The Need for Speed: Exploring Cable InternetUpdated May 22, 2023 Connectivity
Cable internet is a type of broadband connection that offers high-speed internet access using the same coaxial cables that provide cable television. It is a popular choice for many households because of its widespread availability and fast speeds, suitable for activities like streaming, gaming, and video conferencing. However, the quality and speed of cable internet can vary depending on network congestion and the quality of the infrastructure provided by your internet service provider.
Best Fiber Internet Providers in 2023
What Is Cable Internet?
Cable internet is a type of broadband internet service that utilizes the same coaxial cable network that's traditionally used to deliver cable television. It works by transmitting data through multiple frequency bands within the cable.
A cable modem is required to decode the signal and provide you with internet access. Cable internet is widely available and offers high-speed connections suitable for online gaming, streaming, and other data-intensive activities.
Best Cable Internet Providers in 2023
✅ Wide availability across the United States
❌ Contract required for all plans (except the Essential 100)
✅ Includes access to over 4 million Wi-Fi hotspots
❌ All plans have data caps
✅ Offers 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
❌ Limited upload speeds
Available Speeds: 100 Mbps to 1000 Mbps
Price Range: $49.99-$99.99 per month
Data Cap: 1.25 TB
Contract Required: Yes, with most plans
BBB Rating: A+
Founded more than 50 years ago, Cox Communications is a family-owned broadband communications and entertainment company. Today, Cox is the largest private telecom company in the United States, servicing over 6 million homes and businesses across 19 states.
Among other communications and entertainment services, Cox sells high-speed residential internet. While they do offer fiber internet in select areas, Cox's main offering is cable internet.
Plans & Pricing
Cox offers 4 different cable internet plans designed to suit different customers' internet usage needs and budgets. All plans have a data cap of 1.25 TB.
Plans start at $49.99 per month. At this price point, customers can choose from two plans: Essential 100 or Preferred 250.
As its name implies, the Essential 100 plan has 100 Mbps download speeds and 5 Mbps upload speeds. This plan includes Panoramic Wi-Fi equipment for no additional charge. It is also the only Cox internet plan with no annual contract or cancellation fees.
Also priced at $49.99 per month is the Preferred 250 plan. For the same price as the 100 Mbps plan, customers can get 250 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds. However, there is a 1-year term agreement, and this plan does not include Panoramic Wi-Fi.
Customers who need faster internet can upgrade to the Ultimate 500 or Gigablast plan.
For $69.99 per month, the Ultimate 500 plan provides 500 Mbps download speeds (10 Mbps upload speeds).
The Gigablast plan offers 1 Gbps download speeds with 35 Mbps upload speeds. It costs $99.99 per month.
✅ Offers Multi-Gig speeds
❌ Pricing varies significantly depending on location
✅ Wide selection of plans to choose from
❌ Data caps for most plans
✅ No contract requirement
❌ Prices can go up over time
Available Speeds: 50 to 2000 Mbps
Price Range: $9.99 to $120 per month
Data Cap: 1.2 TB (unlimited data adds $30)
Contract Required: No
BBB Rating: A+
Xfinity by Comcast is a broadband cable internet giant. Xfinity operates the largest cable internet network in the United States, with availability in over one-third of the country.
The broadband internet company has some of the fastest cable internet speeds available on the market. Xfinity offers multi-gig speeds in more than 12 cities and has plans to greatly expand by 2025.
Plans & Pricing
Xfinity has one of the most versatile cable internet plan line-ups in the industry. The company offers a total of 8 different plans ranging from 50 Mbps to 2 Gig speeds. This gives customers the freedom to pay for only what they need.
Plan prices are based on location. The prices listed below are based on Connecticut pricing. Specific pricing for your address may vary.
The 50 Mbps Connect plan costs just $9.99 per month. This limited plan is for individuals or small households that primarily use the internet for streaming, video calling, downloading music or photos, and internet browsing. It is designed for up to 4 devices at a time.
For $29.95 per month, customers can get 100 Mbps speeds with the Connect More plan. This plan is good for up to 5 devices. Or, there is also the 200 Mbps plan for $25 per month (in Connecticut. The price of the plan may be higher in different states.)
The Fast 400 Mbps plan costs $35 per month. It is best suited for downloading large files and streaming on multiple devices. With this plan, up to 8 devices can use the internet seamlessly at the same time.
For $50, customers can get 800 Mbps, which is best for HD streaming on multiple devices, multiplayer gaming, downloading large files fast, and connecting up to 11 devices simultaneously.
Next, we get into the Gig speeds. Xfinity's Gig offering starts at $60 for 1 Gig (1000 Mbps). This is an extremely fast plan that supports up to 12 devices at a time and is designed for households with heavy internet usage needs.
