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How much you should pay for internet (and how you can lower costs)

Getting the best rate for your home internet just got a lot easier thanks to a new law, but many folks are still in the dark. Here are ways to optimize your internet speed and save on costs.
Written by Cynthia Bowman, Contributor and  Kyle Kucharski, Editor
Lenovo AI PC Transparent laptop
Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Internet access is as essential nowadays as water, electricity, and gas. But figuring out how to optimize your monthly internet bill is not easy. A Verizon survey shows that more than 51 million Americans don't know what they pay for home internet, while those who do estimate paying upwards of $137 per month.

Luckily, things may soon get easier with the FCC now mandating internet service providers (ISPs) to publish at the point of sale. These labels in a nutrition label format commonly found on food packaging will include a breakdown of monthly costs, fees, and data about the plan. But, they still might not answer all your questions.

Also: How to see if your internet provider is overcharging you (or delivering slower speeds)

To help you better understand the cost of high-speed internet, let's break down what's available, the average price that you should be paying based on service in your area, and most importantly, how you can save on your monthly costs.

What is high-speed internet?

The FCC defines high-speed internet, also known as broadband, as internet that's always on and is faster than the average dial-up connection.

Your options for what sort of internet access is right for you depend on a few factors, but first and foremost, you need to determine what is actually available in your area. Internet access requires physical infrastructure to be in place, and depending on where you live, that infrastructure may or may not exist. For example, rural areas in particular may not have existing cable or fiber-optic internet available, and consumers might be required to use DSL or satellite.

Types of internet connections

High-speed internet type


Average price per month


10-200 Mbps



1-80 Mbps



200-1000 Mbps



12-100 Mbps


High-speed internet service providers (ISPs)

High-speed internet provider


Estimate cost per month


300-1000 Mbps



300-1000 Mbps


Google Fiber

100-1000 Mbps


Verizon Fios

200-1000 Mbps


Comcast Xfinity

100-1000 Mbps


Cox Communications

50-1000 Mbps


What factors contribute to internet costs?

These costs, historically rather difficult to compile in one place, should now be listed on ISPs' nutrition labels at the point of sale.

  • Equipment rental: Most ISPs rent their equipment to customers for a fee. Rented equipment primarily consists of modems and routers.
  • Installation/activation fees: Installation and activation fees cost about $100 on average. Not all companies charge an installation fee, but they are common.
  • FCC Universal Service Fund fee: This is a fee placed upon telecommunication companies, and it is used to keep their services affordable for Americans. While the FCC doesn't require ISPs to pass this cost on to their customers, it is permitted and done. The current (2024) FCC UFSF fee is set at 32.8%.
  • Late Payment fee: Late payment fees vary by provider but tend to range from $9 to $25 per late payment. The average late payment fee is around $12.
  • Cancellation fee: If an ISP requires a contract for their internet plans, then there is likely a cancellation fee for those who want to exit the contract early. Some companies charge a flat-rate cancellation fee of around $100-$150, sometimes reducing the cost by a small amount per month of the contract completed. Other ISP companies charge a cancellation fee based on the number of months remaining in the contract -- often in the range of $10-$20 per month left on the contract.

How can you choose the best internet service?

Which internet provider is best for you is going to depend on certain contextual factors. Ask yourself: What do you plan to use the internet for? How many devices do you plan to have simultaneously connected to it? How many people are likely to be using your network regularly? What deals and promotions are offered in your area? Although it can be frustrating, the more choices you have to make, the more opportunity you have to assemble the best deals. If these questions feel overwhelming, don't worry, below is a step-by-step walkthrough of how to choose the best internet service for you.

  1. Determine what you need from your internet. Decide how many devices you plan to have connected to your home network at a time. Look at what you use your devices for and determine what level of internet speed makes sense. This guide provides a reference for which internet speeds are suitable for different types of activity and can be a useful tool in determining what speeds will meet your needs.
  2. Assess what is available. Available internet plans and services vary by location. Speed and availability are the main factors affected by locale, but the price can be impacted as well.
  3. Shop around. Look at the details of plans offered in your area and compare speed, price, data caps, contracts, fees, deals and discounts, and bundling options. The goal here is to determine which provider will offer you the best of what you want for the most reasonable price. 
  4. Make your selection. With the data collected, it is time to decide. Once you have gone through the previous steps, you should arrive at a provider that stands out above the rest for you. Now, all that's left is to contact them and schedule an appointment.

Also: These states pay the most for the worst internet

How do you determine the speed you need?

