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When the internet first entered households, its technology was heavily tied to phone lines, requiring users to purchase internet service from phone service providers — who often were the same providers of cable TV service.
Today, many people are cutting cable TV from their lives and forgoing landlines, all while internet technology has evolved away from relying on phone network infrastructure. If you want the internet but don’t want or need cable TV or phone service, you can have your cake and eat it, too. Read on to learn about your options.
Rural internet options
5G home internet
Mobile hotspot device
7 ways to get internet without cable
Depending on where you live, you might have a few different options for getting internet without cable. And even if a cable internet provider like Comcast Xfinity or Spectrum is your only choice, many internet service providers (ISPs) like these let you purchase an internet-only plan.
Here's a look at the different types of internet service aside from cable, along with the pros and cons for each.
1. Fiber-optic internet
Fiber internet derives its name from the fiber-optic cables filled with glass filaments that transmit data via a system of lasers and light signals. It’s a newer technology in the scheme of internet infrastructure, and it’s also the fastest form of internet available today. It’s a reliable service because fiber-optic cables are less likely to warp over long distances than metal cables, which were used in older infrastructure.
Because of its high speed and reliability, fiber-optic internet is a great choice for remote workers, streamers, and gamers. Younger users especially will definitely want to opt for this type of internet connection when it’s available. That extra speed can make a difference when it counts. But as with anything, there are two sides to fiber’s coin.
Pros of fiber-optic internet
- Speed and reliability: Fiber-optic cables are an improvement on legacy internet technology solutions such as coaxial, which enables them to provide faster and more reliable connectivity with up to gigabit speeds or faster.
- Security: Fiber-optic cables don’t use radio frequency signals, which means they provide a more secure connection. Attempts to hack the network would require physical breakage of the wires, which would collapse the whole system and alert the system administrators to the breach.
- Long-term savings: Its ease of maintenance means fiber-optic internet has less overhead expenses for internet providers, which translates into lower costs for users in the long term.
Cons of fiber-optic internet
- Physical damage: Although they’re more reliable, fiber-optic cables are also lighter and thinner than copper cables, which makes them easier to accidentally break during repairs or renovations. Although the cost of repairs may not directly affect you as the subscriber to the fiber internet, you will experience the potentially lengthy outage that needs to occur while the internet provider fixes the problem.
- High upfront costs: As a newer technology, fiber-optic internet can cost more upfront, and activation or installation charges might cost more than other services. Fiber’s expense also means it’s available in fewer areas than other internet services such as coax. Internet service providers aren’t motivated to build fiber networks just anywhere — they need the assurance of a return on investment, which is why fiber is available in fewer places.
Common fiber internet providers
2. Cable internet
Don’t let its name fool you; cable internet is only similar to cable TV in its use of physical coaxial cables. With cable internet, the internet provider sends data signals through the cables to your modem, which then uses an Ethernet cable to connect to your computer or router — enabling you to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home.
You do not need to pay for cable TV if you want cable internet. You can use the infrastructure needed for cable internet without having to pay more for a TV service that you aren’t using. But similar to fiber-optic internet, cable internet also has its pros and cons.
Pros of cable internet
- Speed: Although it doesn’t boast the same speed as fiber-optic internet, cable internet is much faster than other options on the market. Check out our article on what qualifies as a “fast” internet connection, including download speeds for more information.
- Supports data-heavy activities: Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or just someone who needs to stream their favorite shows constantly, cable internet will generally provide a high-quality experience without any major issues.
- No phone line required: Landlines are becoming less and less common, which means tying your internet to a phone line is increasingly impractical. Although other forms of internet such as DSL and dial-up require a phone connection, cable internet skips this step for you.
Cons of cable internet
- Not as fast as fiber-optic: Although cable internet is sufficient for most users, it doesn’t provide the lightning-fast speeds that fiber-optic internet does.
- High connection fees: Getting started with cable internet can sometimes be pricey, as you’re paying for a modem and router. These fees can be even higher if you’re paying a professional technician to install the equipment.
- Not available everywhere: Because of its reliance on metal wires, you can’t always access cable internet depending on where you live.
Common cable providers
- Comcast Xfinity
- Astound Broadband (formerly RCN, Wave, and Grande)
Digital subscriber line (DSL) internet has been around for almost 30 years, tracing its roots back to research done in the late 1980s by Bell Communications Research, Inc. When it was introduced into the broader market in the mid 1990s, it was a revolutionary upgrade from its older, less reliable predecessor: dial-up.
Although similar to its predecessor in its use of phone lines for internet connection, DSL contains enough bandwidth to support both phone and internet. DSL internet also operates at a different frequency than phone communication, which means you won’t get knocked offline as soon as somebody picks up the landline. DSL allows you to use both phone and internet simultaneously without issues.
