Starry provides no-contract fixed wireless internet in just a handful of cities. Its cheap plans, free equipment, and high speeds make it a solid alternative to cable and fiber. Unfortunately, the company's financial instability makes it a poor choice for anyone with other options.
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.
Starry’s fixed wireless plans are straightforward and attractive. There are no contracts or data caps. Equipment and installation are provided for free. Prices are subject to change, but there are no price hikes built in since the company doesn’t offer large short-term discounts to new customers like other internet service providers (ISPs) do. It is worth checking for ongoing promotions before you sign up. Starry sometimes offers deals on its plans, like 200 Mbps for $30 per month, which is an even better value than usual.
The Starry Plus plan has 200 Mbps download speeds, which gives you more than enough speed for working from home, streaming, and browsing the web on multiple devices. Starry’s prices and upload speeds tend to beat cable plans with comparable download speeds. At gigabit download speed with Starry, you get half the upload speed of comparable fiber plans, but it’s still more than enough for most people and often cheaper.
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.
Starry offers fixed wireless internet service with performance that rivals most other connection types available in the urban areas it serves. Fixed wireless is, of course, wireless. But unlike mobile internet, which allows you to access the internet wirelessly with your phone anywhere, it works by beaming the internet connection directly to equipment mounted on top of your building. Starry sets itself apart from other fixed wireless providers because it takes advantage of high-frequency spectrum, which allows it to achieve up to gigabit speeds.
Actual speeds vary based on several factors, like how many devices are being used on your network and which apps you’re using. In Q3 of 2022, Starry reported its customers had an average download speed of 196 Mbps, upload speed of 104 Mbps, and latency of 20.3 ms. (1) Speeds have slowed a little over time, but only by a matter of milliseconds.
While it’s not as good as fiber, this is more than adequate for streaming, gaming, video chats, and other intense use on multiple devices simultaneously. Since Starry’s internet service uses fixed wireless rather than a wired connection, weather can affect signal range and reliability. Some users have reported slowdowns and outages due to rain and snow. (2)
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.
All Starry internet customers get free professional installation and are provided with equipment to use at no cost while their service is active. The included ZyXEL router is functional and easy to use, but the company doesn't publicize whether you can use your own instead. Either way, there's no extra equipment cost.
Installation appointments have 30-minute arrival windows, which is respectful of customers’ time. The installation process takes 1–2 hours. The installer will activate the service, make sure it works in every room, and set up your router and devices. There is no self-installation option.
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.
Starry has a great reputation for customer service, but has recently been in the news for mass layoffs and even pulling out of one of its newest service areas—Columbus, Ohio. (3)
If you can still get Starry, you'll benefit from a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and no contracts. Starry will refund you for service interruptions that last longer than 24 hours if you request the credit within 30 days, unless the outage is because of scheduled maintenance, power outage, weather, or something else beyond the company’s control.
Customer service is impressively responsive. Support is offered by phone, email, and social media. The website offers plenty of help articles, and the app has a chatbot that can inform you of outages at your address. Starry reports it has a Net Promoter Score of 69 (excellent) while other broadband providers have an average of 0 (neutral), meaning customer satisfaction with the brand is unusually high. (4)
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.