Hargray is a good buy for most families willing to commit to at least a year of service, but its steep setup costs and early termination fees mean canceling too soon will cost you big. Meanwhile, YouTube creators wanting high-performance fiber internet should move on.
Sparklight, formerly known as Cable One, is a cable internet provider primarily serving suburbs and rural areas in over a dozen states. Its no-contract plans offer good download speeds to areas fiber doesn’t often reach, but its data caps aren’t ideal.
Overall, Hargray offers a lot of speed for the price, and all plans come with unlimited data, which made us do happy dances. For the best deal (AKA the lowest price-to-speed ratio), stick with one of Hargray’s slowest plans—which are fast enough for most households anyway. This company’s 100 and 200 Mbps plans come in at just 45% of what most plans in the US cost, while its 1 Gig plans cost around 85% of the national benchmark (1).
Higher-speed plans also come with another downside: while Hargray boasts a fiber network, people who upload a lot of video will lament its slow (for fiber) upload speeds. In short, Hargray’s a great deal for most people, but if top performance is important to you, save your happy dance for another provider.
Sparklight’s no-contract cable internet plans are generally a decent value compared to other providers available in the communities the company serves. While you might not be able to get fiber in these areas, you’re likely to find DSL, satellite, or other cable internet service providers (ISPs). The speed you get for the price is comparable to other cable providers or a bit cheaper, and the performance surpasses DSL and satellite. All of this means Sparklight’s plans are worth strongly considering if your address is in one of its service areas.
We recommend choosing a Sparklight plan with at least 200 Mbps of download speed, but ideally more if it’s in your budget. Since Sparklight is a cable provider, upload speeds tend to be far below the download speeds. Upload speeds increase with each pricing tier, so if you work from home and have multiple connected devices you may want to pick one of the more expensive plans for seamless video calls.
All of Sparklight’s plans have data caps, except for its most expensive Gig plan. Data caps are typical for cable providers. While some competitors offer data caps over 1 TB for all of their plans, Sparklight’s plans have data caps that range from 100 GB to 1.5 TB. You can get 100 GB blocks of additional data for $10 during months when you need it, or you can upgrade to unlimited data with any plan for an extra $30/month. When calculating your needs, consider that the average person uses 536 GB of data per month (1).
The Gig plan offers the most data for your dollar and the highest speeds, but it’s more expensive than fiber plans with comparable download speeds, at least in some of the service areas. If you don’t want to pay top dollar, the Internet 300 and 500 plans also offer good speeds and high enough data caps for the needs of most households. We wouldn’t recommend the Internet 25 plan because its low speeds and data cap won’t comfortably meet most people’s needs.
Hargray uses a fiber optic network, which is much more reliable than satellite or fixed wireless (like 5G) internet. Fiber is also capable of faster speeds (up to 5 Gigs for both download and upload) than any other kind of internet.
Unfortunately, Hargray isn’t using its fiber network to its fullest extent. Its fastest speed is only 1 gig, which most cable internet companies offer. It’s kinda bumming us out, like a straight-B student who could totally ace the class if only they’d apply themselves more. But the real bummer is that Hargray gives you only 20–50 Mbps for uploading, which is great but nowhere close to the symmetrical ideal that fiber can deliver. While most people will love how quickly they can upload a file to Google Drive or post to their Insta account, we think it’s a tragic underutilization of fiber technology. We know. #FirstWorldProblems.
Sparklight is available in mostly rural and suburban areas where customers probably won’t be able to get fiber internet. This makes Sparklight’s cable internet speeds the best option in some communities that are otherwise served only by DSL or satellite, which can be slow and unreliable. According to a report from Ookla, Sparklight had the highest download speeds among fixed broadband providers in North Dakota and New Mexico. (2)
Sparklight is a fiber-rich cable provider, meaning it delivers service using a mix of fiber and coaxial cables. While it can achieve download speeds of up to 940 Mbps, its upload speeds are much lower than that, reaching 50 Mbps. This is a technical limitation of cable connections that those with fiber connections won’t experience. While this isn’t ideal for households with several people who want to do heavy gaming or take video calls at the same time, Sparklight’s download and upload speeds are generally still sufficient for most households. And for regular browsing and streaming for multiple users, it's just fine. However, the data caps may hold you back if you’re a heavy internet user. Occasional outages and inconsistent speeds do affect service according to customer reports on Downdetector. (3)
Hargray’s equipment rental prices are super reasonable. You can rent a modem for just $4 per month, which makes the hassle of using your own gear a lot less appealing. Unless, of course, you’re a technophile who has a favorite modem (more power to you!). You can use most modems. Hargray’s Wi-Fi gear is also inexpensive, coming in at $10 per month. The price includes at least two extenders and free Wi-Fi setup to make sure your signal is dialed. That’s a sweet deal.
The rest of your internet installation will cost you, though. Professional installation costs around $100. Self-setup is technically free, but you have to cough up a $99 activation fee. The activation fee is refundable after your first year of service, but it still hurts, and you’ll probably forget you have a refund coming long before it hits your account anyway. Still, with self-setup, you’ll get to skip the dreaded installation appointment window, so it might still be worth it.
When you sign up for Sparklight internet service, you can call to schedule professional installation or choose self-installation. Both options are reasonably fast according to customer reviews. Professional installation is typically free and can be scheduled at your convenience. There's technically a $90 professional installation fee, but it is waived as part of a "permanent promotion." Self-installation is free and should take about 15 minutes once you receive your equipment in the mail.
You can choose to purchase your own Sparklight-supported modem or lease a modem from Sparklight for just over $10/month, less than some other providers. The installation cost, activation fee, and any equipment deposits may be waived for qualifying new customers.
Hargray has two levels of customer service (2), and they’re both pretty solid. The first is what you’d expect: you pay full price for all technician visits ($65) and the cost of any repairs, troubleshooting, or installation of new wires and jacks. Other than the cost of work done, there’s no additional charge for this service level.
If connection issues make you nervous or you want Hargray’s highest level of service, you might want to spring for Hargray’s Connected Home Plan for about $6 per month. With that, you’re covered for repairs of common equipment, like wiring, jacks, and splitters—whether the damage was caused by you or an act of God. For services that aren’t fully covered (like learning how to use your Hargray modem or troubleshooting your own router) you pay just $35 per visit.
Customer experience with Sparklight is about average compared to other providers. Tech support is available 24/7 by phone or email, and there are plenty of help articles available online. Like most other providers, equipment installation is straightforward whether you have it done professionally or do it yourself.
Common complaints include unplanned outages, inconsistent speeds, and long wait times to reach Sparklight support by phone, according to user reports on Downdetector. (4) If you try Sparklight’s internet service and it doesn’t live up to expectations, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.