If you need even faster speeds, you can get 1200 Mbps for $70. It can support unlimited devices, including smart home technology.
The fastest plan currently offered by Xfinity is the Gigabit 2x, which reaches 2 Gig speeds (2000 Mbps.) This lightning-fast plan costs $120 per month and has some of the fastest speeds in the industry.
While there are no contract requirements for most plans, there is a 1.2TB monthly data cap. If you go over the limit, Xfinity charges $10 per 50GB of data used, up to $100 per month. If you choose to rent Xfinity's gateway each month, you can add xFi Complete with unlimited data for $25. Or, customers can pay an extra $30 per month to get unlimited data using their own equipment.
Plan prices are guaranteed for the first 24 months, but after that, there may be increases.
Mobile and internet bundling options are available. Xfinity customers can add on 2 unlimited mobile lines for just $30 per month.
✅ No data caps or annual contracts
❌ Spectrum One prices increase after 12 months
✅ Includes a free modem and antivirus software
❌ Poor customer satisfaction
✅ Straightforward pricing with minimal fees
❌ Ranks below industry standard
Available Speeds: 100 to 1000 Mbps
Price Range: $29.99 to $89.99 per month
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: No
BBB Rating: C-
Spectrum is owned by Charter Communications. They sell high-speed internet, mobile phone, and TV services. Their services are available to over 30 million people living in 41 U.S. states.
Plans & Pricing
Spectrum offers internet-only plans and Spectrum One plans, which include free Advanced Wifi and an unlimited mobile line. Not all speeds are available in every service area. Pricing varies based on location. The prices listed here are based on Dallas, Texas pricing.
For internet-only plans, you can get 100 Mbps for $29.99 per month. This is a starter option. If you have many devices or internet users, you can opt for the 500 Mbps for $49.99 per month. Or, you can get the fastest speed offered by Spectrum – 1 Gig for $69.99 per month.
There are three Spectrum One plans: 300 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and 1 Gig, priced at $49.99, $69.99, and $89.99, respectively. These plans include a free mobile phone line and state-of-the-art Advanced Wifi, which includes a Wi-fi 6 router and Security Shield.
Spectrum One plan prices are only guaranteed for the first year. After that, standard prices for Advanced Wifi and mobile lines apply. This averages out to a price increase of about $30 each month.
All plans have unlimited data and no contracts. There is a $5 fee if you want to use a Spectrum router for Wi-fi, or you can bring your own for no additional cost. Additionally, there is a one-time professional installation fee of $60. Or, you can choose to get a self-install package for $20. All Spectrum plans also include free access to over 530,000 nationwide Wi-fi hotspots. Spectrum also offers convenient options to bundle your internet and TV services together.
The biggest drawback to Spectrum is its history of low customer satisfaction. Though it has improved since Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable in 2016, Spectrum is still ranked below industry standard.
✅ Affordable pricing
❌ Only available in 6 states
✅ No annual contracts
❌ Data caps on most plans
✅ Has some of the fastest upload speeds in the industry
❌ Monthly fees for modem rental
Available Speeds: 100 to 1200 Mbps
Price Range: $20 to $95 per month
Data Cap: 1.5-3TB (for most plans)
Contract Required: No
BBB Rating: A+
Wow! (WideOpenWest) is the 8th biggest cable internet company in the United States. Currently, they serve over 1.9 million homes and businesses across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Plans & Pricing
Wow! offers hybrid fiber-coaxial cable internet plans at affordable prices. They also have 100% fiber internet in some locations, but the prices listed below focus on their cable internet option. Monthly costs are based on Alabama pricing.
Wow! offers 5 cable internet plans:
The cheapest plan is the Internet 100 plan, with 100 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds. It costs $19.99 per month, and has a data cap of 1.5 TB.
For $29.99 per month, you can select the Internet 200 plan, which has 200 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds. Both of the lower-tier plans have a data cap of 1.5 TB.
For faster speeds, you may prefer the Internet 500 plan for $54.99 per month. You get download speeds of 500 Mbps and upload speeds of 50 Mbps. This plan has a data cap of 2.5 TB.
Internet 1 Gig
Gig speeds start at $74.99 per month for 1 Gig (1000 Mbps/ 50 Mbps). This plan has a free modem rental for 2 years and a data cap of 3 TB.
Internet 2 Gig
The highest tier plan is 1.2 Gig for $94.99 per month. The Internet 1.2 Gig plan is the only plan with unlimited data and a free modem rental.
For the first one or two years, Wow! currently offers promo pricing up to $25 off regular rates (exact rate and term length depend on plan). All internet plan purchases come with a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee.
