Don’t overbuy: How to save money on your Internet service

Updated March 2024:

  • Now that the wireless carriers are offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) Internet service in many areas, there’s more choices for internet speeds and service levels. However, it may not be as reliable.
  • You may be able to downgrade the speed provided by your current Internet provider to save money with little or no noticeable difference.
  • Consider bundling home Internet and wireless service to save money.

Traditional wired Internet service often offers different speed tiers and priced at the speed of the internet connection you can expect at your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) modem/gateway.

In the Reno area as of May 2023, Charter’s Spectrum service offers Internet speeds of 300 Megabits per second (Mbps), 500 Mbps and 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps or often referred 1 Gig). AT&T’s xDSL Internet service offers slower download speeds ranging from less than 1 Mbps to 100 Mbps, but with their fiber-to-the-home service, speeds range from 300-5000 Mbps (5 Gbps).

In July 2022 T-Mobile began offering wireless home internet service in the Reno area via Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). Download speeds are advertised at 30-245 Mbps, which is fast enough to stream UHD/4K video quality. In May 2023 Verizon began offering FWA in limited parts of the Reno area, with download speeds advertised at 85-300 Mbps. In late 2023 AT&T’s Internet Air became available in limited areas of Reno with download speeds varying from 75-225 Mbps.

FWA is cheaper, but can be less reliable

Thought FWA is often cheaper, unlike xDSL, Cable or Fiber Internet, FWA can be less reliable since the service is shared with hundreds or thousands of other users in your area using the same cell tower/node. Therefore speeds during peak times can be slower, or during an extended power outage you could temporarily lose service altogether. Before considering FWA, check out “5G” Home Internet vs. Spectrum Internet.

Save money by choosing a slower Internet speed plan

Count on spending at least $50/month for reliable internet service, but anything above $80/month is probably unnecessary for small households. If you’re on a faster speed tier with your Internet Service Provider, you can save money by switching to a lower speed plan.

Faster internet speeds do not make your computer faster.

If your computer seems slow, contact Computer Techs before calling your ISP to increase your internet speed – because it’s likely that the bottleneck is with your computer. Internet speed only affects how fast web pages load in your web browser, or how clear and smoothly videos stream to your device. If your computer is slow to start or open programs – that has nothing to do with your internet speed.

Speeds are guaranteed at the router/gateway – not at your device.

Even if you subscribe to an internet service plan at 1 Gbps or more, don’t expect to see those speeds on a Wi-Fi connected device. Wi-Fi speeds vary by frequency and distance from your wireless router. On the 2.4 GHz frequency Wi-Fi band, you’ll rarely get speeds near 100 Mbps due to its narrow bandwidth channels and interference from neighbor Wi-Fi networks in most areas that limit the connection speed. The 5 GHz band’s wide bandwidth channels can achieve speeds of 800 Mbps or more, but only if you’re within approximately 20 feet and line-of-sight to the wireless router/gateway. Once you go to another room or move further away, speeds begin to fall off dramatically.

Why pay for gigabit internet speeds if your wireless devices can’t deliver speeds that fast?

There’s typically no reason for the average family household to subscribe to gigabit internet speeds, because most wireless devices currently can’t transfer data as fast as a gigabit internet connection. An exception would be is if you regularly do video calls where your video quality depends on the upload speed of your internet service. xDSL Internet speed plans have considerably lower upload speeds, which are a fraction of the download speed of your plan. You may need to subscribe to a considerably higher speed plan to achieve the desired uploads speeds for video calls.

Do you need speeds above 25 Mbps?

The FCC recommends broadband download speeds of at least 25 Mbps for typical online activities. Video streaming uses the most bandwidth on your network. In order to be able to download and view video streaming clear and interruption free, Netflix recommends that you should have a 25 Mbps connection (at your TV or device) to stream their highest quality video – Ultra HD or 4K. In theory, if you have a 100 Mbps internet connection, you could simultaneously stream four 4K movies with ease. But if your TV is across the house from your internet gateway/router, your TV could be getting speeds far below the recommended speeds for streaming.

Measure the internet speed on your current device here.
Broadband Technology (2023 speeds) – Provider(s) in Reno areaProsCons
xDSL (1-100 Mbps) –
AT&T U-Verse
None– Slowest speeds
– Old technology using copper wiring
Cable (100-1000 Mbps symmetrical) –
Charter Spectrum
– Faster & more reliable than xDSL– Likely will go down if there’s a neighborhood power outage
Fiber (100-5000 Mbps symmetrical) –
AT&T Fiber
– Fastest & most reliable speeds and latency
– Can continue to work if there’s a neighborhood power outage
– Difficult and lengthy process to repair if fiber optic cable is cut.
Fixed Wireless (30-300 Mbps) – T-Mobile, Verizon– Currently less expensive than wired technologies– Highly variable speeds depending on how many other users are online in the neighborhood
– Can go down if there’s a neighborhood power outage and no cell-site generator power
Broadband comparison table

The bottleneck – your WiFi connection

If there’s lots of distance or walls between your internet gateway/Wi-Fi router and your devices, and you’re experiencing wireless speeds that aren’t keeping up with your advertised internet connection speed, you may need to replace your Wi-Fi.

Consider bundling home Internet with wireless to save money

As mentioned above, you may be able to lower your monthly Internet service bill by switching to a slower/cheaper speed tier. You can also consider bundling home Internet and mobile service. Spectrum offers discounts when bundling home Internet and WiFi, with their Spectrum Mobile service which uses the Verizon wireless network. AT&T offers a 25% discount when bundling home Internet and wireless services.

We can help you optimize your home Wi-Fi connections and save money on Internet service.

Contact us to discuss your internet and wireless needs – we can help!

References:

Spectrum Rate Card

AT&T – Understanding internet speeds

T-Mobile Internet service policies