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.
Fast, inexpensive internet with great customer service, equipment, and installation? Wow is right. This internet company is a solid choice for most people. But if you’re a heavy streamer, its cable-fiber hybrid network might not be beefy enough.
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)
WOW! offers 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps plans at a great price, whether or not you sign up for an optional one- or two-year contract. If you don’t mind signing a contract, WOW!’s plans will cost you about 25% of the national benchmark for a similar plan (1). After that, prices transition to month-to-month rates, which are $10 to $15 higher but still well below the benchmark.
To get WOW!’s advertised prices, you need to sign up for both autopay and paperless billing (a $5 monthly savings) and commit to a two-year contract. If you’re not sure whether you want to be chained to WOW! for that long, don’t worry too much about it. If you duck out early, you’ll pay only $15 for each month left on your contract—which isn’t much more than you’d pay if you skip the contract from the start. (2)
There are data caps of either 1.5 TB or 3 TB, depending on your plan. These are pretty high, but if you’re a heavy user, you could be charged up to $50 extra every month and have your speed throttled.
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.
The majority of WOW!’s network is a hybrid of cable and fiber, though some customers in Alabama still have legacy DSL service. Although fiber technology can provide up to 10 Gbps and symmetrical upload and download speeds, a hybrid network can perform only as well as cable technology allows. WOW!'s speeds top out at 1.2 gigs, which is faster than most cable providers. Your max upload speed will be 50 Mbps, which is great for cable.
For most people, an asymmetrical 1.2 Gbps connection is plenty fast. But if you upload a lot of photos or videos, WOW! might not be powerful enough. You can also face throttling if you exceed your (admittedly generous) data caps. If that’s you, a fully fiber network, if available in your area, will be your best bet. You’ll probably also want to keep shopping if you can only get DSL with WOW!
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.
WOW! includes a free modem for your first year ($14/month after that). You can also rent a Whole Home Wi-Fi system, which includes a coveted eero base and one extender for $9.99. Additional extenders are $5.99 each, but most households won’t need more than one because eero’s that good. eero comes with an app you can use to manage your network, and you can add security services for an additional cost (under $10/month) if you want ad-blocking, malware protection, or parental controls.
A free self-startup kit is available to most new customers, but if you prefer professional installation, it’ll cost you $75. The good news is that with professional installation, WOW! waives its $10 activation fee, so it’s really just $65 more to have a technician’s help.
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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!
WOW! provides an award-winning customer experience, ranking fourth-highest in J.D. Power’s ISP Satisfaction list in the North Central US region in 2022. (3)
We should note that in 2021 WOW! sold a couple regions of its business (Evansville, IN and Chicago) to Astound broadband, so customers may see some changes in their service. That said, Astound ranks fifth on P.C. Mag's Readers' Choice awards, so you're probably in good hands. (4)