The story of Frontier internet is one of two services: a slow and expensive DSL network and a fast and affordable fiber network. Which one you get makes all the difference.
Hawaiian Telcom packs a lot of value into its plans, but it may not be fast enough for large families who do a ton of streaming or uploading. Opt for a short contract if available because paying out half of a two- or three-year commitment here will hurt!
Frontier offers two types of internet service: fiber and DSL. That means there are two sides to the Frontier value equation. Frontier fiber service is generally an excellent value—you can get 500 Mbps for around $50 per month or 1 gig for around $75, both of which are excellent prices well below the national benchmark for similar plans. (1) If you go for 2 gigs or even the newly available 5 gig plan, you'll pay quite a bit every month but enjoy excellent reliability and super fast speeds. If you go for 5 gigs, free tech support is included.
On the other hand, Frontier’s DSL plan is not nearly so exciting. It is around $50 per month for up to 115 Mbps, but the actual speed varies heavily with the specific area you’re in. Many places won’t see anywhere near 115 Mbps, but even if you do have that speed available, it’s not great for the price. There's also a required $85 installation charge. The good news, though, is that Frontier guarantees its DSL pricing for two years and doesn't require you to sign a contract.
To be fair, DSL service is almost always a poor value for money—it’s not unique to Frontier. And unlike some other combined fiber and internet providers, Frontier offers fiber in a good portion of its coverage area. (4)
Hawaiian Telcom internet provides a ton of value no matter which plan you buy, but some plans offer more value than others. If fiber is available in your area, you can get 940 Mbps for around 56% of the national benchmark price. (1) Lower speeds (those as low as 11 Mbps with a DSL connection) cost as little as a third of the national benchmark.
Hawaiian has its flaws. You may not have access to its fiber infrastructure (yet), even if it's installed in your neighborhood. We've heard of wait times of several months. Then, even its fiber speeds aren’t as fast as technology allows. If you try to end your contract early, you’ll pay for that—big time. You may also see hefty price hikes in year two—some of the biggest we've seen, in fact.
But when you consider the great service you’ll receive, low-cost equipment and installation, and a refreshing lack of hidden fees at checkout, Hawaiian Telcom gives you one more way to make your mainlander friends envy your island life.
Frontier continues the tale of two in the performance department. The DSL service caps out at a fairly slow 115 Mbps, and that’s only in certain areas. While that’s sufficient for many day-to-day activities and light streaming, larger families or those who want to stream in HD may be left wanting more.
On the flip side, the fiber service is predictably excellent, with speeds up to 2,000 Mbps and no data caps to limit you. In fact, Frontier's fiber plans are some of the fastest, according to PCMag (2). The service has the fastest ping of any provider, according and a study by the FCC (3), and it's neck and neck with the competition in terms of speed and reliability. These fiber plans also offer symmetrical speeds, which means the upload speed is equal to the download speed. This is handy if you upload or share a lot of large files, and it tends to be unique to fiber.
Hawaiian Telcom uses an infrastructure of fiber, cable, and DSL. About 215,000 homes and businesses have access to Hawaiian’s fiber network. (2) That accounts for about half of Hawaiian's infrastructure, (3) which is impressive for a small provider. The other half is mostly DSL mixed with a bit of cable, which don't perform as well. The good news is Hawaiian is replacing its legacy cable and DSL lines, so if you don’t have access to its fiber network yet, you probably will within a few years.
Frontier redeems itself in a big way when it comes to equipment and installation. If you have Frontier's DSL internet, the equipment itself is fairly standard. It works, but it doesn't look great on a desk and the capabilities are limited. It's free, which is nice, but you might still want to use your own gear if you need more control over which devices on your network get bandwidth priority. DSL installation costs $85, and there's no self-install option.
If you have fiber internet from Frontier, you're in luck! You get free rental of an eero 6 on the Fiber 1 Gig plan or an eero6E mesh Wi-Fi system, on the Fiber 2 Gig plan. If you have the 5 Gig plan, you'll get the TP-Link AXE300 6E with an optional TP-Link RE815XE Wi-Fi extender for an extra $10 per month. You could still technically use your own gear, but it's hard to do any better than the latest and greatest from eero and TP-Link.
If you're eligible, you may be able to get a Frontier self-install kit—otherwise, a professional will come to your house to install the internet for you. If you need a pro to come out, you'll be charged $50 on your first bill. Cancelation is also free, but some customers are charged a $20 restocking fee for rented fiber gear and a $50 restocking fee on DSL gear.
Hawaiian Telcom charges a moderate $9.99 to use its modem. You could use your own modem to save money, but you won’t be able to add Hawaiian’s Whole Home Wi-Fi or upgrade your service to Premier Value, Hawaiian’s tech plan. If you do go with Hawaiian’s modem, you can also rent between one and three Google Wi-Fi pods for just $7 per month total. Unless you live in a McMansion (more than 4,500 sq. ft.), you shouldn’t have any dead spots. Some of our top providers don't charge rental fees, and we would like to see Hawaiian Telcom follow suit, but we still love these low rates.
Both self-installation and professional installation are free, but you may need to cover a $34.99 activation fee (waived during some promotions). That’s steeper than most activation fees, but since professional installation usually costs $75 or more, you’ll still save a ton—and not have to worry about setting it up yourself. Plus, if you have a professional install your internet, they will repair any damaged wiring at no cost.
The Frontier customer experience is a mixed bag. The service itself is fairly reliable—especially the fiber. The DSL service is relatively stable, but more prone to slowdowns during heavy traffic times (like the evening). We’ve also seen some reports online of speeds that are inconsistent with what’s advertised, so keep that in mind.
Frontier has also received very low scores in customer satisfaction from organizations like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). (3) The provider ranked second-worst in overall satisfaction in the most recent surveys, falling well below average. The complaints we’ve seen point generally to a broad pattern of poor customer service, so if that’s a key factor in your choice of provider, you might want to steer clear until Frontier can sort out its issues.
Unlike most internet service providers, the only way to order internet service is to call in. It works okay for most people, but some folks love the convenience of handling everything without having to deal with phone trees, wait on hold, or talk to a live human. At least the hold music is nice, though, and you can enter info via text message!
We love that you can get started for around $35 and that the tech will automatically repair wiring if needed. But if you want additional technical support, you'll need for Hawaiian’s rather pricy Premier Value upgrade ($15.99 per month for two years). With it, a technician can help you with wire maintenance and Wi-Fi optimization, internet security for up to 10 devices, and priority for technician appointments. But we'd probably skip it at this price tag.
Unfortunately, many customers report problems with billing and customer service. If you go with Hawaiian, check your bill carefully and be prepared to sit on hold if you call in with issues.