Charter Spectrum Overview
Spectrum Internet deals are increasingly a common option across the US, as Charter Communications has been aggressively expanding their “Spectrum” Internet service area in the past couple years.
After acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016, Charter Communications (Spectrum) became the 2nd largest cable service provider in the US, just behind Comcast. Since then, they’ve expanded high-speed Internet service to millions of homes.
Spectrum has also been working to upgrade their service tiers, and it’s now common to see 200 Mbps instead of 100 Mbps as the base speed for their cheapest internet-only plan. The upgraded speed comes at no extra cost at this time.
Charter Spectrum has the most coverage in California, Texas, New York, and 41 other states. Since merging with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, their network footprint covers a population of 102.7 million potential customers across 44 states.
Spectrum is best known for their cable Internet packages, although they also offer TV, phone, Internet-only plans, and business broadband services.
In terms of pricing, Spectrum has straightforward, standardized prices compared to other providers. Spectrum Internet plans are favored by cord cutters thanks to their unlimited data use and affordable contract-free options. Unlike other cable providers, there is no limit to video streaming, even on the cheapest packages.
How To Compare Charter Spectrum Plans
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when comparing Spectrum Internet deals:
- Consider Bundled Services. Oftentimes the price of bundle services is only moderately more expensive than one of the options on their own. Choosing TV and Internet service combined will often save you money — if you watch a lot of TV.
- Double Check Spectrum Pricing. While Charter Spectrum is generally straightforward and transparent with their pricing, some of the advertised prices are only applicable to Spectrum’s bundle TV deals.
- Be Aware of Promotional Rates. Charter generally gives new customers a “promotional rate” that disappears after the first year of Internet service. After that, the price commonly raises 10–40%.
Charter Spectrum Internet-Only Packages
|Spectrum Package||Download Speed||Upload speed|
|Spectrum Standard Internet||60-200 Mbps||10 Mbps|
|Spectrum Ultra Internet||300-400 Mbps||20 Mbps|
|Spectrum Gig Internet||940 Mbps||35 Mbps|
As you can see in the table above, Charter Spectrum’s Internet only plans come in three basic flavors: Standard, Ultra, and Gig.
The specific speeds of each Spectrum speed tier varies depending on your location. Specifically, many areas do not yet have access to Ultra or Gig Internet. The best way to check if Ultra or Gig is available at your address is to call and ask a sales rep to check Internet-only speeds in your neighborhood.
Spectrum expanded Gig service to 14 Million households in 2018, and promises to continue expansion in coming years. Even if you aren’t in a Spectrum “Gig” area, you’re likely to have access to several different tiers of speed at your address.
Charter’s entry-level Internet speeds are similar to their cable competitors like Xfinity and Cox (usually 60–100+ Mbps). However, their maximum range of speed tends to be higher than other cable providers. This is because of their aggressive DOCSIS 3.1 network expansion, which has brought gigabit (940 Mbps) download speeds to dozens of cities in the USA like Los Angeles, Rochester, and Dallas.
It can be tempting to opt for the fastest speed, but it’s important to take a look at your internet usage. You can often save a lot of money by going for a lower-tier plan if your usage is “average” rather than “heavy”.
The bad news is that Charter internet prices without the bundle are often listed without the final price. Even on the phone, they sometimes won’t tell you the final price since it may vary depending on your service area.
Is Charter Spectrum the same as Time Warner Cable?
Charter Communications bought Time Warner Cable in 2016, and changed the name of former TWC plans to “Spectrum.” If you used to have Time Warner Cable in your town, then Charter Spectrum is now the cable provider available to you.
As mentioned above, the service area of Charter Spectrum covers most of the US. The company has some sort of presence in every state except North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. However, there are some states with only 1 or 2% coverage which basically makes the service unavailable in that area.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that even the states with a high presence often only have a portion of the full area covered. You can compare Charter to other providers in your area here.
Spectrum Internet-Only Speeds in Context
The standard Charter Spectrum plans offer speeds of up to 200 Megabits per second (Mbps). In most areas, it’s closer to 60 or 100 Mbps. Either way, this is fast enough for most users. Customers can stream videos without issue and the speeds are fast enough to support multiple users on the same network.
To put this in concrete terms, imagine you’re downloading an HD movie on iTunes to watch on a plane later. On a Spectrum 100 Mbps connection, downloading the 3GB file will take you just over four minutes. An older DSL connection of only 15 Mbps would leave you waiting for almost half an hour.
Spectrum’s Standard plan charges a monthly leasing fee for the WiFi router. This fee is usually around $10/month.
Spectrum Ultra Internet-Only Deals
Spectrum “Ultra” is their mid-level plan. 300–400 Mbps is a good pick for large families, power users, subscribers who work from home, and anyone else that needs a little more power for multiple devices.
Spectrum’s Ultra plans include the router and modem for free. Additionally, the modem and router will be higher-end models built to handle the increased bandwidth of Spectrum Ultra plans.
Spectrum Gig Internet Deals
Spectrum “Gig” is the best deal currently offered in terms of raw speed. The raw price, however, can be steep — over $100/month once any promotional deals time out. It’s overkill for the average customer, but if you can afford it, you’ll never have to look at a Netflix buffering icon again.
It’s important to note that Spectrum’s Gig Internet does not have symmetrical speeds. This means that while the download speed is 1,000 Mbps, the upload speed is only 35 Mbps. Customers who need gigabit upload speeds for purposes like uploading files or excessive live-streaming should look for fiber Internet plans from another provider.
As with Ultra, Charter includes a high-end modem and router with this plan for free.
