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.
Ziply offers great pricing for medium-to-large households and absurdly fast internet for power users. This provider has a few quirks, like hidden contracts and no self-setup, but if those don’t bother you, Ziply is a solid internet service provider in the Northwestern US.
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.
Overall, Ziply offers fast fiber internet at great prices. Its slowest plans (50 Mbps and 200 Mbps) are the best value, priced at 25% and 33% of the national benchmark, respectively. (1) Its 1 gig plan is relatively more expensive, but it still comes in under 45% of the national benchmark for similar plans. After introductory pricing ends, your monthly bill will increase by about $20 per month, but you’ll still pay less than average. Plus, you’ll get unlimited data.
If you want the absolute fastest internet possible, Ziply also offers 2- and 5-gig plans, but these come with much higher price tags. A 2-gig plan is nearly double the cost of a 1-gig plan (no bulk discount here), and a 5-gig plan is nearly 4 times the cost! (2) And there’s no introductory pricing for these blazing-fast plans. You’ll also need to spring for your own router (the Ziply one doesn’t support these speeds). 1 gig should be more than enough speed to cover the vast majority of households, so we don’t recommend springing for these plans unless you’re sure you need them.
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.
Ziply has a fiber optic network, which is the most reliable kind of infrastructure out there. Fiber also allows for faster speeds than any other kind of internet, including upload speeds that are just as fast as download speeds (AKA symmetrical speed). Unfortunately, Ziply’s 1-gig plan isn’t symmetrical, serving up only 35 Mbps for upload, and that’s a shame. Still, most families will find a symmetrical 200 Mbps connection plenty fast, while high-powered users can opt for a 2- or 5-gig symmetrical plan (though it’ll cost you big).
Other than that, Ziply performs pretty well. It typically uses only 40% of its infrastructure capacity (3), which means you’re less likely to see slowdowns during peak hours. However, Ziply has legacy DSL infrastructure in some rural areas and tends to perform slower than other DSL providers.
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.
Ziply’s equipment costs can add up. Its router/modem combo is a reasonable $10 per month, but its Whole Home Wi-Fi costs $20 per month. Sometimes, Ziply runs promotions that include Wi-Fi, so keep an eye out for those. Ziply’s Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi 6 technology, which is the best technology available. You can stream up to 12 devices at once (Wi-Fi 5 allows only up to 5). However, Ziply’s router isn’t compatible with its 2- and 5- gig plans. If you want one of these plans, you must BYO router, and not all routers are compatible, so be careful here.
Professional installation is free, which is great because Ziply doesn’t have a self-install option. Technicians will run cables from the street to your home, wire up your house, and set up your Whole Home Wi-Fi. The downside is technicians likely won’t get all this done in a single visit, so it might take a few weeks to get you up and running.
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.
We love that Ziply provides professional installation for free, but we’re bummed that it doesn’t even offer a self-setup option. Ziply has some great self-help content on its website for troubleshooting or changing out your router later—you just can’t use it to get started. Forcing you to use professional installation also means it takes longer to get started, and that’s tough if you’ve just moved to the area. If you’re not moving, it still means you’ll have to juggle your old service with Ziply installation times to avoid a gap in internet service.
We’re also not a fan of Ziply’s hidden contracts. It advertises no-contract plans, but if you read the fine print, you’ll pay early termination charges if you try to leave before your promotional plan ends. All that said, Ziply’s customer service is decent, and most negative reviews call out the same kinds of issues other providers get: billing disputes. (4)