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Mediacom Home Internet Review: Never Quite as Xtream as It Might Seem

Don't fall for the hype -- This provider's cable broadband plans aren't likely to generate that much x-citement.

6.4

Mediacom Xtream home internet

Like

  • Gigabit download speeds available to over 97% of customers
  • Great router hardware available to rent at a fair price

Don't Like

  • Prices go up two years in a row with some plans
  • Data caps are too tight with the cheapest plans, and there's no limit to the number of overage charges you can rack up
  • Poor value relative to other cable internet providers

I really can't think of a brand name that manages to raise and lower expectations quite like "Xtream." I get it -- you're a midsize cable internet service provider with a limited market share, and you're looking up at the likes of Comcast Xfinity. You want to stand out, but you also want to fit in. So, you write a big "X" on a whiteboard somewhere, call a meeting, brainstorm a bit, and at the end of the day, there's a big circle around "Xtream," and everyone's patting each other on the back. These things happen.

Dumb name or not, the branding of Mediacom's home internet service sets the table for streaming at high speed, and one could argue that Xtream primarily delivers. It has gigabit download speed available to more than 97% of serviceable addresses in the company's coverage map, as per the Federal Communications Commission, as well as the option of bundling in TiVo-powered cable TV. On top of that, Mediacom Xtream internet plans offer upload speeds of up to 50Mbps. True, that's nothing compared to what fiber is capable of, but it's faster than the upload speeds of any cable internet plan from Comcast, Spectrum or Cox, all of which top out at 35Mbps. (Xfinity, you just got Xtreamed.)

Mediacom Xtream logo on a phone screen
Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, Xtream isn't perfect. For starters, the price of the fastest plans goes up after the first year, and then it goes up again at 24 months. Additionally, while its scores have been ticking up for the past two years, Mediacom is still ranked beneath the industry average for ISP customer satisfaction by organizations like J.D. Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index. That might have something to do with Mediacom's monthly data caps, which get particularly tight if you're on the lowest speed tier. You'll find better value from Mediacom's cable internet competitors, including other midsize providers like Optimum and WideOpenWest.

Suppose you can look past all of that. Mediacom's cable plans make sense as a solid alternative to inferior DSL, satellite and fixed wireless connections. Give Mediacom additional credit for offering gigabit speeds in various rural and suburban markets where faster internet options usually aren't available. Still, Xtreme internet falls well short of the genuinely extreme performance of a good fiber network. The questionable value relative to other cable providers makes it a problematic ISP to get excited about, if such a thing is even possible.

Mediacom coverage map
FCC/Mapbox

Here's where Mediacom offers Xtream internet service

The nation's fifth-largest cable provider, Mediacom's home internet service, is available to 7.7 million Americans across a smattering of regions in the Midwest, the Gulf Coast, the Eastern Seaboard, California and Arizona. 

Major metro areas in that coverage map include Columbus, Georgia; Des Moines, Iowa; Duluth, Minnesota; Huntsville, Alabama; Ocean City, Maryland; Pensacola, Florida; Springfield, Missouri. You'll also find Mediacom's Xtream internet services across a wide range of rural pockets near places like Apache Junction, Arizona; Clearlake, California; Decatur, Indiana; Elizabeth City, North Carolina and Murray, Kentucky.

What kind of internet connection does Mediacom offer?

"Our approach is simple: Deliver faster internet speeds, build larger fiber networks and offer superior products and services at an affordable price," writes Mediacom founder, chairman and CEO Rocco B. Commisso on the Xtream website.

That bit about fiber piqued my interest. According to data shared with the FCC back in December 2020, Mediacom's internet infrastructure consisted entirely of cable connections, with fiber hookups making up precisely 0% of the footprint.

According to the FCC, Mediacom's internet infrastructure consists entirely of cable hookups.

FCC

"Across all areas, network engineers and their tech teams have been adding nodes, building out more fiber and expanding capacity," a Mediacom spokesperson explained when I asked about the company's plans for fiber. That's more about bolstering the existing cable connections than establishing new, dedicated fiber connections. Still, Mediacom adds that genuine fiber-to-the-home hookups are in the works "for some projects that build to new communities."

