From AT&T to Shentel: Which is America's cheapest (and most expensive) broadband Internet provider?

by Sean Buckley

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It's clear that the U.S. wireline broadband market is in a state of transition. On one side, Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) is turning the broadband industry on its head with its 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) offerings, and on the other side major players like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) are selling off their wireline assets.

A key component of this transition centers on price. In this new report, we look at the cheapest and most expensive prices for broadband service across the country. To be clear, this is a ranking of telco providers, not wireless carriers or cable operators. Technologies covered include fiber and DSL.

Below you can see speeds and pricing in three groups: 1-50 Mbps; 75-500 Mbps and 1 Gbps. We have included most pricing tiers offered by carriers, but not all of them (because it makes the charts a bit too unwieldy).

All but one major carrier is represented in this report: FairPoint declined to provide us with its pricing information. Click here for that story.

Also, below that, we rank the providers by subscribers and revenues. Click here for that ranking. You can also see all the detailed pricing data.

And let us know what you think in the comments!

1-50 Mbps:

Prices in this bracket vary widely. Within this category, pricing variants begin at the 5, 15, 25 and 50 Mbps tiers. At 5 Mbps, Hawaiian Telcom is the clear leader with its $19.95, while the prices of other telcos like AT&T, Frontier and TDS range from $30 to $35 a month for service. Going up to 25 Mbps, Frontier and Hawaiian Telcom are the dominant providers with $49 offerings, while CenturyLink offers a similar service for $34.95 a month. Looking toward 50 Mbps, Consolidated Communications offers the lowest price for the regions it serves at $39 a month, while AT&T and Verizon are tied at $65 a month for similar speed services on their U-verse and FiOS platforms.

Within this group, Verizon and Windstream have some unique characteristics in their speed tiers.

Verizon, for one, now offers symmetric speeds for its 25 and 50 Mbps FiOS FTTH offerings, meaning that users can get the same speed in both the downstream and upstream direction. 

Windstream offers a number of tiers that begin at 6 Mbps for $49 a month and scale up to the highest rate of 40 Mbps. Customers who want to move to a 10, 20, 30 or 40 Mbps tier will only have to pay another $10. However, since it offers only copper-based DSL today, the availability of a higher speed tier depends on how far away from the nearest CO or RT they are on Windstream's network. 

Looking beyond 100 Mbps (75-500 Mbps):

Moving up to the 75-500 Mbps arena, the field is a bit sparse with only a few telcos offering 75 Mbps: AT&T and Verizon again tied with $75 offerings. Perhaps the most competitive element of this segment is 100 Mbps. On the low end of the pricing scale is TDS Telecom, a Tier 2 telco that's building out FTTH in mainly rural areas like Hollis, N.H., with 100 Mbps for $35 a month. Meanwhile, Consolidated, CenturyLink and Cincinnati Bell offer a similar service for $50-$65.

Looking toward 300 Mbps, TDS wins again with $75, while Verizon, Frontier and Lumos come in between on average $200 a month. For those consumers who want a 500 Mbps service, only Verizon, Frontier and Lumos offer such a tier at $284.99, $219.99 and $307.95, respectively. Similar to the 1-50 Mbps tier, Verizon also offers symmetrical speeds for its 150, 300 and 500 Mbps tiers. 

The 1 Gbps factor:

Google Fiber may have lit the competitive fire by illustrating the lack of high speed broadband options that exist, but today only six of these providers offer service, and many are limited to a few markets. If you're looking for a bargain priced offering, AT&T and Consolidated Communications aim to please with a $70 a month offering. However, if you opt to purchase AT&T's $70 a month standalone product, you have to agree to have your web traffic monitored by the telco. Regional telcos Cincinnati Bell and TDS are a bit higher at $79.99 and $99.95, respectively. Finally, Frontier, which offers the 1 Gbps service in North Carolina and Oregon, offers it for $219.99 a month.

With more consumers using more devices in their homes, service providers are continually moving to offer competitively priced broadband offerings so they can better battle cable competition that has been successfully luring customers away with high speed services over their existing HFC plant. 

In addition to looking at the pricing trends, we look at how these service providers performed in Q4 in terms of broadband subscriber additions and wireline revenue.

The rankings and the numbers:

Service Provider Total broadband Subs Consumer wireline revenue Competitors
12.2 million
$5.6 billion
Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox
9.2 million
$4 billion
Charter, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable
6.08 million
$1.49 billion
Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable
2.2 million
$601 million
Charter, Comcast, Cox
1.32 million
$316 million
Charter, Comcast, MediaCom
TDS Telecom
$716 million
Comcast, TDS
$42 million
Time Warner Cable, Charter
Cincinnati Bell 
$188 million
Charter, Comcast, Google Fiber, AT&T
Consolidated Communications 
$79.6 million
Time Warner Cable 
Hawaiian Telcom
$37.4 million
Time Warner Cable
$3.2 million 
Lumos Networks
$50.6 million

Speed and pricing data:

  1 Mbps 3 Mbps  5 Mbps  10 Mbps 15 Mbps 
AT&T $19.95 $29.95 $34.95 $39.95  
Verizon  $19.99 $29.99     $29.99
CenturyLink $34.95 $34.95   $34.95 $34.95
Frontier     $29.95   $39.99
Windstream     $49.99 $59.99  
TDS Telecom     $35.00    
Cincinnati Bell      $24.99 $34.99  
Hawaiian Telcom     $19.95 $24.95 $29.95
Shentel    $39.95   $59.95  
Lumos Networks     $29.95    


  20 Mbps  25 Mbps  30 Mbps  40-50 Mbps 
AT&T $44.95 $54.95   $64.95
Verizon    $54.99   $64.99
CenturyLink $34.95 $34.95   $34.95
Frontier   $49.99 $29.95  
Windstream $59.99     $59.99
TDS Telecom        
Cincinnati Bell  $34.99   $44.99 $54.99
Consolidated  $20.00     $39.95
Hawaiian Telcom $39.95 $49.95   $59.95
Lumos Networks $54.95     $69.95


  75 Mbps  100 Mbps  150 Mbps 200 Mbps 300 Mbps  500 Mbps 
AT&T $74.95          
Verizon  $74.99   $124.99   $194.99 $284.99
CenturyLink   $64.95        
Frontier           $219.99
TDS Telecom   $35.00     $75.00  
Cincinnati Bell    $64.99        
Consolidated   $49.95        
Hawaiian Telcom   $87.95     $207.95 $307.95
Lumos Networks   $89.95   $149.95 $199.95  


  1 Gbps
AT&T $70.00
CenturyLink $104.95
Frontier $219.99
TDS Telecom $99.95
Cincinnati Bell  $79.99
Consolidated   $69.95
Hawaiian Telcom  
Lumos Networks  

Updated article on March 20 with additional information to correct CenturyLink's broadband pricing and competitors. 

From AT&T to Shentel: Which is America's cheapest (and most expensive) broadband Internet provider?

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