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.
Sparklight, formerly known as Cable One, is a cable internet provider primarily serving suburbs and rural areas in over a dozen states. Its no-contract plans offer good download speeds to areas fiber doesn’t often reach, but its data caps aren’t ideal.
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.
Sparklight’s no-contract cable internet plans are generally a decent value compared to other providers available in the communities the company serves. While you might not be able to get fiber in these areas, you’re likely to find DSL, satellite, or other cable internet service providers (ISPs). The speed you get for the price is comparable to other cable providers or a bit cheaper, and the performance surpasses DSL and satellite. All of this means Sparklight’s plans are worth strongly considering if your address is in one of its service areas.
We recommend choosing a Sparklight plan with at least 200 Mbps of download speed, but ideally more if it’s in your budget. Since Sparklight is a cable provider, upload speeds tend to be far below the download speeds. Upload speeds increase with each pricing tier, so if you work from home and have multiple connected devices you may want to pick one of the more expensive plans for seamless video calls.
All of Sparklight’s plans have data caps, except for its most expensive Gig plan. Data caps are typical for cable providers. While some competitors offer data caps over 1 TB for all of their plans, Sparklight’s plans have data caps that range from 100 GB to 1.5 TB. You can get 100 GB blocks of additional data for $10 during months when you need it, or you can upgrade to unlimited data with any plan for an extra $30/month. When calculating your needs, consider that the average person uses 536 GB of data per month (1).
The Gig plan offers the most data for your dollar and the highest speeds, but it’s more expensive than fiber plans with comparable download speeds, at least in some of the service areas. If you don’t want to pay top dollar, the Internet 300 and 500 plans also offer good speeds and high enough data caps for the needs of most households. We wouldn’t recommend the Internet 25 plan because its low speeds and data cap won’t comfortably meet most people’s needs.
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.
Sparklight is available in mostly rural and suburban areas where customers probably won’t be able to get fiber internet. This makes Sparklight’s cable internet speeds the best option in some communities that are otherwise served only by DSL or satellite, which can be slow and unreliable. According to a report from Ookla, Sparklight had the highest download speeds among fixed broadband providers in North Dakota and New Mexico. (2)
Sparklight is a fiber-rich cable provider, meaning it delivers service using a mix of fiber and coaxial cables. While it can achieve download speeds of up to 940 Mbps, its upload speeds are much lower than that, reaching 50 Mbps. This is a technical limitation of cable connections that those with fiber connections won’t experience. While this isn’t ideal for households with several people who want to do heavy gaming or take video calls at the same time, Sparklight’s download and upload speeds are generally still sufficient for most households. And for regular browsing and streaming for multiple users, it's just fine. However, the data caps may hold you back if you’re a heavy internet user. Occasional outages and inconsistent speeds do affect service according to customer reports on Downdetector. (3)
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.
When you sign up for Sparklight internet service, you can call to schedule professional installation or choose self-installation. Both options are reasonably fast according to customer reviews. Professional installation is typically free and can be scheduled at your convenience. There's technically a $90 professional installation fee, but it is waived as part of a "permanent promotion." Self-installation is free and should take about 15 minutes once you receive your equipment in the mail.
You can choose to purchase your own Sparklight-supported modem or lease a modem from Sparklight for just over $10/month, less than some other providers. The installation cost, activation fee, and any equipment deposits may be waived for qualifying new customers.
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, we’ve seen anecdotal complaints of regular price hikes and unreliable service that drops occasionally.
Customer experience with Sparklight is about average compared to other providers. Tech support is available 24/7 by phone or email, and there are plenty of help articles available online. Like most other providers, equipment installation is straightforward whether you have it done professionally or do it yourself.
Common complaints include unplanned outages, inconsistent speeds, and long wait times to reach Sparklight support by phone, according to user reports on Downdetector. (4) If you try Sparklight’s internet service and it doesn’t live up to expectations, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.