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.
This budget internet provider offers DSL, cable, and fiber internet at a low price. However, TDS doesn’t guarantee advertised speeds, and the quality of service will likely vary by location and connection type. If you want the highest speeds, guaranteed speeds, or unlimited data, this might not be the provider for you, but if you can get fiber, it’s worth a look.
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.
TDS’s DSL, cable, and fiber internet range from a superslow 1 Mbps to a superfast 2 Gbps, with over a dozen plans in between. Prices vary by location, but most seem to come in below US benchmarks for comparable broadband speeds (1) and are cheaper than similar plans from Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox.
Our favorite things about TDS prices is that in some locations, we've seen a "price for life" guarantee. That means the price you sign up at is the same price you'll pay as long as you're a customer. Since most providers have significant price hikes after a year or two of service, being able to lock in your price is a huge deal—and a big reason to stick with instead of switching to a different internet company.
We interviewed Marci-Ray, a TDS fiber customer since 2020. In a household with multiple gaming consoles and smart home devices, she’s been very pleased with the reliability and price of the 300 Mbps fiber plan: “For the value of the speed and the price…it’s great. I’m very happy with that.”
Unfortunately, not all TDS customers have had the same experience. We’ve seen some customer complaints about slower-than-advertised speeds, meaning that customers aren’t getting what they paid for, especially on DSL or cable plans. If you opt for a higher plan to account for that (which is what TDS recommends if you don't see the speeds it advertises), you may end up paying more than you would somewhere else for the same speed.
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.
TDS says you could see speeds “up to” your plan’s max, which isn’t uncommon of internet service providers, but TDS seems to get a lot of complaints from customers seeing much lower speeds than advertised. And if you’re not happy with the speeds you’re seeing, TDS’ solution is to switch to a lower-level plan, and it’ll waive its usual $15 fee for switching plans mid-contract. But if you ask us, this feels like an ineffective solution since lower-level plan speeds aren’t guaranteed either. You could end up with even lower speeds, albeit at a lower cost.
If TDS fiber is available in your area, you should see more consistent speeds since fiber-optic technology is more reliable all around. One customer who switched from Spectrum cable service to TDS fiber in the Madison, WI area told us that TDS has been far more reliable for them, with fewer slowdowns and outages.
Depending on your location, your TDS plan might come with unlimited data. Or it might come with a data cap of 500 GB and overage fees if you go over that. This cap is pretty low, considering most people use around 500 GB per month all on their own. Unless you live alone, it won’t be enough. And if you use less than 500 GB, the extra won’t roll over.
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.
TDS offers two equipment options, which you purchase and pay down each month. A standard modem and Wi-Fi router combo is $10/month, and Wi-Fi+ is around $20/month. Wi-Fi+ comes with a modem plus an eero Wi-Fi home base and one mesh extender—all of which should give you 2,500 sq. ft. of signal, which isn’t too bad. (2) TDS recommends adding an extender ($5) for every additional 1,000 feet beyond that. This system comes with a smartphone app that makes managing your Wi-Fi easy.
Self-installation is free and takes about 15 minutes, but it’s available in only some locations. In others, professional installation is required for no additional charge. However, if self-installation is available in your area and you still want professional help, it’ll cost you around $50.
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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.
Like most internet service providers, TDS gets mixed reviews from customers, but overall it seems about average. You’ll get around-the-clock tech support, including phone calls, online chat, and remote internet sessions (during which a technician logs into your computer remotely to troubleshoot your connection).
If you want help with more than your connection, you can pay around $13 per month for a Remote PC Support subscription. With it, you can get help with network security, optimizing your computer, and setting up your devices. Without the subscription, you’ll pay around $50 each time you need these services. If you’re tech savvy, you’ll save a lot by skipping the subscription. But if you think you’ll need help at least once per quarter, the subscription will be cheaper.
When we interviewed a current customer about their experience with TDS customer support, they said that TDS was very responsive, clearly explained what was happening, and fixed connection issues for them without charging for the service.
They were also able to negotiate their internet price back down after their promotional price ended. TDS customer service recommended setting a calendar reminder to call in again each time the promo pricing was close to running out. It’s less convenient than just getting the lower price consistently, but we appreciate the willingness to bring prices back down.
The one downside the customer mentioned was the lack of a dedicated app for managing their service and billing—something many other providers already provide.