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Astound Broadband vs. EarthLink vs. Windstream Communications Internet plan comparison


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Researched by
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Reviewed by
Updated 2/9/23

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Astound Broadband
Staff rating
4.1
Customer rating
4.0
(13)

  • Plans starting at $19.99
  • Download speeds up to 1200 Mbps
EarthLink brand
Staff rating
3.7
Customer rating
4.2
(5)

  • Plans starting at $59.95
  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
Windstream Communications brand
Staff rating
3.6
Customer rating
4.0
(22)

  • Plans starting at $39.99
  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
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Astound Broadband
Staff rating
4.1

Extremely cheap internet—for a year

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.

What we like

  • Award-winning service and speed
  • Low introductory prices
  • No contract required
What we dislike

  • Super steep price hikes
  • Expensive installation and equipment
Savings tip: Astound Broadband often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
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EarthLink brand
Staff rating
3.7

Pay more for a better customer experience with EarthLink

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.

What we like

  • Wide availability
  • Strong customer service
  • No price hikes
What we dislike

  • High prices
  • Widely differing plans based on area
Savings tip: EarthLink often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Windstream Communications brand
Staff rating
3.6

Great rural internet provider, with some room to improve on customer service

Kinetic by Windstream aims to bring better internet to rural and remote areas. While it offers one of the best values in internet service anywhere, it’s hampered by a mediocre customer experience.

What we like

  • Good rural coverage
  • No data caps
  • No contracts
What we dislike

  • Limited fiber availability
  • So-so customer service
Savings tip: Windstream Communications often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Astound Broadband
Value
4.5
Mark your calendar now for internet shopping next year

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.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Astound Broadband's website
or call 1-844-716-2786 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
EarthLink brand
Value
4.0
Above-average prices, but they’re more constant than other providers

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.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
EarthLink's website
or call 1-833-804-4930 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Windstream Communications brand
Value
3.5
Kinetic by Windstream is one of the best values in internet service today

Windstream’s Kinetic internet service offers a surprisingly strong value. Prices are competitive—in fact, the 1 gig plan ties Google Fiber as the most affordable option we’ve seen for gigabit download speed. They both cost just over 50% of the national benchmark for similar plans (1).

The advertised prices are for a 12-month introductory period and will increase in the range of about $15 after the first year. This practice of second-year price hikes used to be the norm, but the best fiber internet providers we review have abandoned the practice.

Overall, Windstream represents one of the best values in home internet if you can get fiber. It's also a good deal if you can get only DSL, but your speeds will be much slower.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Windstream Communications's website
or call 1-833-970-0802 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Astound Broadband
Performance
4.5
Award-winning speed—on average

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.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-844-716-2786 to speak with a Astound Broadband rep or
go to its website.
EarthLink brand
Performance
4.0
Generally solid performance and fast speeds, but wide variation from place to place

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.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-804-4930 to speak with a EarthLink rep or
go to its website.
Windstream Communications brand
Performance
5.0
Excellent performance for rural internet, particularly compared to competitors

Kinetic by Windstream is a fiber and DSL internet service. Normally, that would mean two sides to the performance story—excellent speed, reliability, and consistency with fiber, and then DSL. That’s technically true of Windstream, but there’s a big “but” to consider.

The “but” is that Windstream is primarily targeted at rural areas, where other internet options may be limited to satellite or even dial-up (yes, that’s still a thing). In these markets, the Kinetic service can actually be a breath of fresh air—including its DSL. Plus, there are no data caps to worry about, which is a major limitation with satellite. Finally, the fiber performance is excellent, with speeds up to 2 gigs.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-970-0802 to speak with a Windstream Communications rep or
go to its website.
Astound Broadband
Equipment and installation
3.0
DIY your equipment and installation for more savings

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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Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Astound Broadband plans
available in your area.
View plans
EarthLink brand
Equipment and Installation
2.5
Reasonable prices, but wide variation from place to place (again)

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.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
EarthLink plans
available in your area.
View plans
Windstream Communications brand
Equipment and installation
3.5
Misleading installation costs, but otherwise a decent experience

Windstream charges a pretty standard $10–$12 per month for equipment rental if you are in its fiber service area. This gets you a very usable wireless gateway.

