Getting fast, reliable home internet access without signing up for a cable TV package is an increasingly common choice for many households. Cable TV subscriptions continue to decline as streaming becomes mainstream. Fortunately, you have a number of solid options to stay connected without cable.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of every major type of internet connection available without cable. You’ll learn how each technology works, what speeds you can expect, how much it costs, who offers it in your area, and more. Let‘s dig in!
Overview: The Rise of Internet Without Cable
First, let‘s quickly discuss why ditching cable for internet-only service is so popular lately:
Cost Savings – Internet-only plans can save you $30 to over $100 per month compared to bundled TV/internet packages. Savings add up quickly.
Flexibility – No contracts, no early termination fees, and ability to switch providers anytime. You’re in control.
Streaming – Online streaming services have eliminated the need for cable TV packages. Fast internet is crucial.
Limited Use – Surveys show traditional cable TV viewing continues to decline year-over-year as alternatives multiply.
According to Leichtman Research Group, 83% of U.S. households have some form of internet access. But less than half subscribe to traditional pay TV services. The gap is widening every quarter in favor of internet-only.
Now let‘s explore your different options to get home internet without cable TV. We‘ll look at the technology behind each, speeds you can expect, pros and cons, cost, and availability.
Fiber Optic Internet
Fiber optic internet transmits data as beams of light through glass fibers, enabling unsurpassed speed and performance. It leaves traditional copper cable connections in the dust.
How it Works – Fiber cables contain many thin glass fibers. Lasers encode data into light pulses beamed through the fibers. Signals can travel 50-100 miles before needing a boost. Fiber provides nearly limitless bandwidth and capacity.
Speeds – Fiber offers symmetrical download and upload speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) or higher. That‘s fast enough to download a full HD movie in 35 seconds!
Availability – Fiber availability is still limited but growing quickly. Around 25% of U.S. households have access to fiber connections as of 2022.
Cost – Expect to pay $40 to $100+ per month for fiber internet depending on speed. It‘s more expensive than cable but delivers superior performance.
Reliability – Outages are extremely rare with fiber. Physical reliability is excellent since glass fiber is immune to environmental interference.
Let‘s summarize the key pros and cons:
- Blazing fast speeds up to 1Gbps
- Virtually limitless bandwidth
- Ultra low latency for gaming, video calls
- Rock-solid reliability
- Fiber network built to last decades
- Still expanding – not available everywhere
- Installation can be complex
- Higher monthly costs than cable
- No wifi router included – costs extra
Major fiber optic internet providers:
- Verizon Fios
- AT&T Fiber
- Google Fiber
- CenturyLink Fiber
- Frontier Fiber
- Many local providers
Cable internet leverages the same coaxial cables used for cable TV service. But you can get cable internet without paying for TV. Data signals are delivered through copper coaxial cables rather than fiber optics.
How it Works – Your cable modem connects to coaxial lines strung along utility poles or underground. Signals are shared across neighborhoods. A router then connects your devices to the modem.
Speeds – Cable internet speeds range from 25 to 500+ Mbps, with 100-200 Mbps typical for mainstream plans. Faster than DSL but slower than fiber.
Availability – Cable internet is widely available across the U.S. Over 115 million households have access.
Cost – Mainstream cable internet plans start around $40 to $80 per month. Some deeply discounted introductory offers go as low as $20 per month for the first year.
Reliability – Cable networks deliver consistent, reliable connections in most areas. Outages are uncommon.
Let‘s look at the notable pros and cons of cable internet:
- Fast speeds suitable for 4K streaming
- Widely available across the U.S.
- Provides reliable connectivity
- No phone line required
- Speeds slower than fiber
- Congestion during peak hours
- Some areas have only one provider
Major cable internet providers:
- Xfinity from Comcast
- Many more local providers
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. It connects your home to the internet through telephone lines. Data is transmitted at higher frequencies than voice calls, so you can use the phone and internet simultaneously.
How it Works – DSL internet transforms analog phone signals into digital data that can be transmitted through copper telephone lines. These lead back to central office hubs where connections to the internet backbone occur.
Speeds – DSL speeds range from 3 to 100 Mbps, but average 10 to 25 Mbps for most providers. Slower than cable and fiber but faster than old dial-up internet.
Availability – DSL internet is available to roughly 100 million U.S. households, primarily in urban and suburban areas. Availability is limited in rural regions.
Cost – DSL internet plans start as low as $15 per month for basic speeds around 10 Mbps. Faster tiers up to 100 Mbps typically cost $40 to $60 monthly. DSL offers good value.
Reliability – Overall consistent connections but quality degrades over long distances from the central office. Urban users will experience better reliability than rural.
Now for the pros and cons:
- Very affordable starting around $20/month
- Available in many areas lacking cable
- Don‘t share bandwidth with neighbors
- Slow speeds compared to cable and fiber
- Speed and reliability varies greatly
- Uses old copper telephone lines
Major DSL internet providers:
- AT&T Internet
Now let‘s move on to the best internet options for rural residents outside the reach of traditional wired infrastructure.
