From the moment internet became a nonnegotiable commodity, cable, and other cord dependent services, began to suffer. For the first time in history, household phones have been replaced by cellular phones, computers are in every home, and leading cable distributors, who were once kingpins of home entertainment, are facing obsoletion. This is due to changes within our viewing culture, cable’s inability to stand up against on demand programing like Netflix or Amazon, paired with the financial strain of having to pay two bills for features that come standard with streaming devices. It is estimated that over 24 million people will cancel cable by 2021.
In fact, the culture of “direct access” has rendered almost all paid advertisement platforms that once monopolized your time with extraneous content—a thing of the past. Well. Almost. To meet the challenges of this abrupt cultural shift, cable providers sought to become major internet distributors. In fact, for rural communities—the only way to obtain internet is through their cable provider. This can be frustrating for those who want to walk away from cable all together, or for those who understand there is a cheaper way to get the same services but are forced to accept due to limited options. Furthermore, it is difficult to believe that cable providers have your best interest at heart. They are constantly wrapping their internet service into cable packages to keep you from purchasing standalone service. Moreover, even if you are one of the lucky ones that do pay for internet only, you are likely not exempt from consistent marketing attempts designed to rope you into purchasing a monthly cable package or high monthly cost that increases every couple months due to underlying language hidden in your contract, fluctuating fees, and service fees that tend to appear and disappear on a whim. This can be exhausting and costly.
The average cable internet costs anywhere between $49.99 for basic service to well over $299.00. However, do not lose hope. There are many providers who deal solely in internet service with no cable involved. Moreover, if you are in a rural area—locating a cable provider that allows for internet only or considering mobile hot spots may be your best alternative.
Best Ways To Get Internet Without Cable
- Cost: $50 per month
- Bandwidth: 50 GB on 4G, supports up to 10 devices
One of the reasons people dislike cable is their complicated contracts that end up charging you more and more over the lifetime of your service. With Boost Mobile, you do not ever have to worry about fluctuating lock-ins or contracts. Furthermore, like Cricket, they offer data hotspot plans that allow your internet to travel with you. However, do keep in mind this is relatively low data for those who stream more than 60 hours of shows, Netflix, YouTube, or any other entertainment a month. This option is best suited for those who use internet at their leisure and do not rely on it regularly for basic functions such as work, school, gaming, or regular streaming activities.
- Cost: $59.99 per month for Internet
- Bandwidth: 1TB Memory and 100Mbs
For those who already choose AT&T as their phone provider, this would be a seamless transition. However, it is not difficult to switch if you were interested in their services. For many years, AT&T has made purposeful strides in becoming a global provider. AT&T is affordable when comparing to popular boutique options. However, read the fine print. AT&T is known for tacking on costs and fees or expanding your monthly cost after your introductory period expires. However, compared to some alternative options—this may still be less costly than most other alternatives.
AT&T Fixed Wireless
- Cost: $39.99 per month
- Bandwidth: up 250GB of data per month
AT&T Fixed Wireless is designed for those who live off the grid. It is connected through an AT&T router and outdoor antennae. Fixed Wireless works like a hotspot but with less connectivity, swiftness, and is not mobile. It is also not intended for those who are maximum internet users, like those who work from home, stream, gamers, or those who need use beyond the occasional email or Facebook check-in. However, some internet is better than no internet at all, and if you are limited by geography, this service could help you stay connected.
- Cost: $70.00
- Bandwidth: No Caps. Ever
Google Fiber is a clean, straightforward, easy internet service that is well worth a second look if you are shopping for internet alternatives. While many on this list are broadband or versions of DSL, they are nowhere near as fast nor dependable as Google’s gigabit platform. Moreover, their internet service received a 9.1, which is the highest customer rating among providers in recent years and was voted #1 across 8 domains of customer service and internet satisfaction. With Google there are no hidden fees, sudden changes, or annual contracts.
Cheap but Low Performance Internet Options
- Cost: $19.99-$29.99 per month
- Bandwidth and Mbps: 15 Mbps-25Mbps
Keep in mind that while these prices are by far some of the most cost-effective and competitive prices of internet service available, they are exceptionally low in speed and performance. Buckeye Broadband offers 25 Mbps internet at $19.99 per month, making them the most affordable option on this list apart from free service. For around the same price, Xfinitiy starter internet charges $29.99 per month for basic use. Keep in mind that these options cannot be used nor depended on for streaming or on multiple devices. Although, as previously stated—some is better than none, and if your choices are limited or your budget requires you to consider cheaper alternatives—these are your best cable-free options for cheap, basic internet service.