Meanwhile, Mediacom had been in court battling it out with Google to try and stop an upcoming fiber expansion in West Des Moines. Mediacom argued that the city was "distorting the communications competition" by granting Google an exclusive subsidy and other benefits as the company seeks to expand its Google Fiber internet service to a 12th city. By mid-January 2022, it appeared that Mediacom had reached a settlement agreement with West Des Moines. Specific terms have not been announced as of this writing, and a judge still needs to approve the deal, but it appears this grievance will soon be in the past.

At any rate, as a cable internet provider, Mediacom can offer customers gigabit download speeds as high as 1,000Mbps (1Gbps), which is much faster than you can expect from DSL providers, satellite or fixed wireless internet. The downside to cable is that, unlike fiber, your upload speeds will always be much, much slower, which can be noticeable if you're trying to upload large files to the web or join a high-res video call. This is true of all cable providers, most of which won't offer upload speeds any faster than 35Mbps. Mediacom at least cranks things up to 50Mbps with its gigabit plan. And while we're on the topic of plans...

Mediacom Xtream home internet plans

Plan Max speeds Monthly promo rate (first 12 months) Monthly rate after a year Equipment fee Data cap
Internet 100 100Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $20 $30 $13 modem rental (skippable) 200GB
Internet 200 200Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $40 $70 ($80 after 24 months) $13 modem rental (skippable) 1,000GB
Internet 400 400Mbps download, 30Mbps upload $50 $80 ($90 after 24 months) $13 modem rental (skippable) 2,000GB
Internet 1 Gig 1,000Mbps download, 50Mbps upload $60 $90 ($110 after 24 months, $130 after 36 months) $13 modem rental (skippable) 6,000GB

Prices that go up, and up

Mediacom's Xtream internet offerings are simple and relatively straightforward with just four plans to pick from. Whichever one you go with, expect the price to jump after year 1, which is mostly the norm among internet providers. If you select either of the three fastest plans, you can expect your bill to go up after 12 months and again after 24 months.

The further price increase means that the gigabit plan goes from a cost-per-Mbps of 6 cents during your first year up to 9 cents after 12 months, and then up to 11 cents after month 24, and then 13 cents after 36 months and onward. Essentially, that's a good deal in year 1, a so-so deal in year 2, and a bad deal after that.

It's also roughly on par with Mediacom's biggest rivals in the cable category. It varies by region, but Comcast Xfinity's gigabit plan goes from 9 cents per Mbps during year one to 10 cents per Mbps in year two. Meanwhile, gigabit service from Cox and Spectrum rings in at a respective 13 and 14 cents per Mbps after the one-year promo rates expire. However, the other midsize cable providers of note, Optimum and WideOpenWest, offer gigabit plans at better prices than Mediacom does, with WOW's gigabit plan coming in at $75 per month after the promo rate expires. That's less than 8 cents per Mbps and a superb value for a regular price for cable internet.

Mediacom's plans in the middle offer questionable value, as well. Take the Internet 100 plan, which offers download speeds of up to 100Mbps and uploads up to 10Mbps for $20 per month during your first year and $30 per month after that. The pricing's not bad, but I must note that the 100Mbps plan comes with Mediacom's most restrictive data cap -- 200GB per month. More on that in a second. Depending on where you live, a 100Mbps cable plan from Comcast might also cost you $30 per month after the promo rate expires, but with a much-higher 1.2TB data cap. Meanwhile, Optimum and WOW each offer 100Mbps plans that are at least half as much as what Mediacom charges -- even WOW's gigabit plan is less expensive than the final rate of Mediacom's 100Mbps plan.

Admittedly, you can't really comparison shop between cable providers -- you have to go with the provider that offers service in your area. Still, after looking at the numbers, it's clear that Mediacom's prices run on the high side. If it were my provider, I'd be prepared to point out the gulfs in pricing with its competitors when I inevitably called to try and negotiate a better deal.

Details on the Mediacom data caps

Mediacom enforces data caps with each of its Xtream internet plans. The specific, monthly data allotment varies from plan to plan, and if you exceed it in a given month, you'll start incurring penalties.

