Internet service in one form or another is an absolute necessity for most Americans, especially in recent years as more services are primarily operating online, and the need for people to work from home and digitally communicate increases. Yet internet service can get expensive, whether it comes packaged in a cable bundle or as a standalone service. If you want quality service, then you will need to pay even more. People might pay more than $100 per month in some areas, making it an important line item in the family budget.
Yet how much should you be paying? What factors go into the price you will be paying each month? How much does the price change depending on the type of service you will be receiving?
Here is everything that you need to know:
Cost of Internet by State
If you are interested in the cost of internet in your state, please consult the following maps. We will measure the price using cost per Megabyte per second, which, given the wide range of packages, bundles, and services, will allow you to clearly see the options available to you and the value you would potentially be getting in each state.
However, we will also be dividing the metrics by three different lines, based on service types (cable, DSL, and fiber optic). It can be difficult to even compare some types of service as even being in the same category, and for people comparing state to state, they should know about as many options and metrics as possible.
Where available in plans that would work for modern homes, DSL internet can range widely, but usually expensively. It is generally cheaper in the Great Lakes and Midwest regions. On the major coastal areas, we found it was not widespread enough to provide us with accurate data, perhaps showing that other internet service types were far more widespread and prevalent there
Cable internet, widely available across the United States, doesn't have as much range in cost as other types, and generally follows one of a few price points per Mbps, as you can tell from the chart. However, it is notably more expensive along the East coast and generally more affordable in the rest of the country (with the notable exception of Wyoming).
While not available across the country, as you can see, fiber optic internet can be a very cost-effective option, with costs getting extremely cheap in major population areas. This heat map may seem like there's little rhyme or reason to the prices, but check to see if it is available in your major metropolitan area.
While we will not go into full detail on every state, there are some trends that you should take note of, especially if you might be moving or are curious about the topic:
- States with a greater population density or some obvious major metropolitan hubs (New York, California, Texas) generally had a lower average internet cost, especially if you were looking at the statistics on fiber optic internet per Mbps.
- However, just because one type of internet is cheap in a state does not mean that the others necessarily are as well. For example, in Arkansas, DSL internet is expensive, despite having average prices for cable and fiber optic service.
- There were quite a few states that had similar average rates for the same type of service. Often in areas with similar demographics or areas in the same region, there might be little difference in the types of packages and services offered. Additionally, larger ISPs that span the country are more likely to have uniform pricing plans and offers, so this is to be expected.
- More rural states, in general, have higher internet costs per Mbps. This may be due to the lack of competition, the lack of infrastructure for more advanced and efficient service delivery methods, or because only slower plans are available. This means that each Mbps becomes more expensive (as a rule, the better the speed, the better the value).
- There are some exceptions to most of the things you might expect. For example, Oregon has one of the lowest fiber optic costs in the country.
- However, there are usually explanations in the form of the state having a major tech hub or pre-existing infrastructure, allowing for such low prices.
- Even though we are mostly focusing on larger providers and larger trends, this does not mean you should ignore a couple of ongoing developments that might heavily affect the industry in the near future.
- While programs such as Google Fiber might be relatively small in scope (especially considering the size of the tech giant) and not all of them will reach full fruition, there eventually will be a future breakthrough that entirely changes the internet landscape. Predicting it is a fool's errand for anyone outside of the tech sector, but it's worth keeping in mind.
- Quite a few smaller townships and cities are setting up municipal or locally based internet services, sometimes using fiber-optic wires already installed in the city as a base point.
We are certain there are additional observations to make as well, depending on what you wish to focus on. The data doesn't lie, and as more of it comes in, we can even more closely determine what internet prices will look like in the coming decade, even in uncertain economic times.
Remember the Rural and Urban Divide
Sometimes the cost of internet is not determined by state lines as much as it is whether your town is in a more urban/suburban area or a rural setting. If you're in a major metropolitan area, then you should have a decent selection of internet service options and a much better range of services available to you than you might get if all your neighbors were farmers or ranchers. For these reasons, you should take some of the statewide averages with a grain of salt and do further research on your own.
This can be an important factor to consider if you are moving and require fast internet, and ideally, you should not rely on just one quote.
Information and Trends by Service Type
The type of internet service you get will vary based on the town you live in and the service providers operating in your area. Therefore, maybe even before you consider the average price or what you are willing to pay for internet, you should consider what type of internet service you'd ideally want and what options you have in the first place.
Here is some more information on the main options:
Many people reading this right now are doing so using cable internet service, likely in a bundle with a cable TV subscription. It's one of the most common internet service options, highly accessible across the country, and often included in bundles with other services.
Cable can represent a "middle option" in terms of value and total cost for most people. However, prospective cable customers should know that they will almost certainly share bandwidth with other users, especially at peak hours, and that they should keep this in mind.
Average Price of Cable Internet in the United States: $0.83 per Mbps
DSL internet is, much like cable internet, commonly available throughout the country, utilizing already existing phone lines to provide service to nearly any type of community across the United States. And while the technology was once state of the art, it has now been surpassed by fiber optic internet and some cable plans.
DSL does remain affordable and accessible and can be an excellent choice for households looking for basic internet.
Choosing DSL has an interesting balance when it comes to price. It is by far the most expensive choice in terms of cost per Mbps, but it will likely provide you with the lowest bill each month.