Astound Broadband (RCL)
✅ No contracts or data caps
❌ Lower-than-average customer satisfaction
✅ Free modem included
❌ Steep price hikes after promotional period
✅ Prices are guaranteed for 24 months
❌ Limited availability in metropolitan areas
Available Speeds: 100 Mbps to 1200 Mbps
Price Range: $25 per month to $65 per month
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: None
BBB Rating: B
Astound Broadband powered by RCN (Residential Communications Network) has been around since 1993. Their internet services are available in 6 metro areas: Boston, Chicago, New York City, Pennsylvania (Lehigh Valley), Philadelphia (Delaware County), and Washington, DC.
Plans & Pricing
Astound has 5 tiers of cable internet plans. Their promotional period of two years offers some of the most competitive prices in the industry. However, after the two years, prices increase dramatically.
The 100 Mbps plan costs $25 per month for the first two years. After this, it goes up to $124.
For $35 per month (promo pricing) you can get 300 Mbps. The regular rate for this plan is $150 per month.
The 600 Mbps plan costs $45 per month for the first two years, then it is $154.
The Gig plan provides up to 940 Mbps download speeds for $55 per month. After the first two years, it costs $162.
The fastest tier plan is 1200 Mbps, which costs $65 per month during the promotional period, or $172 for standard rates.
While regular rates are expensive, the good news is there are no contract requirements or data caps with Astound internet plans. All plans also include a free modem and an option to get Whole Home Wi-Fi for an extra $5 per month.
✅ 1 Gig internet available to over 97% of customers
❌ Below-average customer satisfaction
✅ Wide geographical reach
❌ Prices can increase for the first two years in a row
✅ Upload speeds up to 50 Mbps
❌ Tight data caps with no limit on overage charges
Available Speeds: 100 Mbps to 2000 Mbps
Price Range: $24.99 per month to $59.99 per month
Data Cap: 300-6000 GB
Contract Required: No
BBB Rating: B-
Mediacom Cable is the 5th largest cable internet provider in the United States. Over 7.7 million Americans live in one of their service regions, which spans across the Midwest, California, Arizona, Gulf Coast, and Eastern Seaboard.
Plans & Pricing
Mediacom offers 4 "Xtreme" internet plans. There are no annual contracts. Prices and speeds vary depending on location, but the pricing below is based on the Des Moines, IA area.
The lowest tier plan is 100 Mbps for $24.99 per month. This plan has a data cap of 300 GB.
The next plan is 300 Mbps, which costs $39.99 per month. It has a data cap of 1.5 TB.
For $49.99 per month, customers can select the 600 Mbps plan, which has a data cap of 3 TB.
Internet 1 Gig
The fastest speed offered by Mediacom is 1 Gig. It costs $59.99 and has a data cap of 6 TB.
There is also a $109.99 installation fee, a $10 activation fee, and a $14 optional modem fee.
Mediacom's biggest drawback is its restrictive data caps with no limits on overage charges. Mediacom will charge you $10 extra for every 50 GB you use over your data cap. With tight data limits, especially on lower-tier plans, customers can easily rack up additional charges.
How Does Cable Internet Work?
Cable internet operates using coaxial cable lines, the same lines used to deliver cable television. The process of cable internet service begins with data transmission, where all internet data, from emails to streaming videos, is segmented into smaller units known as packets.
Cable internet relies on a network of coaxial cables that are already installed in most neighborhoods for cable TV service. These cables connect your home to the cable provider's network. This network facilitates data routing, where packets of data are routed from the cable company's hub to your home.
At your home, a cable modem receives these packets and converts them back into digital data. The modem sends this data to your router, which manages the internet connection to your various devices in your home – either through Ethernet cables or WiFi.
One important thing to note about cable internet is that it's a shared service, meaning that all homes connected to the same cable line share bandwidth. This can sometimes result in slower speeds during peak usage times when many people are accessing the internet at once.
How Fast Is Cable Internet?
Cable internet speeds can significantly vary depending on the specific plan you choose from your internet provider. Typically, cable internet providers offer download speeds ranging from about 20 Mbps to 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps).
Faster plans provide higher download speeds, suitable for heavy internet usage like online gaming or streaming high-definition videos. With cable internet, upload speeds are typically much slower than download speeds. A slow upload speed can limit activities like video conferencing or uploading large files.
A 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) cable internet connection provides extremely fast data transfer, enabling you to download a wide array of content very quickly. Here's an idea of what can be downloaded with a 1 Gbps cable internet plan:
Music: A typical song of about 5 MB could be downloaded almost instantaneously, and you can enjoy uninterrupted listening to all the best music streaming services.
Movies: A high-definition movie, usually around 4-5 GB, could be downloaded in less than a minute.
