EarthLink Internet Review: Paying More for Fewer Hassles

EarthLink is often more expensive than competing providers, but the unlimited data, straightforward pricing and customer service may be worth the cost.

Article updated on March 13, 2024 at 12:33 PM PDT

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EarthLink rating

How we calculated our rating

/ 10
Customer Care
  • No extreme rate hikes after 12 months
  • Unlimited data, no speed throttling ever
  • Fiber connection where available
  • No introductory rates
  • 12-month contract
  • Speeds and network quality vary widely by location

EarthLink is different from many top internet providers in that it doesn't own and operate many of the networks it uses for service. Instead, the provider uses the established copper and fiber networks of other providers, such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier and Verizon

As a result, EarthLink has the largest customer reach of any wired internet provider, available to around two thirds of US households. Satellite internet provided by Viasat or 5G wireless home internet may also be available through EarthLink in select areas. 

Piggybacking on other providers allows EarthLink to boast high availability and a variety of speeds, but that approach also leads to higher pricing. Shop around and you'll find that EarthLink's internet costs are higher than most ISPs, but give the company credit for transparent pricing and favorable service terms, such as unlimited data and a commitment not to throttle anyone's connection.

Locating local internet providers

EarthLink internet plans and pricing

Since EarthLink uses different networks and connection types to offer home internet service, available plans, pricing and speeds can vary widely by address. I've listed common DSL and fiber-optic EarthLink plans below, but keep in mind that the actual pricing and speeds you can get will depend on your address. 

EarthLink DSL plans

Plan Starting monthly priceMax speeds (Mbps)Data capContract
12Mbps $55 12 down, 1 upNone1 year
24Mbps  $60 24 down, 3 upNone1 year
45Mbps $65 45 down, 6 upNone1 year
75Mbps $70 75 down, 8 upNone1 year

EarthLink fiber-optic plans

Plan Starting monthly priceMax speeds (Mbps)Data capContract
100Mbps $60 100 down, 100 upNone1 year
300Mbps $65 300 down, 300 upNone1 year
500Mbps $80 500 down, 500 upNone1 year
1,000Mbps $90 1,000 down, 1,000 upNone1 year
2,000Mbps $130 2,000 down, 2,000 upNone1 year
5,000Mbps $190 5,000 down, 5,000 upNone1 year
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Prices start high, but don't jump higher

With EarthLink, customers pay the standard rate right from the get-go. That means you won't be able to take advantage of any cheap introductory rates like you'd get with providers like Astound or Xfinity, but also means there's no looming price increase waiting for you after a year or two of service.

Locating local internet providers

So in some cases, EarthLink may be more expensive upfront but actually turn out to be the better deal in the long run. Take a close look at the introductory and standard pricing of other providers -- and how long you anticipate having service, if possible -- to determine if it's worth paying EarthLink's standard rate from Day One. 

DSL speeds will vary

The plans listed above reflect the fastest max speeds available for the price, but some areas -- specifically those in DSL markets -- will see lower speeds for the same fee. For example, the lowest DSL plan could come with 3, 6 or 12Mbps while the next plan may have max speeds of 18 or 24Mbps, depending on the available speeds at your address.

Varying speeds at the same price point is common among DSL providers -- and, again, those are the same providers supplying Earthlink with the means to sell internet these days -- so I can't knock the company too much for it. Furthermore, to EarthLink's credit, many customers will have two or three plan options, whereas most DSL providers only offer one.

EarthLink Wi-Fi, installation fees and data caps

Wi-Fi service is available with all EarthLink plans at no additional charge other than the equipment rental fee of $15 per month. The equipment fee is unavoidable, unfortunately, even if you would rather use your own equipment, so go ahead and factor in an additional $15 to the monthly price when comparing EarthLink plans.

An installation fee for what, exactly?

New customers will also be hit with a one-time upfront installation fee of $40 to $80, which is somewhat confusing because EarthLink doesn't perform the install. Instead, EarthLink partners with "your local telephone company" (the actual provider whose network EarthLink is using for service) to complete your installation. Even for wireless internet, which doesn't require a professional installation, comes with a $80 "processing and handling" fee.

In some cases, EarthLink's $40 or $80 fee may be lower than the provider's professional installation fee, as it is with CenturyLink, which has an installation fee of $99. Many providers, however, waive the installation fee when you sign up or include installation at no extra cost. 

No data caps, no speed throttling

The value of EarthLink's Wi-Fi equipment and installation could be hit or miss depending on the internet options in your area. Still, one definite perk of EarthLink internet is unlimited data. You won't have to worry about a data cap or excessive fees for going over with any EarthLink plan, even if the partner provider enforces them. Additionally, EarthLink pledges never to throttle your speeds.

