You can cut your land line and sever your cable TV, but if you want to stream the new season of "House of Cards," you need to hang on to your Internet connection. Whatever savings you might achieve by ditching other services, you will almost certainly give them back as your bill for Web connectivity inexorably creeps up.
Consumers now pay an average of $50 a month for a broadband connection to the Web, which is up from a monthly average of about $40 a decade ago. But costs can vary widely—ranging from $10 to $120— depending on whether the service is bundled with cable and phone, is an introductory rate, and depending also on your connectivity speed.
Cutting costs for Internet starts with understanding what you are currently paying. Most people cannot even parse this out because their bills are a jumble of bundled pricing and fees, says Kim Komando, who has hosted a national radio talk show on computers and technology for more than 20 years.
"If you haven't looked at your whole internet package, then it's time to go through it A-Z," she said.
The items to look for include: the base price, speed surcharges, and equipment. If you cannot figure it out based on the arcane coding on your bill, call and ask.
One potential way to save is to buy your own modem/router combination—at $50 to $100, you could quickly make up the $5 to $10 a month rental fee you may be charged.
Another variable to control is your speed. A study released recently by the Federal Communications Commission says standalone Internet service that delivers 10-25 megabits per second (Mbps) is becoming the standard for the typical family that streams video. Many, however, opt for even higher speeds.
You could be paying for more than you need, or getting less than you expect because the wiring to your home simply cannot deliver.
The bottom line, according to savings expert Andrea Woroch, is do not pay for more speed than you need. Someone who goes online mainly to check email could make it work with a connection of 1 Mbps rather than the typical offering of 10 Mbps or more.
Some of the biggest cable providers are offering "basic" Internet connections for about $15 a month for these light users. The same deal applies for DSL, a slower Internet connection offered by phone companies and delivered over traditional phone lines. Light users will enjoy a decent price compared with those who pay for high-speed broadband, but the trade-off is that they cannot expect to stream movies without frustration or engage in video game battles online.
For those who want to make sure they are getting the speed they are paying for, numerous websites such as SpeedTest.net measure the actual speed of your connection.
If it turns out that you are paying for one speed but are receiving far less, Komando said it is important to go back to your provider and ask for an adjustment.
Vote With Your Feet
The next step is to call the competition, if you have alternate service providers in your area. If you do not, Woroch said it is still worth calling your provider to ask for a lower rate.
If you price out a cheaper plan, you can ask your current company to match it.
If they balk, all the better. The best deals can come from the cancellations department, says Ian Aronovich, 42, of Great Neck, New York.
Aronovich, who runs the website GovernmentAuctions.org, says he first went to Cablevision Systems Corp, his provider, about four years ago and asked for a rate that would match the introductory offer of a competitor. That deal bundled phone, TV and Internet for about $90 rather than the more than $150 he was paying.
After following up yearly to ask for better rates, Aronovich is still receiving about the same discount today—which works out to $29.99 for a high-speed connection with a free router.