon packages and partners
  • A $15/mo. Router rental


  • High-value fiber plans
  • Special offers
  • Waived or reduced installation fee
  • Savings for Verizon Wireless customers


  • Limited fiber availability
  • Expensive equipment costs
  • Price increase after the first year


  • 200 Mbps: $39.99/mo.
  • 400 Mbps: $64.99/mo.
  • 940 Mbps: $89.99/mo.

Score: 3.8 | Starting Price: $39.99/month | Maximum Download Speed: 2000 Mbps | ACSI Score:  62 |

Frontier Communications provides the best option for unlimited internet data, yet keep an eye out for the hidden fees that are often associated with their plans.


  • Fast growing Fiber network
  • 99.99% Network reliability
  • Price lock
  • Router cost included
  • Unlimited data and no overage charges


  • Speeds up to 2000 mbps
  • No overage charges
  • Lower latency


  • Low ASCI score
  • Limited high-speed options
  • Hidden fees

  • Plans:
  • Frontier(R)Internet: $49.99/mo
  • Frontier(R)Fiber 500/500 Mbps: $59.99/mo
  • Frontier(R)Fiber Gig Service: $79.99/mo
  • Frontier Fiber 2 Gig Internet: $154.99/mo

Score: 3.4 | Starting Price: $50/month | Maximum Download Speed: 940Mbps | ACSI Score: 69 |

CenturyLink offers cheap internet coverage across the Mountain West and locks in your price for life, so you don't have to worry about surprising charges.


  • Price locked in for life
  • No contract required
  • 1TB data cap
  • One-time purchase fee for router
  • No early termination fees


  • Price for life guarantee
  • No contracts required
  • High-end speeds are available in some regions


  • Few options for higher-speed DSL
  • Price lock doesn't apply to fiber plans
  • No cable internet option


  • 20 Mbps: $50/mo.
  • 40 Mbps: $50/mo.
  • 80 Mbps: $50/mo.
  • 100 Mbps: $50/mo.
  • 940 Mbps: $85/mo.

Score: 3.2 | Starting Price: $49.99/month | Maximum Download Speed: 1000Mbps | ACSI Score: 70 |

Charter Spectrum offers a broad coverage map for cheap internet and will pay your early termination fee if you switch from another provider -- but the price increases after the first year.


  • Pays early termination fees when switching providers
  • No contracts required
  • Bundles available with other services
  • Modem included
  • No data caps


  • Highest speed in its price range
  • No-contract plans with a buyout offer
  • No data cap


  • Price increase after the first year
  • Limited support if you use your own equipment
  • Unspecified upload speed


200 Mbps: $49.99/mo.

400 Mbps: $69.99/mo.

1,000 Mbps: 109.99/mo.

Score: 3.4 | Starting Price: $29.99/month | Maximum Download Speed: 1000Mbps | ACSI Score: 71 | 

Cox Communications offers solid value for its baseline plans with no contracts and locked price for three years but has data caps and poor service.


  • Elite Gamer data optimization software available for gamers
  • No contract for 50Mbps plans and up
  • Promotional prices lock for 3 years
  • Panoramic Wi-Fi limits dead zones
  • 1.25TB data cap


  • Panoramic Wi-Fi for better coverage through home
  • Lower-than-average installation fee
  • No contract required for some plans


  • Price increase over time
  • Costs extra for unlimited data


  • Internet Starter 25 (25 Mbps): $29.99/mo.
  • Internet Essential 50 (50 Mbps): $39.99/mo.
  • Internet Preferred 150 (150 Mbps): $59.99/mo.
  • Internet Ultimate (500 Mbps): $79.99/mo.
  • Gigablast (1000Mbps): $99.99/mo.

How did we choose the best cheap internet providers?

We evaluated internet service providers based on customer satisfaction, data caps, download speed, plans, and customer support to determine our scores and create our best internet service provider reviews. To compare internet service providers with other brands across the board, we calculate each score based on the following:

  • Customer Satisfaction: We used J.D. Power's 2020 Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study to calculate an average rating of internet providers across all applicable regions.
  • Top Download Speeds: We awarded higher scores to internet providers with higher download speeds.
  • Number of Plans: Internet providers with more plan options to choose from scored higher in our methodology.
  • Data Caps: No one wants to be left without internet for the rest of the month, so we awarded internet providers higher scores if they had high or no data caps. 
  • Customer Support: We reviewed and compared the number of channels that customers could reach each provider's customer support representatives. The more channels of contact available, the higher the score.

How do I find cheap internet near me?

  • Bundle cable and internet: If you are planning to get cable as well as internet, you can get cable and internet by bundling with one provider. Most internet providers that offer cable and internet services have special bundles that can help save money every month. Search for "cheap internet bundles near me" to find providers in your area that offer bundles.
  • Bring your own router/equipment: Most internet service providers either require you to purchase a modem and router directly from them or add a monthly rental cost to use their equipment. You can save money by using your own.
  • Switch providers: The trick of most internet service providers is that the price offered at sign-up is not the price after a year. Often, that initial price is considered a promotional deal, with an increased built-in. You can save by bouncing around providers and scoring that initial price or finding providers that will pay off termination fees if you switch.
  • Factor in fees: Also consider additional fees, like paying to rent equipment, overage charges, and post-promotion monthly price increases. The advertised price you see for home internet typically only covers the internet service itself. Most providers tack on extra fees and expenses that can quickly turn a cheap home internet plan into quite pricey.
  • Consider your location and what you need: The unfortunate fact is that many parts of the country, especially rural locations, may only have one cheap internet provider available. Without competition, your best bet may be to settle for lower data speeds. If you can make that sacrifice, you can save some money.
  • Decide how much speed you need: The internet plans we reviewed offer speeds ranging from 25 to 1,000 Mbps. If you live alone and don't use the internet for much more than email and social media, something on the lower end should be more than sufficient. On the other hand, large families and those who enjoy video streaming and online gaming should consider a much faster plan. Use our internet speed guide to choose the right type of connection for your home.

Can I get internet if I come from a low-income household?

Low-income households can often feel at a loss when it comes to getting fast, cheap internet provider service. Still, there are programs available that can help make this essential service affordable. The Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline program offers qualifying households a $9.25 per month stipend for internet service. If your household income is 135% or less than the federal poverty line, or if you receive other benefits like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), Veterans Pension, and Survivors Benefit, or Tribal Programs benefits, you likely also qualify for cheap internet in your area through Lifeline.

Editorial standards