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.
If you can get fiber internet from Optimum , you'll get great all-around service with fast speeds and reasonable pricing. If you can get only cable internet, you'll get slower max speeds and may see different pricing. Both options are decent, but watch out for third-year price hikes and potential customer service hassles.
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.
Optimum offers a lot for the money. Both fiber and cable internet plans start at 300 Mbps, with a very competitive price that beats the entry-level plan for competitor Spectrum and is way less than national benchmarks (1). That's plenty fast for most online gaming and work from home needs, but you can pay for even higher speeds if you have a big household.
Compared to the competition, the two lower-tier plans almost always offer more speed for the money. And while you can technically find cheaper gig plans, Optimum still tends to be the most affordable in its markets.
If you qualify only for cable internet with Optimum, your speeds will be slower but you'll pay about the same every month. Prices are higher than other cable internet providers at these speeds, but you may not have a choice. Most areas that don't have fiber internet won't have multiple cable internet options.
We love the low starting prices, 2-year price lock, and 60-day money back guarantee, but you can expect prices to jump $35–$85 in your third year of service.
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.
Optimum performance is solid. With speeds up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps), there’s enough bandwidth available for even the heaviest of streaming households. Even the lowest-tier plans offer plenty of speed for most use cases. The cable service is generally very reliable, as well, and usually even faster than advertised, with better latency than any cable competitor. (2)
Additionally, Optimum offers fiber internet service in some of its coverage areas, which offers extra reliability and symmetrical speeds. That’s an excellent feature for content creators and anyone who shares a lot of large media files. Recently, it started offering home internet plans up to 5 Gbps, a speed that’s nearly impossible to beat.
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.
Optimum offers a fairly standard wireless gateway with both its fiber and cable plans. The combined modem and router are usually free, but may cost you $10 per month on top of your bill in some areas. You can also add Wi-Fi extenders for $3 each per month, which is handy for larger homes and offices (and not a bad price, either).
If you want to use your own equipment instead of Optimum's free gear, you may run into difficulties. Optimum doesn't list compatible equipment and requires at least some third-party modems to be purchased from its stores.
With Optimum installation, you can do it yourself or have a pro help, and either way is free. If you order online, you can opt for a free standard professional installation or pay $59 for a premium installation, where the tech will configure Wi-Fi on up to six devices for you. While other providers may offer to set up your main device during installation, we haven’t seen such an extensive guarantee elsewhere. This could be a selling point for less tech-savvy customers.
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.
Optimum provides a good customer experience overall. Both types—cable and fiber—are fast and stable, and we haven’t seen any major complaints about reliability. We think the day-to-day experience with Optimum is fine.
However, the company’s customer service is less than stellar, with one of the lowest ratings of all providers, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (3). Most of the complaints we’ve seen involve a poor experience dealing with customer service reps. Optimum does offer solid online support options, so you may be able to get around these issues. And, of course, not everyone has a poor experience.