Make Sure to Check on Alternative Internet Options Twice a Year

Kathryn Pomroy
September 14, 2020

In 2018, Statista reported there were over 312 million internet users, with 43% accessing it several times a day. In 2019, only 10% of all U.S. adults said they didn’t use the internet. So, it’s safe to say that internet service is a near-necessity for everyday life.

You use the internet for dozens of reasons. To communicate, search for a job, log into social media, get information on millions of topics and much more. But just because you rely on the internet, doesn’t mean you’re locked into certain providers. There are plenty of reasons you should check out alternative internet options at least twice a year. 

Why Should You Check Internet Options Twice a Year?

Internet service providers (ISPs) routinely improve serviceability, so your options may change. That’s why it just makes sense to check back in at least a couple of times a year.  

Maybe you want lower monthly rates, you want to check out bundling pricing, or you’ve decided to become a championship gamer and need faster internet speeds. You may have moved to a new location that your current provider doesn’t service. It’s possible you had bad customer service at your current provider and want to explore your options. 

Signed Contracts

Many, but certainly not all, ISPs require customers to sign a contract. Most customers never read the small print and end up agreeing to terms they aren't aware of.

But if you want a cheaper price on your service, signing a one- or two-year contract might be your best option. Most providers will also give you a good price if you bundle services – TV and phone – with your internet. Some providers even offer to “lock in” your price, so you don’t have to worry about your internet service being raised suddenly, as with many month-to-month plans. 

If you’re renting, it may not be best to sign a contract unless you plan on living at your current location for the term of the contract because many providers charge early termination fees for breaking a contract. 

What is the average length of a contract? 

On average, ISP plans are for two years, although some providers offer shorter times.

Most early termination fees can range from $175 to $300-plus. Some internet providers will also tack on surcharges for every month you have left on your service. So if you had to cancel prematurely with six months left on your contract, and your ISP charges $10 for each month you have left, you’d pay $60, plus early termination fees. That could add up to over $300 in fees that you might owe on your last bill. 

What ISPs have no-contract options?

Not all internet providers require contracts. But to get the best price, you may have to sign a contract for up to two years with these providers.

  • Xfinity. Plans start at $24.99/mo., but you can get a no-term agreement plan for a slightly higher monthly payment.  
  • AT&T.  For internet service at AT&T's best rate, you’ll have to sign a one-year contract.
  • HughesNet. HughesNet offers a 24-month service agreement with no mid-contract price increases.
  • Cox. Although Cox doesn’t require contracts on all accounts, if you want to bundle your internet with phone or TV, you’ll have to sign a contract that can range from 12 months to two years. 

ISPs with no contracts?

Although these internet providers don’t require customers to sign a contract, you may get a better price on bundles if you do. 

  • Spectrum. Customers can choose from three internet-only plans with no contract required. 
  • Mediacom. Mediacom has five plans to choose from. Plus, you get better pricing if you choose to bundle your internet with cable TV. Mediacom has no contracts, but does have data caps.  
  • RCN. Prices start at $34.99/mo. with no contracts required. 
  • CenturyLink. There are no contracts required, no early termination fees and you get their Price for Life rate guarantee when you sign up. 
  • Optimum. If you live in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, you can get plans up to 200 Mbps and no contracts. 
  • SuddenLink. Service is available in 20 states currently. Pricing starts at $34.99/mo. and there are no contracts to sign. 

What does it take to get out of a contract?

Even if an ISP requires no contract, there may be fees associated with terminating your service. For instance, AT&T charges a different fee for each contract and up to $180 in early termination fees. With Optimum, if you cancel your service on June 1, but your contract service period is from May 25 to June 25, you’ll have to pay for the whole month of June.  With Xfinity, you’ll be billed $110 minus $10/mo. for every month in your one-year contract that has passed, $230 minus $10/mo. for a two-year agreement and $0 for month-to-month agreements. Most (if not all) providers require you to call their customer service departments to cancel your service. 

Upgrades

There are dozens of reasons to upgrade your internet. Maybe you’ve upgraded or added several devices and find your current plan can’t keep up. You might be worried about internet security with your current provider or you're frequently disconnected.  Maybe you’re just tired of your service or you feel you’re paying too much. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to be sure you can upgrade or if there are out-of-pocket costs involved.  

Can you upgrade while being in a contract?

Most internet service providers will allow customers to upgrade their service while under contract. However, you may have to be a qualified customer who hasn’t subscribed to any other services within a certain timeframe, you will likely be required to sign a new contract, and you may have to pay a fee. 

Bundle Options

Many internet service providers offer better pricing to their customers who bundle TV or phone with their internet. Maybe you’ve had your current plan for a while and wonder if bundling can save you money on your monthly bill, or you’ve just moved to another area and wonder if bundling is worth it. There are benefits to bundling, but also drawbacks.

Pros and cons of bundled internet

Pros

  • One bill. When you bundle TV and internet, or TV, phone and internet, you get one bill instead of several. That makes it easier to pay and budget monthly costs.
  • Cost savings. Most ISPs offer better pricing to customers who bundle services.
  • Some providers offer perks, like a free DVR or other incentives for bundling services when you first sign-up for the internet.
  • Faster speeds. Some providers will upgrade your internet speed if you bundle internet and cable.
  • Free installation. Many providers offer free installation or at least a reduced cost on installing your internet if you bundle cable or phone.

Cons

  • No landline. If you only use your cellphone and have no landline to bundle, then you may end up paying for a service you don’t need.
  • Streaming. If you stream via Netflix, Hulu or some other service and have “cut your cable,” then paying to bundle cable and internet makes no sense.
  • Contracts. Sometimes ISPs will require a contract if you bundle other services with internet.

Promotions

Many ISPs run promotions at different times of the year. Changing providers or looking for alternative options may let you in on deals and specials you wouldn’t know about if you stayed with your current provider. 

How often do internet providers run/change promotions?

That depends on the provider. Right now, Xfinity is offering a free subscription to NBC’s Peacock streaming service and a 4K streaming device for new customers when you bundle TV and internet. AT&T, Spectrum and Cox also offer discounted pricing on internet and TV bundles at different times throughout the year–especially around holidays. 

If you’re new to Verizon, you can get an entire year of Disney Plus when you sign up for any Verizon Fios internet plan and Optimum is giving their new customers $10 off for the first month, plus free installation, Price for Life guarantee and a $100 Amazon card. 

Bottom Line

In a DecisionData study, 70% of consumers who switched ISPs ended up regretting it. But the study also showed that price was the main factor for making a change in the first place. Other respondents said they switched providers to take advantage of promotions and introductory offers. 

Although fees associated with breaking a contract early or other fees providers might tack on for making changes to your service may seem like a reason for staying put, simply calling around or checking out other internet service providers can’t hurt. Just be sure when you switch, you don’t get stuck in a similar or worse plan.

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