Local internet service providers (ISPs) sometimes lack a certain something. They might be expensive or fail to reach the speeds of national providers. Omni Fiber wants to buck that trend with speedy internet at an affordable price and the promise of local customer service, but can it deliver? Spoiler alert—yes, it seems it can.
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.
Omni Fiber offers excellent value. All three plans are competitively priced—the 1 gig plan is on par with the most affordable options we’ve reviewed, and the 2 gig plan is actually the most affordable plan of this speed we’ve seen from any provider. In addition to the low package prices, you also get equipment included at no extra cost, which further increases the value of the service.
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.
Omni Fiber performance is outstanding. Speeds are fast, with plans ranging from 500 Mbps to 2 Gbps. All three plans feature symmetrical upload speeds, which means the upload speeds are equal to the download speeds—this makes a huge difference for sharing content, particularly large files like videos. For reference, a typical upload speed for a cable provider is one tenth of the download speed (and often quite a bit lower). Finally, all Omni Fiber customers get unlimited data, which is a big thumbs up in our book.
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)
Omni Fiber’s equipment is fairly standard. The provider offers two choices: a standard gateway that’s free of charge, and a Whole Home Wi-Fi gateway you can upgrade to. The standard version, which Omni confusingly calls “premium Wi-Fi,” is a standard Wi-Fi modem and router, while the Whole Home version uses extenders to cover larger areas. It’s recommended for homes larger than about 2,000 square feet.
Mesh networks tend to work a little better than Wi-Fi extenders, but we still think the Omni Fiber system will be adequate for most homes. If you want to use your own equipment, you'll need to make sure it's compatible with a fiber connection but either way, there's no extra charge!
Omni Fiber also gets high marks for installation. There is no installation fee or other cost involved, and the technician will ensure your equipment is properly placed to cover as much of your home as possible. The only potential concern is that Omni Fiber is still building out its infrastructure, so—depending on where you live—there may be some additional construction involved.
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.
If there’s an area to be cautious with Omni Fiber, it’s customer experience. The provider promises personal, local customer support and service to its subscribers. However, remember that this is a relatively small company that is still building and growing. Omni also doesn’t have the same resources as national companies when it comes to providing support—for example, there’s no chat option yet.
On the other hand, local customer service certainly sounds better than the automated and outsourced support many large providers offer. Omni Fiber also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is promising.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that Omni Fiber is a very new company. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, there could be growing pains. Issues like billing problems or service outages could crop up as the company gets its infrastructure sorted out.
Omni Fiber will be available first in the Ohio towns of Clyde, Dover, and Shelby. It plans to expand to small and mid-size markets in the Midwest "as quickly as possible," CEO Darrick Zucco said in a press release in August of 2022. (1)
The company, founded in 2022, has not yet been studied by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in either its annual performance tests (2) or its rate study (3).
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.