Best Cable Internet in 2021
Cable internet is widely accessible and found in many residential homes, making it the most popular form of broadband used by millions of Americans. Whether you live in an area where fiber internet is scarce or DSL internet is too slow for your liking, you’ll most likely come across a cable internet provider that offers the best in terms of price and speeds.
Of the 450 cable internet providers in the U.S., we’ve handpicked the best ones and give a breakdown as to why we chose them. Shopping for the best cable internet provider does require some working knowledge about what to expect during the process, but we did all the work so you don’t have to. Let’s take a look at what cable internet has to offer in 2021!
The Present and Future of Cable Internet
Cable broadband services approximately 93 percent of American homes1, showing just how accessible it is in the U.S. compared to other broadband types. With a market size that’s approximately $100.5 billion2, most cable internet providers have rolled out gigabit speeds — a solution to connecting more people to broadband networks while providing faster speeds in more areas. Needless to say, cable internet rivals fiber internet, which has become the gold standard of the internet. Recent trends also show consumers choosing “cord cutting” cable TV in favor of streaming services as a way to save money and pay for what you really want to watch.
Top Cable Internet Providers in 2021
You may have come across cable internet providers that also offer other broadband types such as Xfinity, but most providers mainly stick with cable. In the chart below, we’ve chosen the top cable internet providers that have graced our list over the years. We’ve also picked five of our favorites to elaborate on.
|Provider||Connection Type||Monthly Pricing*||Speeds||Data Cap||Contract|
|Xfinity||Cable or Fiber||$39.99-$79.99||100-1000 Mbps||Unlimited data||1-2 years|
|Spectrum||Cable||$49.99-$144.97||100-940 Mbps||Unlimited data||None|
|Cox Communications||Cable||$29.99-$179.99||10-940 Mbps||1280 GB||1-2 years|
|Optimum by Altice||Cable or Fiber||$40-$129.99||200-940 Mbps||Unlimited data||None|
|Mediacom||Cable||$39.99-$139.99||60-1000 Mbps||400-6000 GB||1-3 years|
|Suddenlink Communications||Cable||$20-$145||100-1000 Mbps||250 GB or unlimited data||None|
|RCN||Cable||$19.99-$126.32||25-940 Mbps||Unlimited data||None|
|Sparklight||Cable or Fiber||$39-$125||100-1000 Mbps||350-1500 GB||None|
|Atlantic Broadband||Cable||$39.99-$79.99||50-1000 Mbps||Unlimited data||1-3 years|
|Wave Broadband||Cable or Fiber||$69.95-$99.95||100-1000 Mbps||2 TB or unlimited data||None|
*Promotional rates. Prices subject to change. Additional fees and taxes may apply.
Xfinity — Best Cable Internet for Fast Speeds
Xfinity is a household name in the telecom industry and they’re mostly known for their blazing fast speeds. While Xfinity offers both cable and fiber internet plans, a majority of them are the former. We like that their cable internet plans are affordable with a monthly price range between $39.99 to $79.99. Download speeds reach up to 1,000 Mbps. Plus, no data caps? That’s a win for us.
All that said, we’re not a fan of their contracts which range between 1-2 years. Xfinity also requires an equipment rental fee of $14 per month for the modem with Wi-Fi. It’s worth mentioning that prices vary significantly by region, so Xfinity might not be the most budget-friendly option.
Recommended Plan: Gigabit for $79.99 per month, download speeds of 1,000 Mbps, no data caps, and free self-installation.
Why We Recommend It: If you want to experience truly fast internet speeds, Xfinity’s Gigabit plan is the way to go. We recommend this plan for large households with heavy streamers or data users.
Spectrum — Best Cable Internet for No Contracts
If you’re not a fan of long-term commitments, then say hello to Spectrum. No contracts and no data caps are the defining features of Spectrum’s cable internet plans. A modem is included with their plans, so that’s one less fee to worry about. Spectrum also offers a contract buyout program in which they pay for your early termination fees from your previous provider if you make the switch.
