The cost of your internet service, or your bundle if you are getting multiple services, is usually pretty clear cut, at least at the start of your service term. Yet many people will notice their bills rising slowly over time or instead see that their bills are regularly higher than what they were promised.
If you only casually look at account statements, use autopay for the sake of convenience and perhaps a discount, what you might not notice is some extra lines containing a variety of hidden fees, which are the likely culprit. Although they are unavoidable (in most cases), you have a right to know what you are working with and what they are, both before and during your service contract.
To that end, we hope to show you all the hidden fees you could run into with each of the major ISPs across the country.
What We Consider a Hidden Fee
To be forthcoming, we are going to be broad in our definition of a hidden fee. Essentially, if an ISP might try to keep it from plain view of the customer at any point in the process, we might consider it a hidden fee. Anything not advertised might well not be seen. The ISP sales team probably does not want you to focus too much on things such as equipment rental and cancellation fees. Even if the fee is not actually hidden, we will include it here so that you can be sure to know about it.
Why So Many Hidden Fees?
Something else you might be wondering is why so many hidden fees exist in the first place? Much of what you will see are charges for services that many people would (rightly) see as an essential part of the service. But why should you pay a fee if the ISP must relocate their equipment, which is just part of running their business? Late fees and equipment rental fees can make sense, but others just feel like an excuse to take more of your money.
In some cases, it might be to discourage people from doing certain things or encouraging them to do others (much like there's a slight discount for going paperless with many service providers). In others, it's to limit service to get more from power users, knowing they'll pay but not necessarily pay upfront.
There is also the matter of competitive advertising between service providers. While we might expect "no hidden fees" to be part of some slogan or campaign in the near future, most people look at the price and do not think about the fees when picking a provider. The more honest ISP that might build everything into the base monthly price might be disadvantaged. Therefore, fees remain.
Fees by Provider
Fees can be tricky to track down. You will see a variety of fees listed below and similar fees that are different in name only. There may be fees you do not see below, in which case they might be exceptionally rare or so recent as to post-date this article. Unless they are part of a bundle or totally unavoidable, we mostly will not talk about TV or phone service fees, as they deserve their own articles and considerations.
Additionally, we will not go into the taxes that might impact your bill, as they are unavoidable and likely to affect you no matter which ISP you work with. They can also vary quite a bit based on where you live, and even change from city to city. Expect to find sales taxes, franchise fees, fees and taxes for public services, and a few similar items on your bill. We recommend you check these yourself on a local level.
Yet without further wait, here are the fees by provider, with providers listed alphabetically:
One of the biggest names in the telecommunications industry is AT&T. A cell phone service provider, an internet provider, a home phone service provider, and more. Looking specifically at their internet services, what hidden fees or potentially unexpected charges can you expect?
Modem and Router Rental Fee: $10 per Mo. – While other providers generally allow you to use your own compatible equipment, most if not all AT&T plans require you to use their Wi-Fi Gateway, and they charge $10 a month for the privilege.
Equipment Non-Return Fee: $150 - If you do not return the rented equipment upon cancellation of your plan, you will be charged $150.
Data Limit Overage Fee: $10 per 50GB - While not every plan has limited data, many AT&T plans have a limit of 1TB per month. Going over this limit may cost you $10 for each 50 GB you go over.
Unlimited Data Plan: $30 per Mo. - If you have a plan that does not have unlimited data, you can get unlimited data for a price of $30 per month.
Late Fee: $9.25 per Instance – For each late payment, you can expect a charge of $9.25. If a check bounces, expect a fee of $30 or less.
Reactivation Fee: $35 - If your service is canceled for non-payment (or another reason), you can expect to pay a service restoral fee of $35 or less.
Cancellation Fees: Specific to Plan – AT&T usually prorates early termination or cancelation fees depending on how much time you have left in your contract. However, a common number people see is $180 for early termination.
CenturyLink is one of the more affordable internet providers and is relatively well-liked by its customers, given its price for life plans and no contracts that lock you in. Yet there are still fees to contend with, mild as they are, so be on the lookout for the following:
Equipment Rental Fee: $15 per Mo. or $150 for Outright Purchase - You can rent a modem from CenturyLink for $15 a month. Alternatively, customers can simply buy the equipment outright for $150, which we would recommend to most customers who can afford to do so. You can also buy a different modem that is compatible with CenturyLink service.
