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.
Mediacom offers a decent overall experience, with fast speeds and modern Wi-Fi gear. However, big rate hikes, a hefty installation cost, and lots of small fees bring the rating down.
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.
Rating Mediacom’s value requires a long-term mindset. When you first sign up, the prices are extremely low—possibly the best on the market. Some come in at just 20% of the national benchmark, if you opt for paperless billing and autopay (1). However, each year, your cost gradually increases until it reaches a “standard value” (usually after three years). These prices are less exciting: you’ll end up paying roughly double what you initially signed up for. Depending on the length of your contract term, you may be able to jump ship before the price gets too high, but this might be too much effort for some.
Now, to be fair, many internet service providers (ISPs) do this (with a few notable exceptions, like CenturyLink). Mediacom is also pretty transparent about these price hikes and when you can expect them. However, the low starting prices here make the increases feel worse than they are, and that’s not great.
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.
We have no major complaints about Mediacom’s performance. There’s a range of plans available (up to 1 Gbps), so you can find something to suit whatever your needs are. We do have a couple of small gripes, though.
First, there are data caps on all internet plans, with no unlimited data option. The lowest-tier package has a cap of just 350 GB, which is pretty harsh, given the average person uses 536 GB per month (2). The middle-tier internet plans have 1.5 and 3 TB limits, and that's better—this should be plenty for most users and is in line with most other providers that have data caps.
The 1 Gbps plan bumps data caps up to 6 TB, which is effectively unlimited for most use cases, although a household streaming in 4K could theoretically max this one out, too. Going over the cap costs $10 per 50 GB, which, again, is in line with other providers charging overage fees.
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.
Mediacom offers a home networking combo called Xtream WiFi360pro. It uses a cable modem and eero Pro 6 mesh routers to ensure coverage over your whole house. The cost is $10 per month for a pair of routers, and you can add additional units for $6 each if needed.
Installation is less exciting. A professional installation and an activation fee will cost you around $120 total, and there’s no option to do it yourself. The fees can sometimes be waived with certain promotions—we recommend shopping around for one or asking a sales rep because these are steep.
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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.
The Mediacom customer experience is decent overall. The provider scores a bit below average on customer satisfaction surveys like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (3), but overall, the service itself is fine. Speeds are solid and reliable, the Wi-Fi equipment is good, and the prices are competitive (at least initially).
Our biggest knock against Mediacom is the tremendous amount of small fees the company hits you with. In addition to the equipment and installation fees already mentioned, the company charges one-time fees for activation, early termination of your contract, and “Wi-Fi certification” (whatever that means). There’s a fee every time you have a technician come out for service. All these fees add up and can really sour the experience over time.