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.
Mediacom offers a decent overall experience, with fast speeds and modern Wi-Fi gear. However, big rate hikes, a hefty installation cost, and lots of small fees bring the rating down.
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.
Rating Mediacom’s value requires a long-term mindset. When you first sign up, the prices are extremely low—possibly the best on the market. Some come in at just 20% of the national benchmark, if you opt for paperless billing and autopay (1). However, each year, your cost gradually increases until it reaches a “standard value” (usually after three years). These prices are less exciting: you’ll end up paying roughly double what you initially signed up for. Depending on the length of your contract term, you may be able to jump ship before the price gets too high, but this might be too much effort for some.
Now, to be fair, many internet service providers (ISPs) do this (with a few notable exceptions, like CenturyLink). Mediacom is also pretty transparent about these price hikes and when you can expect them. However, the low starting prices here make the increases feel worse than they are, and that’s not great.
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.
We have no major complaints about Mediacom’s performance. There’s a range of plans available (up to 1 Gbps), so you can find something to suit whatever your needs are. We do have a couple of small gripes, though.
First, there are data caps on all internet plans, with no unlimited data option. The lowest-tier package has a cap of just 350 GB, which is pretty harsh, given the average person uses 536 GB per month (2). The middle-tier internet plans have 1.5 and 3 TB limits, and that's better—this should be plenty for most users and is in line with most other providers that have data caps.
The 1 Gbps plan bumps data caps up to 6 TB, which is effectively unlimited for most use cases, although a household streaming in 4K could theoretically max this one out, too. Going over the cap costs $10 per 50 GB, which, again, is in line with other providers charging overage fees.
Our other gripe is that there are no plans faster than 1 gig. In a world where internet providers are increasingly offering 2 gig and even 5 gig plans, we’d love to see Mediacom do the same. Admittedly, though, 1 gig should be plenty for all but the heaviest of users.
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.
Mediacom offers a home networking combo called Xtream WiFi360pro. It uses a cable modem and eero Pro 6 mesh routers to ensure coverage over your whole house. The cost is $10 per month for a pair of routers, and you can add additional units for $6 each if needed.
Installation is less exciting. A professional installation and an activation fee will cost you around $120 total, and there’s no option to do it yourself. The fees can sometimes be waived with certain promotions—we recommend shopping around for one or asking a sales rep because these are steep.
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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 Mediacom customer experience is decent overall. The provider scores a bit below average on customer satisfaction surveys like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (3), but overall, the service itself is fine. Speeds are solid and reliable, the Wi-Fi equipment is good, and the prices are competitive (at least initially).
Our biggest knock against Mediacom is the tremendous amount of small fees the company hits you with. In addition to the equipment and installation fees already mentioned, the company charges one-time fees for activation, early termination of your contract, and “Wi-Fi certification” (whatever that means). There’s a fee every time you have a technician come out for service. All these fees add up and can really sour the experience over time.