We were extremely impressed with Brightspeed’s prices—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal on gigabit fiber internet. While its fiber coverage area is growing, it currently remains very small. Plus, it's a brand-new provider so there are still a lot of unknowns.
Hawaiian Telcom packs a lot of value into its plans, but it may not be fast enough for large families who do a ton of streaming or uploading. Opt for a short contract if available because paying out half of a two- or three-year commitment here will hurt!
Brightspeed is slowly building out a fiber network that offers a pretty great value at $65 per month for up to 940 Mbps. That’s just 7 cents per Mbps, which puts it right in line with top fiber providers like AT&T. Unfortunately, this fiber service is still not widely available.
Because Brightspeed’s fiber footprint is still fairly small, the vast majority of Brightspeed’s current service offerings are DSL. That means that you’re going to pay more money for less speed—it’s just the nature of the DSL beast.
The upshot is that Brightspeed’s DSL prices are actually pretty competitive, starting at $50 per month. With advertised speeds of up to 140 Mbps (but often lower, depending on where you live), that puts the provider at about 36 cents per Mbps. This, of course, falls far short of most cable and fiber providers.
Learn more about the differences between fiber and DSL internet.
Hawaiian Telcom internet provides a ton of value no matter which plan you buy, but some plans offer more value than others. If fiber is available in your area, you can get 940 Mbps for around 56% of the national benchmark price. (1) Lower speeds (those as low as 11 Mbps with a DSL connection) cost as little as a third of the national benchmark.
Hawaiian has its flaws. You may not have access to its fiber infrastructure (yet), even if it's installed in your neighborhood. We've heard of wait times of several months. Then, even its fiber speeds aren’t as fast as technology allows. If you try to end your contract early, you’ll pay for that—big time. You may also see hefty price hikes in year two—some of the biggest we've seen, in fact.
But when you consider the great service you’ll receive, low-cost equipment and installation, and a refreshing lack of hidden fees at checkout, Hawaiian Telcom gives you one more way to make your mainlander friends envy your island life.
Impressive is definitely the right word to describe Brightspeed’s performance. The fiber service is excellent, with symmetrical speeds up to 940 Mbps. Symmetrical speed means the upload and download speeds are equal, which makes for much better overall performance compared to typical services where upload is significantly slower.
The DSL service is competitive with most other DSL providers, and seems to be fairly reliable—although we have heard some complaints of outages and interruptions. That said, it is DSL, so you’re only going to get limited speeds.
Our main concern with Brightspeed’s performance is simply how new the company is. It hasn’t had a chance to prove itself yet, and there may be growing pains as it builds out its fiber network. That said, we don’t expect many issues with DSL, since Brightspeed basically inherited the infrastructure directly from CenturyLink.
Hawaiian Telcom uses an infrastructure of fiber, cable, and DSL. About 215,000 homes and businesses have access to Hawaiian’s fiber network. (2) That accounts for about half of Hawaiian's infrastructure, (3) which is impressive for a small provider. The other half is mostly DSL mixed with a bit of cable, which don't perform as well. The good news is Hawaiian is replacing its legacy cable and DSL lines, so if you don’t have access to its fiber network yet, you probably will within a few years.
Brightspeed installation is relatively straightforward. The professional installation has a $99 fee attached, which is pretty standard, but self-installation is free. You’ll probably have to go for the pro install with a fiber plan, since you’ll need an optical network terminal (ONT) installed.
For DSL service, you have a choice of professional installation or self-installation, though you can only self-install DSL service if you already have a phone jack in your home. If you don’t, a technician will have to come out and add one.
The equipment is also straightforward. You get a basic wireless gateway (a combination modem and router) that’ll get you online and handle the speeds for your plan. There are none of the mesh systems and other fancy extras some providers offer, but it’ll do the job. Equipment rental will run you $15 per month, which is fairly standard.
That’s kind of the theme with Brightspeed’s equipment and installation process. There’s nothing bad or out of the ordinary, but there’s also nothing particularly interesting or exciting about it.
Hawaiian Telcom charges a moderate $9.99 to use its modem. You could use your own modem to save money, but you won’t be able to add Hawaiian’s Whole Home Wi-Fi or upgrade your service to Premier Value, Hawaiian’s tech plan. If you do go with Hawaiian’s modem, you can also rent between one and three Google Wi-Fi pods for just $7 per month total. Unless you live in a McMansion (more than 4,500 sq. ft.), you shouldn’t have any dead spots. Some of our top providers don't charge rental fees, and we would like to see Hawaiian Telcom follow suit, but we still love these low rates.
Both self-installation and professional installation are free, but you may need to cover a $34.99 activation fee (waived during some promotions). That’s steeper than most activation fees, but since professional installation usually costs $75 or more, you’ll still save a ton—and not have to worry about setting it up yourself. Plus, if you have a professional install your internet, they will repair any damaged wiring at no cost.
If one area will make or break Brightspeed, it’s customer experience. The provider got its start by acquiring a large number of DSL markets from CenturyLink, so a lot of customers had their internet service transition from one provider to another. A sudden shift in customer experience here could have been really bad.
Opinions of the service are quite mixed so far. Some customers seem to be having a fine experience, with no noticeable change from how things were with CenturyLink. Others have had a rockier transition, with major complaints about speed and customer service.
These types of reports may give you pause, but since the provider is new and the transition from CenturyLink is still happening, things may improve.
We love that you can get started for around $35 and that the tech will automatically repair wiring if needed. But if you want additional technical support, you'll need for Hawaiian’s rather pricy Premier Value upgrade ($15.99 per month for two years). With it, a technician can help you with wire maintenance and Wi-Fi optimization, internet security for up to 10 devices, and priority for technician appointments. But we'd probably skip it at this price tag.
Unfortunately, many customers report problems with billing and customer service. If you go with Hawaiian, check your bill carefully and be prepared to sit on hold if you call in with issues.