BendBroadband offers a surprisingly strong internet service to the towns around Bend, Oregon. Despite the occasional customer service issue, we think it’s one of the most compelling options in the area.
Local internet service providers (ISPs) sometimes lack a certain something. They might be expensive or fail to reach the speeds of national providers. Omni Fiber wants to buck that trend with speedy internet at an affordable price and the promise of local customer service, but can it deliver? Spoiler alert—yes, it seems it can.
BendBroadband looks like a local brand, but it's actually owned by TDS, which services over 1,000 communities across the country(1). Still, it offers a surprisingly strong value proposition. BendBroadband's plans are competitively priced, there are no contracts required, and the installation and equipment fees are reasonable. Taken together, it feels like you get your money’s worth, which is ultimately the most important thing when assessing value.
Our one knock here is that there’s no true budget plan available for those who don’t need 300+ Mbps internet. For single-person households, 100 Mbps is often plenty fast, so this could be a drawback if you live alone—or with a couple of people who don't stream a lot or work from home.
Omni Fiber offers excellent value. All three plans are competitively priced—the 1 gig plan is on par with the most affordable options we’ve reviewed, and the 2 gig plan is actually the most affordable plan of this speed we’ve seen from any provider. In addition to the low package prices, you also get equipment included at no extra cost, which further increases the value of the service.
Performance-wise, BendBroadband holds its own against competing internet service providers. There are plans available ranging from 300 Mbps to 1 Gbps, and reports indicate that the service is reliable. If we had to knock BendBroadband for anything performance-wise, it would be a lack of speeds above 1 Gbps—some cable competitors are offering up to 2 Gbps speeds, and we’d like to see the same from BendBroadband. These faster speeds can be useful for customers who download a large number of media files or frequently watch multiple concurrent 4K streams, for example. There are also data caps to be aware of, with overage charges up to $30 per month.
Omni Fiber performance is outstanding. Speeds are fast, with plans ranging from 500 Mbps to 2 Gbps. All three plans feature symmetrical upload speeds, which means the upload speeds are equal to the download speeds—this makes a huge difference for sharing content, particularly large files like videos. For reference, a typical upload speed for a cable provider is one tenth of the download speed (and often quite a bit lower). Finally, all Omni Fiber customers get unlimited data, which is a big thumbs up in our book.
BendBroadband has jumped on the mesh network bandwagon and offers what it calls TDS Wi-Fi+. For those unfamiliar with the term, a mesh network is a system of multiple wireless routers that help spread your network over a larger area without losing signal strength. The result is fuller coverage of your entire home, with no weird dead spots or dropped connections. It’s often a big improvement on traditional single-router setups.
The TDS Wi-Fi+ set up is about $15 per month, plus $5 per month for each additional extender you need (most homes should be fine with the default). Customers can opt for a cheaper, standard equipment setup for $10 per month. However, many customers report problems with this router and opt to get their own(2).
BendBroadband also offers options for installation. You can opt for a free self-install kit. Or you can choose professional installation for around $50, which is one of the lower installation fees we’ve seen. In areas that aren’t eligible for self-install, the professional fee is waived, so it won’t cost you anything to get set up.
Omni Fiber’s equipment is fairly standard. The provider offers two choices: a standard gateway that’s free of charge, and a Whole Home Wi-Fi gateway you can upgrade to. The standard version, which Omni confusingly calls “premium Wi-Fi,” is a standard Wi-Fi modem and router, while the Whole Home version uses extenders to cover larger areas. It’s recommended for homes larger than about 2,000 square feet.
Mesh networks tend to work a little better than Wi-Fi extenders, but we still think the Omni Fiber system will be adequate for most homes. If you want to use your own equipment, you'll need to make sure it's compatible with a fiber connection but either way, there's no extra charge!
Omni Fiber also gets high marks for installation. There is no installation fee or other cost involved, and the technician will ensure your equipment is properly placed to cover as much of your home as possible. The only potential concern is that Omni Fiber is still building out its infrastructure, so—depending on where you live—there may be some additional construction involved.
Living with BendBroadband has its ups and downs. The day-to-day experience is solid for most customers, and the speeds seem to be consistent with what’s advertised. However, a few customers complain about regular price hikes and unreliable service that drops occasionally. Some customers also report poor customer service over the phone.
Because BendBroad is now owned by TDS, we would expect some changes in customer service moving forward. However, TDS rates about the same for customer service as Bend, so you may experience different issues and still feel the overall level of satisfaction.
If there’s an area to be cautious with Omni Fiber, it’s customer experience. The provider promises personal, local customer support and service to its subscribers. However, remember that this is a relatively small company that is still building and growing. Omni also doesn’t have the same resources as national companies when it comes to providing support—for example, there’s no chat option yet.
On the other hand, local customer service certainly sounds better than the automated and outsourced support many large providers offer. Omni Fiber also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is promising.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that Omni Fiber is a very new company. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, there could be growing pains. Issues like billing problems or service outages could crop up as the company gets its infrastructure sorted out.
Omni Fiber will be available first in the Ohio towns of Clyde, Dover, and Shelby. It plans to expand to small and mid-size markets in the Midwest "as quickly as possible," CEO Darrick Zucco said in a press release in August of 2022. (1)
The company, founded in 2022, has not yet been studied by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in either its annual performance tests (2) or its rate study (3).