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Cox Communications vs. EarthLink vs. Windstream Communications Internet plan comparison


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Researched by
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Reviewed by
Updated 6/24/24

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Cox
Staff rating
3.6
Customer rating
4.1
(122)

  • Plans starting at $20.00
  • Download speeds up to 2 Gbps
EarthLink brand
Staff rating
4.0
Customer rating
4.2
(5)

  • Plans starting at $59.95
  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
Windstream Communications brand
Staff rating
3.6
Customer rating
4.0
(22)

  • Plans starting at $39.99
  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
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Cox
Staff rating
3.6

Low starting prices and reliable internet speeds

Cox provides a great customer experience and reliable speeds, but you’ll spend more for higher-speed plans, extra data, and add-ons.

What we like

  • Plan variety and options
  • Great customer experience
  • Generous, unthrottled data cap
What we dislike

  • Expensive plans
  • Steep data overages
  • So-so availability
Savings tip: Cox often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
EarthLink brand
Staff rating
4.0

Earthlink offers amazing customer experience at slightly more cost

If you're willing to pay a little bit more for an exceptional customer experience, EarthLink may be the right choice for your Internet service. EarthLink is an interesting Internet 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 slightly higher prices, but EarthLink's superior customer experience delivers true value and peace of mind.

What we like

  • Wide availability
  • Amazing customer service
  • No price hikes
What we dislike

  • Premium prices
  • Plans vary greatly by area
Savings tip: EarthLink often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Windstream Communications brand
Staff rating
3.6

Great rural internet provider, with some room to improve on customer service

Kinetic by Windstream aims to bring better internet to rural and remote areas. While it offers one of the best values in internet service anywhere, it’s hampered by a mediocre customer experience.

What we like

  • Good rural coverage
  • No data caps
  • No contracts
What we dislike

  • Limited fiber availability
  • So-so customer service
Savings tip: Windstream Communications often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Cox
Value
3.0
Good budget plans, but you’ll pay high prices for top speeds

Cox plans range from around $0.60/Mbps for low-speed plans to around $0.10/Mbps for the fastest plan, which is more expensive than other cable internet providers. The good news? Cox has more lower-speed plan options, so if your internet budget tops out at $50 a month, Cox might be your new best friend. At speeds of 200 Mbps and above, however, Cox loses the price war.

What you get for the money is pretty good. All plans have a 1.25 TB data cap (unless you pay an extra $50 per month for unlimited), but that’s more than most people need. And unlike providers where unlimited comes standard, Cox won’t throttle your speed if you get a little data-hungry. Just beware of overage charges (which can really add up) if you go over the limit.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Cox's website
or call 1-844-719-0028 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
EarthLink brand
Value
5.0
High value and superior customer experience

You often get what you pay for, and that's the case with EarthLink. Although EarthLink offers slightly higher pricing, you get value for your dollar, and you may even end up paying less than you would with competitors in the long-run.

There’s no getting around it: EarthLink's face-value prices are almost always higher than the competition. Although, depending on the area you're in, the difference can be as little as a few dollars per month. EarthLink's slightly elevated price tag equates to some of the best customer service from an internet provider.

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 EarthLink uses their infrastructure. This costs EarthLink money, and some of this naturally gets passed down to customers. In return, you’re promised a superior customer experience.

The other reason that EarthLink may offer slightly higher prices: it skips the introductory promotional pricing most internet service providers 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 that introductory period, the price may increase (sometimes dramatically). EarthLink doesn’t do this, which is a plus in our book. It means that EarthLink pricing is straightforward, without any hidden fees, complicated pricing structures, or gimmicks. This also means EarthLink may end up being slightly less expensive in the long-run if you intend to keep it for a couple of years.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
EarthLink's website
or call 1-833-804-4930 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Windstream Communications brand
Value
3.5
Kinetic by Windstream is one of the best values in internet service today

Windstream’s Kinetic internet service offers a surprisingly strong value. Prices are competitive—in fact, the 1 gig plan ties Google Fiber as the most affordable option we’ve seen for gigabit download speed. They both cost just over 50% of the national benchmark for similar plans (1).