With the gigabit plan, you get a whopping 6,000GB (6 terabytes) of data each month, which is just an enormous amount of data. (For reference, the average home's internet usage is up to about 514GB per month, per OpenVault's Q1, 2022 numbers.) The Internet 300 plan brings the cap down to 2,000GB (2TB), but that's still quite generous, and more than enough for most households.

The 200Mbps plan comes with 1,000GB (1TB) of data each month. That's more in line with most other data caps, if not slightly lower. For instance, Comcast enforces a data cap of 1.2TB across all plans, while Cox caps you at 1.25TB. Even so, 1TB is reasonable, as data caps go.

Less reasonable is the entry-level 100Mbps plan, which comes with a data cap of just 200GB. That's less than half of what the average home uses in a month these days, and far more restrictive than you'll get with any other cable plan that we've written about to date. Even the data caps with Rise Broadband's fixed wireless internet service are more generous. In fact, the only data caps we've seen that are worse than what you get with Mediacom's 100Mbps plan are those at the low end of satellite internet plans from HughesNet or Viasat.

As for penalties, Mediacom will charge you $10 for every 50GB block of data used over the cap -- and unlike most providers that enforce data caps, I see nothing in the fine print that limits the total amount in penalties you can rack up in a given month.

Eero Pro 6

If you need a router, Mediacom will rent you a two-piece Eero Pro 6 setup for $10 per month. That's a good deal for a very decent mesh router.

Ry Crist/CNET

Equipment fees and other charges

Mediacom doesn't tie you down to a contract with any of its Xtream home internet plans, but you will need to pay a $10 activation charge when you first start service. Xtream home internet also requires a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. Mediacom will happily lease you one for $13 per month, but you can skip that fee if you already have one of your own.

If you like, Mediacom will rent you a router, too -- specifically, the Eero Pro 6 mesh router, a recent model that supports Wi-Fi 6 (and which performed quite well when I tested it out at home last year). Ten dollars per month gets you a two-piece setup -- one device to serve as the router and a second that functions as a mesh extender. If you live in a large home and need additional Eero extenders, you can add them for an additional $6 per month each.

That's not a bad deal if you don't already own a router you like. The Eero Pro 6 two-pack would cost $400 if you bought it outright, so you could rent it from Mediacom for a few years and still come out ahead.

Mediacom received below-average scores from the American Customer Satisfaction Index each of the past two years.

ACSI

Customer satisfaction could be stronger

Organizations that track customer satisfaction metrics tend to agree that Mediacom is below average in the internet provider category. That's been the case for multiple years running with the American Customer Satisfaction Index, where Mediacom currently sits at a score of 60 out of 100. That's a point better than its 2019 results, and five points better than 2018, but that's still four points behind the average of an industry that struggles with low numbers as a whole.

Meanwhile, J.D. Power tracks ISP customer satisfaction across four regions in the US. Mediacom was only rated in the South and West regions. It fared OK in the South, where it received a score of 723 out of 1,000. That's below the area average of 727 and places Mediacom in fourth place, behind only AT&T, Xfinity and Spectrum, but ahead of Sparklight, Cox, Frontier, Windstream, CenturyLink, Suddenlink and HughesNet. It didn't go so well in the West, where it received a score of 654, which is the region's second-worst score (only perennial low-scorer Frontier fared worse), and below the region's industry-wide average of 710. 

As for low-income subscribers, Mediacom deserves credit for participating in the government's Affordable Connectivity Program, and offering qualified subscribers a plan with decent broadband speeds (100Mbps download, 10Mbps upload) for just $30 per month, with no price increases at all. 

The verdict

Mediacom's Xtream home internet is a valid option for a fast connection at home, but the plans don't offer value that's as good as what you'll get from fiber or other cable providers across the country, and you'll have to put up with a data cap, too. Things get slightly more appealing if you need to rent a router, as Mediacom offers excellent hardware for the price, but outside of that, there's not much to get excited about here.

Still, Mediacom offers gigabit speeds in many markets that don't have an abundance of other options -- and its cable plans are worth it over the likes of DSL, satellite or fixed wireless. You have to take the good with the bad with any ISP, and Mediacom is no different. It's just a shame that the plans don't come at a better value.

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