Installation Fee: $125 or $50 – For professional installation, expect to pay $125. However, if you can handle things yourself, you can instead opt for self-installation for only $50 (ostensibly for shipping and handling the equipment).
Data Limit Overage Fee: None* - CenturyLink has a 1TB monthly data limit for most if not all its plans. While there is no extra charge for going over this limit, you might find your services limited or restricted if you go over it too much.
Late Payment Fee: $15 or Percentage of Bill – If you are late with your payments, you might wind up paying $15 for each instance, a percentage of up to 5 percent of the unpaid portion of the bill, or a combination thereof.
Internet Cost Recovery Fee: $3.99 per Mo. – Named the Internet Cost Recovery Fee (ICRF), CenturyLink has had this on many bills for years to recoup the cost of their infrastructure. It may be termed "Broadband Cost Recovery Fee" on your bill.
Facility Relocation Cost Recovery Fee: Varies – This fee is placed on bills when the government requires CenturyLink to relocate its lines or facilities. The amount varies based on the cost of the move, but this fee is pretty rare.
Cancellation Fee: None* - There are no contracts specifically with CenturyLink internet services, and as such, no cancellation fee related to them. Yet if you have a bundle with them that you cancel, that might be subject to cancellation fees.
Cox is another company known for cable service, but often Cox is the only internet game in town as well. This means you should know what you are signing up for, as you're unlikely to have much choice. The exact amounts listed can vary partially depending on whether you have a bundle or not, but be on the lookout for the following:
Equipment Rental Fee: $10.99/mo. – You can rent the Panoramic Wi-Fi Modem from Cox for $10.99/mo. Alternatively, you can purchase and use your own equipment, so long as it's compatible, which might be the more cost-effective long-term option.
Data Limit Overage Fees: $10 per 50 GB – Cox plans usually come with a 1TB monthly data cap. Going over the cap will cost $10 for each 50 GB you go over the cap, which can add up quickly.
Unlimited or Additional Data Fee: Varies – The exact cost of this may vary. You can either get unlimited data from Cox or an additional 500GB each month on your bill if you know you will be downloading a lot one month or every month.
Installation Fee: $75 or $20 – Professional installation will cost you $75. If you feel handy and want to do self-installation, it will only cost you $20.
Cancellation Fee: Varies up to $120 – The exact cancellation fee will vary depending on the terms of your initial contract (so read it carefully), but cancellation can cost up to $120. This is not bad compared to some options, but still notable.
Late Payment Fee: $25 - Late or returned payments can result in a late payment fee of $25, which is quite a bit compared to other ISPs.
An ISP that serves a wide swath of regions and was one of the largest internet providers globally, EarthLink provides different speeds to different regions. It also guarantees no data caps and no throttling of your connection, which might counteract what some say are higher prices. Yet how does it compare when it comes to its fees, hidden or not?
Installation Fee: $19.95 or $75.95 – To get your equipment professionally installed and set up, you can expect to pay $75.95. If you are just getting DSL internet, you may be able to self-install for only $19.95.
Early Termination Fee: $200 or $90 – If you cancel EarthLink fiber early, you can expect to pay an early termination fee of $200. If you cancel your DSL plan, that amount is only $90.
Equipment Rental Fee: $6.95 per Mo. – To rent your modem from EarthLink, you will pay $6.95 each month. This is low for equipment rental. You can use your own equipment instead of paying this fee.
Late Payment Fee: None* - While we could find no specific late payment fee (though this could certainly change and vary by agreement), you can expect your service to be cut off after two weeks of non-payment.
Data Limit Overage Fee: None – EarthLink has no data caps, and therefore you never have to worry about any fees related to them.
Frontier is another ISP that might not be known in some areas but one of the main options in many others. While initially focused on rural markets and those with fewer options, they have expanded in recent years towards several large population centers. Frontier also has a poor reputation regarding hidden fees, with legal action taken against them in recent times. They have since tried to change as a result of this.
With this in mind, and Frontier being one of the most popular providers in the country, you should know about the following potential fees:
Equipment Rental Fee: None or $10/mo. -Renting a modem and/or router from Frontier will cost up to $10, though the exact details might vary based on the equipment and their offer. However, many plans will simply include the equipment with the service, and you will be charged nothing for it.