The setup fee for Spectrum’s GIG plan is expensive, coming at $199.99. Their plans, including the bundles, aren’t the most affordable either. We’ve seen other providers offer similar download speeds at a lower cost.
Recommended Plan: Spectrum Internet for $49.99 a month, download speeds of 100 Mbps, no data caps, and modem included.
Why We Recommend It: The Spectrum Internet plan is a great starter for new users who are on a budget and don’t need super fast speeds. We recommend this plan for small households with light to moderate internet users.
Cox — Best Cable Internet for Affordable Plans
When it comes to basic speeds, Cox has got you covered. Their cheapest internet plan, which costs $29.99 per month, offers speeds of up to 10 Mbps. You can still stream and play games online with these speeds too. Their lower-tier plans are affordable and come at different speeds, so you have more legroom when it comes to narrowing down your plan.
Cox does require a contract of 1-2 years and their plans generally have a data cap of 1280 GB per month. If you cancel early, early termination fees go up to $120. Their higher-tier plans are more expensive, with the Cox Internet Gigablast costing $99.99 per month for download speeds up to 940 Mbps.
Recommended Plan: Cox Internet Starter 10 for $29.99 per month, download speeds of 10 Mbps, and 1280 GB data cap.
Why We Recommend It: Some cable internet providers hike up the price for plans with lower download speeds. Cox does the opposite and maintains an affordable price that reflects the speeds you’re getting. We recommend this plan for those who don’t need a high-speed plan and are fine with the occasional web surfing, streaming, and online gaming.
Mediacom — Best Cable Internet for Bundles
If you feel like pairing your internet with TV and/or phone services, Mediacom has some pretty great bundles that are reasonably priced. If you prefer standalone internet, their lowest-priced plan costs $39.99 a month with download speeds of 60 Mbps. Mediacom can be generous with their data caps too, which can reach up to 6000 GB a month.
You can’t run away from contracts if you sign up with Mediacom. Their contracts range between 1-3 years, so plans that require a three-year contract might not be the best path if you can’t commit. You also have to pay $12 per month for the modem, which other cable internet providers include with their plans.
Recommended Plan: Mediacom Triple Play bundle for $99.99 per month, download speeds of 60 Mbps, and a 400 GB data cap.
Why We Recommend It: We noticed that Mediacom offers a Double Play plan for the same price, so why not upgrade to the Triple Play bundle where you get all three services? This bundle offers variety TV and you can enjoy streaming and online gaming with speeds of 60 Mbps. We recommend this bundle for anyone who just wants basic internet packaged together with TV and phone services.
Optimum by Altice — Best Cable Internet for Equipment
Optimum by Altice does away with contracts and data caps for unrestricted internet usage. They also encourage you to order online so that way installation is included for free. Their high-quality equipment is some of the best we’ve seen, as Optimum uses smart Wi-Fi for their modems.
We’re a little disappointed that Optimum doesn’t offer a variety of plans, so there’s less to choose from. Also, their gigabit service isn’t available in all areas. Looking for 1,000 Mbps download speeds? You’ll only find 940 Mbps.
Recommended Plan: Optimum 1 Gig for $65 a month, download speeds of 940 Mbps, and no data caps.
Why We Recommend It: The Optimum 1 Gig plan is affordable compared to other cable internet providers’ gigabit plans and you get a price lock guarantee. We recommend this plan for medium to large households who are on a budget and use the internet frequently.
A Breakdown About Cable Internet
Although DSL and cable internet are similar because they use copper cables, the former delivers data via telephone lines while the latter transfers data through coaxial TV cables. Cable internet speeds are faster than DSL as well and are capable of matching fiber internet’s speeds, which range between 940 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps.
As you’re shopping around for a cable internet provider, here are several factors to consider:
- Pricing: There are a few variables when it comes to pricing. First, monthly rates are most likely promotional, so you might find a price hike after a certain period of time. Also, prices aren’t always cut in stone because it depends on where you live. Keep in mind that additional taxes and hidden fees may apply.
