It feels like the cost of internet service just keeps going up.
The average American pays about $61 a month for internet service, but that figure can be much higher depending on where you live and your connection speed.
Internet and cable TV companies are notorious for offering generous introductory promotions only to jack up your bill with hidden fees and other costs over time.
A lack of competition also drives prices higher. The advocacy arm of Consumer Reports has even launched an initiative called Broadband Together to collect data on how much people are really paying for internet access — because the big internet companies don’t tell us.
Trying to save money? Here are seven tips to help lower your internet bill.
1. Federal Government Subsidies
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides a $30 discount on home internet service to those who qualify.
If your family is enrolled in certain federal assistance programs — or you meet income criteria — you might qualify for subsidized, low-cost internet.
You could qualify for a ACP voucher if anyone in your household is enrolled in:
- Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program
- Federal Pell Grant (received in the current award year)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Certain tribal assistance programs
You can also qualify for the program if your income is 200% of the 2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines ($36,620 for a family of two).
This can be beneficial for retirees who may have low incomes because they’re no longer working, but who don’t qualify for any of the federal assistance programs listed above.
You can fill out this application on GetInternet.gov to see if you qualify for $30 off your internet bill through the Affordable Connectivity Program.
You can use the ACP benefit with any tier of broadband service offered by an internet service provider (ISP).
Low-Income Internet Plans
Want to save even more? Ask your ISP about their low-income plans.
Most major internet providers have a low-priced plan they offer specifically to people enrolled in certain assistance programs.
Many of these plans had low download speeds in the past, but since the ACP rolled out in 2022, several companies have added a faster tier for $30.
That means if you pair the ACP voucher with a participating low-income plan, you could pay $0 for high-speed internet.
Here are some examples:
Low-Income Internet Plans From Major Providers
|Plan||Price||Download speed||Qualifying programs|
|Access from AT&T||$30||Up to 100 mbps||SNAP or at least 200% of federal poverty level||SEE DETAILS|
|Cox Connect2Compete||$9.95||Up to 100 mbps download speeds||Families on assistance with K-12 children||SEE DETAILS|
|Internet Essentials (Comcast Xfinity)||$29.95||Up to 100 mbps download speed||School lunch, HUD, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, more||SEE DETAILS|
|Mediacom Connect2Compete||$9.95/$29.99||Up to 25/100 Mbps upload||At least one K-12 child eligible for school lunch||SEE DETAILS|
|Spectrum Internet Assist||$17.99/$29.99||Up to 30/100 Mbps||School lunch, Community Eligibility Provision, SSI||SEE DETAILS|
The best way to see if you qualify for a low-cost internet plan is to call your service provider directly.
This tool from the nonprofit EveryoneOn can help you find low-income internet plans in your area with details on eligibility requirements.
Lifeline is another federal subsidy that can help lower your monthly internet bill.
The Lifeline program provides a $9.25 monthly discount if your household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty level. You may also qualify if you’re enrolled in certain federal assistance programs.
2. Reduce Your Internet Speed
Internet service providers (ISPs) charge more for plans with higher speeds.
If you don’t use the internet much, dropping to a lower speed could help lower your monthly internet bill by $20 a month or more, depending on your carrier.
However, this isn’t an option for everyone.
Heavy internet users and families usually require download speeds of at least 100 megabytes per second (mbps) and upload speeds of 10 mbps.
Figure out your minimum viable download speed, then look for ISPs that offer plans in that range at a low price.
How Much Internet Speed Do You Need?
|Internet speed||People using connection||Activities|
|5-25 mbps||1-2||Browsing, email, social media, streaming SD videos|
|25-50||1-3||HD/4K video streaming, light gaming, video calls|
|50-100||2-4||4K streaming, remote work, home security devices|
|100-500||2-4||Gaming, home office, smart home devices|
|500-1000||3-5+||Doing a lot of almost anything on numerous devices|
3. Buy Your Own Modem and Router
Renting your equipment from an internet provider might be convenient, but that monthly equipment fee adds up.
