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Comcast vs. Spectrum: What are the Differences?

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Comcast vs. Spectrum: What are the Differences?

Searching for a new home internet plan can become confusing as there are so many providers and plans to choose from. If you’re looking for cable internet, Comcast and Spectrum are two of the biggest providers around with most of the U.S. covered between them. 

Knowing the difference between these two internet service providers can help you pinpoint the right deal for your household and ensure that your connection doesn’t fall short on speed and bandwidth. In this article, we’ll compare Comcast and Spectrum with a breakdown of speeds, features, and price plans to help you select the right ISP for your home internet. 

Let’s jump in!

Comcast vs Spectrum

Comcast vs. Spectrum: A Side-by-Side Comparison

ComcastSpectrum
What is it?Cable and fiber internet service provider (ISP)Cable internet service provider (ISP)
Primary UseBroadband internet accessBroadband internet access
Initial Release20102016
Influential DevelopersDave Brown (CEO of Xfinity)
Dana Strong(Xfinity Consumer Services President)
Matthew Strauss (Xfinity Services)
Barry Babcock (founder)
Jerald Kent (founder)
Howard Wood (founder)
Chris Winfrey(CEO)
Max Uplink SpeedUp to 6 GbpsUp to 35 Mbps
Max Downlink SpeedUp to 6 GbpsUp to 1 Gbps
Contract?Yes, for some plansNo 
Throttling?NoNo
Data Limits?1.2 TB capNo
Monthly Subscription Between $65 and $300Between $50 and $120
Additional Fees$100 installation fee, $14 monthly gateway hire fee$59.99 installation fee
Equipment Provided Wi-Fi 6E gateway/hubModems, Wi-Fi 5 or 6 routers, Wi-Fi 5 mesh system
Locations Available40 states in the U.S.40 states in the U.S.

What is Comcast?

Comcast is America’s largest ISP. It has coverage that spans most of the internet and delivers broadband speeds across a range of service plans. You’re probably familiar with Xfinity Internet which is owned by Comcast as it’s the obvious choice for most households. 

Comcast’s cable internet offers high speeds and good reliability, but experiences with the service vary widely. In the past, Comcast struggled with notoriously poor customer service, high installation fees and other charges, and low customer satisfaction, which led to the company renaming the internet service Xfinity in 2010. 

Nevertheless, Comcast is one of the world’s largest telecommunications and media companies. This conglomerate is only beaten by AT&T for cable TV and internet subscriptions globally. From its Philadelphia headquarters, Comcast’s cable internet subsidiary, Xfinity, provides its home and business internet coverage in 40 states. Cable networking from Comcast includes:

  • Cable television
  • Broadband internet
  • Home telephone
  • Public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Virtual mobile networking 

Xfinity: Comcast’s Home Internet 

If you’re looking for Comcast home internet, it is now called Xfinity. Xfinity is America’s largest home broadband provider with over 31 million customers in late 2021. Xfinity provides cable internet and is slowly transitioning to fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connectivity in some areas. 

Xfinity’s “triple-play” service that bundles home internet with a home phone and cable TV is a convenient and popular package. Comcast also provides an Xfinity service for low-income households called Internet Essentials. Comcast was made to provide this service indefinitely as a condition of a merger. 

comcast xfinity
Xfinity has become one of the most popular internet service providers in the U.S., and for good reason.

Comcast Price Plans for Internet Services

Make Comcast Xfinity your home internet service provider and choose from multiple tiered price plans. Speeds and the availability of fiber broadband depend on your location. Most of Comcast Xfinity’s plans are contract-free and can be paid monthly. There is a 1.2 TB monthly data cap (which is impossible to reach with normal domestic internet use) but no throttling on any of the plans. 

Performance Starter

  • Download speed: 75 Mbps
  • Price: $65 per month 

Performance 

  • Download speed: 200 Mbps
  • Price: $84 per month 

Performance Pro

  • Download speed: 400 Mbps
  • Price: $30 per month initially rising to $92 after contract renewal
  • Contract: 1 year

Blast!

  • Download speed: 800 Mbps
  • Price: $60 per month initially, rising to $97 after contract renewal

Extreme Pro

  • Download speed: 1 Gbps
  • Price: $70 per month initially, rising to $102 after contract renewal

Gigabit Plus

  • Download speed: 1.2 Gbps
  • Price: $80 per month initially, rising to $107 after contract renewal

Gigabit Pro

  • Download speed: 6 Gbps 
  • Price: $300 per month
  • Contract: 2 years

All price plans include unlimited access to Xfinity’s public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.