- Cost $19.99-$59.99 (for the first six months) than $39.99-$119.00 per month after
- Bandwidth: depending on plan, unlimited data for the first six months, up to 200Mbps
Buckeye Broadband is a stylized service provider that attempts to meet its customers according to need. It offers basic, affordable, starter monthly plans for the occasional web browser, to plans that allow you to stream up to 20 devices and are designed for constant use. Be sure to understand your final price as their internet pricing and endless data features appear to be promotional for the first six months only.
- Cost: $49.99 and up, depending on package
- Bandwidth: ranging from 100Mbps to 940Mbps
CenturyLink delivers internet services across the nation but remains one of the foremost providers to small or rural communities with limited options. As such, you do not appear to get as much bandwidth in smaller areas, but they do offer no hassle and no contract pricing that never raises or changes during the length of your service. This is rare and worth consideration if their speed and data meet your needs. Moreover, CenturyLink has impeccable, 24/hr. service and will help you find internet services if none are available through them.
- Cost: Varies. Contact your phone provider
- Bandwidth: Depends on your wireless phone data and specs
It is no surprise that those who live in cities or established communities have greater access to services than those who do not. This is true both for options and for Wi-Fi quality. Therefore, one of the first steps in shopping around for cable-free internet providers is understanding what may be available to you. Perform a basic “no cable options for internet in (your area)” and review the listings provided. You may be surprised to find there is more available to you than you realized, or there may be only one or two results, depending on your location. If this is a case, purchasing mobile hotspots may be your best alternative. You will want to contact your phone provider to be sure your plan is set up for this! Hotspots can be pricey if not worked into data plans. But essentially, your phone works as a beacon for all your devices. Your iPad and even your computer, through Bluetooth, can jump onto your network and use the internet from it. Or you can purchase an internet plan directly.
- Cost: $79.99 and $34.99 for first responders and military members
- Bandwidth: 880/940 Mbps. No data caps are discussed, be sure to clarify.
Verizon is worth consideration if you are looking for a cable-free internet provider. Right now Verizon Fios is offering internet service to first responders, military members, and medical personnel for as little as $34.99. Otherwise, for up to 940 Mbps you pay $79.99 per month. While this price point may seem more than others, you make up for it in speed and device versatility. Plus, you get the customer service and bonus of Verizon perks. However, right now Fios is only available on the East Coast. Verizon may have additional options available.
- Cost: $79.99 For their Moxee Mobile Hotspot
- Bandwidth: Can connect 16 devices on a 4G network
Cricket’s data plans come in the form of a mobile hotspot. All you need is a compatible phone and a Cricket SIM card, which costs $9.99. Once the SIM card is installed, you can use it as a hotspot for your other devices. While this is not ideal for gaming or for a cable alternative, it can help with phone access and almost all computer functions. Cricket has gained major momentum in the last years as being a viable rival for not only phone services, but affordable internet. They are also versatile! Hotspots are portable, which makes it ideal for the traveler or professional who needs reliable access to the internet in the interim.
Another option would be to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi available in your community. While this would not be useful for gaming or large amounts of streaming, it is certainly the most affordable way to utilize the internet without paying for services.
Free Wi-Fi can typically be found in
- local libraries
- grocery stores
- Local hangouts and cafes
- Community Centers
- Consult local nonprofits for an expansive list
There may also be programs available through local nonprofits and other programs for those who qualify. If your reason for switching to a cable-free internet is income related, reach out to your local Action Plan, or nonprofit and inquire about free or discounted rates for internet services.
Currently, many providers are offering free or discounted rates for parents with children who are learning remotely. To take advantage of this, contact your local service provider, or contact the district where you live for further information.
Lastly, if you are on lifeline or Medicaid, you may qualify for free internet services as part of government assistance through the FCC Lifeline program. Information about this can be found on your local Department of Health website or through a phone call with one of their coordinators.
These are the most typical types of cable-free internet.
- Phone Servicers and Mobile Hotspots: Often internet packages are provided by your phone service that work through a router and modem. They also offer mobile hotspots, which are portable Wi-Fi internet boxes that allow you to connect to the internet as needed.