Installation Fee: $75 – Overall, you can expect to pay up to $75 for the setup and installation of your service. This fee may be waived if you sign up for a long-term agreement (though, given the cost of canceling a contract with Frontier, this should not heavily play into your decision-making).
Data Limit Overage Fee: None* - There are no data limits with Frontier, and therefore no related fees. However, service may be limited or restricted.
Late Payment Fee: Up to $10 – If you are late with a payment, expect a fee of up to $10. Note that it might not be labeled as such and instead considered a general service charge.
Disconnect Fee: $10 – If your service is disconnected, expect to pay a one-time fee of $10.
Cancellation Fee: None or Up to $400 - Many of Frontier's plans are no-contract options, and therefore would have no cancellation fee. Other plans, however, require a two-year commitment. With these plans, you may pay up to $400 to cancel early.
Our first of two satellite internet providers, HughesNet is accessible practically across the country, even in places that otherwise would not have even a hope of getting internet access. Yet satellite internet is known for its cost and hefty fees, often making it prohibitive for many customers.
Read carefully, as HughesNet might be far more severe than the other options in your area when it comes to these fees and hidden costs:
Installation and Setup Fees: $99 - Expect to pay up to $99 for installation and setup (which you will not be able to do yourself due to the more sensitive equipment and calibration involved). You might be able to get a discount or even free setup due to a promotion. Alternatively, if you buy your equipment outright, this fee will likely be waived.
Equipment Rental or Purchase Fee: $15/mo., or $449.98 one-time purchase - It costs about $15 a month to lease your equipment from HughesNet, which is a bit more reasonable considering that more equipment is needed for satellite internet. Alternatively, you can purchase the equipment outright for about $450, making more sense if you will be sticking with them long-term and can afford the up-front costs.
Depending on your timing and how you sign up, you may be able to get a discount on these costs, or purchasing the equipment outright might allow you to get better deals elsewhere.
Data Limit Fees: None* - There are no data limits or overage fees, but after you reach your data limit (determined by your plan), HughesNet will throttle your connection. This throttling will be to such a degree that the internet is unusable, forcing you to either rethink your data usage or upgrade your plan. We would like to note that HughesNet does allow for more data usage during off-hours, which can help you avoid this event.
Late Payment Fees: None* – We could find no late payment fees specifically, but HughesNet will send reminders, and there will eventually be service-related consequences for non-payment.
Cancellation Fee: Up to $400 – To cancel your service contract with HughesNet, and they generally work with two-year terms, you might pay up to $400. After the first three months, the cancellation fee decreases by $15 per month. You will pay a minimum of $85 to cancel your service.
Mediacom might not get as much attention in the news cycle as some of the other ISPs listed here, but that does not mean that many people do not use their services. As far as fees are concerned, you will want to look out for the following:
Equipment Rental Fees: $12/mo. – If you rent a modem from Mediacom, you will pay $12 a month for it. Alternatively, you can use your own compatible equipment, which will cost less over the long term.
Installation Fee: $99.99 – Setup and installation will cost a one-time fee of $99.99, though this fee might be waived depending on promotions on your signup method.
Data Limit Overage Fees: $10 per 50GB – Depending on the plan you pick, you will likely have a monthly data cap. Going over it will result in a fee of $10 per each 50GB over the cap. This can quickly get expensive, so be careful when you pick your plan and consider your data usage.
Late Payment Fee: $10 - If you are late with a payment, you can expect a $10 charge.
Cancellation Fee: Varies up to $240 – Depending on the length of your contract (they can go for up to two or three years), you might pay up to $240 to cancel your service. The cancellation fee will be reduced depending on how long you have stayed with them.
One of the biggest names in cable also has a wide network for providing internet service. Yet they also are guilty of charging fees like any other internet provider. While you might be familiar with their cable-related fees, you should look for these internet-related charges as well:
Equipment Rental Fee: None or $5 per Mo. Spectrum includes equipment in their service, though in some cases, you might only get a modem instead of a modem/router combo and can rent a router for $5 per month. You can also purchase your own router instead of using Spectrum's.
Data Limit Overage Fees: None – There are no data limits at this time with Spectrum plans and no fees associated with
Late Payment Fee: $8.95 - For each instance of not paying your bill in full on time, expect to pay up to $8.95.