In addition to monthly charges, Comcast Xfinity charges a $100 installation fee, and an optional $14 monthly for a router. If you prefer to use your own router, you can buy a router that is Comcast-compatible like these here.

You can change your plan or add additional services like Broadcast TV ($26.85 per month) or regional sports ($14.95 per month). Late payments add $10 to your bill, and if you need to reconnect, Comcast charges an extra $6.

Comcast Xfinity Internet Speeds

Xfinity’s tiered price plans mean you can choose from download speeds that range between 75 Mbps and 6 Gbps. As with many cable internet providers, you may have to deal with significantly symmetrical download and upload speeds. These aren’t going to be a major hassle unless you are a heavy VoIP phone user or telecommuter. However, if symmetrical fast speeds are a must, a Comcast Xfinity fiber selection is your best option.

Comcast Xfinity Gateways for Home Internet

If you choose to pay the $14 monthly hire charge, Comcast will provide you will a decent gateway to provide your home with Wi-Fi 5 or the latest Wi-Fi 6E coverage. The xFi gateways by Xfinity not only deliver Wi-Fi but also include range extenders and a voice-based personal assistant like Alexa.

Here are the gateways you can choose from:

  • The XB8 xFi advanced gateway (Wi-Fi 6E)
  • The XB7 xFi advanced gateway (Wi-Fi 5)
  • The XB6 xFi advanced gateway (Wi-Fi 5)
  • The xFi fiber gateway (Wi-Fi 5)

If you are running a home office, these gateways provide at least four Ethernet ports so that you can get your home network just the way you want it.

What is Spectrum?

Spectrum is a cable telecommunications and media company that is owned by Charter Communications, and is based in Stamford, Connecticut. 

In 2016, Charter Communications, Inc. acquired Time Warner and Brighthouse to become one of the world’s largest PayTV companies with all services delivered under the Spectrum brand. Spectrum is now the third largest cable TV company after Comcast and AT&T and provides cable TV, home internet, and telephone services to over 32 million customers across 48 states of the U.S.

Charter Communications and Comcast have recently (April 2022) announced a new partnership to develop a new streaming service, using the Flex and Xumo streaming platforms.

Spectrum website
Spectrum has affordable plans for every family, no matter the size, and is one of the leading ISPs in the U.S.

Spectrum Home Internet

Spectrum Internet was originally Time Warner Cable’s Road Runner service which was released in Elmira, New York in 1995. Name changes have been frequent with further name changes to Line Runner, and Road Runner High-Speed Online, complete with the licensed Looney Tunes character as a logo. In 2012, there was a further brand change to Time Warner Cable Internet, and most recently Spectrum Internet (2016).

The merger of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks enabled Spectrum to offer its broadband internet service. The cable service was upgraded for a significant uplift in average speeds, including the addition of a gigabit tier which is now available across Spectrum’s coverage area.

Spectrum Price Plans for Internet Services

Spectrum has recently simplified its internet-only packages. With Spectrum One, there are only three price plans with speeds between 300 Mbps and 1 Gbps. All prices are promotional, rising after a 1-year term. Spectrum Internet is contract free and does not use data caps. Just pay the monthly fee for your plan and an installation fee to get started. Specific speeds will depend on your location. 

Spectrum Internet

  • Download speed: 300 Mbps
  • Price: $49.99 per month for the first 12 months 

Spectrum Internet Ultra

  • Download speed: 500 Mbps
  • Price: $69.99 per month for the first 12 months 

Spectrum Internet Gig

  • Download speed: 940 Mbps
  • Price: $89.99 per month for the first 12 months 

All price plans include unlimited access to Spectrum’s public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.

Though your home router is included in the monthly charge, Spectrum does come with several additional costs. Along with your monthly fee, you’ll be expected to pay a $59.99 installation fee, a $24.99 self-installation fee, a $4.99 cancellation fee, and up to $8.99 for late payments. 

Spectrum also has a price plan for low-income households called Spectrum Internet Assist. Households that qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program get internet and Wi-Fi equipment at no cost. 

