About cable internet
Cable internet is one of the fastest widely available types of internet in the US. It uses the same infrastructure as cable TV, so most cable TV companies now offer cable internet as well. About 88% of Americans have access to cable internet (and TV)—and there are more than 200 cable providers spread across the country.1
Cable internet is capable of excellent download speeds of over 1000 Mbps. Because it’s fast and widely available, cable internet is often the most practical choice for many customers. However, cable internet isn’t perfect. Cable upload speeds are slower than fiber internet, and network slowdowns can happen during busy hours.
Still, it’s much better than DSL or satellite internet options—and you are more likely to have cable internet in your area than fiber internet. Additionally, cable internet is often easy enough to install yourself.
Are you looking to bundle cable internet and TV?
Check out our listings of the best TV and internet bundle deals from Cox, Optimum, Spectrum, Suddenlink, and more.
Popular cable internet providers
|1,200 Mbps||$19.99/mo.||3.5/5||40 states and DC|
|Up to 1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)||$49.99/mo.|
for 12 mos.
|1,000 Mbps||$29.99/mo.||3.7/5||18 states|
|940 Mbps||$29.99/mo.||3.5/5||NY tristate area|
|1,000 Mbps||$39.00/mo.||3.7/5||22 states|
|940 Mbps||$19.99/mo||3.7/5||10 regions|
|940 Mbps||$29.99/mo.||3.6/5||17 states|
|1,000 Mbps||$19.99/mo.||3.6/5||22 states|
|1,000 Mbps||$19.99/mo.||3.6/5||22 states|
Data effective 7/13/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Ratings taken from our annual customer satisfaction survey
As this table shows, cable internet is fast, widely available, and can be inexpensive. Prices range from as low as $20 to about $100 per month for the fastest speeds. And cable internet offers several ways for customers (especially new ones) to shave a few dollars off monthly bills.
The first is to set up autopay and paperless billing. Many ISPs give $5–$10 discounts for this alone. You can also bundle internet and cable TV services or phone service to save money on the combined total. Bundles often come with a contract, which can last for a year or more, so make sure to read the fine print so you don’t get saddled with fees if you want to switch.
But the most important aspect of picking a cable ISP is finding one that serves your area. A ton of places across the US have access to only one cable internet provider, so see what you can get before setting your heart on a specific cable internet plan.
Best cable internet plans
Best cable internet plans
|Plan||Download speed||Prices||Get it|
|Xfinity Superfast||600 Mbps||$49.99/mo.*||View Plans|
|Spectrum Internet®||Up to 300 Mbps|
(wireless speeds may vary)
for 12 mos.
|Cox Internet Preferred 250||250 Mbps||$59.99/mo.‡||View Plans|
|Optimum 300 Mbps Internet||300 Mbps||$30.00/mo.§||||View Plans|
Data as of 8/01/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
† Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.
‡ For the first 12 months with a 1-year term agreement.
§ w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill w/unlimited mobile plans. Terms apply. Not available in all areas.
|| w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill plus taxes with unlimited mobile plans. Terms apply. Not available in all areas.
Pros and cons of cable internet
- Wide availability
- Fast download speeds
- TV and internet bundle deals
- Network congestion when lots of people are online
- Slower upload speeds than fiber
Wide availability—Cable companies have been around for decades. In that time, they’ve established wide cable networks across the US, covering just over 88% of the population.1 A lot of houses and buildings are already wired for cable TV, so getting an internet connection often doesn’t require laying any additional cable or wiring. This gives cable internet an edge over fiber internet because fiber is available to only half as many people. In many areas of the country, cable is the best type of internet you can get.
Fast download speeds—Cable internet can reach speeds just over 1,000 Mbps—that’s comparable to fiber internet. And while not all cable internet plans are quite that fast, not everyone needs gigabit internet. Cable providers generally offer a wide range of plans that cater to different internet speed needs and budgets. See our guide on internet speed to learn more about the benefits of higher download speeds.
