Overall, we like Clearwave Fiber. It’s a speedy fiber provider with decent pricing and good customer service. Our main complaint is that it’s just not as competitive on the pricing as it could be. In general, though, we think people will be happy with Clearwave Fiber.
EarthLink is an interesting provider. Instead of serving internet through its own infrastructure, it partners with other internet providers to repackage their service, acting as a go-between. This means higher prices, but a reputation for great customer service might make EarthLink worth it.
Clearwave Fiber fares decently overall in the value department, in large part because fiber just tends to be a good value. With faster plans, like Fiber 1 Gig, Clearwave is competitive and the performance is excellent. This package offers 11.75 Mbps per dollar spent, compared to the Fiber 500 plan at 6.67 Mbps per dollar. Although the latter is cheaper per month, you can clearly see how you get more for each dollar spent with the top-tier plan.
However, compared to competitors like AT&T, Clearwave is definitely more expensive. This difference is more pronounced with the lower-tier packages, where you get a lot more for your money with other providers.
It’s not all bad news, however. You do get unlimited data on all the plans by default—some providers, notably Xfinity, charge quite a lot for this. The equipment costs are also low, at $10 per month.
Additionally, while the price does increase after 12 months, the bump is relatively small at just $15 per month. Clearwave is very up front about this, which is a refreshing change—normally we have to dig to find out how much a plan’s price will increase after promotional periods end.
There’s no getting around it: EarthLink prices are almost always higher than the competition. Depending on the area, the difference can be as little as a few dollars per month, but it’s still there. That said, there are actually legitimate reasons for this.
First, EarthLink doesn’t actually have its own internet infrastructure. Instead, it partners with other local DSL and fiber internet providers, like AT&T and Frontier, and uses their infrastructure. This costs EarthLink money, and some of this naturally gets passed down to customers. In return, you’re promised a better customer experience.
The other reason is that EarthLink skips the usual promotional pricing most ISPs advertise. For example, when AT&T or Spectrum quote you a price, it’s often for an introductory period of 12 or 24 months, after which that price may increase (sometimes dramatically). EarthLink doesn’t do this, which is a plus in our book. This also means EarthLink may end up slightly less expensive if you intend to keep it for a couple of years.
Clearwave Fiber does better in the performance department. Speeds are fast—up to 1 Gbps—and all the fiber plans offer symmetrical speeds. This means the download and upload speeds are the same.
With something like cable your upload is normally about 10% of your download speed, if that. This helps a lot with live streaming, video calls, and sharing large files like videos.
As for reliability, fiber is generally pretty solid. However, Clearwave is a newer company, so it’s hard to say how well the service will hold up. Here’s what we can say: in some markets, Clearwave has taken over Hargray’s fiber services, which we have found to be somewhat unreliable in the past. Hopefully Clearwave makes improvements for customers going forward.
EarthLink's performance is tough to rate. Because it is essentially reselling other providers’ services, the speed and reliability are highly dependent on which partners it uses in a given area.
That said, performance is generally good, and there are a wide range of high-speed internet plans available in most areas, so you can get exactly how much you need—up to 5 gigs in some places. Much of the service is fiber, which means performance is reliably consistent. Best of all, every plan has unlimited data, so whatever speed you opt for, you can use it without worry.
Clearwave Fiber offers what it calls the Clearwave Fiber Router. Combined with a whole-home Wi-Fi system and a smartphone app, customers are promised wall-to-wall coverage and a slew of features to help make the experience better. These include individual profiles for people and rooms, bandwidth tests, guest networks, and parental controls. That’s a pretty solid package for $10 per month.
Installation is the typical fiber deal—you’ll need a tech to come out and install the Optical Network Terminal (ONT), which is basically the modem for your fiber network. After that, you can either use Clearwave’s router or bring your own. There’s a $99 installation fee, which is pretty standard.
This is another category that’s tough to rate. Since EarthLink partners with other internet service providers (ISPs) to provide service, it doesn’t actually issue its own equipment. Instead, you’ll get equipment from whichever partner EarthLink uses in your area. The good news is that EarthLink does set the fees, and they’re reasonable: $9.95 per month.
It’s a similar story for installation—your service will be installed and set up by a rep from the partner company, not EarthLink itself. The installation fee is $79.95, which isn’t the highest we’ve seen. That said, we’d rather see installation included in the price, particularly since EarthLink’s overall prices tend to be on the high side. Self-install is available only in some service areas.
Since Clearwave is fairly new, the customer experience is a bit of a question mark. We’ve not seen a ton of user comments about the provider, but the few we have seen have been generally positive, citing good reliability, lack of data caps, and local customer support. This includes both former Hargray customers as well as new Clearwave customers.
Additionally, while the company’s website lacks self-help options, we chatted with customer service reps several times and were able to consistently get a response within a minute or two. The reps were direct, helpful, and friendly, and we appreciated the speed of the responses.
Customer service is where EarthLink really shines. The company claims to prioritize customer service and experience, and users seem to agree. The company actually ranks first in some user-driven surveys of internet satisfaction, beating out providers like AT&T and Verizon despite the higher prices.
From a practical standpoint, it seems that EarthLink representatives are friendlier, more helpful, and more knowledgeable than those we’ve dealt with at other companies. However, we've seen reports that some customers don't get the Earthlink customer experience. In some places, customer service is handled by the end provider instead.