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.
The story of Frontier internet is one of two services: a slow and expensive DSL network and a fast and affordable fiber network. Which one you get makes all the difference.
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.
Frontier offers two types of internet service: fiber and DSL. That means there are two sides to the Frontier value equation. Frontier fiber service is generally an excellent value—you can get 500 Mbps for around $50 per month or 1 gig for around $75, both of which are excellent prices well below the national benchmark for similar plans. (1) If you go for 2 gigs or even the newly available 5 gig plan, you'll pay quite a bit every month but enjoy excellent reliability and super fast speeds. If you go for 5 gigs, free tech support is included.
On the other hand, Frontier’s DSL plan is not nearly so exciting. It is around $50 per month for up to 115 Mbps, but the actual speed varies heavily with the specific area you’re in. Many places won’t see anywhere near 115 Mbps, but even if you do have that speed available, it’s not great for the price. There's also a required $85 installation charge. The good news, though, is that Frontier guarantees its DSL pricing for two years and doesn't require you to sign a contract.
To be fair, DSL service is almost always a poor value for money—it’s not unique to Frontier. And unlike some other combined fiber and internet providers, Frontier offers fiber in a good portion of its coverage area. (4)
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.
Frontier continues the tale of two in the performance department. The DSL service caps out at a fairly slow 115 Mbps, and that’s only in certain areas. While that’s sufficient for many day-to-day activities and light streaming, larger families or those who want to stream in HD may be left wanting more.
On the flip side, the fiber service is predictably excellent, with speeds up to 2,000 Mbps and no data caps to limit you. In fact, Frontier's fiber plans are some of the fastest, according to PCMag (2). The service has the fastest ping of any provider, according and a study by the FCC (3), and it's neck and neck with the competition in terms of speed and reliability. These fiber plans also offer symmetrical speeds, which means the upload speed is equal to the download speed. This is handy if you upload or share a lot of large files, and it tends to be unique to fiber.
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.
Frontier redeems itself in a big way when it comes to equipment and installation. If you have Frontier's DSL internet, the equipment itself is fairly standard. It works, but it doesn't look great on a desk and the capabilities are limited. It's free, which is nice, but you might still want to use your own gear if you need more control over which devices on your network get bandwidth priority. DSL installation costs $85, and there's no self-install option.
If you have fiber internet from Frontier, you're in luck! You get free rental of an eero 6 on the Fiber 1 Gig plan or an eero6E mesh Wi-Fi system, on the Fiber 2 Gig plan. If you have the 5 Gig plan, you'll get the TP-Link AXE300 6E with an optional TP-Link RE815XE Wi-Fi extender for an extra $10 per month. You could still technically use your own gear, but it's hard to do any better than the latest and greatest from eero and TP-Link.
If you're eligible, you may be able to get a Frontier self-install kit—otherwise, a professional will come to your house to install the internet for you. If you need a pro to come out, you'll be charged $50 on your first bill. Cancelation is also free, but some customers are charged a $20 restocking fee for rented fiber gear and a $50 restocking fee on DSL gear.
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.
The Frontier customer experience is a mixed bag. The service itself is fairly reliable—especially the fiber. The DSL service is relatively stable, but more prone to slowdowns during heavy traffic times (like the evening). We’ve also seen some reports online of speeds that are inconsistent with what’s advertised, so keep that in mind.
Frontier has also received very low scores in customer satisfaction from organizations like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). (3) The provider ranked second-worst in overall satisfaction in the most recent surveys, falling well below average. The complaints we’ve seen point generally to a broad pattern of poor customer service, so if that’s a key factor in your choice of provider, you might want to steer clear until Frontier can sort out its issues.
Unlike most internet service providers, the only way to order internet service is to call in. It works okay for most people, but some folks love the convenience of handling everything without having to deal with phone trees, wait on hold, or talk to a live human. At least the hold music is nice, though, and you can enter info via text message!