The Charter Spectrum Network
There are three main types of modern network technologies: DSL, Cable, and Fiber.
Charter Spectrum primarily uses a cable network, which uses cable TV lines to transmit data. Usually this will connect to your house from a nearby utility or telephone pole. Cable was previously the gold standard of Internet speeds before it was unseated by newer fiber technology, and it has the potential for some pretty amazing speeds.
Spectrum Internet Peak Use Speeds
Charter Spectrum uses cable infrastructure, which is shared between houses in a neighborhood. In some cases, speeds may be reduced during “peak use” times when your neighbors get home from work and start streaming Netflix. Speeds can drop as much as 35% during peak use times, according to manual testing of Spectrum plans conducted here at BroadbandNow.
Thanks to a new transmission technology called DOCSIS 3.1, Spectrum is now able to transmit speeds up to 940 Mbps (gigabit range) to millions of homes in the US. This technology is built on top of existing cable lines, rather than replacing them entirely like a fiber provider.
Spectrum Modems and Routers
All Spectrum Internet deals require two pieces of equipment to get up and running: a modem and a router. The modem translates Internet signal, and the router distributes it as WiFi in your home.
Spectrum includes the modem free on all plans. However, customers of their entry-level “Standard Internet” plan are charged a monthly leasing fee of around ten dollars. Additionally, Standard plans may use “combo” devices that perform both modem and router functionality with a single box.
Unless you’re planning to have the service for a good number of years, we recommend the extra charge each month to use the company’s own equipment. By using their devices, you’ll have access to their customer support, and technicians will know how to troubleshoot their own modems and routers.
If you’re a long-term customer and feel comfortable managing your own hardware, Spectrum maintains a list of compatible third-party routers you can purchase outright. Just be sure to let them know you’re using your own modem, and provide the MAC address so they can switch on service easily.
Spectrum Internet Installation
New Spectrum customers have two options for installation: technician installation or self-install.
Technician installation is recommended if you are subscribing to TV service, since the setup is much more complicated. You should also get a technician installation if you are not comfortable configuring your own WiFi router. There is a small variable free associated with Spectrum installation.
Self-install is recommended if you are a Spectrum Internet-only customer, and you want to save on the installation fee. This is also the fastest way to get set up, and in some cases they will even activate service same-day if you’re using your own modem.
Charter Merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks
Since their merger with TWC and Bright House, Charter’s residential Internet deals have been branded as “Spectrum” across the board. Currently, all customers have been moved to Charter Spectrum billing and account management.
While investments in local infrastructure have improved speeds in many areas and expanded service coverage dramatically, transitioning to Spectrum pricing has left some customers upset about higher prices. In most cases, this is with customers who had temporary reduced rates from TWC, which Spectrum was not required to honor.
Spectrum Price-Lock Plans
Spectrum pricing is unique in that they’re one of the few internet providers that doesn’t use contracts. This is great for customers, since you can change or cancel service at any time with no charge. In comparison, other cable providers commonly charge upwards of $300 to customers who quit.
Spectrum Contract Buy-Out Deal
Spectrum sometimes runs promotions offering to “buy out” existing contracts you might have with another Internet or cable provider, if you will switch to one of their Internet deals. If you have a contract with fees to cancel, call Spectrum and ask if this promotion is available in your area.
Spectrum Internet deals with price-lock are only available in select areas. For the most part, customers can expect their pricing to rise after the first year of service. This can be annoying, but it’s standard for Internet providers to offer “promotional rates” for the first twelve months.
Pay Close Attention to the Final Price
Current Spectrum “promotional pricing” and the “final price” you pay after taxes and additional equipment fees can vary quite a bit. This is honestly the biggest problem we’ve found with Spectrum pricing.
As you are evaluating different Charter prices and promotional deals, make sure to compare the final price after tax. This will be what you are paying in the long term even if the price you see advertised is lower.
At BroadbandNow we do our best to collect all the fine print so you can understand all the details about your service, but still make sure to read the fine print and verify plan details on the phone or online before signing up.
Customer Reviews of Charter Internet Plans
Most internet providers in the U.S. have low ratings ratings by consumers. In fact, the industry as a whole is one of the lowest rated industries in the US — even worse than airlines.
It’s a tough situation, especially since most consumers don’t have a lot of options in their area. Spectrum also gets hit on pricing, since Spectrum pricing — while stable — is higher than Time Warner Cable at the time of their buyout.
That said, let’s take a look at how Charter’s customer ratings stack up against their direct competition as this is the best way to compare two providers in an unbiased fashion. (Remember, reviews on BroadbandNow are from IP-verified customers.)
To date, we’ve asked 65,660 IP-verified Charter Spectrum Internet plan customers if they would recommend their service to a friend. So far, 50.0% of consumers said they would recommend Spectrum.
Overall, Charter’s 50.0% rating is better than the 48.4% average rating across every provider covered by FCC databases and our broadband database on BroadbandNow.
As of 2020, Spectrum’s ACSI rating is 63. For comparison, the ACSI rating of the cable industry overall in 2018 was just 62.
Charter Communications Availability
Charter is available in most of the US, but the fastest way to find specifics and Spectrum Prices at your address is to call and ask them to check your address directly. For a visual snapshot of Spectrum coverage in the US, you can find our full charter availability map here including data for Spectrum footprints in California, Texas, New York, and 41 other states. In total Spectrum covers 102.7 million people across 44 states.
If you want to compare Spectrum Internet deals to other Internet options in your area, enter your zip code into the zip search above or visit our national broadband search tool and we’ll query our exhaustive broadband coverage database to show you all the providers that are available in your area.