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!!
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.
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.
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 disableMycable.com for more info on this!
Any other ideas to save on Internet access? Please leave a comment. – Brian