Many ISPs offer free or affordable plans for subscribers who want to use the Internet from home. Although the prices and terms of usage widely vary, there's an affordable plan available that can fit almost any user's connection needs. You can choose from traditional or accelerated dial-up, broadband through a phone or cable company, or public wireless Internet access available in many locations.
Cheap Dial-up Options
If you have a landline installed and aren't too concerned with speed, there are various providers that offer limited free service or inexpensive unlimited service plans. Most of these providers have access numbers available throughout the United States and include additional features, such as email, pop-up blockers, and customer service.
Juno offers a free plan that includes 10 hours of Internet access a month, as well as paid plans starting at $15.95 a month. Any of these plans allow you to set up multiple email accounts that include spam and virus protection, use any of the company's nationwide access numbers, and send video emails. You don't need a credit card to sign up for either plan. While the paid plan includes free technical support, free users have to pay a per-minute fee to talk to a technical support agent.
Under the United Online group of companies, Netzero is an alternative to Juno and offers both free and paid access plans. The free plan is similar to Juno's and gives you 10 hours of service a month, video messaging capabilities, free multiple email accounts, and a large selection of access numbers. The paid plan is $9.95 a month and includes unlimited technical support and up to 2GB of email storage. Members also get to create a free personal website, take part in product offers, and don't need a credit card to sign up.
550Access offers two affordable dial-up plans that give you between 150 to 300 hours of access per month and include different email account and technical support options. The regular dial-up plan cost only $5.50 a month, offers up to 56K speeds, includes free online support, and gives users one email account that cannot be accessed through third-party mail clients. While the second plan is also dial-up, it uses special acceleration software to speed up the time it takes websites and images to load. This accelerated plan cost $8.95 a month, includes 300 hours of access per month, features both online and phone support, and includes two email accounts that support third-party mail clients.
Dialup 4 Less
Dialup 4 Less has access numbers throughout the United States and Canada and offers three affordable Internet plans for users who prefer limited, unlimited, or accelerated access. Users can subscribe to a plan for 25 hours per month for $6.95 or an unlimited plan for $9.95. An accelerated plan that uses special optimization software is available for $12.95 a month. All plans include up to 10 email accounts, online storage space, and free technical support. There's no contract, so users can cancel at any time.
Affordable Broadband Options
If you need affordable high-speed service, you have options both inside and outside your home. Major cable and phone providers offer reduced rates for subscribers, and you can get access using different types of public wireless networks.
Major phone and cable companies offer discounted broadband service to existing customers or new customers who sign up for bundle packages. Some major providers with these plans include Xfinity, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon. Common packages offer television, phone, and Internet access, and Internet access plans may vary by speed, with some companies offering different tiered broadband plans. Although the price will be much higher than the dial-up plans available, some companies offer cheaper broadband access plans with slower speeds. Some of the best deals with packages may require a contract for at least a year.
If you have a laptop, tablet, or other wireless device and frequently visit a location with a Wi-Fi hotspot, using public networks can be an inexpensive way to get Internet access. Access in libraries, schools, restaurants, and coffee shops is often free to members or customers. The phone companies AT&T and T-mobile offer monthly Wi-Fi hotspot plans to current subscribers that can cost between $10 to $20 dollars a month. Locations with paid access points usually charge per hour or per session, so using the Internet at these locations without a plan can become too expensive. Alternatively, libraries and schools that allow you to use their computers often allow you to access the Internet as well.
Determining the Right Affordable Service for You
Finding the best ISP ultimately comes down to assessing the speed of service you need, how much you plan to use the Internet, and how much you can afford to pay. While you probably won't need broadband if you plan to just check your email and visit websites, dial-up won't be a good option if you plan to play games online or watch streaming video. If you use the Internet only a couple hours a week, a free dial-up ISP or a public network may be the best option for you. If you're a frequent user with the budget to handle it, an unlimited dial-up or broadband service may be well worth the cost.