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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As an Amazon Associate, Switchful.com may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.
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.
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.
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.