In this week's installment of Taming your budget-busting bills we look at how to lower your Internet bill.
When it comes to monthly bills, one that seems to be ever increasing is the Internet bill.
In 2018 having a good Internet connection is vital, but with high fees and sometimes questionable service, it's no surprise that a Consumer Reports survey found that many of the country's largest providers leave a poor taste in the mouths of consumers.
And at an average price of roughly $60 per month, according to Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst of the Leichtman Research Group, it is not cheap either.
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Not all hope is lost, though. Here are some tips on how you might be able to get your bill under control — and more importantly, keep it that way.
Determine what Internet speed you need
A growing number of cable companies now offer download speeds of 100Mbps (megabits per second) or faster, with some such as Google Fiber, AT&T, Comcast’s Xfinity or Verizon’s FiOS offering blazing fast 1Gbps connections. Faster speeds are always welcome, but depending on where you live and what you do online, it may not be worth spending extra for.
Netflix recommends a speed of 5Mbps for streaming HD video or 25Mbps if you plan to stream sharper, 4K content. Play video games online? Microsoft recommends a minimum of 3Mbps for downloads and a 0.05 Mbps upload speed for Xbox Live. Though in both instances, faster speeds are definitely noticeable and welcome.
If you don't stream a lot of 4K videos, play video games online, or live in a household where a number of devices are on at once, you could find yourself more than pleased with a good 25-50Mbps connection.
"The cost of the actual data has gone down so much, I would certainly advise looking at the options," says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, a personal finance website. That said, McBride concedes that the "juice may not be worth the squeeze."
"You may not generate enough tangible savings to make it worth your trouble," he says.
Know your area's options and negotiate
For a fairly large number of Americans, there really is only one decent high-speed Internet provider where they live. According to a recent report from Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a community development organization, more than 129 million people are limited to a single Internet provider when using the FCC's broadband definition of 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps upload speeds.
Some consumers, however, have multiple options. Not sure if you are one of them? Sites such as BroadbandNow.com allow you to type in your ZIP code to see what choices you have.
New customers often can receive significantly better deals than those who have been with the same provider for years. Check what your provider offers new customers as well as all the competitors in your area and use this to your advantage. Call up your provider and threaten to cancel. See what deals they can give you.
"If you live in an area where you have multiple broadband providers, leaving one to go to the other will either get you the lower rate at the other or will get you a lower rate at your existing provider as your incentive to stay," says Avi Greengart, consumer platforms and devices analyst for GlobalData.
The cable companies have already done the work of building out their networks. Not having your business means money left on the table.
“Now is a time of tremendous competition and plenty of alternatives in the marketplace, so as a consumer this gives you bargaining power to be able to reduce your bill,” says McBride.
Buy your own modem and router
Just as you need a cable box to watch TV, you need a modem to connect to the Internet and router to create a Wi-Fi network. Your provider charges you a monthly fee for it. But unlike the cable box, which is still a bit more complicated to replace, you can easily replace your modem and router.
If you plan to stay in your current home or apartment for a year paying the fee for a modem/router is a decent option as you'd be hard-pressed to find good replacements for the $60-$120 the cable company will charge you over the course of a year.
If you are in it for the long haul, however, buying your own modem could help save money. When buying make sure to confirm with your operator that it works for your provider and is certified for the speeds you want to get.
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal