Spectrum, formally known as Charter Communications, is the second largest cable internet provider in the US. Spectrum currently offers cable internet service to over 102 million Americans across 46 states, falling just shy of XFINITY from Comcast (which is available to over 111 million.)

Spectrum has some strong selling points, even though Charter, the company that owns them, hasn’t always had the best reputation for customer service. However, since acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks a few years ago, the company has made some seriously impressive strides. [1]

Spectrum has greatly expanded its network and is continuing to do so throughout 2019 and 2020. Spectrum’s internet service is also rated highly by the FCC for its accurate speed advertising (actually delivering the internet speed advertised — which is unfortunately rare among Internet providers.)

If you’re choosing between Spectrum and traditional DSL services like AT&T or CenturyLink, Spectrum is a solid choice — especially if you stream videos or do other activities online that require heavy data usage. Spectrum’s internet service is free of data caps, making them a strong choice for cord-cutters who use streaming services like Netflix and Hulu without a traditional cable TV plan.

Our Spectrum review will focus on internet service, but we will also include information on their TV service and bundle options.

Important: Before reading, make sure you use our tool for ‘Spectrum in my area‘ so that you know Spectrum is available at your address.

Pros

  • High speeds as advertised
  • No contract
  • No data caps

Cons

  • Prices and speeds vary by location
  • Fewer plan options than most providers

Deal Alert: Spectrum will pay your ETF with another provider.

Spectrum is currently offering to pay early termination fees for subscribers who want to switch to Spectrum but are trapped in a contract by another provider. They will pay up to $500 to buy you out of your existing contract, provided that you sign up for a qualifying Spectrum Triple Play or Double Play bundle.

Spectrum’s Plans: One Size Fits All

Spectrum tends to offer a small number of plans in each service area. Most providers offer a wide range of internet speeds, with more affordable plans for lower speeds and more expensive plans for higher speeds. Spectrum typically offers one or two speed options at most in each location.

Although the company’s smaller plan selection might not work for techies or extreme users, it should be perfectly fine for the average subscriber. Spectrum’s “basic” internet plan has speeds starting at 100 Mbps, which is enough to handle HD streaming and browsing on multiple devices. Spectrum is also continuing to expand its network throughout 2019 and 2020.

They spice things up a bit when it comes to TV plans, offering several bundle packages to choose from. These may or may not be worthwhile, depending on how many channels you need and whether you plan to cut the cord sometime soon.

DealsPrice MonthlyInternet SpeedPhone
Spectrum Internet — Best Internet-Only Deal $4499 100 Mbps Cable(844) 293-0108
Spectrum Double Play Select $8998 100 Mbps Cable(844) 293-0108
Triple Play Select – Top Internet/TV/Phone Bundle Plan $9997 100 Mbps Cable(844) 293-0108
Triple Play Silver $11997 100 Mbps Cable(844) 293-0108
Triple Play Gold $13997 100 Mbps Cable(844) 293-0108

If you're looking to compare plans, make sure to check out our detailed guide on the latest Charter Spectrum deals and promotions.

Spectrum Availability

Charter Spectrum Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Spectrum has one of the widest coverage footprints among US cable providers. They currently offer coverage to over 102 million residents across 46 states, with the greatest coverage in California, Texas, and New York. The company’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks expanded Spectrum’s territory dramatically, and they’ve been working to improve and standardize network performance since the acquisition.

Spectrum Speed Report

Spectrum speeds hit the “Goldilocks” mark: not too slow, but not too fast.

Of course, power users are likely to be happier with pure fiber from a specialty provider. For the rest of us, though, Spectrum’s base plans of around 100 Mbps are just right for a busy household of gaming, streaming, and surfing the web.

Charter Spectrum Download Speeds Over Time


CityCharter Spectrum Average SpeedCharter Spectrum Top 10% Speeds
Austin, Texas76 Mbps194 Mbps
Brooklyn, New York64 Mbps163 Mbps
Buffalo, New York31 Mbps83 Mbps
Charlotte, North Carolina56 Mbps152 Mbps
Cincinnati, Ohio62 Mbps164 Mbps
Cleveland, Ohio51 Mbps88 Mbps
Columbus, Ohio39 Mbps99 Mbps
Dallas, Texas74 Mbps199 Mbps
El Paso, Texas45 Mbps101 Mbps
Fort Worth, Texas58 Mbps166 Mbps
Kansas City, Missouri47 Mbps102 Mbps
Los Angeles, California65 Mbps155 Mbps
Louisville, Kentucky46 Mbps126 Mbps
Milwaukee, Wisconsin59 Mbps165 Mbps
New York, New York83 Mbps209 Mbps
Orlando, Florida44 Mbps97 Mbps
Saint Louis, Missouri48 Mbps113 Mbps
San Antonio, Texas59 Mbps158 Mbps
San Diego, California68 Mbps187 Mbps
Tampa, Florida42 Mbps94 Mbps

Spectrum Has No Data Caps

Perhaps the largest advantage Spectrum holds over other providers is that they don’t have data caps.[2]

This is a great perk for Netflix junkies and streamers who want to enjoy entertainment through the Internet without worrying about getting slapped with a monster overage fee if they go over their data usage. Many other cable providers start charging after a terabyte or so of usage, but Spectrum offers unlimited data on all their internet plans.

Spectrum Actual Speeds vs Advertised Speed

Many internet providers claim to offer speeds of “up to” a certain amount, but in reality those speeds are rarely reached. Spectrum subscribers will be glad to know this typically isn’t the case for them.

Spectrum has a strong reputation compared to most cable providers when it comes to delivering speeds as advertised. The FCC consistently rates Spectrum highly in its annual report on fixed broadband in the US. According to a recent report, 85% of test Spectrum users were able to achieve 95% of the advertised speed for their area or greater. [3] So even though Spectrum doesn’t offer much variation in speeds to begin with, the company does actually deliver on the speeds it promises. Of course, there are always a few things you can do to optimize your Wifi connection even further.

We had someone on our team run speed tests while transferring their Spectrum service from one city to another. The results were similar, with speeds taken on a weekday morning in two major metro areas yielding results within 5% or exceeding the advertised speed:

Charter Spectrum vs Time Warner Cable: What Happens to My Old Plan?

Time Warner Cable office building.
Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable has created some growing pains for customers accustomed to grandfathered budget plans. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Not all customers are happy with having their Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks internet plans changed over to Spectrum. It can’t be avoided, though, and it’s actually a good thing for some customers, as Charter is making an effort to eliminate hidden fees and contracts in favor of one-size-fits-all pricing.[4]

Will My Rate Go Up If I Used to Have TWC or Bright House Service?

In the short term, no. In the long term, probably, assuming you’re on some sort of promo rate from Time Warner Cable or Bright House that has a time limit. (New customer promos, special rates, etc.)

Many customers of Time Warner Cable and Bright House have gotten used to being able to call up their provider every year and argue for a better rate. This is great for the customers who are willing to spend a few hours on the phone every year, but it’s bad for everyone who would rather just pay one fair rate that they understand with no haggling.

Charter Spectrum isn’t grandfathering in all of those “extended promo” rates customers argued for over the years, and instead requires customers to pay the sticker price if they want service.

This is a bummer for budget shoppers and deal hunters — but it’s a good thing for the average customer who doesn’t want to get gouged while their neighbor pays half the rate for the same service.

You can still try to get a deal for current Spectrum customers if you’re willing to hop on the phone. Remember to be firm, yet polite, and you may just score yourself a bargain.

Does Spectrum Have Hidden Fees?

In short, no. The only real “hidden” fee we found with Spectrum was the router fee. Otherwise, the pricing is reasonably straightforward and they list out extra items up-front. Spectrum does raise its rates after the first year of service, but this is fairly typical for a national cable provider. Just make sure to take note of this before you sign up so you don’t get surprised when your bill goes up a year later.

Modem/router Fees

Every home Internet connection requires two things to function: a modem and a router. The modem transforms cable signal into digital data, while the router creates your Wi-Fi bubble and routes traffic to your various devices.

Spectrum includes the modem for free with Internet service. The router, however, costs an extra $5/month. For this reason, customers who plan to use Charter for more than a year are probably better off buying their own router from a third party outright. To save you the hassle of researching, we’ve put together a list of the 6 best Spectrum routers in 2019.

Spectrum vs DSL Providers

Spectrum gets high marks for their surprisingly high base speed — usually in the neighborhood of 60-100 Mbps (your mileage may vary, depending on service area.)

This high base speed is thanks to their hybrid fiber-coaxial cable network. Unlike DSL, which pipes Internet through phone lines, cable providers like Spectrum use higher-bandwidth coaxial cables from TV networks. This isn’t as ideal as 100% fiber, but it’s usually the best choice for the average household.

