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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.