Fast, inexpensive internet with great customer service, equipment, and installation? Wow is right. This internet company is a solid choice for most people. But if you’re a heavy streamer, its cable-fiber hybrid network might not be beefy enough.
Ziply offers great pricing for medium-to-large households and absurdly fast internet for power users. This provider has a few quirks, like hidden contracts and no self-setup, but if those don’t bother you, Ziply is a solid internet service provider in the Northwestern US.
WOW! offers 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps plans at a great price, whether or not you sign up for an optional one- or two-year contract. If you don’t mind signing a contract, WOW!’s plans will cost you about 25% of the national benchmark for a similar plan (1). After that, prices transition to month-to-month rates, which are $10 to $15 higher but still well below the benchmark.
To get WOW!’s advertised prices, you need to sign up for both autopay and paperless billing (a $5 monthly savings) and commit to a two-year contract. If you’re not sure whether you want to be chained to WOW! for that long, don’t worry too much about it. If you duck out early, you’ll pay only $15 for each month left on your contract—which isn’t much more than you’d pay if you skip the contract from the start. (2)
There are data caps of either 1.5 TB or 3 TB, depending on your plan. These are pretty high, but if you’re a heavy user, you could be charged up to $50 extra every month and have your speed throttled.
Overall, Ziply offers fast fiber internet at great prices. Its slowest plans (50 Mbps and 200 Mbps) are the best value, priced at 25% and 33% of the national benchmark, respectively. (1) Its 1 gig plan is relatively more expensive, but it still comes in under 45% of the national benchmark for similar plans. After introductory pricing ends, your monthly bill will increase by about $20 per month, but you’ll still pay less than average. Plus, you’ll get unlimited data.
If you want the absolute fastest internet possible, Ziply also offers 2- and 5-gig plans, but these come with much higher price tags. A 2-gig plan is nearly double the cost of a 1-gig plan (no bulk discount here), and a 5-gig plan is nearly 4 times the cost! (2) And there’s no introductory pricing for these blazing-fast plans. You’ll also need to spring for your own router (the Ziply one doesn’t support these speeds). 1 gig should be more than enough speed to cover the vast majority of households, so we don’t recommend springing for these plans unless you’re sure you need them.
The majority of WOW!’s network is a hybrid of cable and fiber, though some customers in Alabama still have legacy DSL service. Although fiber technology can provide up to 10 Gbps and symmetrical upload and download speeds, a hybrid network can perform only as well as cable technology allows. WOW!'s speeds top out at 1.2 gigs, which is faster than most cable providers. Your max upload speed will be 50 Mbps, which is great for cable.
For most people, an asymmetrical 1.2 Gbps connection is plenty fast. But if you upload a lot of photos or videos, WOW! might not be powerful enough. You can also face throttling if you exceed your (admittedly generous) data caps. If that’s you, a fully fiber network, if available in your area, will be your best bet. You’ll probably also want to keep shopping if you can only get DSL with WOW!
Ziply has a fiber optic network, which is the most reliable kind of infrastructure out there. Fiber also allows for faster speeds than any other kind of internet, including upload speeds that are just as fast as download speeds (AKA symmetrical speed). Unfortunately, Ziply’s 1-gig plan isn’t symmetrical, serving up only 35 Mbps for upload, and that’s a shame. Still, most families will find a symmetrical 200 Mbps connection plenty fast, while high-powered users can opt for a 2- or 5-gig symmetrical plan (though it’ll cost you big).
Other than that, Ziply performs pretty well. It typically uses only 40% of its infrastructure capacity (3), which means you’re less likely to see slowdowns during peak hours. However, Ziply has legacy DSL infrastructure in some rural areas and tends to perform slower than other DSL providers.
WOW! includes a free modem for your first year ($14/month after that). You can also rent a Whole Home Wi-Fi system, which includes a coveted eero base and one extender for $9.99. Additional extenders are $5.99 each, but most households won’t need more than one because eero’s that good. eero comes with an app you can use to manage your network, and you can add security services for an additional cost (under $10/month) if you want ad-blocking, malware protection, or parental controls.
A free self-startup kit is available to most new customers, but if you prefer professional installation, it’ll cost you $75. The good news is that with professional installation, WOW! waives its $10 activation fee, so it’s really just $65 more to have a technician’s help.
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Ziply’s equipment costs can add up. Its router/modem combo is a reasonable $10 per month, but its Whole Home Wi-Fi costs $20 per month. Sometimes, Ziply runs promotions that include Wi-Fi, so keep an eye out for those. Ziply’s Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi 6 technology, which is the best technology available. You can stream up to 12 devices at once (Wi-Fi 5 allows only up to 5). However, Ziply’s router isn’t compatible with its 2- and 5- gig plans. If you want one of these plans, you must BYO router, and not all routers are compatible, so be careful here.
Professional installation is free, which is great because Ziply doesn’t have a self-install option. Technicians will run cables from the street to your home, wire up your house, and set up your Whole Home Wi-Fi. The downside is technicians likely won’t get all this done in a single visit, so it might take a few weeks to get you up and running.
WOW! provides an award-winning customer experience, ranking fourth-highest in J.D. Power’s ISP Satisfaction list in the North Central US region in 2022. (3)
We should note that in 2021 WOW! sold a couple regions of its business (Evansville, IN and Chicago) to Astound broadband, so customers may see some changes in their service. That said, Astound ranks fifth on P.C. Mag's Readers' Choice awards, so you're probably in good hands. (4)
We love that Ziply provides professional installation for free, but we’re bummed that it doesn’t even offer a self-setup option. Ziply has some great self-help content on its website for troubleshooting or changing out your router later—you just can’t use it to get started. Forcing you to use professional installation also means it takes longer to get started, and that’s tough if you’ve just moved to the area. If you’re not moving, it still means you’ll have to juggle your old service with Ziply installation times to avoid a gap in internet service.
We’re also not a fan of Ziply’s hidden contracts. It advertises no-contract plans, but if you read the fine print, you’ll pay early termination charges if you try to leave before your promotional plan ends. All that said, Ziply’s customer service is decent, and most negative reviews call out the same kinds of issues other providers get: billing disputes. (4)