The advertised prices are for a 12-month introductory period and will increase in the range of about $15 after the first year. This practice of second-year price hikes used to be the norm, but the best fiber internet providers we review have abandoned the practice.

Overall, Windstream represents one of the best values in home internet if you can get fiber. It's also a good deal if you can get only DSL, but your speeds will be much slower.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Windstream Communications's website
or call 1-833-970-0802 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Cox
Performance
4.5
Speeds are very reliable, but expect minor slowdowns at peak times

Generally, Cox delivers the speeds it says it does, sometimes even a bit higher—though the speed you experience also depends on lots of factors, such as the equipment you’re using and your distance from the router.

Cox specializes in cable internet, which is faster than DSL and satellite, but slower and less reliable than fiber. It’s also typically cheaper and more reliable than wireless internet. The US Federal Communication Commission, in fact, says actual speeds from Cox are faster than advertised and nearly identical to competitor Optimum. Those speeds are stable, too. The report found slowdowns less than 5% of the time. (1) However, cable internet is known to be slower during peak usage times because you and your neighbors are all using the same street lines.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-844-719-0028 to speak with a Cox rep or
go to its website.
EarthLink brand
Performance
4.0
Solid performance and fast speeds, but depends on area

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.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-804-4930 to speak with a EarthLink rep or
go to its website.
Windstream Communications brand
Performance
5.0
Excellent performance for rural internet, particularly compared to competitors

Kinetic by Windstream is a fiber and DSL internet service. Normally, that would mean two sides to the performance story—excellent speed, reliability, and consistency with fiber, and then DSL. That’s technically true of Windstream, but there’s a big “but” to consider.

The “but” is that Windstream is primarily targeted at rural areas, where other internet options may be limited to satellite or even dial-up (yes, that’s still a thing). In these markets, the Kinetic service can actually be a breath of fresh air—including its DSL. Plus, there are no data caps to worry about, which is a major limitation with satellite. Finally, the fiber performance is excellent, with speeds up to 2 gigs.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-970-0802 to speak with a Windstream Communications rep or
go to its website.
Cox
Equipment and installation
3.5
Rent a Gateway or bring your own networking equipment

Cox’s Panoramic Wi-Fi Gateway ($13/month to rent) is a modem and router in one, and you can purchase (but not rent) additional Wi-Fi pods ($129.99 each) that plug into a regular power outlet to reduce dead spots in your home. Because these pods can be used only with Cox, they're only an ideal solution if you plan to be with Cox for several years. The good news is Cox is also compatible with tons of other modems and routers, so you could save a few bucks while using your own gear.

With Cox, a self-installation kit is free. But if getting set up on your own makes you sweat, a Cox professional can install it for $100... but that installation cost goes up if your home isn’t already wired up and ready to go. They’ll ensure cabling makes it from the street into your home, but you might need to hire a contractor or handyman to run wires to a specific room.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Cox plans
available in your area.
View plans
EarthLink brand
Equipment and Installation
2.5
Reasonably priced equipment, but varies by area

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.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
EarthLink plans
available in your area.
View plans
Windstream Communications brand
Equipment and installation
3.5
Misleading installation costs, but otherwise a decent experience

Windstream charges a pretty standard $10–$12 per month for equipment rental if you are in its fiber service area. This gets you a very usable wireless gateway.

If you are in a DSL area, you'll be charged a $10 monthly modem fee but will also need a router. You can technically bring your own equipment, but Windstream officially supports a very limited number of modems, so it might be easier just to rent one.

The Windstream professional installation fee seems very reasonable at first—just $35 (or free, with some promotions). However, there’s a $50 activation fee on your first bill that brings it more in line with other providers. If you need a phone jack installed, you’ll be charged another $65 on top of the other fees. Ouch.

You can install your DSL connection for free if you're home is already wired correctly, and online instructions make it a breeze.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Windstream Communications plans
available in your area.
View plans
Cox
Customer experience
3.5
Decent customer service, and you can pay for extra tech help

Reviews for internet service providers are notoriously low in general, but Cox does pretty well according to our real customer reviews. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) ranks Cox ninth in customer satisfaction among internet service providers—the same as Frontier. (2) That's lower than average, but not by much.

