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.
Metronet is a growing regional provider that offers value-packed internet service to customers. Its all-fiber network is fast and reasonably priced. Overall, we think Metronet is a solid pick for your next internet provider—if you happen to live in one of its coverage areas.
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.
Smaller, regional internet providers sometimes suffer a little in the value department. Either the pricing is good but the speeds offered aren’t up to snuff, or the speeds are fast but the price is outrageous. Metronet bucks this trend. In fact, the 1 gig plan actually starts out at a lower price than most competitors and less than half the national benchmark for similar plans (1).
You do have the standard rate hikes after the first 6-24 months, however. Competing internet providers sometimes offer small perks that make them more attractive, but Metronet definitely holds its own.
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.
Performance with Metronet is great. There are plans ranging from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps, all of which offer symmetrical upload speeds. This means upload speeds are equal to download speeds—excellent for content creators, streamers, online gamers, and anyone else who shares a lot of large files. Best of all, there are no data caps.
Although some fiber providers have started offering 2 gig and even 5 gig plans, we don't think anyone needs to pay for that much speed (and if you're one of the few who does, you probably already know who you are). Metronet’s 1 gig option will be plenty for most needs, but extremely heavy users who require faster speeds will have to look elsewhere. Find out how much internet speed you need.
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.
Metronet provides all the equipment you need to get started free of charge, including an eero wireless router so you can get online quickly. This is a nice change of pace in an industry that often charges $10–$15 per month for mediocre gear. You do have the option of adding a wireless extender for $10 per month (called WholeHome Wi-Fi), but it isn’t strictly necessary.
More good news concerning installation—while most providers charge between $50 and $100 (or more) for installation, Metronet will bill you only $25. That’s not bad at all. Of course, when installation is a mandatory part of the service, we’d prefer it to be free, but we’ll take what we can get. Plus, all you have to do to receive a $25 installation credit (effectively making it free) is to sign up for automatic billing.
Our only complaint is the lack of any type of self-installation option, so you'll have to set aside a good two to four hours for a technician to come to your house.
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.
Decent value, fast performance, and reasonable equipment and installation costs make for a great experience overall. Metronet also claims to have 24-hour local support, and customers generally seem satisfied with their service.
There is one glaring issue, though: the provider charges a mandatory “technology service fee” of around $10 per month.
Metronet claims this is to cover the cost of service calls, tech visits, and equipment maintenance. However, we don’t see this type of charge from any other provider, and it effectively nullifies the free equipment, so we have mixed feelings.
We've also seen a few complaints from customers who feel like they were being charged more than advertised, but we thought that the price increases and fees were pretty fairly laid out on the website, so just make sure to read the fine print (2).