A long-term contract with an internet service provider, or ISP, has its perks, but not when it comes with hefty early termination fees. Fortunately, more internet providers now offer contract-free options. Whether you’re preparing for future relocations or you’re simply uncomfortable committing long-term, this guide will provide insight into the various contract-free internet plans that may be available in your area.
Why Do Internet Providers Require Contracts?
Believe it or not, internet contracts can be beneficial—you can lock-in a lower monthly rate with a long-term contract. On the provider’s end, they get to keep customers for at least a year. So, if you can commit to an agreement, it’s a win-win situation for you and your ISP.
With a long-term contract, you may receive:
- Lower monthly prices
- Locked-in rates
- Waived fees on equipment, activation, installation, etc.
But you may have to put up with:
- Early termination fees if you bow out of the contract
- Being locked in with the same provider for a year or more
Top Contract-Free Internet Providers in 2020
|ISP||Connection Type||Speed Range||Monthly Price Range||Data Cap||Installation|
|Spectrum||Cable||100-940 Mbps||$49.99-$144.97||Unlimited data||DIY or Professional|
|Xfinity||Cable and Fiber||15-2000 Mbps||$39.99-$299.95||Unlimited data||DIY or Professional|
|CenturyLink||DSL and Fiber||10-940 Mbps||$49-$65||1024 GB per month – unlimited data||DIY or Professional|
|Verizon Fios||Fiber||200-940 Mbps||$39.99-$79.99||Unlimited data||DIY or Professional|
|AT&T Internet||DSL, Fixed Wireless, and Fiber||25-1000 Mbps||$49.99-$99.98||1 TB, unlimited for fiber plans||DIY or Professional|
|Optimum by Altice||Cable and Fiber||200-940 Mbps||$39.99-$129.99||Unlimited data||DIY or Professional|
|Rise Broadband||Fixed Wireless||25-50 Mbps||$29.95-$59.99||Unlimited data for select plans||Professional|
|RCN||Cable||25-940 Mbps||$19.99-$126.32||Unlimited data||DIY or Professional|
*Prices and offerings are subject to change.
Spectrum — Best Contract-Free Provider for Unlimited Data
As a cable provider, Spectrum does not require a contract commitment with any of their internet plans. They also don’t employ data caps, so customers can enjoy unlimited data with download speeds of up to 940 Mbps. This is achieved through a hybrid fiber-cable network that uses fiber-optic lines for the most part and then switches to coaxial cable for the “last mile” connection. Spectrum offers self-installed internet-only plans for as low as $49.99 per month with download speeds reaching up to 100 Mbps. However, the Spectrum Internet GIG plan, with speeds of up to 940 Mbps, can cost $109.99 per month. Professional installation is required for their higher-tiered plans.
Xfinity — Best Contract-Free Provider for Fast Speeds
With lightning fast speeds of up to 2,000 Mbps, Xfinity’s no-contract pricing varies depending on location, but it usually increases the monthly rate by at least $10. This level of performance is ideal for large households with multiple power internet users that frequently use the internet to download large files or stream in ultra HD or 4K. A plan with speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps is also available, as well as lower-tier plans with speeds ranging between 15 Mbps and 600 Mbps. Xfinity’s pricing ranges from $49.95 for the Performance Starter Internet to $299.95 for the 2,000 Mbps Gigabit Pro, but there’s most likely an additional charge if you choose a no-contract option.
CenturyLink — Best Contract-Free Provider for Locked-In Rates
Most of CenturyLink’s plans require a 12 to 36-month contract commitment but do offer month-to-month options. While many internet providers significantly increase the monthly rates after a year or so, CenturyLink’s Price for Life offer guarantees no price hikes for contract and no-contract customers. This is an excellent offer for those who are worried about fluctuating internet bills, which is quite common for contract-free plans. CenturyLink offers DSL and fiber internet services, with its DSL plans having speeds of up to 40 Mbps and fiber plans up to 940 Mbps. Promotional prices for these plans are usually between $49 and $65 per month, and many of its plans include free professional installation. However, customers are often required to purchase or lease a modem from CenturyLink.
Verizon Fios — Best Contract-Free Provider for Bundles
Different from Verizon High Speed Internet, Verizon Fios is the second-largest residential fiber internet provider by coverage area, with an estimated 34.5 million people having access to its fiber internet. With Verizon Fios’ Mix and Match offer, those 34.5 million residents also have access to contract-free internet, cable TV, and phone services. Moving away from traditional bundles that lock customers into long-term contracts, Verizon Fios’s Mix and Match allows for package customizations on a monthly basis. Of course, since it’s a no-contract plan, there are no early termination fees. Internet plans under the Mix and Match offer range from $39.99 to $79.99 per month, with speeds from 200 Mbps to 940 Mbps.
AT&T Internet — Best Contract-Free Provider for Standalone Internet Plans
As the largest fiber broadband provider in the U.S. by coverage area, AT&T Internet is a top choice for many customers looking for fiber internet. AT&T Internet offers contract-free options with select DSL and fiber internet-only plans; most of their bundles require a contract commitment. With speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, their internet-only plans start at $49.99 per month for the first year and $69.99 per month after that. But that’s the price if you sign a contract. While it is possible to opt for a no-contract internet plan from AT&T Internet, prices are usually higher and offers are subject to availability.