TV Shows: An entire season of a TV show, which could range from 20 to 50 GB, could be downloaded in a matter of minutes.
Video Games: Most video games range from 40 to 100 GB, which means even the largest could be downloaded in under 15 minutes.
Large Files: Massive files or data sets, such as professional graphic designs or complex 3D models, can be downloaded quickly, improving productivity for many professions.
Streaming: With 1 Gbps speed, you can enjoy the best TV streaming services. Multiple devices in a household can stream 4K or even 8K videos, play online games, and use video conferencing simultaneously without buffering.
Keep in mind that actual download times may be influenced by other factors such as network congestion, the number of connected devices, and the speed of the server where you are downloading data.
What’s the Difference Between Cable, Fiber, and DSL?
Today, homeowners can access the internet using a variety of broadband connections. The most common types of broadband are cable, DSL, and fiber internet.
Cable Internet is delivered through the same coaxial cable network that provides cable television. It generally provides faster internet speed than DSL, with download speeds ranging between 20 Mbps and 2000 Mbps (2 Gbps). One downside to cable internet is that speeds can slow down if the network is congested.
Fiber internet uses thin strands of glass or plastic to transmit data as pulses of light. It offers the fastest available speeds, often up to 5000 Mbps (5 Gbps) or more for both download and upload, making it ideal for heavy internet usage, such as streaming high-definition video, online gaming, and heavy file downloads and uploads. However, fiber optic internet infrastructure is expensive to install, and as a result, it's not as widely available as cable or DSL.
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) Internet is delivered over telephone lines. It typically offers lower speeds than both cable and fiber, often ranging between 1 Mbps and 100 Mbps. The advantage of DSL internet is that it provides a dedicated connection to each user, so your connection speed isn't affected by how many other users are online at the same time.
The quality and speed of a DSL internet connection can degrade over long distances, and users in general experience slower speeds compared to cable and fiber internet. While cable and fiber offer higher speeds, the availability of these services can vary widely depending on where you live. DSL, on the other hand, tends to be more universally available, but may not provide the speed needed for more data-intensive activities.
How Much Does Cable Internet Cost?
The cost of cable internet can vary significantly based on the internet service provider, the speed or plan you choose, your location, and whether you bundle your internet with other services, such as cable TV or home phone service. The cost of monthly internet service can range from anywhere between $30 and $300, or more.
For basic cable internet service with speeds suitable for browsing the web and streaming video, you can expect to pay somewhere between $30 and $60 per month. For higher speeds, suitable for activities like online gaming or streaming high-definition video on multiple devices at once, you might pay anywhere from $60 to $100+ per month.
These prices often don't include additional costs like equipment rental fees for your cable modem or router, installation fees, or potential increases after promotional pricing periods end. You may also be able to get discounted rates if you bundle your internet service with cable TV or home phone service, or if you qualify for programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Benefits of Cable Internet
Cable internet comes with several benefits that make it an attractive choice for many homeowners. Here are a few key advantages:
Download Speed: Cable internet typically offers higher download speeds compared to DSL and satellite connections. This allows for seamless streaming, gaming, and other data-intensive activities.
Availability: Since cable internet uses the same infrastructure as cable TV, it is widely available in many regions, including both urban and suburban areas where cable TV services are already established.
Bundling Options: Many cable internet providers also offer cable TV and home phone services, which can often be bundled together. This can lead to cost savings and the convenience of having all services on one bill.
Consistent Speeds: Unlike DSL internet, the performance of cable internet doesn't degrade with distance from the ISP's central hub. As long as you're within the cable network's service area, your internet connection should remain relatively stable.
Supports Multiple Devices: Cable internet can handle multiple devices connected at the same time, making it a good option for active households with many users or devices.
Should I Choose Cable Internet for My Home?
Deciding if cable internet is the best choice for your home depends on a variety of factors like your household's internet usage, availability of services in your area, household budget, and personal preferences.
If your household frequently streams video or plays online games, the faster speeds offered by cable internet can be a significant advantage compared to DSL. But if your internet use is lighter, a slower, potentially less expensive option might be sufficient.
Cable internet is widely available in many urban and suburban areas, but it might not be an option in more rural locations. You'll need to check which services are available in your specific area.
Cable internet is generally reliable, although severe weather can sometimes disrupt service. And keep in mind that cable internet speeds can decrease during peak times when the network is congested.
When it comes to cost, cable internet can be more expensive than DSL, though many providers offer bundle deals if you combine your internet service with cable TV or phone service. Many homeowners find that it's worth paying more for the faster speeds that cable internet provides.
Ultimately, choosing the best internet for your home depends on the needs of your household and the services available in your area. It's always a good idea to compare offers from different providers to ensure you get the best service for your home.