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.
Rise Broadband offers competitive fixed wireless speeds at reasonable prices for rural customers. While it won’t compete with your typical fiber or cable internet service, it offers a compelling alternative to satellite.
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.
Rise Broadband is a tough service to rate because it’s not your typical ISP. Rise Broadband provides what’s known as “fixed wireless” service, which means the signal is beamed from a tower wirelessly to your home (rather than running through cable or fiber lines). It’s also generally aimed more at rural areas where cable lines don’t exist. This means it primarily competes with satellite internet and DSL. All this has to be taken into account when considering value.
So, where does Rise stand? Compared to DSL and satellite, it’s an outstanding value. It offers better performance and higher data allowances (with an unlimited data add-on available) than satellite and DSL, and at significantly lower prices. That said, if you’re in an area that has a cable or fiber option, you may find that those providers offer more for your money.
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-wise, Rise Broadband offers solid speeds—with the caveat that we’re comparing internet options in rural areas here. Most coverage areas have a choice of 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps plans, and some select areas have up to 100 Mbps available. These speeds would be pretty bad in areas with more options. However, if you’re considering fixed wireless, you probably don’t have many more options.
Compared to a satellite provider like Viasat, these speeds are about average—maybe even a little slow. However, fixed wireless like Rise won’t suffer from the huge latency of satellite internet, which makes it much more usable for gaming and other real-time tasks. Rise should handle HD streaming in a small household without too much trouble. You can optionally add unlimited data for an extra $10 per month, which makes a big difference without making the price unreasonable.
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.
Rise Broadband offers surprisingly competitive equipment. The provider offers the TP-Link Deco M4 mesh system, which can easily cover an entire large home. Customers can choose to rent up to three of the devices for $5 more per month each, so you can save a little money if you don’t need the full range of all three routers.
Rise Broadband’s installation fee is a whopping $150. That’s one of the highest of any providers we’ve seen. However, many promotions waive this fee. If you can’t find one in your area, it’s also worth asking the sales rep about it—you never know.
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 customer experience with Rise Broadband is good overall. It offers solid speeds at a great price—if you’re coming from satellite, it’ll be a whole new world. Our one major gripe isn’t so much with Rise as it is with fixed wireless in general: it’s more susceptible to weather interference than most other types of internet. If you’re in an area with frequent heavy rain or snow, you might have some reliability issues (although satellite would likely have the same issues, too).