Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in The Penny Hoarder.
It seems that the cost of Internet service continues to rise.
The average American pays about $61 a month for Internet service, but that figure can be much higher depending on where you live and the speed of your connection.
Internet and cable TV companies are notorious for offering generous introductory promotions only to add to the bill with hidden commissions and other costs over time.
Consumer Reports’ advocacy arm even launched an initiative called Fight for Fair Internet that collected and analyzed more than 22,000 consumers’ broadband Internet bills to see how much people are really paying, because big Internet companies aren’t there. they say it.
Looking to save? Here are six tips to help you reduce your Internet bill.
1. Use federal government subsidies
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is offering a $30 discount on home Internet service to those who qualify.
If your family is enrolled in certain federal assistance programs — or you meet the income criteria — you may qualify for subsidized, low-cost Internet.
You may qualify for an ACP voucher if someone in your household is enrolled in:
- medical help
- Free and reduced-price school lunch program or school breakfast program
- Federal Pell Grant (received in current grant year)
- Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Some Tribal Assistance Programs
You can also qualify for the program if your income is 200 percent of the 2023 Federal Poverty Guidelines ($39,940 for a family of two).
This can be beneficial to retirees who may have low incomes because they are no longer working, but who do not qualify for any of the federal assistance programs listed above.
You can fill out this application at GetInternet.gov to see if you’re eligible for a $30 discount on your Internet bill through the Accessible Connectivity Program.
You can use the ACP benefit with any level of broadband service offered by an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Low Income Internet Plans
Want to save even more? Ask your ISP about their low-income plans.
Most major Internet service providers have a low-priced plan that they specifically offer to people enrolled in certain assistance programs.
Many of these plans had slow download speeds in the past, but since the ACP launched in 2022, several companies have added a faster tier for $30.
That means if you pair your ACP voucher with a participating low-income plan, you could pay $0 a month for high-speed Internet.
Here are some examples…
Access from AT&T
Download speed: up to 100Mbps
Qualifying Programs: SNAP or at least 200% of the federal poverty level
Download Speed: Download speed up to 100Mbps
Qualifying Programs: Caregiver Families with K-12 Children
Internet Essentials (Comcast Xfinity)
Price: $9.95 / $29.95
Download speed: up to 25/100 Mbps upload
Qualifying Programs: School Cafeteria, HUD, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, Other
Price: $9.95 / $30
Download speed: up to 25/100 Mbps upload
Qualifying Programs: At least one K-12 child eligible for school lunch
Spectrum Internet Assist
Download speed: up to 100Mbps
Qualifying Programs: School Lunch, Community Eligible Provider, SSI
The best way to see if you qualify for a cheap Internet plan is to call your service provider directly.
Lifeline is another federal subsidy that can help reduce your monthly Internet bill.
The Lifeline program offers a $9.25 monthly discount if your household income is 135 percent or less of the federal poverty level. You may also qualify if you are enrolled in certain federal assistance programs.
2. Reduce your internet speed
Internet service providers (ISPs) charge more for plans with faster speeds.
If you don’t use the Internet much, switching to a slower speed could help you reduce your monthly Internet bill by $20 a month or more, depending on your carrier.
However, this isn’t an option for everyone.
Heavy Internet users and families usually require download speeds of at least 100 megabytes per second (mbps) and upload speeds of 10 mbps.
Figure out your lowest possible download speed, then look for ISPs that offer plans in that range for a low price.
3. Buy your modem and router
Renting your equipment from an Internet provider might be affordable, but the monthly equipment fee does add up.
You’ll pay anywhere from $5 to $20 a month to rent a modem and router.
That’s $120 a year or more just to use the rental equipment.
To spend less money in the long run, consider buying your own equipment to run your wired Internet connection.
You can usually find a good router and modem for around $200 total. (Used and refurbished equipment costs less.)
It’s more cash up front, but it may reduce your bill over time. Analyze the numbers and see if it makes sense for your budget.
4. Shop around and switch suppliers
If you’re lucky enough to have multiple Internet service providers in your area to choose from, switching to a new company can help you put more money in your pocket.
Find out if other companies are offering promotional offers to new customers. If you own your own modem and router, switching to a new provider is relatively easy.
You can often find promotional prices around the holidays. Some ISPs will offer gift cards, free services, or even contract captures on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Years.
Unfortunately, according to a 2020 report from the Institute on Local Self-Reliance, there are an estimated 83 million Americans who have access to just one ISP in their area.
5. Negotiate your monthly bill
If you don’t mind inconvenient phone calls, you can try negotiating a lower rate with your Internet service provider.
Negotiating the price of your Internet bill works best if your current provider isn’t the only game in town. Your competition offers you more leverage and you can use it to your advantage to save money.
How to negotiate an internet bill
Do your homework before calling your Internet company.
Get Internet prices and quotes from other providers in your area, especially their rates for new customers. Ask about the download speed of each plan.
Also make sure you know the terms of your current plan. Check and see how the price has changed over time. Make sure you know the speed of your plan.
You will have the most influence during negotiations with your Internet provider if:
- You have a history of paying on time.
- Your contract is about to expire.
When it’s time for the call, let the customer service representative know that you found a better deal elsewhere and are willing to cancel your service and switch companies.
Be prepared to argue “I found a better deal elsewhere” if they ask. Tell them the terms of their competitor’s promotional price, such as the same speed but for $30 less per month.
Be polite but firm.
Most companies are willing to bargain to keep you as a customer.
Evaluate each offer your current company offers you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you really going to save money or are you just offering to add a new service?
- Is the speed slower and if so, by how much?
- How long will this new price be in effect?
Finally, call on a weekday if you can. Lots of people are at work, so you’ll get the benefit of shorter wait times and speaking to top-notch reps.
Or, let an app negotiate for you
If haggling for a lower bill with your provider over the phone sounds like a nightmare, you can download an app to do it for you.
Several apps, including BillCutterz, Trim, Rocket Money (formerly TrueBill), and Hiatus, will contact your Internet provider on your behalf and try to negotiate a better deal.
If they can get you a lower rate, the app keeps a cut. For example, if BillCutterz saves you $40 on your Internet bill, they keep half of it ($20) and you get the other $20.
Some of these apps also carry a monthly or yearly membership fee.
6. Change your mobile data plan
If you can’t bring down your internet bill, you can still save money by reducing your cell phone data plan.
Many people sign up for unlimited talk, text, and data, though most households don’t use a lot of data each month. Why pay for something you don’t need?
By opting for a cellular plan with 5G data or less, you could slash $20 or more off your bill. So, you can rely on your home WiFi for internet access.
Just make sure you automatically connect to local Wi-Fi networks when you’re away from home. (You can enable it in your phone settings.)
Finally, be sure to analyze how much data you use on a monthly basis before downgrading your plan.
On the other hand, consider increasing your data. Do you even need internet at home if you can get unlimited data for a reasonable price? Some unlimited data phone plans start at $30 a month.
Depending on your usage, you can either use your phone as a hotspot and rely on data only, or integrate with a cheaper and slower internet connection.
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