How to Save Money on Internet Access

How to Save Money on Internet Access

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wireless Internet router

Internet access is a practical necessity these days, but in many areas there are only a few choices of providers, all of which are expensive.  Here are some ways you might be able to cut your Internet bill.

Use a Lower-Bandwidth Plan

If these options don’t work for you, ask your Internet provider about a lower-cost, lower-speed option. For example, Time-Warner’s Standard cable Internet package costs $44.99 for 15Mbps, which is overkill for most home users, but that is what most people get because that’s what the cable companies push.  Time Warner’s Basic package is $29.99 per month for 3Mbps and their Lite package is $19.99 for 1Mbps.  That might sound slow, but right now, I have crappy DSL, which is only 1Mbps, and I can still watch videos (although they are sometimes sluggish).  So even if you only go down to the Basic 3Mbps package, you will save $180 per year with probably no noticeable speed difference! If you go down to 1Mbps (which is what I have on DSL), you’ll more than cut your bill in half and save $300 per year!

Ask for a Discount

Another thing you can do is call your Internet service provider and ask for a discount. This is especially effective if you have a lower quote from a competitor or if you threaten to leave. I’ve heard this works 90% of the time. This worked for me with my cable company when I cancelled my cable TV. They immediately offered to lower my rate if I signed on for a year.  It can’t hurt to ask!!

Switch Providers

Internet Service Providers often offer really good rates for the first year or so, then they jack up rates.  If you don’t mind switching, then you can move around and take advantage of these good introductory rates.

Get Your Own Modem to Avoid Fees

Some Internet providers charging a monthly “rental fee” for the modem. This is really outrageous and you should protest and threaten to buy your own if they don’t waive this fee. Cable modems cost around $60 so after a few years of rental fees, they will be making pure profit at your expense. So, go to your cable company’s website and look for a list of approved modems (or just Google it), then buy it yourself on Amazon and save the monthly fees!

Tether Your Android Phone

If you have an Android phone with Internet access, you might be able to “tether” it to your computer, basically allowing you to get Internet access for your computer through your phone and not pay for home Internet access.  I wouldn’t use this technique to watch a movie or anything like that.  It will work for normal email and light web browsing.  Check your carrier’s policies about bandwidth and total download amounts.  You could eat through any limits pretty quickly by doing this and actually spend more if you have the wrong kind of plan.  But, if you have a data plan with lots of GB of data, or unlimited data, go for it.

Here are some articles that describe how to do it, either wired or wireless.

Some carriers allow tethering on iPhones, but you’ll have to pay an extra fee for it (perhaps $20).  But hey, it could be a good solution for you.  Check with your carrier and be careful about data limits that could really raise the cost.

Free Dialup Internet

There are some Internet providers like Net Zero and Juno that give ten free hours of dialup access (remember that screeching noise when connecting?) per month. Obviously, these services are going to be slow because they are dialup, and they have big ads which make them even slower. They can be hard to connect to during peak times. Cancelling can be a bit of a pain, sometimes requiring a phone call. But, if you really can’t afford anything else, these services can be a last resort if you just want to hop on the Internet to grab your email and things like that. It won’t be very fun though.

Net Zero and Juno also have low-cost paid dial up services start for around $10 per month.

Your Public Library

You could go to Starbuck’s for free Internet, but if you have to buy a coffee every time, that can be more expensive than just getting home Internet.  Most public libraries (remember those?) offer free Internet access if you get a library card.  Yes, it’s not home Internet, but it might work if you only need it occasionally and get Internet on your phone the rest of the time.

Low-Income Plans

Some cable companies have low-rate plans for people with low incomes.  Comcast offers a $9.95 per month plan if you have a child eligible for the National School Lunch Program.  Check with your local provider to see what they offer.

Free Community Wi-Fi

Some cities are starting to roll out free Wi-Fi to their residents. Check your city’s website to see if you’re one of the lucky ones. For example, in Santa Monica, CA, the city offers free Wi-Fi in many parks.

Cut Cable TV

You can cut the cable TV portion of your service while still retaining cable Internet.  If you live in an area with TV broadcast stations within 30 miles, and you have a modern flat TV, you should be able to get most of the network channels for free using an antenna.  Check out for more info on this!

Any other ideas to save on Internet access? Please leave a comment. – Brian

  • Vincenzo

    Probably should let you know that WiFi sharing is a direct violation of your tos and possibly a felony depending on where you live.

    • Frank Cole

      Many wireless services, including Verizon, allow and even encourage WIFI tethering. They sell MIFI devices in their stores. Some will charge a fee, Straight Talk and Family Wireless also have MIFI plans. Freedom wireless offers 500 MB of data free if you purchase their MIFI device for $19.95. Some local providers provide inexpensive WIFI access. In my area (Jefferson County Ohio)unlimited data service is provided from sites on water towers for $32/mo.

  • Camille

    How can I get wireless without a cable company? Live in Columbus, ga. Retired

    • Brian Shim

      Hi Camille,

      You can get DSL from a phone company. Other than that, certain cities are rolling out free civic Wi-Fi. Check with your city to see if yours is one that is doing that.