Bundle deals—Since cable internet and cable TV use the same coaxial cables, it’s really easy for internet service providers (ISPs) to provide both, so they incentivize you to bundle services with discounts. It’s a good setup if you want both internet and TV because you can keep it down to one bill through one company, and you’ll end up paying less than subscribing to each thing separately.
Cons of cable internet
Network congestion—This issue is mostly a thing of the past, but there may be areas where cable internet customers still experience slowdowns due to high internet activity in their neighborhoods—like during the evening, for instance. Cable lines can handle a lot of bandwidth, but they all converge to a node that feeds internet into the neighborhood. To help ease congestion, cable internet providers like Xfinity and Spectrum are adding more and more nodes. So, while it does happen, network congestion isn’t usually a huge problem for cable internet customers.
Slower upload speeds—The speed cable ISPs advertise for specific plans is the max download speed available for that plan—upload speeds are different. Upload speeds for cable internet are usually only one tenth of the download speed. Most of us are download-heavy users and get by just fine with cable internet’s limited upload bandwidth.
Can be expensive—Cable internet plans can get expensive, though this is largely dependent on your region and which ISPs you have to choose from. If you’re in an area with only a single ISP, rates could be higher due to a lack of competition. Also, some ISPs are just plain pricey for what you get.
Want to know what plans are available in your area? Enter your zip code into our search tool to find out.
How cable internet works
Cable internet works using the same infrastructure as cable TV–that’s why it’s so widely available. It uses a network of coaxial cables to bring internet signals to and from your home. Even though it’s called cable internet, cable ISPs actually use extremely high-bandwidth fiber lines for the central parts of their networks. The coaxial cable is only used to get the signal from the home to one of these fiber lines that serve as internet superhighways. By using these hybrid coaxial-fiber networks, cable ISPs bring excellent high-speed broadband connections to much of the country.
Internet signals travel on the surface of the copper-clad cores in the coaxial cables. The modem in your house is equipped with an advanced protocol called DOCSIS that translates the signals received from the coaxial network.
DOCSIS stands for data over cable service interface specifications, and basically, it’s the technology that has allowed the use of existing coaxial networks for high speed internet. DOCSIS has been around since 1997 and gone through several major advances, each one drastically increasing the abilities of cable internet. The current iteration, DOCSIS 3.1, is responsible for the gigabit (1,000 Mbps) speeds we’re now seeing from cable ISPs.
Once the signal is translated by your modem, it’s sent to your router via an Ethernet connection. From this point on, all internet types function essentially the same. The signal can be broadcasted by the router as Wi-Fi for devices to connect to wirelessly or through another Ethernet cable to a device with it’s own Ethernet port (typically a computer).
- Cable vs. Fiber: Which Internet Type Is Right for You?
- DSL vs. Cable: Which Is Right for You?
- Find the Right Internet Connection: Cable Internet vs. Fiber
- How to Get Internet Without a Phone Line or Cable
- No Contract Internet Plans
- What Do You Need to Install Fiber-Optic Internet
- DSL Internet Providers
- Spectrum vs. AT&T
- Fastest Internet Providers
Cable internet FAQ
Can I get cable internet without TV?
You can certainly get cable internet without also getting cable TV, and vice versa. While bundling both services together can be a great deal for some, those savings are wasted if you don’t use both services frequently.
If I already have cable TV, can I simply add internet?
Almost always! Unless you have a very obscure provider, you can feel confident that your cable TV provider will make it easy for you to bundle TV and internet. They can usually throw in phone service too.
What are the advantages of bundling with cable companies?
Cable companies tend to make bundling TV, phone, and internet easy, which means lots of savings for you. Not only are bundles cheaper than buying the services individually, but they’re also convenient because you don’t have to deal with more than one supplier—that cuts out hassle and paperwork. Use our site to compare prices and check for providers offering phone, internet, and cable bundles.