- No extreme rate hikes after 12 months
- Unlimited data, no speed throttling ever
- Fiber connection where available
- High pricing, no introductory rates
- 12-month contract
- Speeds and network quality vary widely by location.
In this article
- EarthLink internet plans and service details
- EarthLink Wi-Fi, installation fees and data caps
- Comparing EarthLink to other providers
- EarthLink customer satisfaction and contact info
- Summing it all up
EarthLink is a little different in that it uses DSL and fiber-optic networks of other providers, such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier and Verizon to deliver service. As a result, EarthLink is one of the most widely available internet service providers since it combines the availability of multiple provider networks. California, New York and Texas have the most significant EarthLink availability, but service can be found in parts of 18 other states.
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.
EarthLink internet plans and pricing
Since EarthLink uses different networks and connection types to offer home internet service, available plans 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 price||Max speeds (Mbps)||Data cap||Contract|
|12Mbps||$55||12 down, 1 up||None||1 year|
|24Mbps||$60||24 down, 3 up||None||1 year|
|45Mbps||$65||45 down, 6 up||None||1 year|
|75Mbps||$70||75 down, 8 up||None||1 year|
EarthLink fiber-optic plans
|Plan||Starting monthly price||Max speeds (Mbps)||Data cap||Contract|
|100Mbps||$60||100 down, 100 up||None||1 year|
|300Mbps||$70||300 down, 300 up||None||1 year|
|500Mbps||$80||500 down, 500 up||None||1 year|
|1,000Mbps||$90||1,000 down, 1,000 up||None||1 year|
|2,000Mbps||$130||2,000 down, 2,000 up||None||1 year|
|5,000Mbps||$190||5,000 down, 5,000 up||None||1 year|
Prices start high, but don't jump higher
EarthLink doesn't do introductory pricing, so you're paying the standard rate right from the get-go. To make matters worse, you're stuck with that pricing for 12 months because all plans come with a one-year contract and an early termination fee of up to $200. High pricing plus a contract is generally not ideal, but there is light at the end of that 12-month tunnel.
Aside from avoiding the early termination fee, your reward for 12 months of continued service is... nothing, as in no price increase. That's not to say the price won't ever go up, but you won't have to worry about a significant jump after that first year as you would with many other ISPs.
The high-but-stable pricing could be the better deal if you've been with EarthLink for a few years. Take, for example, Cox, which has relatively low introductory pricing but a steep increase after 12 months with most plans. With the promo rate, Cox's 50Mbps plan is $10 cheaper per month than EarthLink during the first year -- but after that, the monthly price jumps to $66, or $16 more per month than what EarthLink charges. You've paid roughly $1,200 for 50Mbps with EarthLink in two years versus $1,272 with Cox.
However, EarthLink won't always work out to be the better long-run deal. 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 $50 DSL plan could come with 3, 6 or 12Mbps while the $60 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 a common approach 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 $13 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 $13 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" (i.e., the actual provider whose network EarthLink is using for service) to complete your installation.
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, DSL providers AT&T and Frontier also start at $55, but speeds much faster than 12Mbps are available. Plus, there are no added equipment fees or contracts with AT&T or Frontier.
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 $50-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 likely 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 monthly data limits. 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, including Frontier, which has a 1.04. 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 EarthLink 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.