Top-notch customer service and shockingly low intro pricing make switching to one of Astound’s brands (Wave, RCN, Grande, or enTouch) an easy choice. But opting for gear rental or sticking with Astound for longer than a year will cost you. Big.
EarthLink is an interesting provider. Instead of serving internet through its own infrastructure, it partners with other internet providers to repackage their service, acting as a go-between. This means higher prices, but a reputation for great customer service might make EarthLink worth it.
Astound offers supercheap DSL, cable, and fiber internet plans with at least three plan options and no data caps in most areas. Nearly all plans are priced under $50 for the first year, and if you’re paying that much, you’re likely getting at least 940 Mbps of speed. National benchmarks for similar plans are in the $130 range, so you’ll be getting a great deal. (1)
Unfortunately, after a year, prices skyrocket, with some of the lowest-tier plans reaching nearly 10x your introductory price—which is quite a bit higher than the national benchmark. As long as you don’t stick around longer than that (and Astound won’t force you into a multi-year contract), this internet service provider (ISP) will probably be your best value option. We recommend shopping around for internet service at least annually anyway, so this might not be a big deal for a lot of people.
There’s no getting around it: EarthLink prices are almost always higher than the competition. Depending on the area, the difference can be as little as a few dollars per month, but it’s still there. That said, there are actually legitimate reasons for this.
First, EarthLink doesn’t actually have its own internet infrastructure. Instead, it partners with other local DSL and fiber internet providers, like AT&T and Frontier, and uses their infrastructure. This costs EarthLink money, and some of this naturally gets passed down to customers. In return, you’re promised a better customer experience.
The other reason is that EarthLink skips the usual promotional pricing most ISPs advertise. For example, when AT&T or Spectrum quote you a price, it’s often for an introductory period of 12 or 24 months, after which that price may increase (sometimes dramatically). EarthLink doesn’t do this, which is a plus in our book. This also means EarthLink may end up slightly less expensive if you intend to keep it for a couple of years.
Astound Broadband is very fast. That said, as with most ISPs, you may not experience the speeds advertised for your plan because speeds fluctuate based on numerous conditions.
With Astound, the speed on your plan is the “average” that customers see, so your speeds will vary depending on the gear you’re using, time of day, how many devices are using your Wi-Fi, and more. If you see persistent speed issues, Astound encourages you to call customer service to get help figuring out the issue.
EarthLink's performance is tough to rate. Because it is essentially reselling other providers’ services, the speed and reliability are highly dependent on which partners it uses in a given area.
That said, performance is generally good, and there are a wide range of high-speed internet plans available in most areas, so you can get exactly how much you need—up to 5 gigs in some places. Much of the service is fiber, which means performance is reliably consistent. Best of all, every plan has unlimited data, so whatever speed you opt for, you can use it without worry.
You can rent a modem and one of two Wi-Fi routers from Astound, bringing your total monthly equipment costs between $17 and $27 or more—which is on the high side. For most people, the Whole Home Wi-Fi router option will be the right choice. It includes an eero router and an extender, and you can add more extenders to ensure coverage throughout your entire home. Gamers and other heavy streamers should consider the Nighthawk Pro gaming router to reduce lag spikes and achieve more consistent speeds.
To save money, consider using your own gear or use Astound’s free self-setup option, which is available in most areas. But you'll pay around $10 to activate your service. Even if you’re not tech savvy, this provider’s detailed online instructions and videos make it easy. If you do want professional help or your home isn’t already properly wired, professional installation starts around $80, which is about average.
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This is another category that’s tough to rate. Since EarthLink partners with other internet service providers (ISPs) to provide service, it doesn’t actually issue its own equipment. Instead, you’ll get equipment from whichever partner EarthLink uses in your area. The good news is that EarthLink does set the fees, and they’re reasonable: $9.95 per month.
It’s a similar story for installation—your service will be installed and set up by a rep from the partner company, not EarthLink itself. The installation fee is $79.95, which isn’t the highest we’ve seen. That said, we’d rather see installation included in the price, particularly since EarthLink’s overall prices tend to be on the high side. Self-install is available only in some service areas.
Astound has (sorry in advance) astounding customer service. This company won fifth place in PCMag's Reader's Choice award in 2022 (2), and before it consolidated them under the Astound brand, Grande, Wave, RCN, and WOW! were all recognized in 2021 (3) and we can see why Astound is a fan favorite. You don't have to sign a contract if you don't want to, your plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and if your technician is late for your appointment, Astound will pay you $20 for the inconvenience. Put it all together, and you get a top-notch customer experience.
Customer service is where EarthLink really shines. The company claims to prioritize customer service and experience, and users seem to agree. The company actually ranks first in some user-driven surveys of internet satisfaction, beating out providers like AT&T and Verizon despite the higher prices.
From a practical standpoint, it seems that EarthLink representatives are friendlier, more helpful, and more knowledgeable than those we’ve dealt with at other companies. However, we've seen reports that some customers don't get the Earthlink customer experience. In some places, customer service is handled by the end provider instead.