  • Cable internet is newer than DSL. It delivers roughly two times the speed, although it is still significantly slower than fiber. Cable is best for people who have moderate to high internet speed requirements. The average monthly cost of cable is $58.
  • DSL is the earliest of high-speed internet types and still accounts for a significant number of users. While cable and fiber are faster, DSL is still capable of delivering speeds that are fast enough for most residential internet activity, and is often the best choice for people living in areas that do not yet have cable or fiber-optic infrastructure in place. DSL is best for people who have low to moderate internet speed requirements. The average monthly cost of DSL is the lowest option, averaging around $43.
  • Fiber internet has the least availability, being a new technology that requires specialized lines. Fiber is currently the fastest form of commercial internet, is the fastest, and is best for people who have very high internet speed requirements. The average monthly cost of fiber is $56.
  • Satellite is significantly slower than other forms of high-speed internet, but is available nearly everywhere, as it does not use landlines but instead relies on satellites and dishes. The average monthly cost of satellite is $91. It costs significantly more than other forms of high-speed internet as it depends on much more expensive technology, but is essentially available anywhere on Earth. 

Also: Fiber vs. cable: Understanding the differences

How much should you be paying for internet?

For those wondering how much internet costs most people these days, Americans pay an average price of $65 per month in 2024. According to a broadband study by OpenVault, the average American household used around 641 gigabytes of data per month in 2023. 

There are four main types of high-speed internet: 

  • Cable uses coaxial cables, like cable television, and costs an average of $58 per month. 
  • DSL uses the same wires as traditional phone lines and costs an average of $43 per month.
  • Fiber is a newer technology that requires fiber cables to be installed and costs an average of $66 per month. 
  • Satellite internet relies on satellites and satellite dishes to transmit internet data and costs an average of $91 per month.

The internet can be costly, both to purchase and to run. Even so, as the numbers above demonstrate, high-speed internet has become an integral part of U.S. life, quickly becoming a necessity of the modern world.

How much should high-speed internet cost?

Unless a plan offers certain premium features that you are pursuing, such as top speeds and unlimited data, try to keep the cost of high-speed internet below $52 on cable, $50 on DSL, $59 on fiber, or $123 on satellite. Following this guideline will keep you from paying above average for your internet type. Americans are expected to pay $64 per month for their average cost of internet in 2024.

Also: 10 ways to speed up your internet connection today

Who has the cheapest internet?

Despite relying on some of the newest technology, Verizon Fios is the most affordable provider out of the ones reviewed. The cheapest Fios plan doesn't deliver speeds beyond what cable internet can achieve, but it is cheaper for what you get. The downside is that it is not available everywhere.

If Verizon Fios isn't an option, the next best choice is likely AT&T, with a broad assortment of plans, competitive pricing, and expansive availability.

What are the options in your area?

Every internet provider has a disclaimer posted along with their service plans. This disclaimer lets potential customers know that plans, speeds, and prices may vary by location. While this can be frustrating, it is primarily due to the nature of the American telecommunication infrastructure. In general, the more urban and densely populated an area, the more internet service options there will be. For an in-depth look at what is available in your area, take a look at our review of the best internet providers.

How can you lower your internet cost per month?

  • Switch providers annually. When you sign up as a new customer with an internet provider, you can often gain discounts and other deals on your internet plan. However, this might not be possible if there are only one or two service providers in your area. Also, "startup fees" might make switching often unsustainable.
  • Negotiate. Despite appearances, few company policies and prices are truly set in stone. Talk to your ISP agent, and you may be able to negotiate a better rate.
  • Use your own equipment. Monthly rental fees can make up a significant portion of your internet bill. Supplying your own modem and router can keep these rental fees off your account.
  • Choose a lower speed. Not everyone needs the fastest speed available. Internet plan prices go up relative to their maximum speed. Choosing a plan with a lower speed will likely result in a lower monthly cost.

Also: Your guide to internet fees and hidden costs

What are some surprise internet costs?

Internet pricing can sometimes surprise you, especially when you consider all of the different costs that might get factored into your bill. Below are some common features and add-ons that might up your internet bill.

  • Overage charges: Plans that have data caps will see charges added to your account if you go over your allotted data amount.
  • Unlimited data add-on: Many internet plans that have data caps can have an unlimited data add-on purchased alongside them, removing the data cap but increasing the monthly price.

How much does Wi-Fi cost?

Average monthly internet bills in the United States are expected to be $64 in 2024 but this can vary greatly depending on location, plan, and provider. The primary difference between regular internet and Wi-Fi is a piece of equipment called a router. Most providers rent routers to their customers for $5-$10 per month. To figure out your Wi-Fi cost per month, add the cost of a router to the cost of your internet plan.

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