Service Cancellation Fee: None* - There are no term agreements to worry about and therefore no service cancellation fees to worry about, but you will need to pay your last bill for an entire month of service, no matter when you canceled.
Service Reconnection Fee: $4.99 – To reconnect your service after being disconnected, you will pay a fee of $4.99.
Installation and Setup Fee: $9.99, $49.99, or $199.99 – Installation and setup can vary in cost. Standard installation is $49.99, but if you are getting Gig internet, you will pay a whopping $199.99 for installation. Self-installation might be available for only $9.99, but this will not be an option for Gig internet.
One of the most popular ISPs in terms of customer satisfaction and one of the more successful options and proponents of fiber internet, Fios is generally friendlier than average for fees and extra charges. However, there are some fees you should be on the lookout for, listed below:
Equipment Rental Fee: $15 per Mo.; Buy for $299.99 - The Fios Router can be rented for $15 per month, or you can buy it outright for $299.99 (we would recommend this if you can afford it up-front). The rental fee is waived if you get a Gigabit Connection plan. Alternatively, you can use your own compatible equipment.
Data Limit Overage Fees: None - As Fios plans do not have data limits, there are no overage fees.
Cancellation Fees: None – There are no specific long-term contracts with Verizon Fios, and as such, there can be no cancellation fees.
Installation Fees: $99* - A plan from Verizon Fios requires an installation that normally costs $99 one-time. However, if you order your services online (a pretty easy process nowadays, as long as you have internet access), the installation fee will likely be waived.
Late Payments Fees: 1.5% of balance or $9/mo. – Depending on your contract, you may be charged up to $9 or 1.5 percent of your unpaid balance if you are late with your payment.
The other of the two major satellite internet providers in the country (the first being HughesNet), ViaSat (previously known as Exede), is certainly different when it comes to hidden fees, fees in general, and its pricing structure. You will need to be careful about how much you use your connection, and be sure to be on the lookout for these charges as well:
Data plan Overage Fee: None* - While there is no overage fee, you will find that your internet speed drops dramatically if you go over your data allotment. The drop is severe enough to render the internet practically unusable. If this keeps happening, you will feel the pressure to buy more data or upgrade your plan.
Additional Data: Varies – Depending on your plan and for a price, you can buy additional high-speed data for usage from ViaSat, and prices will vary. Note that this is not available with all plans, so make sure to pick your plan carefully.
Early Cancellation Fee: Varies - Cancelling your ViaSat plan early can be costly. It will generally be $15 for every month remaining on your contract, and other factors might affect it. Given how long ViaSat contracts can be, this can easily top several hundred dollars.
Installation Fee: $99.95* - The installation fee will be $99.95, but there will likely be a rebate available.
Dish Relocation Fee: $200 – To relocate your dish for whatever reason, you will need to pay $200 for a technician to come out and handle that for you.
EasyCare Program: $8.99 per Mo. – While not technically a fee, you can avoid the service call fee if you sign up for the EasyCare program for $8.99 a month. This service also gives you priority customer support and a discount on relocating your dish. While many could reasonably take pause at the existence of such a program, it exists and remains an option for you.
One of the most popular ISPs in some regions, Windstream is a major provider for many people, and it has its own set of fees and related things to work with. That being said, as you can see below, Windstream is one of the most customer-friendly ISPs when it comes to fees. Here is what you need to know:
Setup and Installation Fees: $35 – There is a one-time installation fee of $35. This is much less than many competitors, and can be considered reasonable.
Equipment Rental Fees: Up to $11.99/mo – You will need to rent a modem/router combo from the company for up to $11.99 mo. There is a cheaper option for lesser equipment for $9.99 per mo. However, we would not recommend it for the price difference.
Data Limit Overage Fees: None – There are no data limits with Windstream or associated fees at this time, making them an excellent choice for heavy users.
Late Payment Fees: Varies – If you are late with a payment, you will be charged a percentage of the balance due. The exact percentage might depend on your state, so read over the paperwork carefully.
Cancellation Fee: None – As of this writing and according to Windstream themselves, there is no cancellation fee charged by the company if you decide to cease their services.