If you are in a DSL area, you'll be charged a $10 monthly modem fee but will also need a router. You can technically bring your own equipment, but Windstream officially supports a very limited number of modems, so it might be easier just to rent one.

The Windstream professional installation fee seems very reasonable at first—just $35 (or free, with some promotions). However, there’s a $50 activation fee on your first bill that brings it more in line with other providers. If you need a phone jack installed, you’ll be charged another $65 on top of the other fees. Ouch.

You can install your DSL connection for free if you're home is already wired correctly, and online instructions make it a breeze.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Windstream Communications plans
available in your area.
View plans
Astound Broadband
Customer experience
4.5
Award-winning customer service, many times over

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.

Visit Astound Broadband's website
or call 1-844-716-2786 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
EarthLink brand
Customer Experience
4.5
EarthLink provides a surprisingly great experience from an ISP.

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.

Visit EarthLink's website
or call 1-833-804-4930 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
Windstream Communications brand
Customer experience
2.5
Windstream’s otherwise-good service is brought down by lackluster customer service

The customer experience with Windstream leaves something to be desired. The provider ranks low in independent industry benchmarks like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (2), with a score of 62 out of 100. This is slightly below the industry average of 64.

Customer reviews of Windstream are generally mixed, with some pointing out that since they are often the only decent choice in an area, they try to get away with the bare minimum customer service. Customers also complain about frequent outages that sometimes last for days (3). That said, if your only other option is satellite internet (with its high prices and higher latency), it may be worth dealing with less-than-stellar customer service.

Visit Windstream Communications's website
or call 1-833-970-0802 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
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Astound Broadband
4.0
(13)
5 Star
23%
4 Star
54%
3 Star
23%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
P
Paulfrom Catasauqua, PA
Astound Broadband Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
I think they charge much too much for their dservice. Lower prices
J
Juliefrom Passaic, NJ
Astound Broadband Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
I hope the Internet speed is faster and the price is lower
M
Margaretfrom New York, NY
Astound Broadband Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Astound 5G wifi have increased the speed from my previous internet. I was very happy with the promotion price at $39.99 but when my contract expired my payments doubled. With the spottiness and occasional dropped connections each month, I don't see the value I am paying for.
L
Lynfrom Somerville, MA
Astound Broadband Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
I am satisfied with my Astound (formally RCN) service. The signal is consistent. I have no suggestions for improvement.
EarthLink
4.2
(5)
5 Star
40%
4 Star
40%
3 Star
20%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
M
Marstonfrom Brooklyn , NY
EarthLink Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 4-4-2023
Earthlink is good internet, but not better than anyone else. I haven't had problems, but I don't expect to have problems.
J
Jerryfrom Elkin, NC
EarthLink Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 3-14-2023
Earthlink has been pretty good for what I use it for. It's a little expensive but not bad
J
J.J.from Dominguez, CA
EarthLink Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 8-29-2022
been an ok provider so far. nothing outstanding, nothing to complain about.
V
Veronica from Macon, GA
EarthLink Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 8-29-2022
Fast internet service, cloud storage
Windstream Communications
4.0
(22)
5 Star
32%
4 Star
45%
3 Star
18%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
5%
D
Dillon from Lexington , SC
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
Service crashes all the time, customer service is not very knowledgeable, I feel like they train them for a day or two and then let them start answering phones after that whether they're ready or not
R
Ricofrom Lexington, KY
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-22-2022
They are too expensive, other than that no issues
A
Anonymous
Windstream Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Windstream has work to be done. Sometimes the internet speed can be consistent but most of the time not so much.
S
Sandrafrom Coweta, OK
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Reliability is terrible, customer service is the worst.
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Endnotes and sources
  1. 2022 Urban Rate Survey – Fixed Broadband Service,” FCC. Accessed 9 December 2022.
  2. Readers’ Choice 2022: Your Favorite ISPs for Any Type of Broadband,” PCMag. Accessed 9 December 2022.
  3. Readers’ Choice 2021: Internet Service Providers,” PCMag. Accessed 9 December 2022.
Endnotes and sources
Endnotes and sources
1. “2022 Urban Rate Survey – Fixed Broadband Service,” FCC. Accessed 17 June 2022.2. “Internet Service Providers,” American Customer Satisfaction Index. Accessed 17 June 2022.3. "Windstream outages reported in the last 24 hours," Downdetector. Accessed 16 December 2022.