Finding a No-Contract Internet Provider
Although all five ISPs showcased above offer month-to-month services, their offers vary per region. At BroadbandNow, we do our best to collect pricing data for each city. You can start by searching your ZIP code to see which no-contract internet providers are available in your area. Another option is to contact local providers that advertise contract-free internet plans. If there are no such providers around, you may also try calling local ISPs. They might let you get a month-to-month service but at a higher rate.
What If There Aren’t Any Contract-Free Providers in Your Area?
On the off-chance that the internet providers in your area do not offer contract-free internet plans, we’ve rounded up a few tips and tricks on how to save money when opting out of an internet contract.
- If you’re moving, check if your current ISP is available at your new residence. It may be more practical to transfer the account than to cancel, especially if you want to avoid paying for early termination fees.
- Check if your ISP allows transfers of ownership. If they do, the new owners or tenants may be able to take over your account.
- If you want to switch providers, some ISPs such as Spectrum offer contract buyout programs to help you pay off the early termination fee or the remaining months of your existing contract.
- Return all leased equipment in good condition to avoid additional charges.
- If your rate increased while under contract, check your local laws or seek advice from a lawyer. You may be eligible to opt out of the contract without paying a fee or negotiate your internet bill for a better deal.
Contract-Free Internet Providers by the Numbers
Although we weren’t able to pull any hard data regarding the number of users who signed up for a contract-free internet plan, a quick search on Google Trends showed that “no contract internet plan” has been trending for the past 12 months. The search term reached peak popularity in April of this year, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic1. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they moved or knew someone who did because of the pandemic.2 Many of those who moved only moved temporarily, so a contract-free internet plan was the most ideal option for them.
Moving homes may have been a critical factor. According to a study by Zillow, 45.3 percent of adults between 25 to 34 years old have stayed in their current address for only less than two years. That’s a significant rise from 33.8 percent in 1960.3 Another study showed that, on average, millennials move once every two years.4 Moving is already a hassle by itself, so it’s only logical for them to choose no-contract internet plans to save time, money, and energy from opting out of a contract.
Due to the rise in popularity of contract-free internet plans, we can only assume that more ISPs will choose to offer month-to-month services in the future. Following a similar path as streaming services, which 62 percent of U.S. adults subscribe to5, we wouldn’t be surprised if ISPs gave up on contracts in the near future.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Contract-Free Internet Plan
Not having to commit to a long-term contract with your internet provider means greater flexibility. When the time comes to move or switch providers, a no-contract plan won’t get in the way. You can easily cut ties whenever you want — no fuss, no muss.
That said, there are some disadvantages to note. You may have to shell out a higher monthly fee as month-to-month internet services usually cost $10 extra per month. You might also have to pay equipment fees and setup fees upfront if you go the no-contract route.
With a month-to-month internet plan, you can get:
- The option to upgrade or downgrade your plan
- The option to cancel and switch providers anytime
- Greater flexibility overall
But you may have to put up with:
- Higher monthly rates
- Higher upfront fees for equipment and setup
Recap of the Best Contract-Free Internet Options in 2020
What’s great about some of these ISPs is that they offer both contract and contract-free plans, so you can weigh your options. AT&T Internet requires a contract for their promotional rates, but you can eventually switch to month-to-month after the promotional period ends. There’s always a give and take with internet plans, and contract-free ones are no exception. Here’s a recap of what you need to know about contract-free internet providers in 2020, as well as the best ones we’ve chosen:
Points to Consider When Shopping for Contract-Free Internet Providers:
- Contract-free plans don’t always share the same promotional rates as ones with a contract
- With contract-free plans, you can cancel at anytime, switch plans, or upgrade/downgrade
- There are several ways you can save money if you can’t opt for a contract-free plan like transferring your plan if you move to a new area
- While you don’t have to worry about paying for early termination fees, you’ll have to pay for other additional fees such as equipment and setup fees
Best Contract-Free Internet Providers in 2020:
- Spectrum — Best for Unlimited Data
- Xfinity — Best for Fast Speeds
- CenturyLink — Best for Locked-In Rates
- Verizon Fios — Best for Bundles
- AT&T Internet — Best for Affordable Standalone Internet Plans
Overall, if you’re looking for flexibility, then a contract-free internet plan may be what’s best for you!
How do I sign up for a contract-free internet plan?
You can sign up for a contract-free internet plan from providers that advertise month-to-month services. They are either completely contract-free or have contract-free options for their internet plans. If there are no month-to-month offers in your area, you may try calling local ISPs; you might be able to find a contract-free internet plan.
Are no-contract internet plans cheaper?
Contract-free internet plans are usually more expensive than those with a contract. However, it’s a more practical option for customers who might move in the near future as there are no early termination fees, allowing for termination of service by the customer at any time.
What is the best contract-free internet plan?
Depending on your location and what you’re looking for, Spectrum, Xfinity, CenturyLink, Verizon Fios, and AT&T Internet are just some of the most popular internet providers that offer no-contract plan options. You might be better off with a local ISP if none of the aforementioned providers service your area.
How do I switch from a contract internet plan to a contract-free one?
If you’re currently with a different internet provider than the one you’re thinking about switching to, you’ll have to let your current provider know that you want to end their services. If you end your contract early, be prepared to pay early termination fees. If the new ISP offers a contract buyout program, always grab onto the opportunity as they will help you pay for those fees.
- https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=no%20contract%20internet%20plan&geo=US ↩
- https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/07/06/about-a-fifth-of-u-s-adults-moved-due-to-covid-19-or-know-someone-who-did/ ↩
- https://www.zillow.com/research/young-adults-are-more-mobile-25592/ ↩
- https://www.statista.com/topics/1594/streaming/ ↩