One of the most widespread internet service providers across the country and able to provide some of the fastest interest speeds, Xfinity also has a reputation for being rather expensive and not necessarily being the cheapest for fees. Look out for the following on your bill or when signing up:
Equipment Rental Fee: $14/mo. – Xfinity charges $14/mo for renting their xFi Gateway (a modem/router combo). You can also forego this and use your own modem/router combo, so long as it's compatible
Data Limit Overage Fees: $10 per 50GB over – Nearly every Xfinity plan has a 1TB data limit for each month, and going over will cost you $10 for each 50 GB over that. This can quickly add up if you use a lot of data, so it is best to stay on top of it beforehand. Some previously unlimited plans have switched over to having limits in the last year, so check to see if that has changed in recent months.
Unlimited Data Plan: $50/mo. – If you are worried about the data overage charges, you can instead opt to get an unlimited data plan which is a straight $50 a month. We recommend checking your actual data usage before you pay out for this plan.
Cancellation Fee: Varies – The exact cancellation fee will vary depending on the plan you go with and the services you get, so pay close attention to this when you sign up (it should be listed in your contract). Typically, the cancellation fee does decrease by $10 per month, however.
Reactivation Fee: $6 – If you need to reactivate your service with Xfinity for any reason, you will likely pay a fee of $6.
Late Payment Fees: Up to $10* - Late payment fees are typically up to $10 for each instance, but the rules for late payment fees can vary by state. This is another scenario in which you should carefully look over your contract and, in some cases, local laws.
Looking for Fees with Other Providers
Admittedly, this is not a comprehensive list of providers, and you might be using or interested in an ISP that is not listed above. If this is the case, we apologize and know that hidden fees do not necessarily differ in their structure and administration. The ISPs borrow ideas from each other, and information must be provided. We recommend taking note and doing the following:
- Look to the above examples and notice many of the common hidden (or not so hidden) fees. If there is no parallel to it from the other ISP, ask about it or look for its mention (they will likely be happy to talk about not having it).
- Go over all the documentation provided by your ISP. They must disclose many fees in some form or another, and they are often in the fine print.
- · Similarly, check their website carefully. There is usually a web page that will go over all potential fees and taxes, though it might be difficult to find.
- If you have already signed up with an ISP other than those listed here, go over your previous statements and check for additional charges. Not every fee will show up each month, and there should be a record of previous bills online.
- Check for changes over time. Some fees might not kick in for a while, or fees might increase with minimal notification. While a $2 increase might seem inconsequential, a few of these increases can add up to $100 each year.
- Simply check how much you are paying every month. Unless you are notified of a price change, you should be getting a relatively stable price from month to month.
General Notes and Comparisons
So, looking at all the numbers above, what does it all mean? There are plenty of comparisons to be made, and we also found the following trends that you might be interested in:
- As you can see, not all these fees are universal (perhaps indicating that most of them are not necessary, at least separate from the main bill). Companies will try to advertise the lack of different fees to entice you to sign up with them, though they likely charge elsewhere. Remember to always look at the whole picture.
- What we are looking at here are strictly fees related to internet plans. It is quite possible, even likely, that fees will be different, or there will be additional fees on your bill if you bundle your services, perhaps in a separate section of your billing statement. Fees might be higher, given the higher overall cost of services.
- Many fees can be waived as part of a promotion, especially costs relating to onboarding you with internet service. Promotions can come often, so if you are in no rush to switch providers, you might want to wait and see what comes along.
- Fees are often steepest when you are getting started with your services. Perhaps this is to offset the lower bill for the first year or two of your agreement or because you will be less likely or able to switch providers at this point. As time goes on, your bill might go up, but you probably will not get blindsided by anything significant.
- Some fees hope to effectively bleed your wallet dry over time, expecting you don't want to pay an upfront cost. Sometimes using your own equipment or outright buying the modem/router combo provided is the best choice.
- Cancellation fees are tricky to compare, as they often depend on the length of your contract, the service you are getting, and the amount of time remaining on your contract when you want to cancel. Do the math when you are signing up for your contract.
- It is possible that what you find on your bill can vary from the general rates and numbers listed above. ISPs change their fee structures often, and there might be regional variations or promotions, or deals that affect charges.
Whether you are looking for information on your current provider or using this article to help with your comparison shopping, we hope this article has proven useful. While the fees might not seem like a lot at first, they can add up over time to the tune of several hundred dollars each year. Stay vigilant, check your statements and contracts, and be careful about signing up for services you will never use.