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You've cut the cord, now cut your Internet bill

For years, we put up with sky high cable bills. There was nothing we could do. There was no Netflix, no Hulu, no YouTube, no iTunes. If we wanted our “Club MTV” or our “Clarissa Explains it All,” we were stuck with our cable providers, paying whatever outrageous rates they decided to charge.

From 1996 to 2013, cable rates went up a whopping 93 percent. In recent years, they have risen at eight times the rate of inflation to an average of $103 per month, said Leichtman Research Group.

Many of us have said “Enough!” and cut the cord, saving ourselves more than a grand each year. But we’re still saddled with our internet bills, and those aren’t so easily ditched. In fact, internet service is so important now, it has become almost like a utility.

Now that providers are rapidly losing their cable revenue, experts predict providers will begin increasing internet rates to make up for it.

So what can we do? Well, for starters, this:

• Shop around. Go to BroadbandMap.gov to see what your options are, then check with each to see who has the best price. You may find your current provider is the cheapest, but it’s best to check up every year or so. If you find a cheaper deal but want to stay where you are, you can always call your current provider and see if they will match the competitor’s rate.

• Test your bandwidth speed on a few different sites. Technology and consumer electronics website CNET suggests using sites such as TestMy.net and SpeedOf.me. Compare the speeds you’re getting to the speeds your provider promised. If they don’t match up, ask for a lower price and a refund for the months you likely didn’t get what you paid for.

• Only pay for what you need. Re-evaluate your internet plan. Do you really need the speed you’re paying for? What’s the harm in dropping down one speed lower? Give it a try. If “The Walking Dead” starts buffering during crucial zombie scenes and you find the lower speed is not enough, you can always go back to your previous speed.

• Maybe switch to DSL. DSL is a broadband signal delivered via your home’s telephone wires. It sounds outdated, but DSL download speeds can reach 24 Mbps, which is more than fast enough for many types of Internet users. If you tend to stream movies and music on just one device at once, DSL could be perfect for you. And because it’s out of vogue, rates have come down considerably compared to other types of broadband.

• Some people (I could never be one of them, but maybe you could) are giving up home Internet altogether in favor of the wireless 4G data from their cell phone providers, according to SimpleDollar.com. If you get a good signal, have reliable service, use less than 2 gigabytes of data each month and have a smartphone anyway, this could be a good option for you.

• Buy your own modem and router. Most internet providers charge about $10 per month for hardware. That’s $120 a year, $240 every two years, $360 every three years. You get the picture. On the flip side, you can get a top of the line modem for less than $80, which will pay for itself in no time.

Just make sure you check the provider’s website. Verizon, Time Warner Cable and AT&T each have lists of compatible hardware, as well as directions on how to hook them up to the company’s network.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com

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