- Speeds: With cable internet speeds, which range between 10 to 1,000 Mbps, you can stream Netflix in HD, play competitive video games, download large files, and just about any other online activity. While cable internet speeds match up to fiber internet’s speeds, there are frequent slowdowns during peak times. When searching for a provider, note that advertised speeds don’t always reflect the actual speeds you’re experiencing. If you want to check just how fast your internet really is, you can take a speed test.
- Data Caps: Whether you’re in the middle of watching “The Office” for the sixth time or playing a Fortnite match, the last thing you want is a limit to your internet. Cable internet plans that have data caps are common, though more providers are siding with unlimited data for their plans. In some cases, cable internet providers offer generous data caps so you won’t actually reach your limit every month. If you do, be prepared to pay data overage fees. We recommend going for plans that have no data caps, especially for large households with heavy internet users.
- Bundles: Cable internet providers offer bundles more than any other broadband type because it’s easy to pair TV service with internet service. Providers like Cox and Mediacom offer a wide variety of Double Play and Triple Play bundles that result in more savings than purchasing a standalone internet plan. You might even have the opportunity to upgrade your internet for free if you choose to bundle.
- Installation: Setting up your cable internet service involves either self-installation or professional installation. Most of the process is plug and play with the modem power cord and coaxial or phone jack. If you choose professional installation, you’ll likely pay an installation fee along with an activation fee. Self-installation tends to be cheaper and you only have to worry about the activation fee.
The guidelines for cable internet shopping aren’t all that different from other connection types. Speeds and installation are the only major differences, though there are a lot of changing variables. It’s always best to connect with a sales representative if you want to solidify pricing, speeds, data caps, and so on.
Shopping for cable internet is much easier than shopping for fiber internet, simply because the former is more accessible. That said, some cable internet providers are harder to reach than others in certain areas, so it’s not 100 percent widespread coverage. Here’s a recap of the key factors that you should keep in mind about cable internet and cable internet providers:
- Cable internet is the most common broadband type with widespread coverage
- Bundling internet service with TV and/or phone service saves you more money
- Cable internet speeds range between 10 to 1,000 Mbps which is on par with fiber internet speeds
- Pricing, speeds, and even data caps vary based on your location
- There are plenty of cable internet providers that offer contract-free options
When it comes to pricing and speeds, cable internet keeps a good balance for both. You save a lot more money when you bundle your cable internet with TV service. Even with a standalone internet plan, there are cable internet providers that offer great deals and promotional rates on top of fast speeds and unlimited data. Ultimately, the choice rests on your shoulders, but cable internet isn’t going anywhere so if you run out of other options, you know where to go.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cable Internet
Which cable internet provider has the fastest speeds?
The cable internet provider that offers the fastest speeds is currently Xfinity. Their Gigabit plan has download speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps. Other providers that offer similar speeds are Spectrum, Cox, and Mediacom. Speeds will vary by location and might not always reflect the advertised speed.
Who has the best cable internet?
The best cable internet depends on what you’re looking for. Xfinity offers the best cable internet for the fastest speeds. Spectrum offers the best cable internet for contract-free plans. RCN offers the best cable internet for those on a budget.
What speeds are considered ideal for cable internet?
Speeds between 100-1,000 Mbps are considered ideal for cable internet. While some cable providers advertise speeds of 1,000 Mbps, they actually reach up to 940 Mbps. When you choose cable internet, you have more plans with varied speeds to choose from.
Who has the best cable internet and TV bundles?
Cox and RCN have the cheapest cable internet and TV bundles, both of which offer a wide variety. Cox’s lowest-priced bundle costs $54.99 per month while RCN’s costs $49.91 per month. Mediacom offers a Double Play bundle with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps for $139.99 per month and a 6000 GB data cap.