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Sparklight Home Internet Review: Affordable Cable Minus the Crippling Contracts

Formerly known as Cable One, this provider is available to over a million Americans in 21 states and offers broadband service in rural and suburban areas.

Trey Paul Senior Editor
Trey Paul is a CNET senior editor covering broadband. His 20+ years of experience as a writer and editor include time at CNET's sister site, Allconnect, and working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. An avid movie fan, Trey's career also includes being a film and TV critic while pursuing a degree in New York.
Expertise Home internet and broadband, including plans, providers, internet speeds and connection types. Movies and film studies. Credentials
  • Master's degree in Cinema Studies from NYU and interviews with Conan O'Brien, Stan Lee and some of his biggest Star Trek childhood idols
Trey Paul
7 min read

Sparklight home internet service


  • Straightforward pricing with no contracts or cancellation fees
  • 30-day money-back guarantee provides an opportunity to try the service
  • Brings faster speeds to many communities where DSL and satellite are the only other options

Don't like

  • Data caps on most plans, but especially tight on the lower tiers
  • Monthly price increase on starter plans after 3 months

Product details

  • Price range $40 - $110 per month
  • Speed range 200 - 940Mbps
  • Connection Cable
  • Highlights Data caps on most plans, no contracts, 30-day money-back guarantee

You may not have heard of Sparklight, because it used to be called Cable One. The corporate parent company is still Cable One, but its residential internet service was rebranded as Sparklight in 2019. 

Sparklight features a hybrid fiber-coax cable internet connection and offers plans with download speeds up to 940 megabits per second. 

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Two things stand out right away with Sparklight. First, its prices are competitive among internet service providers and easy to understand; there's very little fine print surrounding the monthly cost. Second, there are no contracts, so you don't have to fear a long-term commitment. There's a lot to like.

Locating local internet providers

But (we are talking about an ISP here, so there's always a but) Sparklight also includes data caps on almost all its plans. If you want unlimited data, you'll have to pay extra. So, there's that. Overall, Sparklight is a viable cable internet provider and an especially compelling option if you live in some of the more rural and suburban areas it services. 


Sparklight home internet service availability

Sparklight internet is available in 21 different states across the country:

Alabama KansasNorth Dakota
Arizona LouisianaOklahoma
Arkansas MinnesotaOregon
Idaho MississippiSouth Dakota
Illinois MissouriTennessee
Indiana NebraskaTexas
Iowa New MexicoWashington

Among those states, the largest markets among Sparklight's serviceable areas are Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Decatur, Illinois; Evansville, Indiana; Fargo, North Dakota; Fort Worth, Texas; Gulfport, Mississippi; Shreveport, Louisiana; Sioux City, Iowa and Springfield, Missouri.

Sparklight internet plans

Sparklight internet boasts about "fiber-rich" plans throughout its site, but don't be fooled. Like other cable internet providers we've covered, its internet infrastructure is a hybrid fiber-coaxial cable connection, not a 100% fiber network. 

What does this mean in practical terms? Like any cable internet hookup, your download speeds will be much higher than your upload speeds. Most of us have long given this little thought, as download speeds cover most of our streaming and surfing needs. Once the pandemic hit and more people needed to do work or schooling at home, upload speeds -- which are necessary for tasks like uploading large files or hopping on video classes and meetings -- became more pertinent.

When comparing Sparklight internet upload speeds with other cable ISPs, it fares better than most, with its uploads topping out at 50Mbps on the gigabit plan. The upload speeds on similar plans from Comcast, Cox, Spectrum and Optimum all max out at 35Mbps -- only Mediacom and WideOpenWest match Sparklight with top upload speeds of 50Mbps.

Here's the full chart of what you'll find with Sparklight internet plans:

Sparklight internet plans and pricing

PlanMax speedsStarting price per monthPrice after 3 monthsMonthly equipment costsData cap
Internet 200 200Mbps download, 20Mbps upload$40$65 $13 for modem rental (optional)700GB
Internet 300 300Mbps download, 30Mbps upload$80 $80 $13 for modem rental (optional)1,200GB
Internet 500 500Mbps download, 40Mbps upload$90 $90 $13 for modem rental (optional)1,500GB
Internet Gig 940Mbps download, 50Mbps upload$110$110$13 for modem rental (optional)None

Competitive pricing free from gimmicks

At first, I was slightly thrown off when examining Sparklight's internet prices. It's unusual to see an ISP with so few bells, whistles, promos, and exceptions to decipher. So, for the most part, what you see now is what you'll pay for later. Sadly, that kind of clarity around your internet bill is usually hard to come by. 

You could quibble that the promo Sparklight offers -- a $25 discount on the Internet 200 plan -- lasts for just three months. Many of Sparklight's cable competitors provide discounted rates that carry through for an entire year. This is true.

But when you look at the average cost per megabits per second -- which is 20 cents across all four plans -- Sparklight's service is cheaper than Cox's and Xfinity's and more affordable than Mediacom's, Optimum's and Spectrum's standard rates, too. Only WOW can boast lower standard rates across all plan tiers of the cable providers we've reviewed. That's pretty good. 


Now, a word about the data caps

Data caps are not a necessary evil. While many ISPs have them -- including HughesNet, Viasat and cable competitors Cox, Mediacom and Xfinity -- others do not. So it's not a given that you'll have to face a data cap just because you're a cable internet customer. 