  • Lisandro Acosta

    All local stations stream their broadcast over the internet nowadays on PC, tablets, or smartphones

  • normr

    I like to watch TV when I want it so use TIVO. Is there any way to use the internet for recording both internet and local TV? Any “box” to intergrate Internet, Local and TIVO?

    • Brian Shim

      Hi Norm,

      Check out these options for recording broadcast TV, as well as one option for recording Internet TV, PlayLater:

      Hope that is helpful.


  • Jimmy

    This is a year without internet. I quit before i found this site. You have given me a lot of new ideas and most are easy to do. I have a roku running plex and can get some content that way, plus amazon prime. I wish i had saw the site for antennas i bought a very large one and get about 32 channels off the air. if i put a turning device on it i could get maybe10 more. i spent about 200 bucks total and the only thing i pay for is the internet and amazon. i had twc and they just went up to 49.99 and that’s with me buying my own router. but i’m saving 70 bucks a month now over cable tv. Thanks for all your help and incite. It really has helped me tweek things. i used a dish mounting after i removed the dish and inserted a 12 foot fence pole. Work great but the trees get in the way in the summer.. i found on amazon a digital converter with a pvr Homeworx HW 150pvr, with a 1080 hd pass thru for 35 bucks
    . It works great and no monthly fees. after setting it up it has worked like a charm. it records to a usb or hard drive thru a usb port. It might help someone else. looking for a cheap way to record ota tv. Thanks for all your helpful ideas

    • Brian Shim

      Hi Jimmy,

      Thanks for sharing your story and your tips!


  • blakpearlz to watch msnbc or fox on cable to watch sports
    Rabbit tv to watch a lot of broadcast and cable shows such as Comedy Central, history channel, and others

  • Linda mcg

    Thanks for your wonderful website! You’ve inspired me to stop complaining and start saving. Just ordered a Mohu leaf for the tv. Next, call verizon. Thanks again!

  • http://onfacebook Mary Roach

    Brian, I have lupus, so I am often sick, huge medical bills, but I work full time, race in triathlons, and love only the first dozen channels on tv. My goal is to brutally slash expenses to pay off our student loans and retire with tiny expenses. I only use the internet to look up stuff, listen to pandora, Facebook, email, and watch Netflix, and for lupus support groups. No gaming or art. And I want to get rid of our home phone. We both have cell phones. We live in Summerfield, NC, and my mission is going to be zapping my time warner Bill, which is now 203 per month for phone, internet, and cable. No more! Anyway, sorry for the length of my post. I just wanted to thank you, because at least now I know where to start.

    • Brian Shim

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad the site was helpful, and I wish you all the best in your quest to save money!


  • John Paul Marceau


    Thanks for a great site with so much research and well outlined opinions on this very popular topic.

    I have been doing my own research and have one “smart” TV and another with a Ruko 3 unit. The smart TV was a great appetizer but the Ruko has me thinking I might be able to ditch my cable service and just use Comcast for internet.

    Here is my question, I just can’t see myself without CNBC and/or Bloomberg Financial in the morning. Because CNBC is Comcast content I can’t expect them to ever broadcast over the internet, but if there was somewhere else I could get a live feed similar to these channels I think I can work around all the other details.

    I used some of your suggestions to see what my TVs would pickup without the cable boxes and I was shocked at how many HD channels come flying in without anything between the cable and my TV. I am in a rural area where over the air is not really an option. I would still like to try a Chromecast and see if my laptop can give me the quality I demand. I have a 47 and a 55 flat panels and unless the quality is at least 720 it really looks like crap. My laptop is 3 years old and I didn’t expect to ever watch movies on it so I didn’t get one with top tier video support so I am not sure if this will limit the quality of media streamed from it to the Chromecast unit.

    Thanks a lot for all the work and for putting together a great site.


    • Brian Shim

      Hi JP,

      Thanks for sharing your story and for your kind words! It just so happens that Bloomberg has a live stream on their website. Go to my Internet TV remote, scroll down, and click the Bloomberg button:

      Chromecast does go up to 1080p resolution, so it’s worth a try. My understanding is that most of the data doesn’t actually go from your laptop to Chromecast. Rather, your laptop tell Chromecast where to get the data, and it gets it through WiFi and your internet connection. So, I think it’s worth trying out with your big TVs.

      Thanks and good luck!!

  • Teresa

    HI Brian- I am sick of paying so much for cable but live in the boonies of New Hampshire-I have apple products (iphone and Ipad) and I wondered if I bought Apple TV, can I still get news coverage? I love to watch the local and national news every evening at home.
    Thanks. Teresa

    • Brian Shim

      Hi Teresa,

      I hear you. So, I assume you’re too remote to get broadcast TV? Jump to the Station Finder and enter your zip code to see how many channels you can get:

      Apple TV doesn’t have any news channels besides Wall Street Journal Live. But, if you have other Apple devices, you can “mirror” the display of those onto your TV screen using Apple TV, using your WiFi network. Here’s how:

      You can then watch news from various websites.. It’s not the same as streaming live TV, but it’s something.