Although DSL uses phone lines to provide internet access, you don’t actually have to have a phone to use it. Simply having a functional phone jack will suffice. But what type of user is DSL internet best for? And is it sufficient in today’s world? Let’s take a closer look.
Pros of DSL internet:
- Affordability: DSL is one of the most affordable internet options available, with plans as low as $15 per month. How much you pay depends on the speed of the service provided.
- No getting slowed down by neighbors: DSL internet doesn’t require you to share your connection with your neighbors — a typical requirement of cable internet — which means you won’t experience lags during peak usage hours.
Cons of DSL internet
- Spotty quality: Depending on how far you are from your DSL provider’s service hub, your connection could be great or inconsistent. Lines for DSL internet don’t extend past 3 miles, and the further along you are, the worse your connection will be. Here are some tips on how to speed up your DSL connection.
- Not available everywhere: Similarly to cable internet, DSL isn’t available everywhere. This is especially true for people who live in remote rural areas, where running a line would require building out infrastructure.
Common DSL providers
Rural internet options
Internet connectivity can be an issue for people who live in rural areas who may not have existing cable or phone lines running out to their properties, but there are still solid internet options available.
Although it certainly isn’t as fast as other internet options, satellite internet can be a viable solution for people without access to fiber-optic, cable, or DSL. The nature of satellite internet technology is that its signal can be broadcast to millions of people across vast regions — making it available for whole countries. However, you’ll pay more to access it than you would on a typical cable internet plan: a typical satellite internet plan can cost around $110 per month.
Common satellite internet providers
5. Fixed wireless
Fixed wireless internet uses radio waves from a tower located in your region to connect to the internet, which means you’ll need an antenna.
Compared with satellite internet, fixed wireless will deliver less latency because its signals don’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to you, and its speeds are comparable to cable internet. It also is more affordable than satellite — with costs similar to cable internet offerings. One downside of fixed wireless is that weather can sometimes affect your signal.
Common fixed wireless providers
6. 5G home internet
5G home internet uses the same high-speed connection that major cellular providers employ for their data plans, but for home internet instead. It’s not available everywhere because this technology is in expansion mode with internet providers, but for those who can access it, it’s an affordable option that offers the same or better speeds as wired internet.
Because providers don’t have to lay cable in order to set up 5G, it’s less expensive for them to set up — making it less expensive for users. And installation is as easy as plugging in a router.
Some providers also offer 4G LTE home internet service, which may be more readily available in rural areas.
Common 5G home internet providers
7. Mobile hotspot device
A mobile hotspot device works similarly to your phone’s wireless hotspot functionality, but it’s a device specifically dedicated to mobile wireless connection to the internet. The costs for these devices can vary widely, depending on the company selling them, but expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $400 upfront, and then you’ll purchase a monthly plan.
Mobile phone providers typically offer tiers of service with different amounts of hotspot data, with less data for lower prices. If you want unlimited data from your hotspot, you’ll pay a pretty penny.
Most every cell phone service provider, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, offer mobile hotspot plans.
Can you get internet without a cable connection?
Yes, you can get internet without paying for cable TV. Most cable internet providers allow you to purchase just an internet plan, but you could also look at different types of internet connections as well, including:
- Fixed wireless
- 5G home internet
Can you get Xfinity Wi-Fi without cable?
Yes, you can get Xfinity internet and home Wi-Fi without paying for Comcast cable TV. Xfinity internet plans can be purchased separately and the price depends on where you live.
What’s the cheapest way to get Wi-Fi at home?
Aside from low-income internet plans and free public Wi-Fi networks, there are a handful of other ways you can lower the cost of Wi-Fi at home:
- Pay for slower internet speeds
- Buy your own modem and/or router
- Negotiate your internet bill
- Bundle your internet with other services
- Look for government subsidies like the Affordable Connectivity Program
For users trying to save money by skipping cable TV or a new phone plan, paying for an internet plan by itself may be the best option. There’s no need to get bogged down by the added costs of cable TV when you’re already paying for streaming services such as Netflix. And for those who are happy with their current phone plans, switching just to get a “deal” on a bundle may not be the best option.
For the highest speeds, fiber-optic internet will almost always be the best option if it’s available. However, cable internet also provides reliability and high speeds for those who either can’t get access to fiber-optic or don’t want to pay more.
Although it isn’t as fast or as reliable as cable or fiber, DSL offers affordable internet connections with reasonable download speeds and relative reliability. Check out these ways to get affordable internet.
If you live in a rural area, you might have a few more challenges trying to stay connected to the internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Whether it’s satellite, fixed wireless, 5G home internet, or a mobile hotspot, there are viable options for you as well.
The virtual landscape is always changing, which is why staying connected now is more important than ever. Whatever your lifestyle or living situation is, don’t let that get in the way of your connection to the world wide web.