That said, not all data caps are the same. As you can see in the plans and pricing chart, the 200Mbps plan features a 700GB data cap, which isn't bad. OpenVault found in its Q4 2022 report that the average home used approximately 586GB of data per month, so customers on that plan might be OK but could easily feel the crunch if they're not careful.

On the other hand, the 300Mbps offering takes that data cap to 1.2TB, which is more reasonable based on that 586GB number and closer to what you'll find from other cable internet providers. 

You can expect to be charged $10 for every 100GB of additional data used over the cap, up to a maximum of $40 per billing cycle. Also, tucked within the details of Sparklight's data policy is a mention that customers who exceed their data plan three or more times in a rolling 12-month period will be required to upgrade to a higher internet plan and maintain that new service for a minimum of three months.

If you think you might be bumping up against your data plan with any level of frequency, you may want to consider going with an unlimited data plan, which will cost an additional $30 per month. That's $10 less than the max fee for going over any given data plan and keeps you away from any penalty that would require you to upgrade to a higher-speed plan. 

Oh, and I should mention there's some small print here, too: If you have the unlimited option, you could still have your speed slowed... but only after you've hit 5TB of data usage within the month. To put that in perspective, you could stream 4K versions of all four Indiana Jones movies, watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy, binge all the Harry Potter flicks, download every Marvel Cinematic Universe entry and geek out on each Star Trek film (from William Shatner to Chris Pine) and still be less than 25% of the way to your limit. So, I'd say that's pretty fair.

Let's look at a bit of better news

While the data caps aren't a deal-breaker, it's a bit of a bummer that Sparklight has them at all. Still, on the positive side, Sparklight breaks from some of its rivals by offering plans with no contracts or term limits. This means you're under no obligation to stick with a plan that isn't working for you, and you don't have to fear any early termination fees if you decide to move elsewhere.

Another positive aspect that leaps off the page (and isn't always common among ISPs) is Sparklight's money-back guarantee, which covers the first 30 days of new service. If Sparklight isn't right for your home, you can request a full refund, including money paid for the internet service and applicable taxes and fees. That's better than the 30-day guarantee offered by WOW, which doesn't extend to taxes and fees. 

Additional charges to expect from Sparklight

Wi-Fi One whole-home coverage is available from Sparklight for $12.50 a month. This is slightly cheaper than the typical $14 to $15 a month most ISPs charge to rent their modems. Also, as with many other providers, customers can use their own equipment and avoid this monthly charge altogether. The only requirement is that customers use a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem and refer to Sparklight's list of supported cable modems.

Self-installation is also an option from Sparklight, but it's not available in all service areas and depends upon a credit check. You may bypass the credit check if you wish, but Sparklight notes you may be charged a higher deposit and/or installation fee for skipping it. 

Finally, you should also expect a one-time activation fee of $30 when you begin service.

Enlarge Image

J.D. Power gave Sparklight better ratings in the South than it got in 2020, but it was still a below-average score for the region.

J.D. Power

Sparklight gets mixed ratings on customer satisfaction

Sparklight was not highlighted in the 2022 J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study. However, when you look at 2021, Sparklight showed up in two of the four regions the organization tracks. Over in the West, Sparklight scored 700 on a 1,000-point scale. That's a drop from the 730 it earned in 2020 and below the regional average of 710.

On the flip side, Sparklight did better in the South region, earning a 716 score, which increased from the preceeding year. However, it was still below the South's average score of 727 and squarely in the middle of the pack among 11 ISPs in the area. 

The 2022 ISP report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index did not highlight Sparklight for an individual score among other organizations. But among Ookla's stats for the fourth quarter of 2022, Sparklight was the fastest provider in Boise.

Finally, Sparklight also fared well in PCMag's 2021 Readers' Choice awards. For overall satisfaction, Sparklight ranked seventh among 24 listed providers and earned a score of 7.7, above the poll average of 7.1. 

The bottom line on Sparklight

Sparklight makes a compelling case for being included as one of the top cable internet providers in the country. Fiber will almost always trump cable connections, so if you live in an area like Fort Worth, Texas, you might be able to find fiber plans more to your liking. But for customers in Ada, Oklahoma, to use a smaller market as an example, you'll find Sparklight competing with DSL and satellite plans -- and those are simply no match for what Sparklight can offer for speed and price.

Sparklight internet FAQs

Is Sparklight the same as Cable One?

Yes. Cable One is the corporate parent company and was initially the name of the ISP as well. That changed in 2019 when Cable One announced it was rebranding its residential internet service and TV and phone offerings to Sparklight. 

What type of internet is Sparklight?

Sparklight likes to talk about its "fiber-rich" broadband infrastructure, but most of its connections are hybrid fiber-coaxial cable. This means you'll have asymmetrical download and upload speeds.

That said, a Sparklight spokesperson said that Sparklight is investing in all-fiber networks, and there was an announcement in January that it has symmetrical fiber broadband offerings available to over 2,000 customers in Victoria, Texas.

Is Sparklight participating in the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program?

Yes. Sparklight makes the Federal Communication Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program available to new and current internet customers. The ACP is a long-term initiative to help keep low-income households connected to crucial home broadband. It includes a discount of up to $30 monthly (and up to $75 in tribal lands) for eligible households.

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