Rural south and central Indianans can get this company’s affordable, high-speed, reliable fiber internet with no contract and no data cap. And if you don’t have access to Smithville yet, you might soon. It’s expanding fast!
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.
Smithville Communications offers just one fiber internet plan, serving up 1 Gbps and unlimited data for less than about $0.70 per Mbps. Compared to the US benchmark plan for similar service ($134.62) (1), Smithville is a pretty sweet deal. And you won’t have to sign a contract to get it.
This low price is particularly impressive for fiber in rural areas since building infrastructure outside of urban centers can be incredibly costly. Smithville could easily charge higher rates for bringing fiber to rural Indiana, but it doesn’t. And we applaud that.
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.
Fiber is the fastest and most reliable type of internet available, and download speeds max out around 5 Gbps. Smithville fiber reaches only 1 Gbps, but for most people frustrated by slow or unreliable rural internet, it’ll feel like your browser just got a turbo boost. You’ll also see 1 Gbps upload speeds, which is less common among non-fiber internet types like DSL and cable. Everyone—from heavy streamers and online gamers to remote workers and avid YouTube creators—will have plenty of juice (and unlimited data) when they need it.
Unfortunately, there’s one caveat: In some areas, Smithville is still using legacy DSL infrastructure, so you might not be able to sign up for fiber just yet. Smithville is phasing out this infrastructure as it lays more fiber lines, and it was named one of the Top 100 Fiber-to-the-Home organizations by Broadband Communities magazine for its efforts in helping bring fiber internet to rural communities (2). Luckily, Smithville won’t lock you into a contract, so if you’re not happy with your DSL, you can cancel any time and come back later when you have access to fiber.
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.
Smithville provides a wireless router to all customers with no additional rental fees, which is a good deal. You will pay an activation fee of $25, and if you need any lines run or jacks installed, you’ll pay for those too.
You do have the option of using your own equipment, but you’ll have to contact customer service to find out if your gear is compatible because this info isn’t available on the Smithville website. And if you need help troubleshooting your equipment, you’re on your own.
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.
Smithville offers 24/7 tech support to all customers, which is helpful if you have trouble with its router, need wiring repairs or a jack replacement, or your service is otherwise interrupted and it’s the company's fault.
If a visiting technician discovers the problem was out of Smithville’s control, you’ll have to pay a $35 service fee and $90 technician fee for help. Most companies charge you only one of these fees. Smithville will waive these charges if you buy its Connection Protection plan for at least one year, at a cost of $3.95 per month. But technicians still won’t help you with your own equipment.
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.