Comparing EarthLink to other providers

Through its partnerships with DSL and fiber-optic providers across the US, EarthLink is one of the largest ISPs in the country and thus is available in many markets where other DSL, cable and fiber-optic providers also offer service. When comparing any internet service, a good rule of thumb is that cable is better than DSL and fiber-optic is better than cable, so start from that framework as you're shopping around for a plan.

EarthLink DSL vs. the competition

DSL is typically a go-to for cheap internet, but this isn't necessarily the case with EarthLink. The lowest-priced DSL plan from EarthLink is $55 per month and only offers speeds up to 12Mbps. 

For comparison, AT&T's copper-based internet service starts at around the same price, but speeds much faster than 12Mbps are available. Plus, there are no added equipment fees or contracts with AT&T.

Cable internet providers such as Cox, Mediacom, Spectrum and Xfinity are likely to deliver a greater variety of plans and faster speeds. For example, Spectrum offers three plan options in most service areas, including a gigabit plan and a $40-per-month tier that provides speeds up to 300Mbps.

EarthLink fiber vs. the competition

EarthLink fiber is, again, comparatively high priced. AT&T Fiber, Frontier and Verizon Fios have a lower starting price and faster max speeds with their lowest-priced plans compared to EarthLink.

EarthLink's gigabit service is priced higher than fiber providers AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier, but may be lower than gigabit service from cable providers. For example, gigabit service from Cox and Mediacom comes at a higher starting price than EarthLink -- and will go up even higher after 12 months while EarthLink pricing is more stable. Additionally, you're going to get much faster upload speeds with EarthLink fiber than you would with cable. 

EarthLink vs. the providers it partners with

In most EarthLink service areas, you'll also have the option of the DSL or fiber-optic provider EarthLink partners with for service. When comparing EarthLink versus the primary provider, it's often more cost-effective to go with the latter, but there may be some instances where EarthLink is the more desirable service. 

If you're looking for unlimited data, you may want to consider EarthLink over AT&T DSL, which comes with a monthly data limit. And if you simply don't want to deal with the provider -- some are notorious for poor customer satisfaction -- choosing EarthLink could save you the headache.

EarthLink customer satisfaction and contact info

Customer satisfaction outlets like the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power omit EarthLink in their reports, so it's difficult to determine how real customers feel about their service.

The Better Business Bureau does give EarthLink an "A-plus" rating despite a meager customer review score. At 1.02 out of 5, EarthLink's BBB customer review score is lower than most major ISPs. Many of the reviews (over 120) and approximately 140 filed complaints reference inconsistent speeds and frustration over the early termination fee. 

It comes as little surprise that customers have an issue with speed consistency and reliability. With a variety of other providers supplying EarthLink's service, some of which are known for speed issues, the quality of your connection may vary from address to address. EarthLink's outage history on DownDetector.com isn't great, often drawing hundreds of complaints. 

Should customers have a problem with their service or issues with their bill, EarthLink makes it easier than most to get in touch with customer service and technical support. EarthLink customer support can be found online at support.earthlink.net, where customers can either browse popular topics or chat with a live representative. 

EarthLink is also one of, if not the only, ISP that gives customers the option to text customer support in addition to calling. Customers can call the EarthLink customer service number at 888-327-8454 or text 833-458-4360.

Summing it all up

EarthLink is somewhat different in that the ISP does not technically provide internet service but instead sells service plans using the DSL and fiber-optic networks of other providers. As a result, EarthLink plans are generally higher-priced than many other providers, but there are some advantages, such as stable pricing and unlimited data, that could make the cost of service worthwhile.

EarthLink internet FAQs

What kind of internet is EarthLink?

EarthLink typically uses fiber-optic or copper-based DSL networks to deliver internet service, but may also offer wireless options such as 4G LTE and 5G Home Internet or satellite service.

The type of EarthLink internet available at your address will depend on the networks and providers in your area. EarthLink speeds and pricing will vary by each connection type.

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How much is EarthLink internet?

Like EarthLink internet speeds, pricing will vary by location. That said, monthly rates on EarthLink plans generally range between $50 and $190 per month, plus $13 for equipment rental. 

There are a few factors that can affect EarthLink internet pricing, such as available speeds and the plan you choose, along with data allowances in the case of wireless internet. Wired services -- that's fiber and DSL -- from EarthLink do not have a data cap.

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Is EarthLink dial-up still available?

Dial-up internet requires little more than a phone line and a compatible modem for service, so it's possible to still get it in many areas. That said, the max speeds you get with dial-up, roughly 56Kbps, will leave you unable to perform even the most basic of internet tasks. So while dial-up may technically be available, the painfully slow speeds, not to mention the hassle and cost of finding a compatible modem, are not worth the trouble.

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