Google Fiber offers affordable gig speeds with no contracts, data caps, fees, or fuss. Unfortunately, it’s still hamstrung by extremely limited availability.
Kinetic by Windstream aims to bring better internet to rural and remote areas. While it offers one of the best values in internet service anywhere, it’s hampered by a mediocre customer experience.
Google Fiber internet is an excellent value for the money. There are only two plans: 1,000 Mbps (1 gig) for $70 per month and 2,000 Mbps (2 gigs) for $100 per month. The 1 gig plan is among the most affordable we’ve seen at that speed, costing a little more than half the national benchmark fro similar plans (1). The 2 gig option is also drastically cheaper than many other providers’ similar offerings (if they even have a 2 gig plan). There’s no budget option for those who don’t need speeds this fast, but for what Google does offer, the value is hard to beat.
Windstream’s Kinetic internet service offers a surprisingly strong value. Prices are competitive—in fact, the 1 gig plan ties Google Fiber as the most affordable option we’ve seen for gigabit download speed. They both cost just over 50% of the national benchmark for similar plans (1).
The advertised prices are for a 12-month introductory period and will increase in the range of about $15 after the first year. This practice of second-year price hikes used to be the norm, but the best fiber internet providers we review have abandoned the practice.
Overall, Windstream represents one of the best values in home internet if you can get fiber. It's also a good deal if you can get only DSL, but your speeds will be much slower.
Google Fiber is one of the fastest internet providers and offers excellent performance. The speeds are more than enough for even the heaviest users, and there’s enough bandwidth to power a whole household of HD streams. Since this is fiber, upload speeds are also excellent—1,000 Mbps on both plans. Unlimited data is the cherry on top of this delicious internet sundae. Our only knock is that some providers have started offering even faster speeds (though the majority of households won’t need more than what Google offers).
Kinetic by Windstream is a fiber and DSL internet service. Normally, that would mean two sides to the performance story—excellent speed, reliability, and consistency with fiber, and then DSL. That’s technically true of Windstream, but there’s a big “but” to consider.
The “but” is that Windstream is primarily targeted at rural areas, where other internet options may be limited to satellite or even dial-up (yes, that’s still a thing). In these markets, the Kinetic service can actually be a breath of fresh air—including its DSL. Plus, there are no data caps to worry about, which is a major limitation with satellite. Finally, the fiber performance is excellent, with speeds up to 2 gigs.
Equipment is another area where Google Fiber really shines. Installation of the fiber jack is free, and there are no monthly fees for the network box, which functions as both a modem and router. This means that, outside of any state-imposed access fees, the advertised prices are what you’ll actually pay for broadband internet service. Many other providers end up costing $10–$15 more per month due to equipment rental fees, so this is a refreshing change of pace.
Additionally, Google doesn’t charge any sort of activation fee. This is another area where other internet providers sometimes get you—they advertise free installation, but charge a significant “activation fee” that negates the deal.
On paper, Google Fiber and its equipment are fantastic. We had to bump this score down, however, because of the slow pace of installation. Some customers complain of having to wait for months or even years to have fiber installed at their homes, even after the fiber-optic cables have been laid in their neighborhoods.
Windstream charges a pretty standard $10–$12 per month for equipment rental if you are in its fiber service area. This gets you a very usable wireless gateway.
If you are in a DSL area, you'll be charged a $10 monthly modem fee but will also need a router. You can technically bring your own equipment, but Windstream officially supports a very limited number of modems, so it might be easier just to rent one.
The Windstream professional installation fee seems very reasonable at first—just $35 (or free, with some promotions). However, there’s a $50 activation fee on your first bill that brings it more in line with other providers. If you need a phone jack installed, you’ll be charged another $65 on top of the other fees. Ouch.
You can install your DSL connection for free if you're home is already wired correctly, and online instructions make it a breeze.
Given the excellent speeds, (relatively) affordable pricing, and lack of fees, it’s safe to say that living with Google Fiber makes for a fantastic experience. For the most part, you can just do what you need to do online and forget that you even have an internet service provider, which is great. When Google anticipates a change to your account or service, it generally lets you know well in advance.
If you do end up needing support, you’re dealing with Google. In general, this means really good online help and so-so phone support. That said, we’ve seen comparatively few customer service complaints about Google Fiber, and our own experience with Google Fiber has been that we rarely need customer support anyway. The company claims (2) it topped results in over 20 categories in an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, but the actual results of that survey don’t appear to be public, so all we have are anecdotes.
Something else that we love about Google Fiber is how straightforward the billing is. The monthly statements are very clear about how much you owe and when you’ll be charged compared to the sometimes confusing internet bills from other providers, so there’s no ambiguity about charges. You can also access your account and billing info using your Gmail login, so you don’t have to worry about yet another username and password.
The customer experience with Windstream leaves something to be desired. The provider ranks low in independent industry benchmarks like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (2), with a score of 62 out of 100. This is slightly below the industry average of 64.
Customer reviews of Windstream are generally mixed, with some pointing out that since they are often the only decent choice in an area, they try to get away with the bare minimum customer service. Customers also complain about frequent outages that sometimes last for days (3). That said, if your only other option is satellite internet (with its high prices and higher latency), it may be worth dealing with less-than-stellar customer service.