- Satellite Internet: is when your internet connection is established via satellite and not cable. This service can be subjected to weather and other elemental discrepancies/interruptions.
- DSL otherwise known as broadband: DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and is connected through your landline telephone. This is not the same thing as dial-up. DSL is always turned on and can be used regardless if you are on your phone or not.
- Naked DSL: A type of broadband that allows you to access the internet without disrupting, using, or in the absence of a telephone service.
- Landlines or dial-up (Yes. This is still a thing…): Dial-up is internet that you access through your landline. However, landlines require modems, a landline phone number, and do not work if you are on the phone. You share it with your telephone service. While people still use dial-up in rural areas, this is becoming less and less.
- Fiber-optic Internet: Fiber optic internet operates like DSL but utilizes light to travel, making it 100X faster than DSL.
- Fixed Wireless service: Designed for rural development, fixed wireless services bring the internet to those who live outside of satellite areas. However, the speed is generally low, and is best for occasional use or travel.
It is useful to brush up on your internet language as you consider some of the options below:
- Mbps stands for Megabits per second. It is used to describe how fast digital data moves from one place to another.
- Bandwidth is measured using 1mbps and refers to how much speed is available for use between devices. Thus, if you have a tv, an Xbox, three phones, and four computers connected to your internet—you are going to need exceptional bandwidth or your speed will be slower, your quality will be effected, and your devices are likely to spend more time buffering than anything else. Bandwidth also includes data.
How Much data Do I need?
Okay. Let us talk data! How much do you truly need? The short answer is a lot. Some of the options below do not offer no cap data packages, which is one of the reasons cable remains a useful strategy for internet service. It is said you use 1GB of data for 40 minutes of internet use, not streaming, and just checking emails or checking in via social media. You also need a speed of 40 Mbps or more for regular streaming from Netflix or YouTube. Considering 60 hours of Netflix in one month on medium quality equals to about 46GB alone, data is easily spent. 60 hours may seem like a lot, but when it shared between family members that number expends quickly. Moreover, most families who utilize the internet for multiple devices, watch YouTube, stream movies or shows, game, or attend virtual meetings/courses, will need between 500Gb and 1TB of data per month and need an internet speed of 100Mbps or more.
Make a list to determine what your data needs truly are:
- Calculate how many hours of streaming you use each month
- Check-in with your current servicer or consult your bill for regular data monthly use
- Take into consideration any hours you spend gaming
- Add in any leisurely use: emails, social media, and more
- Consider everyone in your household
How To Get internet Without Cable: FAQs
How does Internet work without cable?
This is a wonderful question! Most people think of the internet as an invisible force that you can pull from the air when you need it most. However, that could not be further from the truth. Although at times it may seem that a password is all that stands between you and Wi-Fi, the internet does indeed come from somewhere. In terms of home internet, your cable-free options draw mostly from landlines or through satellites.
Do you need a Router or Modem?
A modem connects you to your internet provider while a router allows all your devices to use the internet. Most servicers provide a modem and allow you to rent a router for a fee on top your monthly plan for $10 or more. Routers can cost up to a $100 and modems average around $60. This may or may not be cost-effective depending on how long you stay with your servicer or your available budget. However, there will come a time when renting a router will begin to cost you more than purchasing one upfront. This is important to consider so that you do not end up paying over 100$ a year for something you can purchase for truly little in comparison.
Be Sure that Paying Less Does Not End Up Costing You More
If there is one thing to be said about internet providers (cable or otherwise) is that their advertised monthly payment is rarely true. Apart from Google Fiber and very few others, there are rental fees, rates that expire after six years of use, rates that are dependent upon making your payment on time, overage fees for data use, and much more. Therefore, it is imperative that you read the fine print and details given to you by your service provider to be sure the bottom line truly meets your monthly budget. A description of your fees is often located on the bottom of your plan, in small print, and written in detail. If you are considering a contract, this should also be made known to you within the details of your service. They make it difficult to locate for a reason, so make sure that you read the document they give you and do not take a customer service representative’s promise as truth.