Because cable networks are underground rather than on phone lines, they’re less susceptible to storm damage and other outages, resulting in a more reliable and secure connection.

Spectrum Installation: The Only Fee Spectrum Lets You Negotiate

Spectrum modem and router on a counter.
Spectrum’s comes with a decent modem/router gateway unit for broadcasting your home Wi-Fi. Consider purchasing your own if you plan to be a customer for more than one year.

We found that Spectrum’s installation fees vary by location. According to some customers, you can even talk your way out of installation fees if you’re willing to negotiate with Spectrum over the phone. This may change soon, as Spectrum is generally strict on pricing.

Compared to other cable providers, Spectrum’s fees are lower than average — which is surprising considering that they offer contract-free service.

They also stick to a punctual installation schedule, advertised as a “one-hour appointment window”. This is a nice perk for those of us who don’t have time to wait for the cable guy all day.

Spectrum TV Options

TV stand with gone girl on screen.
Spectrum offers hundreds of high-definition TV channels.

TV is another area where Spectrum distinguishes itself, although their plans can be pricey compared to satellite options even when bundled.

If you’re a sports fan, be sure to check the seasonal sports and sports package bundles from DirecTV and DISH before you make the call. In all other departments, we found Spectrum’s value to be strong.

Spectrum TV Plans and Channels

Spectrum TV comes in three main packages: Select, Silver, and Gold.

On the lower end, you’re looking at 125+ channels. To Spectrum’s credit, that is much more variety than what many companies offer with their “value” tier. On the higher end of the spectrum (pun intended), you get closer to 200, including sports must-haves like NFL RedZone.

Here is a breakdown of some of the sports offerings included in each tier:

Select Sports Channels

  • ESPN
  • ESPN2
  • Fox Sports 1
  • Longhorn Network
  • NBC Sports Network

Silver Sports Channels

  • Everything in the Select tier
  • CBS Sports Network
  • ESPNEWS
  • ESPNU
  • FOX Sports 2
  • Golf Channel
  • MLB Network
  • NFL Network
  • Tennis Channel

Gold Sports Channels

  • Everything in the Select and Silver tiers
  • ESPN Classic
  • NFL RedZone
  • Outdoor Channel

TV Pricing

Pricing for Spectrum’s TV plans tends to run a bit steep, especially for standalone offers. That said, the price comes down dramatically for bundled Internet/TV/phone deals. Just keep an eye out for the final pricing once the promotional period runs out, particularly if you plan to subscribe for multiple years.

DVR options with Spectrum

Spectrum’s DVR service is decent and comes in at $11.99/month for one DVR and $19.99/month for additional units. The DVRs themselves vary in make and model depending on your service area and when you sign up, but considering the price is a third of what some competitors charge, we consider it a good deal for a flexible setup.

Conclusion: Spectrum is a Great Option for Most Subscribers

To sum it up, Spectrum hits a lot of the sweet spots for home Internet service: no contract, no data caps, no hidden fees, reasonable pricing, and efficient installation.

They don’t offer a wide range of plans, but what they lack in plan flexibility they make up for in perks and pricing. Hardcore techies might fine some of the specs lacking, but for the 99% of us that just want to get online and be done with it, Spectrum makes it easy and affordable to do so.

Charter Spectrum at a Glance

StatisticCharter Spectrum
Price Range$44.99 - $139.97/mo+
Connection Type(s) Cable & Fiber
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com49.9%
ACSI Customer Service Rating63/100
Netflix Ranking6th
Population Served102,473,344

Experts

Questions & Answers

2 ANSWERED QUESTIONS

I have 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds. Why is my upload speed so slow?

Most of the things that regular users do online involves downloading – view email, websites, videos, etc. – so internet service providers have design their network to prioritize download versus upload. A connection that has different download and upload speeds is called asymmetrical. Some internet providers offer symmetrical plans that have the same download and upload speeds.

Is Spectrum reliable enough for gaming?

Spectrum is more reliable than DSL, and pretty much in line with other cable companies like Xfinity/Cox/Mediacom when it comes to uptime and dependability. The biggest issue you’ll face is reduced speeds during “peak use” times when everyone in your neighborhood is using the connection at the same time. Not usually a big issue for gamers, actually, since it doesn’t affect latency significantly. Go with fiber if you have the option — if not, Spectrum is good enough for most gamers and Twitch users.

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