Paying for internet access is a monthly bill that's hard to avoid - and depending on where you live and who your provider is, this bill can be pretty hefty. And sometimes it can be hard to tell exactly what you're paying for, as the bill breakdown can be confusing.
Here's a look at how much Americans are paying for their internet, plus, ways to save on your bill if you're paying too much.
How Much Does the Average American Pay for Internet Service?
To find out how much the average American is paying for internet access, Consumer Reports collected bills from consumers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and from nearly 700 separate internet service providers. The investigation found that the amount people pay ranges widely, from less than $10 per month to over $155.
While there is a wide range of charges, the majority of Americans pay between $60 and $90 per month, the report found.
These charges can put internet access financially out of reach for some households. A separate Consumer Reports survey found that nearly one-third of Americans who don't have broadband internet say it's because "it costs too much." Additionally, about 3 in 10 Americans who do have service say they find it "somewhat" or "very" difficult to afford.
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It's Hard To Know What You're Paying For
It's possible you could be paying for extras you don't need or want, or paying for speeds you aren't actually getting. The Consumer Reports investigation found that it's often hard to tell exactly what you're paying for.
"Some of the bills we collected are incredibly complicated," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports, said in a recap of the report's findings. "In thousands of cases, it is too hard for people to figure out what they're paying for, what the hidden fees mean, or to even locate the price for internet service."
The report noted that many fees are not included in advertised prices, and that some fees are so vague that it's unclear what they are for. For example, the internet service provider Optimum charges a "network enhancement fee."
The report also found that the same internet service provider can charge different rates for the same services, depending on the service area.
Lack of Competition Drives Prices Higher
How much you pay for internet largely depends on where you live and whether or not you have access to multiple internet service providers. Research by BroadbandNow found that average broadband pricing is around 15% lower for those living in an area with at least three providers to choose from compared to those with only one, and that it's 40% less in cities with the most competition.
Unfortunately, many Americans don't have much of a choice when it comes to their internet provider. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 22% of Americans only have one provider available, while another 30% have just two.
What To Do If You're Paying Too Much for Internet
If you're paying in the $60 to $90 range, you're probably paying a fair price for your service, but it's still worth looking into ways to potentially decrease your bill.
Buy a router and modem. Many people pay $10 to $15 a month to rent a router and modem, but if you buy your own, the initial investment should pay off within a year. You can find router and modem combos for around $120 at Best Buy.
Lower your speed. You may be paying for more speed than you need. BroadbandNow reports that "internet speeds in the 100-200 Mbps range are ideal for most households."
Negotiate with your provider. Many providers offer discounts, but you typically will need to call and ask for them.
Apply for government aid. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was created to help low-income families afford broadband services. The program provides monthly discounts of up to $30 for eligible households.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Are You Paying Too Much for Your Internet?