Spectrum Home Internet Speeds

Spectrum has just three speed tiers, 300 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and 1 Gbps, making it easy to select the one that will meet your household’s needs. 

Spectrum Internet is in the process of making all of its residential services digital. The company intends to upgrade its existing coaxial cable infrastructure to fiber, promising a further uplift in speeds.

Spectrum Equipment for Home Internet

Spectrum will provide you with the wireless networking solution you need to ensure that every part of your home has internet coverage. All equipment costs are included in the monthly charge. Here is a summary list of modems, routers, mesh systems, and Wi-Fi extenders available from Spectrum: 

Modems

  • The Spectrum ONU (SONU) Modem, a 10G advanced fiber voice modem
  • The Cisco Model DPC3000 Cable Modem
  • The Motorola SB6120 SURFboard® DOCSIS® 3.0 Cable Modem 
  • The Ubee Interactive DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem

Wi-Fi Routers

  • The Wave 2 Router Model RAC2V1S (Wi-Fi 5)
  • The NETGEAR R6300v2 Smart WiFi Router (Wi-Fi 5)
  • The SagemCom F@st 5260 V3.0 (Wi-Fi 5)
  • The Spectrum AC WiFi Router (Wi-Fi 5 with QR code setup)
  • The Spectrum WiFi 6 Router (Wi-Fi 6 with QR code setup)

Mesh Wi-Fi System

  • Spectrum Wi-Fi Pods (Wi-Fi 5 with QR code setup)

What’s the Difference Between Comcast and Spectrum?

When you look at the size and coverage of these companies, there isn’t very much between them, but depending on the service quality in your area and how much convenience you want, Spectrum may just have the edge over Comcast. Here’s why: 

  • Greater coverage: Spectrum’s takeover of Time Warner, transformed Charter Communications into one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies, and though it is smaller than Comcast by revenue, it actually has greater coverage, with its cable internet available in 48 states versus 40 states for Comcast. 
  • Better minimum download speeds: Spectrum has a minimum speed of 300 Mbps which beats Comcast’s entry-level speed of only 75 Mbps. 
  • Simple inclusive price plan: With only three price plans to choose from, making up your mind on the home internet package you need will be easier with Spectrum, especially as there are no additional hire charges.

Comcast Xfinity still has a pretty strong offering, with far more fiber coverage available and multigigabit speeds that may be useful for VoIP, Telecommuting, or Virtualization. Both ISPs are largely contract-free but you will be locked in if you sign up for one of the fiber or cable Pro packages from Xfinity.

Similarities and Differences

Similarities

  • Comcast and Spectrum are two of America’s largest telecommunications and mass media companies.
  • Both companies provide broadband cable internet coverage across the majority of the United States.
  • Comcast and Spectrum do not use throttling on their home internet plans.
  • Comcast and Spectrum offer a range of routers and gateways for Wi-Fi internet coverage throughout your home.
  • In addition to home internet, both companies offer cable TV and home telephone services.
  • Customers of Comcast and Spectrum can use their public Wi-Fi hotspots for free. 
  • Both ISPs offer a subsidized program for low-income households.

Differences

  • Comcast provides cable and fiber-based broadband internet, while Spectrum Internet is cable-only.
  • Comcast offers seven price plans, but Spectrum has only three. 
  • Comcast offers maximum residential fiber internet speeds of 6 Gbps while Spectrum’s maximum cable internet speed is 1 Gbps.
  • Comcast has a 1.2 TB data cap on its monthly plans.
  • Spectrum Internet is available in 48 states in the U.S., while Comcast is available in 40 states.
  • Spectrum does not charge equipment hire fees. 
  • Comcast has installation costs of $100 vs Spectrum’s fee of $59.99.
  • Comcast “Pro” cable and fiber packages have 12 and 24-month contracts.

Is Comcast Better Than Spectrum?

Comcast Xfinity is a larger company than Spectrum with more price plans available and a lower starting price. By opting for Xfinity, you also benefit from faster maximum speeds, fiber internet availability, and more symmetrical connectivity.

But, the simplicity of Spectrum Internet cannot be overlooked. A single monthly price delivers one of three plans with decent speeds and equipment included. The 300 Mbps is more than adequate for streaming shows, gaming, and having face time with family and friends. Coverage is also greater meaning you are more likely to have Spectrum available in your area. 