Average Price of DSL Internet in the United States: $1.53 per Mbps
Fiber Optic internet is, in most cases, the best option available for the average consumer, with a few exceptions in the form of the absolute top-tier of cable service, which may still be less reliable.
The cost of fiber optic internet is, on average, the cheapest by far. It can be an extremely cost-effective option for anyone hoping for a fast connection for their household, and if you are willing to have a higher bill to get the best, never worry about value.
However, this is only if you are looking at it in terms of value (cost per Mbps). If you're looking to have the lowest internet bill each month, other options might be better. You also will be more likely to pay for it alone, so those factors will not apply.
Fiber Optic internet also tends to have some substantial variances in price across the country, especially as some major cities have initiatives that make it a much cheaper option.
Average Price of Fiber Optic Internet in the United States: $0.48 per Mbps
Other internet options include dial-up and satellite internet, and these do not generally follow the same rules as the rest in terms of price. They generally stay the same across the country in terms of cost.
We do not recommend dial-up internet in 2020, nearly any reason, and any option would be better.
Satellite internet is a different beast altogether. It can be an interesting choice for those who don't feel as though they have a better option available to them yet still want reliable access, perhaps people who live out in rural areas who still want a reasonably strong connection.
Additional Factors to the Cost of Your Internet
When looking at an internet price, whether you plan to move or just want to switch providers or get a better deal, there may be outlying factors that may increase or lower the price for your home specifically. Here are some of the main ones:
Bundling and Special Offers
Everyone loves a good deal, and ISPs are often all too happy to offer them when attracting new customers for their cable and internet packages. And they can be a great deal, with the first one or two years (and in rare cases longer) being extremely competitive from a price point of view and far better than the national average.
However, when it comes to your regular internet bill after the deal expires, and including equipment fees, you should know that what you wind up with will be rather different than what you started with or what you were told. It will be your job to read the fine print. Plan for the day the price rises, and think for the long-term. We recommend averaging the cost over how long you intend to stay in the same place, especially if there are few alternatives.
Fees and Equipment
Cable and internet bills are usually inflated each month due to additional fees (hidden and well-known) and equipment rental charges, things that aren't necessarily specified in the ads you'll see as you shop for internet or mentioned in averages. This means that the actual cost you'll pay for your internet or telecommunications services will be higher than anticipated, especially if you haven't shopped for these services before.
These can vary, but some common names and numbers you might see are:
Equipment Rental Fee: Often, you won't be buying a cable box, modem, routers, or additional pieces of equipment outright, but instead, you will rent them from your ISP. There is a fee associated with this, although it might not kick in for a few months. Alternatively, you might pay this fee once each year in a larger sum.
Service Fee: This could mean many things to many different companies, and its difficult to argue against. However, many service fees are just ways for companies to charge a higher overall total to the customer while still advertising the "lowest" prices. Try searching for a prospective ISP online to learn more about the service fees they regularly charge.
Data Overage Fee: Most plans provided by ISPs are unlimited, and you won't be charged extra for using the internet a great deal (although soft data caps and throttling your connection are still things to note). Just know, it might be possible you could sign up for a plan with these types of fees, especially if you have satellite internet.
Late Payment Fees: While you won't see too many of these if your finances are in order and there are no errors, you should at least take note of potential late payment fees if an emergency were to pop up.
Additional Taxes and Government Service-Related Fees: Depending on whether you have a bundle and which state you live in, these may vary, but there will be little you can do about them. Inquire if you are curious and budget for them as best you can when searching for a provider.
In our research, we did not find many differences between states regarding how much fees cost the average user, so most comparisons along these lines aren't necessary. Just don't ignore them, and don't be afraid to ask questions about them.
Installation and Cancellation Costs
Wherever you set up your internet, there will be some installation required, and sometimes that installation will have a cost associated with it. This fact changes little from state to state and instead will vary by provider.
If you're worried about the cost of this, you should know that it has become very easy to install and set up your own modem and service with the kit your ISP will provide, waiving the cost.
If you are switching internet providers, you may also have to pay the cost to cancel your current contract, although that won't affect your monthly rate. If you're lucky, you can get your new internet provider to buy out the contract, but you shouldn't count on that until you can find complete confirmation. Always double-check your options and any costs before making such a switch.
We would like you to take note of the following and keep it in mind:
· The set of data we used only included internet service plans with a download speed of 25 Mbps or higher, which we feel is necessary to live an ordinary life online and what most households should look for as an absolute minimum. Many plans at a lower cost would unrealistically skew the data with options that weren't truly options.
- This is why there are quite a few states with no data on DSL plans. There may be DSL plans; there were just no truly viable ones.
· You should note that plans change prices all the time and that the numbers are liable to change in small ways. However, we do not anticipate changes in the general trends barring significant infrastructural efforts, legislation, or other large-scale events. State A will likely continue to be cheaper than State B, no matter when you read this.
· The data set we used generally focused on the lower-cost options in each state, focusing on how you could get the most value. We found that this fell into line with what the average person would be looking for and showcase what the average cost truly was, not the average cost of premium internet with extra service options.
· What is true for the state might not necessarily be true for your town, city, or county. While there are statewide operators, there will be differences in your local area versus the general trend, especially if there are not many competitors in your region. Just because there is an average cost of fiber optic service in a state does not mean there is statewide fiber optic internet (unfortunately).