Cable-Free Internet Can Be Different
If you are used to cable internet, shifting to a cable-free internet service may take some time to get used to. Especially if you are used to running multiple devices, streaming daily, gaming, and otherwise dependent upon your data plan throughout your day. Some, such as Google can be extremely fast, making the transition seamless. However, options like DSL or dial-up are considerably low. Even Satellite can come with unexpected issues due to weather. If you are working from home, or dependent upon reliable service—this is something to keep in mind. Conversely, if you are considering cable-free options to save you monthly on costs and you work from home, having a reasonable discussion with your boss about reimbursement for part of your monthly bill is well within reason.
Most of the time cable providers offer internet plans that have no data caps. Thus, it is likely, if you are new to cable-free service that you are used to using the internet as needed and are not accustomed to self-regulating your use-behavior, or have an solid idea on what activities strain or exhaust your data allowances first. You can use 1GB almost immediately for streaming a couple songs from YouTube. It goes that quick! Therefore, data caps can be a difficult struggle for some. This is especially true for those who have not had to regulate or monitor their use before. If this is a concern for you, finding services that offer no cap may help.
Another route you can take is consulting your data use on your monthly bill. It often tells you how much data you used, even if you did not pay for it. This will prepare you with realistic criteria moving forward. It will also provide you with a practical overview on the pros and cons of cable internet, so you can make the right choice for your needs.
While we understand fully the wish to turn to a cost-effective, cable-free internet provider, there are geographical limitations to consider. This is especially true for those who occupy small, coastal towns, mountainous communities, or those in the Midwest, miles from a metropolitan area. Even hotspots struggle to perform in areas where there is little connectivity established. In which case, the best alternative would be to seek out an internet-only plan with whomever is available. There is a good chance that your phone provider offers internet, too, if they serve your area.
How to Research Cable-Free Options
Before we identify your next steps in locating a cable-free provider, it is recommended that you perform a quick search to see if the guesswork has already been completed for you. Depending on location, lists may be available and will save you a great deal of time.
Consider taking these next steps:
- Make a list of devices that use the internet regularly
- Consult your bill to retrieve an accurate portrait of your data usage
- Search for cable-free internet providers in your area that meet your data criteria
- Locate the options on this list and others that you are interested in to discover more about what they offer you
- Perform an address search to make coverage is available on each internet provider’s website. Almost all have an address search feature in their Coverage section.
- Compare plans
- Ask Questions (see below)
- Set up service!
If you are unsure about cable-free internet and want to give it a try, be sure to choose a plan that does not require a contract. This way you can test out the service to see if this truly works for you.
Your needs, wants, expectations, and lifestyle are all your own; therefore, it is important to find a service that supports all those domains. To do this, do not be afraid to ask questions. Even if there is a lot of them. Remember, it is their job to provide excellent customer service, you are never an inconvenience, and you do not want to miss out on important information that could help you make the best decision.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What is the total cost?
- Will my cost change after the Introductory period ends and if so by how much?
- Are there any fees I need to be aware of?
- Do I need to purchase a modem or router?
- If I rent a modem or router, what is the cost?
- What is the Data Cap and how much will I be charged if I go over?
- Does unused data roll over?
- Is there a contract for services?
- If there is a contract, what happens if I break the contract?
- How do I cancel service?
- Am I charged a fee if I upgrade or change services during the contract?
- What happens if I move?
- How do you resolve issues and what kind of support is available to me?
- What are your customer service hours?
Remember, Customer Service Specialist are salesman and exist to assist you in making a purchase and sealing the deal. Therefore, do not be afraid to say no or walkaway from the conversation and take time to think, consider, and choose which option is best for you. If you like their service, but are unsure of certain features, there may be room to address your concerns. Often these companies are given allowances to provide special prices and work with customers. This is your money! Your time. Your service. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to be sure they are working for you. If they are not willing, then it may be worth considering finding a different provider who not only values your concerns but can address them fully.
How to Get Internet Without Cable
There are many reasons to consider a cable-free lifestyle. Not only is it cost-effective compared to most cable prices, but it reduces the amount of superfluous services you may be paying for and bringing them into one cost and one place. Moreover, there is more freedom when it comes to cable-free internet. This is especially true if you choose a plan that does not require a contract service, has no hidden fees, no caps on data usage, and provides you with the equipment you need. Also, with the versatility of hotspots—your internet becomes portable and available to meet your needs wherever you are.
It is likely your reasons for choosing a cable-free internet alternative are as unique as you. Whichever option you choose, be sure it meets your data needs, falls within your budget, and enhances your quality of life.