Comcast vs. Spectrum: 6 Must-Know Facts

  • Comcast is currently upgrading its network to fiber, with a speed uplift across all of its pricing tiers and the addition of further multi-gigabit internet plans.
  • Spectrum Internet has had low customer satisfaction scores and performed below the U.S. averages in the 2022 J.D. Power U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study.
  • Comcast’s broadband internet rates vary from region to region, with up to a $35 difference for the same plan. Ensure you check with Xfinity directly to see what the exact pricing is in your area. 
  • Xfinity customers can stream free content using a free Flex 4K TV streaming box and voice remote. 
  • You can switch Xfinity plans with no additional fees and setup costs. 
  • Spectrum currently uses Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) in its networking and is beginning to roll out fiber to the premises (FTTP) in certain areas. 

Final Thoughts

Comcast and Spectrum are pretty comparable ISPs, with the size and scale that make it easy to find a plan and get up and running quickly. Spectrum Internet has simpler packages and faster speeds for your money, which makes it the better choice. However, as with most ISPs, watch out for price hikes after your promotional period. As you’re contract-free, you can always negotiate a better deal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Spectrum Internet pay towards my early termination fee?

If you’re switching providers, Spectrum offers a Contract Buyout deal for new customers that meet its eligibility criteria. If you qualify, you’ll get up to $500 towards the costs of ending your existing home internet contract. However, you cannot get this deal if you are buying an internet-only plan, so be prepared to order a double or triple-play package if you want to get out of your current contract fast.

How do you use Spectrum’s Wi-Fi hotspots?

Spectrum Out-of-Home Wi-Fi is a great perk for Spectrum customers, who can enjoy free, unlimited Wi-Fi at designated hotspots across the country. Spectrum customers simply need to sign in in Wi-Fi areas to access Spectrum Wi-Fi On-the-Go.

Follow these quick steps to access the Spectrum network:

  1. Turn on your device’s Wi-Fi.
  2. Search for Spectrum Free Trial among the available networks.
  3. Open your web browser.
  4. Sign in to the Spectrum network using your Spectrum account username and password.

Alternatively, you can keep your Spectrum Wi-Fi profile on your device using the My Spectrum App. Install the app on your device then tap on Account, then Manage Spectrum Wi-Fi Profile to install your Wi-Fi profile on your device for quick and easy connection to the network.

Is Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 better for my home internet router?

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax) is the latest version of Wi-Fi, which was released in 2019. Like Wi-Fi 5, it provides wireless networking using channels in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, but Wi-Fi 6 has been engineered to deliver enhanced performance with increased speed and throughput of data for an efficient home network. 

Wi-Fi 6 also features updated security standards, making this version a future-forward version of Wi-Fi that will keep up with new devices that you add to your network.

If possible, opt for a Wi-Fi 6 router and accessories for your Comcast or Spectrum home internet plan. You can learn more about Wi-Fi 6 in our article, Wi-Fi 6 vs. Wi-Fi 6E: How Do They Compare?

I live in a remote area. Will Comcast or Spectrum provide me with home internet?

Rural and remote parts of the U.S. are affected by a lack of networking infrastructure which limits access and availability of broadband internet. Charter Spectrum has been a leading investor in expanding its network into rural America. Since 2019, Spectrum broadband internet has been made available to an additional 2.5 million U.S. homes, a third of which are rural. 

Spectrum is making use of the Federal Communications Commission’s $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to install high-speed broadband infrastructure across 24 U.S. states. Spectrum is targeting more than 1 million unserved homes and businesses in the coming years.

 

Comcast also has pockets of outstanding rural infrastructure, including cable infrastructures that covers the entirety of the Rockies! However, Xfinity coverage is not universal and you will have to check the availability in your specific location. Comcast does not currently have any published plans to expand its infrastructure into new rural areas. 

Is cable the best option for broadband internet?

Coaxial cable is a bit of a dated networking technology, but it has held up for over 100 years of innovation in telecommunications. The advantage of coax is that it has extensive infrastructure and coverage, meaning that you are likely to be able to find a cable internet provider more easily than a fiber service. 

Cable internet now uses the latest Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) to deliver gigabit speeds to households and also integrates a fiber backbone (Hybrid Fiber Coax) to further boost speeds. If you have cable internet, just sit tight, it is only a matter of time before your ISP will want to upgrade you to fiber as they transition their network. 

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