You’ll pay anywhere from $5-$20 a month to rent a modem and router.
That’s $120 a year or more just to use rental equipment.
To spend less money in the long run, consider buying your own equipment to run your wired internet connection.
You can usually find a good router and modem for around $200 total. (Used and refurbished equipment costs less.)
It’s more money upfront, but it could trim your bill over time. Crunch the numbers and see if it makes sense for your budget.
4. Shop Around and Switch Providers
If you’re lucky enough to have multiple internet service providers in your area to choose from, switching to a new company can help put more money in your pocket.
Check HighSpeedInternet.com to find a list of all the internet service providers in your zip code.
Find out if other companies are offering promotional offers to new customers. If you own your own modem and router, making the switch to a new provider is relatively easy.
You can often find promotional pricing around the holidays. Some ISPs will offer gift cards, free services or even contract buyouts around Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Unfortunately, there are an estimated 83 million Americans who only have access to one ISP in their area, according to a 2020 report by the Institute on Local Self-Reliance.
5. Negotiate Your Monthly Bill
If you don’t mind uncomfortable phone calls, you can try to negotiate a lower rate with your internet service provider.
Negotiating the price of your internet bill works best if your current provider isn’t the only game in town. Competition gives you greater leverage, and you can use that to your advantage to save money.
When you call to negotiate your internet bill, ask to speak to the retention department. They may be able to offer you a deal that a regular agent can’t.
How to Negotiate an Internet Bill
Do your homework before you call your internet company.
Get internet prices and quotes from other providers in your area, especially their rates for new customers. Ask about each plan’s download speed.
Also make sure you’re familiar with the terms of your current plan. Check and see how the price has changed over time. Make sure you know your plan’s speed.
You’ll have the most leverage during negotiations with your internet provider if:
- You have a history of on-time payments.
- Your contract is expiring soon.
When it’s time for the call, tell the customer service representative that you found a better deal somewhere else and you’re willing to cancel your service and switch companies.
Be prepared to back up “I found a better deal elsewhere” if they ask. Tell them the terms of their competitor’s promotional price, such as the same speed but for $30 less per month.
Be polite but firm.
Most companies are willing to haggle in order to keep you as a customer.
Evaluate each offer your current company gives you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you really going to save money or are they just offering to add a new service?
- Is the speed slower, and if so, by how much?
- How long will this new price be in effect?
Finally, call on a weekday if you can. A lot of people are at work, so you’ll have the advantage of shorter hold times and speaking with higher-level reps.
Or Let an App Negotiate for You
If haggling a lower bill with your provider over the phone sounds like a nightmare, you can download an app to do it for you.
Several apps — including BillCutterz, Trim, Rocket Money (formerly TrueBill) and Hiatus — will contact your internet provider on your behalf and try to negotiate a better deal.
If they’re successful in getting you a lower rate, the app keeps a cut. For example, if BillCutterz saves you $40 on your internet bill, they keep half ($20) and you get the other $20.
Some of these apps also carry a monthly or yearly membership fee.
6. Change Your Cell Phone’s Data Plan
If you’re unable to lower your internet bill, you can still save some money by reducing your cell phone’s data package.
Many people sign up for unlimited talk, text and data, though most households don’t use much data each month. Why pay for something you don’t need?
By opting for a cell phone plan with 5Gs of data or less, you could trim $20 or more off your bill. Then, you can rely on your home internet’s WiFi for internet access instead.
Just make sure to automatically connect to local WiFi networks when you’re out of the house. (You can enable this in your phone settings.)
Finally, be sure to analyze how much data you use on a monthly basis before downgrading your plan.
On the flip side, consider increasing your data. Do you even need internet at home if you can get unlimited data for a reasonable price? Some unlimited data cell phone plans start at $30 a month. Depending on your usage, you could use your phone as a hotspot and just rely on data or supplement a cheaper, slower internet connection.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.