Today's online consumers are incredibly bargain-savvy, and it should be no different when it comes to determining how to find the best internet deals.
Great bargain shoppers use coupon codes, take advantage of flash sales, and even utilize mobile apps to help save on in-store purchases. But have you thought about whether you're getting your money's worth from your Internet service provider?
If you're in the midst of deciding on which provider to choose for online access, there are several factors you should take into consideration. Below I've provided a guide to the best way to get a bargain on your internet service. Read on for more info.
In This Guide
Key Considerations About Finding Great Internet Deals
There are a number of things you should know as you evaluate the cheapest broadband deals to connect you to the Internet:
- Time limits - promotional offers for cheap internet deals (such as black Friday deals) usually involve limited time pricing. For example, AT&T Internet deals typically offer the special pricing for 24 months, whereas Verizon FiOS internet plans and Comcast internet plans feature toward one-year promotions (or incremental year promotions). Always check deals on holidays like Black Friday and be sure to note what you're going to have to pay once the promotion period is up.
- Internet Connection type - make sure you know whether you're getting cable internet, DSL, satellite, fiber optic broadband, etc. For instance, if you're looking for the best internet for gaming, you'll want a faster wired/wireless broadband connection like cable or fiber optic broadband internet with a wired/wireless broadband router. In addition, each delivery method requires different equipment, installation process, and fees.
- Ordering method - what internet service providers won't tell you is that the best internet deals aren't always those advertised on the website. Be thorough - call the customer service number to see what kind of pricing you can get that way, but don't commit just yet. Call back and consult a different agent. If that yields the same results, use the online chat function. These agents are often outsourced and more willing to give you a great bargain.
- Local providers - don't discount small, local Internet providers. If you're fortunate enough to have these independent providers as an option, you might just find that they offer the best broadband and high-speed internet deals.
Be thorough - call the customer service number to see what kind of pricing you can get that way, but don't commit just yet. Call back and consult a different agent.
What Speed Do You Need?
The first thing you need to think about is exactly what you need from your wired or wireless router. Do you use your internet service to check email and search for information? Or do you have online gaming enthusiasts in your household or several devices which may be streaming music or video at the same time?
The amount you pay for your service will be determined by your speed and data requirements. You want to be sure you're looking at the right home internet deals for your specific situation.
You may think any old connection will do, even if it's the lowest tier available. With online activities requiring increasingly large amounts of bandwidth all the time, you need to pay attention to speed when you're shopping for the best internet service deals. Your needs will vary based upon the number of devices in your home and what those devices are running. Here are some examples of which speeds are appropriate for certain situations:
- 5Mbps or under for downloads: This speed is adequate for those with one to four devices running at the same time, with each performing basic functions such as web browsing, email, or SD videos.
- 6Mbps to 15Mbps download: At this speed, multiple devices may be doing basic functions along with one to two devices performing a high-demand task such as HD video.
- 15Mbps and up: This speed allows up to four users to perform a combination of basic and high-demand functions simultaneously.
All of these levels are marketed as "high-speed internet", and many are also marketed as "broadband Internet". The FCC (Federal Communications Commission), however, has adjusted the definition of a wired/wireless broadband connection to include only download speeds of 25Mbps and upload speeds of 3Mbps.
This means that companies may sell themselves as internet providers offering the cheapest broadband deals when they're actually high-speed internet providers. Even so, for most average households, speeds between 5Mbps and 25Mbps are still adequate. Ultimately, you shouldn't take the words "broadband Internet" to heart while figuring out how to find the best Internet deals. If you're still wondering what is a good download speed, our in-depth guide will help you out.
Related: What is High-Speed Internet?
Let me give you an idea of how these speeds play out in real life. For example, Netflix recommends the following speeds for streaming TV shows and movies via the connection from your wired or wireless router:
- 3Mbps - SD quality
- 5Mbps - HD quality
- 25Mbps - Ultra HD quality
The important thing to remember about these recommendations is that if you have more than one device streaming media at the same time, you need the bandwidth to cover each one. In other words, if you have two members of the same household watching HD programs, say one on a computer and one on a tablet, you'll want a minimum of a 10Mbps internet connection - 5Mbps per device from your high-speed wired/wireless broadband router.
Related: Check out our Buyer's Guide to Streaming Sites for more information.
Home internet service providers have come under considerable heat over the past couple of years due to one very contentious issue - data caps. In the past, even the best internet providers have limited the amount of data their customers were permitted, typically to around 250 - 300 GB per month. In recent months, however, due largely to consumer pressure, companies like Comcast have raised their caps to 1TB (terabyte - 1000 GB) for many of their plans.
Related: Comcast Internet Plans
Is a terabyte enough?
A terabyte is more data than most average households will ever use in a month. For those with a houseful of devices running data-heavy apps like 4k video streaming or graphics-intensive online games, however, it could be an issue. To get an idea of the real life impact of data caps, you need to take into consideration how much data something like a video stream viewed on a 4k TV can gobble up. My research showed that estimates vary wildly, ranging between 7 and 18 GB per hour.
