Research is the best way to ensure you are getting the right internet plan for your household’s needs. Before you commit to a provider or plan, make sure all of your questions are answered and you know exactly what you will be paying for.
1. What types of internet service are available in my area?
The main types of internet service are DSL, cable, satellite and fiber optic. Unfortunately, you don’t always have a choice about your internet service since some regions only provide one of these options. Few areas provide all four, but if you do have an option, choose fiber optic. DSL is generally the slowest option and fiber optic tends to be the most cost-efficient and reliable option.
There is some good news for residents of areas without any internet access. The federal government announced in July 2022 that all states, D.C. and U.S. territories have agreed to join in a plan to provide funding for the infrastructure of internet service in those areas. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), “The $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program enables states and territories to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs.” The Infrastructure Law funds $65 billion to ensure all Americans can access affordable, reliable high-speed internet.
If cost is holding you back from signing up for internet service, look at the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program which provides a $30/mo. stipend for internet service for anyone meeting the financial guidelines. Most providers offer internet plans under $30/mo. and with the $30/mo. ACP credit, your plan is free.
2. What speeds are available in my area?
Most internet providers offer a range of speeds to accommodate the needs of all types of internet users and family sizes. Even if you determined your preferred internet plan before speaking to a salesperson, you should still ask about different plan options. Internet plans often vary based on location and there could be other options available that you aren’t aware of. Also make sure to ask about both upload and download speeds as the advertised speed is usually just the download speed.
Many internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon offer fiber connections, but availability can be scattered. Most also offer DSL connections if fiber isn’t available, but remember that those are under 100 Mbps.
If you aren’t sure what speed is best for you, take our quiz to see what speed is best for your household’s needs.
If you are searching for an ISP in your area with better speed plans, test your current speed to see what you are really getting in your home.
3. How do I know what speed I need?
Internet plans are designed to accommodate certain needs, so when you are asking about speed options, ask what each speed is best for. Allconnect also offers insight on what speed you may need. For instance, we suggest:
- 20 to 40 Mbps for working from home and/or gaming for 1 to 3 users
- 100 Mbps for working from home and/or gaming for 2 to 5 users
- 500 Mbps and higher for a full house (5 users+) working from home, gaming, 4K streaming and using smart home devices
4. Are there data limits? If there are, what is the penalty for going over?
Internet providers vary considerably in their data limit policies. Make sure you know how much data you get with each package and what happens if you go over that limit. Additionally, even if your prospective service provider advertises unlimited data, ask if there is the potential for your internet speed to ever be throttled. Sometimes, even if you have unlimited data, providers slow your internet toward the end of the month if you are using it disproportionately more than others in your neighborhood and the network is congested. There may even be soft data limits that your provider doesn’t advertise.
For example, Xfinity says that customers in select markets are automatically given their 1.2 Terabyte Data Plan. “That’s enough monthly data to stream HD movies for nearly 18 hours a day,” said Xfinity. They also offer an unlimited plan for an additional fee.
5. Are there price increases? If so, by how much and when?
Unless a provider specifically labels a plan as “price for life,” the advertised price is most likely a promotional price. Therefore, your bill will likely increase after 12 months. Make sure you ask what the regular rate is for each internet plan before you decide which package is the best deal.
Also, ISPs can and will hike prices annually, like AT&T’s recent $3/mo. price increase. It makes sense to watch your ISP monthly bill for equipment fee hikes or annual increases. You might be able to negotiate your bill by calling them or it may be time to look for a less expensive internet plan available in your area.
6. Is there a contract?
Internet providers vary significantly in their contract policies. Some providers don’t require contracts, others require as long as a two-year contract and some give you an option to choose your contract length.
If a provider gives you an option for the contract length, the prices will likely differ based on which contract length you choose, with the longest contract offering the lowest price. Therefore, consider how long you will likely require internet for your current location before you choose a provider and a plan.
If you are opting for a contract, ask if there is an early termination fee and if there is a grace period before that termination fee kicks in.
ISPs want to remain competitive, so they will occasionally change their requirements. In 2020, Verizon changed how it bills, allowing customers to choose internet and TV plans separately and pay by the month.
7. Are the advertised internet speeds guaranteed?
Most providers do not guarantee the speeds they advertise, but you should ask what your prospective provider’s policy is just in case you run into problems with your speeds. Providers should be able to offer speeds at least within 80% of advertised speeds, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Nine of the 12 ISPs tested by the FCC met or exceeded their advertised download speeds, and two more reached at least 90% of their advertised download speed. Only Cincinnati Bell (now altafiber) DSL (at 78%) performed below 90% of its advertised download speed.
To find out the speed of your current internet plan, take our test below.
Need more for the price?
Try these helpful hacks to improve your internet speed. Or if you just want more bang for your buck, check out providers near you with more speed for the price. Either way, we’ll help you find what you need.View providers near me
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Pro Tip: For best results, use an Ethernet cord to connect your router or modem directly to your device before you run the test.
8. What additional fees can I expect?
The advertised price for an internet plan is only one of several fees you can expect to see on your bill. Typical fees for internet service include:
- Monthly equipment fees (modem and router)
- One-time installation fee
- One-time activation fee
Ask if there are ways to waive the installation fee as some providers will waive it if you purchase your internet online. If you can’t get the professional installation fee waived, you likely have the option to self-install, which is often free or at least significantly less expensive.
Other potential fees could be data overages, late payments or early terminations. However, as long as you remain in your contract and keep track of your data usage, you can avoid these charges.
For example, T-Mobile 5G Home Internet has no equipment fees and that can save you $10 to $18 a month.
Verizon updated its plans both in speed and price in 2022. The 300 Mbps plan is now listed at $49.99/mo. rather than the $39.99/mo. However, the $15/mo. router rental fees were bundled into the price change, so customers are actually paying less per month.
9. Can I use my own equipment?
If you want to save money, purchasing your own modem and router separately is often more cost-efficient than renting from your internet provider. However, not all providers offer this option and some providers include the modem and router with select packages.
The main downside of buying your equipment is if you have issues with your equipment (which is not uncommon), you likely won’t have access to your provider’s tech support.
If having the latest tech and controlling your own features is important to you, Netgear, a retailer of modem and router hardware, says that “ISP-provided modems and gateways are often outdated and do not have the capability to support the speeds that you are paying for.” The company also states that “you’re giving your ISP full reign over your internet connection. ISP-owned modem routers have an added firmware that providers control, which means they can disable or enable WiFi features whenever they want.”
10. Will I save money if I bundle my internet and TV service?
If you are a Verizon mobile customer, you may be eligible to save $25/mo. on home internet offers from LTE Home, 5G and Fios, which will make the cost of the 300 Mbps plan $25/mo. rather than $49.99/mo., with AutoPay for new subscribers.
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Written by:Ari Howard
Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content
Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team. She primarily writes about broadband news and studies, particularly relating to internet access, digital safety, broadband-related technology and the digital d… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
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