Rural Internet Overview
Rural internet access poses challenges due to the large investment required to run new fiber and cable connections over long distances into sparsely populated areas. DSL also falters due to the distance limitations of copper telephone lines.
However, homeowners in the countryside do have options:
- Satellite – Satellite dishes connect to orbiting satellites to receive signals from space
- Fixed Wireless – Radio towers transmit signals over the air to home antennas
- DIY Mesh Networks – Neighbors can team up to create their own local mesh networks
- Cellular – Services like 5G home internet use cellular signals
Let‘s explore rural solutions more closely.
Satellite internet provides coverage across most of North America through satellites in orbit 22,000 miles above the equator. Dish antennas on your property receive the signals.
How it Works – Satellites broadcast data signals over radio frequencies down to small dishes. Uplink stations on the ground transmit requests up to the satellites.
Speeds – Satellite internet speeds now range from 10 to 100+ Mbps, a major improvement over early satellite services. High latency remains an issue though.
Availability – Satellite internet can be installed virtually anywhere with a clear view of the southern sky. Over 14 million rural households use satellite internet.
Cost – Satellite internet costs range from $60 to $150 per month. Significant equipment fees also often apply. It‘s far pricier than other options.
Reliability – Reliability and latency issues are common with satellite and worsen during storms. Brief service interruptions occur regularly.
Let‘s summarize satellite internet pros and cons:
- Available everywhere including remote rural areas
- No cables or cell towers required
- Slow speeds and high latency
- Frequent brief service interruptions
- Loss of signal during storms
- Very expensive
Major satellite internet providers:
- Dish Network
Fixed Wireless Internet
Fixed wireless internet connects your home to local radio towers transmitting high-speed data over the airwaves. It offers respectable speeds with low latency.
How it Works – Radio towers within 10 miles send signals to antennas installed on your roof. The antenna links to a modem/router inside to create your home WiFi network.
Speeds – Fixed wireless speeds range from 10 to 100+ Mbps depending on proximity to towers and obstructions. Plenty fast for streaming video.
Availability – Availability depends on proximity to radio towers, which are expanding. Around 14 million rural households have fixed wireless access.
Cost – Expect to pay $40 to $100 per month for fixed wireless internet. More expensive than DSL but can be cheaper than satellite.
Reliability – Overall consistent yet degraded by distance, weather, trees/buildings blocking signals between towers and home.
Now for the key pros and cons:
- Much faster than satellite
- Lower latency suitable for streaming
- No dug trenches or cables needed
- Install challenges – roof antenna required
- Nearby obstructions impact signals
- Higher latency than cable/fiber
Major fixed wireless providers:
- Resound Networks
- Rise Broadband
Other Rural Internet Options
Aside from satellite and fixed wireless, rural residents may also get internet access from:
- DIY Mesh Networks – Neighbors can team up to install wireless transceivers creating DIY local networks. Long-range models like Ubiquiti allow access within several miles. Costs are shared.
- Municipal Broadband – Some towns and counties provide locally-run fiber or wireless internet services where major ISPs won‘t. Over 600 community networks now operate in rural areas.
- Cellular – 5G home internet uses cellular signals from nearby towers. Availability remains limited but major carriers are rapidly expanding 5G coverage. Another option is using cellular hotspots.
Many rural areas still lack robust internet options at reasonable prices. But new technologies like low-orbit satellites, expanded fixed wireless, and DIY mesh networking provide growing alternatives to cable and fiber.
Tips for Reducing Your Internet Bill
Don‘t overpay for home internet! Here are some tips to spend less each month:
- Buy your own router + modem – Skip the monthly rental fee and recoup costs in under a year
- Negotiate discounts – Ask for a lower rate if you threaten to switch providers
- Downgrade speed – Pay for just enough speed for your needs and not more
- Bundle services – Add phone, TV service, or mobile to earn a discount
- Seek deals – Take advantage of temporary price cuts and no-contract promos
- Compare frequently – Competition is fierce. Better deals pop up all the time.
- Use antennas – Amplify weak signals rather than pay more for faster internet
- Split costs – Share the bill with housemates to save
- Explore subsidies – Government assistance programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program provide up to $30 off monthly internet cost for qualifying low-income households.
With some persistence and creativity, you can trim your home internet bill substantially. The savings really add up over the course of a year.
Connectivity Brings Opportunity
Reliable high-speed internet access at home opens up life-changing opportunities for work, education, healthcare, social connections, and more. Just make sure your provider delivers the actual speeds advertised.
Don‘t let living situation or budget constraints prevent you from getting online. This guide outlined various ways to access the internet without cable TV. Chances are good an option that fits your needs is available in your area.
We hope this breakdown of the different internet connection types – including how they work, speeds, costs, pros and cons – helps you make the best decision. The resources and options to stay connected continue improving each year.
Fast, reliable home internet service without cable TV is absolutely within your reach. Get connected and open doors to new worlds of information, education, entertainment, and opportunity!