We think Cox’s 30-day, no hassle money-back guarantee is solid. And in our own experience with Cox, we've had solid customer service interactions. If you opt for self-installation, you can still get plenty of help online or by phone if needed. But if you use your own gear or technology isn’t your thing, $10/month will get you extra help, day or night, for things like malware removal, software installation and reconfiguration, and general troubleshooting.

Visit Cox's website
or call 1-844-719-0028 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
EarthLink brand
Customer Experience
4.5
EarthLink provides a surprisingly exceptional customer service.

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 slightly 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 in some places, customer service is handled by the end provider instead, resulting in worse customer service.

Visit EarthLink's website
or call 1-833-804-4930 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
Windstream Communications brand
Customer experience
2.5
Windstream’s otherwise-good service is brought down by lackluster customer service

The customer experience with Windstream leaves something to be desired. The provider ranks low in independent industry benchmarks like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (2), with a score of 62 out of 100. This is slightly below the industry average of 64.

Customer reviews of Windstream are generally mixed, with some pointing out that since they are often the only decent choice in an area, they try to get away with the bare minimum customer service. Customers also complain about frequent outages that sometimes last for days (3). That said, if your only other option is satellite internet (with its high prices and higher latency), it may be worth dealing with less-than-stellar customer service.

Visit Windstream Communications's website
or call 1-833-970-0802 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
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Cox Communications
4.1
(122)
5 Star
43%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
21%
2 Star
2%
1 Star
1%
M
Michaelfrom Las Vegas, NV
Cox Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
been with cox for quire a few years. service is ok
C
Cindyfrom Virginia Beach, VA
Cox Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
My review for Cox is a pleasant experience overall. Sometimes the reliability and speed is not consistent. This makes me long for a more reliable service.
T
Tiffaniefrom Las Vegas, NV
Cox Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
the value of cox i would say is just decent. they do not go above and beyond like they use to but its okay. the speed is hit or miss. and honestly its not very reliable as we always are having connectivity isuues. its crap to keep it sweet
M
Matthewfrom Alexandria, VA
Cox Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Cox has been very reliable over the past 18 months. The technician who came to my house was friendly and good at his job. I would love if their prices were a little lower, especially for cable.
EarthLink
4.2
(5)
5 Star
40%
4 Star
40%
3 Star
20%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
M
Marstonfrom Brooklyn , NY
EarthLink Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 4-4-2023
Earthlink is good internet, but not better than anyone else. I haven't had problems, but I don't expect to have problems.
J
Jerryfrom Elkin, NC
EarthLink Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 3-14-2023
Earthlink has been pretty good for what I use it for. It's a little expensive but not bad
J
J.J.from Dominguez, CA
EarthLink Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 8-29-2022
been an ok provider so far. nothing outstanding, nothing to complain about.
V
Veronica from Macon, GA
EarthLink Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 8-29-2022
Fast internet service, cloud storage
Windstream Communications
4.0
(22)
5 Star
32%
4 Star
45%
3 Star
18%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
5%
D
Dillon from Lexington , SC
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
Service crashes all the time, customer service is not very knowledgeable, I feel like they train them for a day or two and then let them start answering phones after that whether they're ready or not
R
Ricofrom Lexington, KY
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-22-2022
They are too expensive, other than that no issues
A
Anonymous
Windstream Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Windstream has work to be done. Sometimes the internet speed can be consistent but most of the time not so much.
S
Sandrafrom Coweta, OK
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Reliability is terrible, customer service is the worst.
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Endnotes and sources
  1. "Measuring Fixed Broadband - Tenth Report," FCC. Accessed 5 August 2022.
  2. Internet Service Providers,” ASCI. Accessed 7 December 2022.
Endnotes and sources
Endnotes and sources
1. “2022 Urban Rate Survey – Fixed Broadband Service,” FCC. Accessed 17 June 2022.2. “Internet Service Providers,” American Customer Satisfaction Index. Accessed 17 June 2022.3. "Windstream outages reported in the last 24 hours," Downdetector. Accessed 16 December 2022.