Next, we'll take into account how these figures add up. According to Tech Hive, Netflix users average about two hours of streaming per day. If we go with an estimate on the lower side for Ultra HD streaming, say 10 GB per hour for a nice round number, you could rip through more than half your data allowance in streaming alone. Now add gaming, music streaming, and other miscellaneous tasks humming along on your household's devices and you can see how these plans with data caps may not be the best internet deals for high-demand users.
Overages and unlimited internet options
So how much will you pay if you go over these data caps? Major providers typically charge $10 per additional 50 GB, up to a maximum of $100 - $200 per month in overages. There are unlimited internet plans available for a hefty additional fee ($30/month through AT&T U-verse and $50/month from Comcast/Xfinity). It's important to have an idea of how much data you tend to use so you can find the best internet deals in your area for your household's needs.
Related: AT&T Internet Plans
Pick a Provider
Once you've decided what you need in order to provide your family with a smooth online experience and enough data for everyone's activities, it's time to see what's available near you. Use our convenient zip code checker tool to find out which internet providers offer service in your area.
Searching internet providers by ZIP code is the best way to determine exactly which companies you should be researching in further depth. We make it easy for you to focus on the providers that actually service your local area so that you don't waste time searching the best internet deals only to find that certain ones aren't even accessible to you.
If you live in a rural area or are dissatisfied with the companies in your area, you might want to look into the top satellite internet providers. Latency could be an issue, at times, but satellite internet has proven ideal for many people who live in these hard to reach areas. You can also check out our guide on how to get Internet in rural areas.
Now that you've narrowed down your choices, it's time to move on to negotiating your best price on internet service.
Related: Windstream Internet Service
Internet, TV, and Phone Bundles
One of the most effective ways to save money on your home communications services is to look for the best combination cable, Internet, and phone bundles. This is because, among the promotions offered by providers, the prices typically go down more and more as you add more services. These cable and internet bundles can save you up to $60 or more on your total bill, as opposed to buying your services separately.
You can get any combination of services you want - whether you need internet and phone deals, internet and cable, or an Internet, TV and phone package, providers typically make it very easy to find exactly the combination you want at a discounted price.
If you're looking for cheap internet deals, don't worry - bundles aren't limited to the somewhat pricey double and triple play Internet, TV and phone packages you hear so much about. You can choose anything from just local channels along with a lower tier internet speed, all the way up to the fastest connection available with an extensive suite of cable channels.
Keep in mind, too, that most providers will allow you to build your own bundle. This way, you can create Internet and phone deals or switch it up to suit your needs. You will need to call the customer service department to request this option. Just be sure that you've also investigated the cable providers near you so that you can feel confident in your choice of bundles.
How to Get the Best Internet Deals with Your Current Provider
Do you already have service, yet still want to enjoy the benefits of the best internet deals? Don't assume you're stuck. There are several ways you can bring that bill down and maybe even get a significant discount on your existing services.
At the end of your promotional offer period, call and see what the company is willing to do for you to keep you on. There's no reason to resign yourself to a bill that skyrockets after a year is up.
- Do your due diligence. Research great internet deals online from your provider as well as others, before you even make contact. This means knowing the prices they're offering new customers.
- Research what others are paying. If you're friendly with your neighbors, see if you can find out what kind of deal they're getting on their service. Search online forums to see the lowest rates others have had luck getting from your provider. The more leverage you have, the better.
- Renegotiate your deal. Sometimes the best internet deals are those which are struck as a result of your provider trying to keep your business. At the end of your promotional offer period, call and see what the company is willing to do for you to keep you on. There's no reason to resign yourself to a bill that skyrockets after a year is up. Call every year (or two, whenever your special pricing expires), and let a little hint drop that you are thinking of canceling your service if you have to pay the new, much higher price. Most companies are highly driven to keep you as a customer and will offer you at least a similar deal to what you were getting.
- Get it in writing. A customer service agent can talk all day about which internet deals they can offer you, but if it's not recorded in your account then you're going to have trouble proving you were promised a certain price. Insist they send you terms in writing, and call back after a few days to ensure that the change has been made to your bill.
There is no guarantee that you'll be able to get the best internet deal being offered by your current provider. However, if you're well prepared and ready to firmly - yet politely - negotiate, you are likely to meet with success. The key to getting a rate you're happy with is to be persistent - keep talking to people until you're satisfied, and don't be afraid to switch to a new provider if you can't come to an agreement.
Ultimately, getting the best internet deals comes down to knowing exactly what you want and need in your connection, and doing the legwork to find the best possible price on it.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to secure a great deal for your internet service, go out and get it! You can check out our buyer's guide to Internet providers to see rankings, comparisons, and analysis of all the major service providers.
Don't forget to take advantage of our zip code checker tool to get the most cumbersome part of your search out of the way. Find out quickly and easily who has the best internet deals in your neighborhood and then get started on your online adventures!