What Is Cable Internet?
Cable internet uses the same coaxial cable network that delivers cable TV to your home. The data signal travels over these cables into your home through your modem, which then connects to your router to broadcast a WiFi signal throughout your home so you can log on.
Download speeds on cable connections range between 10 and 1000Mbps, while upload speeds fall between 2 and 50Mbps. Cable internet is thus faster than DSL but slower than fiber. It’s a good option if you need bandwidth for a busy household of internet users but fiber hasn’t reached your neighborhood yet. Cable connections are widely available, reaching 89% of US households, with only the most rural areas left out.
Best Cable Internet Service Providers
Charter Communications absorbed Bright House and Time Warner Cable in 2016 to launch Spectrum, a cable service spanning 44 states and reaching over 100 million people. It has three different plans, offering download speeds of 100Mbps, 400Mbps, and 940Mbps.
Cox’s cable network is available to around 20 million people in 18 states, with substantial coverage in Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Arizona, and Louisiana. It has a plan for everyone, with speeds ranging from 10Mbps to 940Mbps.
Mediacom sells cable internet connections in 22 states, targeting “flyover” states along the Mississippi River. Speeds range from 60Mbps to 1000Mbps and data limits from 400GB to 1TB a month.
Altice’s Optimum sells internet access in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, reaching 12 million people. For simplicity's sake it has just two plans: one with 300Mbps speeds and another at 400Mbps.
WOW! sells cable internet in 10 states, particularly in large cities in the Midwest and the South, including Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, and Indianapolis. Speeds range from 100Mbps to 1Gbps with unlimited data.
Comcast Xfinity is another internet giant, with cable service available to more than 100 million people in 39 states. Download speeds range from 25Mbps to 1000Mbps (1Gbps) and Xfinity is widely seen as the fastest cable on the market.
Benefits Of Cable Internet
Cable internet is the Goldilocks of internet technologies: not too fast, not too slow, not too cheap, not too expensive, but fitting just right between DSL and fiber. It’s widely available, reasonably priced, and offers enough bandwidth for most internet-faring households.
Cable internet is available to 89% of US residences, with only the most rural areas off the grid. That’s comparable to the footprint of DSL and much more widespread than fiber, which has reached just a quarter of homes.
Cable offers download speeds of nearly every pace, from the DSL-comparable 10Mbps to 1Gbps connections you could mistake for fiber. That wide range means there’s a cable package perfectly suited to your internet needs—whether you’re online shopping or loading Call of Duty.
No Phone Line
Cable internet bypasses the copper wires of the landline phone network used by DSL by running coaxial cables directly to your house. If you’re one of the 60% of Americans who have ditched their landline phone, this might be appealing.
How To Get the Best Cable Internet Plans
To find the best cable internet plans available in your neighborhood and city, plug your ZIP code into our comparison engine. We’ll return a personalized list of all the internet plans available to your home. If you’ve decided cable is your best option, you can filter those results just for cable plans. Compare price, speed, data caps, contract lengths and TV bundling options to find the deal that best suits you. Click on it to be redirected to the ISP’s website to sign up.
Internet With Cable TV service
Cable internet and cable TV are natural partners, delivered over the same coaxial network. Your cable provider will likely try to get you to sign up for a TV package alongside your internet connection. If you want TV, this is usually a good deal. You’ll end up with just one provider, one contract and one bill for the two services and providers usually give you a discount for bundling.
So who has the best cable internet and TV bundles? You’ll want to consider their number of channels (and if your favorites are included), the capabilities of the TV box and remote (can you pause, rewind and record live TV? How many channels can you record on simultaneously and how many hours can you store?) and whether you can integrate streaming services into its menus. Xfinity is well known for its TV packages, with 260 cable channels, while Spectrum offers a viable contract-free alternative, and Cox is good for cable subscribers on a budget. Of course, you may be constrained by the services available in your area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cable and fiber are largely comparable services—they both deliver download speeds of up to 1Gbps and are priced similarly. However, fiber has a few advantages which may sway you. Fiber connections are symmetrical, which means their upload speeds are as fast as their download speeds. This is a boon for online gamers and remote workers. Additionally, fiber connections don’t lose speed over distance, so you’ll receive the full capacity of your plan no matter how far you live out of town.
But for many homes the decision will be made for them. Fiber is available to just 25% of addresses in the US, while cable reaches 89%.
Most homes in the US can access both cable and DSL and face a choice between them. Your decision will come down to speed, or—another way of looking at it—bandwidth. While DSL will be sufficient for those who use the internet sporadically or live alone, busy households will want the greater bandwidth cable connections can provide. According to the Federal Commission for Communications (FCC), a speed of 100Mbps is sufficient for a family of four regularly doing data-intensive tasks like streaming video. While this is at the upper edge of DSL's capabilities, it’s one of the slower connections cable can provide.
If you haven’t come to the end of your contract with your current ISP, we suggest you wait until it concludes before you sign up for a new service. Internet providers charge hefty early terminations fees if you exit your contract early, often the equivalent of your monthly bills. Switching away early means you’ll effectively be paying for two internet services.
Some ISPs, including Spectrum, Mediacom, and Xfinity, sell cable internet without contracts, which might be appealing for customers who want flexibility.
Some cable plans, such as those from Cox, Medicom, and Xfinity, come with data caps. Usually these are generous 1TB monthly allowances, with space for more than 400 hours of HD video streaming each month. You’ll struggle to exceed them but if you do, cable internet providers have different policies. They usually won’t cut you off but will charge you for any additional data you use. For example, Xfinity’s overage charges are $10 per additional 50GB of data, for a maximum of $200 a month. Cox also sells the 1% of its customers who exceed their data allowances 50GB add-ons for $10 apiece.