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.
Xfinity is a fantastic provider overall. It offers fast speeds, reliable service, and reasonable prices. Some plans still require contracts, and others still have data limits. Watch out for Xfinity’s hidden fees and spotty customer service record, but it may not be as bad as it once was.
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.
Xfinity is generally a very good value, especially at the middle and lower tiers. In fact, it offers some of the best budget plans of any of the major internet service providers, with a 50 Mbps Internet Essentials plan for less than $20 per month and a 400 Mbps plan for $50 per month in some areas. Those plans have a data cap of 1.2 terabytes per month, which is disappointing but common among cable internet service providers (ISPs). Removing it costs an extra $30.
The 400 Mbps plan, which is about right for an average family, is also a great price. It rings in at about 36% of the national benchmark in its range. (1) That means you're paying just $0.18 per megabit, with plenty of megabits to go around.
Faster plans are available, but they are pretty pricey compared to the best fiber internet competitors we reviewed. Some areas can get speeds up to 2 Gbps, and others can get plans as fast as 6 Gbps. That is ludicrously fast, but it’s also really expensive. Most households don’t need those internet speeds unless they’re streaming a ton of 4K content at the same time or have 10 or more users, so we don’t recommend them for most households. They do come with unlimited data, though, so might still be worth it for some households.
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.
Xfinity internet performance is excellent. Its speeds are fast and reliable. In fact, in many markets, it has one of the fastest internet speeds around. The service is reliable and consistent. If outages occur, Xfinity is responsive and generally restores service within hours. Xfinity internet is also highly rated for speed (2), and research from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) scored it among the top for reliability (3).
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.
Xfinity internet offers the usual choice of professional and self-installation. The professional option is often more affordable than competitors, at $100. It's required if you haven't had Xfinity service at the address for more than 12 months. The self-install kit is free, though you may pay for shipping and handling. If you have trouble installing yourself, you can contact customer service for help but may face long hold times.
As for equipment, the Xfinity xFi gateway is fairly typical (and costs a fairly typical $14 per month). You can also add a Wi-Fi extender (and unlimited data) if you bump up to xFi Complete for about $15 per month for the first two years (and $25 per month starting in year 3). This is a bit steep for just the extender—you can grab an excellent Wi-Fi extender for right around $50. However, using Xfinity's equipment gives you unlimited data, and you qualify for a free upgrade after three years.
Read more about how internet bills work.
If you use your own equipment, unlimited data costs an extra $30 per month for lower tier plans, but is included for plans of at least 1 Gbps.
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.
The Xfinity internet customer experience is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have reliable service, with the option for unlimited data if you want it. This makes for a great day-to-day experience.
On the other hand, Xfinity internet has a spotty customer service track record. Technically, it ranks above average on customer surveys (4). That said, we all remember the memes from a few years ago. While customer service seems to be improving (based on survey scores, at least), not everyone has a great experience, and we still see a lot of complaints about billing issues and miscommunication between the company and the techs it hires.
If you need to connect with the company, we recommend using its customer service portal and downloading the Xfinity app first before trying to reach reps by phone.