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.
Spectrum offers speedy, reasonably priced cable internet service, and a strong budget plan. We wish there were fewer fees attached, though.
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.
Spectrum service offers a solid value—particularly at the lowest tier. There are only three plans to choose from, which could either be a plus or minus depending on your perspective. In this case, we feel it’s a good thing: the plans are straightforward and easy to understand.
The lowest-tier plan offers speeds up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) at a decent price, according to government benchmarks (1). That's just $0.17 per megabit per second, with speeds that blow any DSL plan out of the water. The other two internet plans are less exciting, but still reasonably priced for the first year. After 12 months, your price could be up by $20 or more.
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.
Spectrum offers speedy performance overall, with packages up to 1,000 Mbps available (wireless speeds may vary). The lower tiers are more exciting—almost every provider has a gig plan these days, but Spectrum’s lowest plan has speeds up to 300 Mbps, which is still excellent for all but the heaviest users. Additionally, there are no data caps on any of the plans, so you can use as much bandwidth as you like.
Speed is only half the equation, though—even the fastest connection is useless if it doesn’t work when you need it. Luckily, Spectrum is on par with its closest cable competitors here. It offers faster-than-advertised speeds most of the time, according to the US Federal Communications Commission (2), and earned the top spot for median speeds from Speedtest.net (3). Spectrum’s latency scores were a little higher than competitors Xfinity and Cox, but at just 25 ms, you’re still within the playability range for most online games.
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.
Spectrum’s equipment setup is a bit different than most—at least when it comes to fees. There is no charge for the modem, but there is a $5 monthly fee for the wireless router (waived on the gig plan). What this means is that Spectrum gives you a separate modem and router, instead of a combined gateway. It also means you can opt to bring your own wireless router if you prefer. Customers can also add Wi-Fi extenders, called Pods, for $3 each per month. If you use the Spectrum router, you can use the company's highly rated smartphone app to manage settings and parental controls.
Installation is straightforward and affordable. If you need a pro to come out, you can opt for a professional installation for $59.99. If you can handle the installation yourself, the self-install kit is about $25. We’d prefer free self-installation, but it isn’t the highest self-install fee we’ve seen, so we’ll take what we can get.
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.
We’ll just come right out and say it: Spectrum has a lot of fees. While you may never see most of them, it’s worth noting that they’re there. Here’s a sample:
These aren’t going to be on every bill, and you may never see most of them. However, when you do, it makes for a poor experience.
When you add second-year price hikes in the range of $20+, things aren't looking good for Spectrum customers. However, Spectrum customers seem to be about as satisfied with customer service as customers with competitors Cox and CenturyLink, and it's only slightly worse than average. (4)
If Spectrum is the only cable provider in your area and your home isn't wired for fiber internet, we recommend the service. Just set a calendar reminder to contact customer service in a year and see if you can negotiate the price down!