WOW Home Internet Review: Cable Broadband Done Better

Its three-letter name may not be as familiar as AT&T or Cox, but this broadband service provider is a key player in several states.

Article updated on May 2, 2023 at 8:10 AM PDT

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Trey Paul
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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.
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WOW Home Internet rating

How we calculated our rating

/ 10
Customer Care
  • Some of the most competitive pricing you'll find for a cable ISP
  • No contracts, no fear about cancellation fees or being tied to an unwanted plan
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Limited availability, just six states

No, my caps lock didn't get stuck. WideOpenWest, which prefers to go by WOW, is an internet service provider that operates in 15 markets in the Midwest and Southeast US. The service is available to nearly 2 million homes in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina and Tennessee.

WOW offers customers a hybrid coaxial cable/fiber-optic internet connection with download speeds ranging from 100 megabits per second to 1 gigabit (1,000Mbps). That said, WOW is also expanding its coverage area by constructing an all-fiber network, including in areas like Greenville County, South Carolina.

WOW logo on a tablet with a purple background
Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're living in one of the six states where service is available, WOW may be the best option at your address. First and foremost, the price is right: WOW is one of the more affordable cable providers in the US, with relatively well-priced plans that easily exceed broadband speeds. On top of that, WOW won't lock you into a long-term service contract, and your connection comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If a fiber connection is available at your address, that's still the way to go, but otherwise, there's a lot to like about WOW home internet. Let's explore a bit more.

Locating local internet providers

Portion of the US map with WOW markets shaded in pink

This FCC map shows where approximately 1.8 million residential customers can get WOW internet service. 


Here's where you can get WOW home internet 

You can currently find WOW home internet service in 15 markets among six states across the US. Here's the list of states: Alabama (Auburn, Dothan, Huntsville and the Montgomery Valley), Florida (Panama City and Pinellas), Georgia (Augusta, Columbus and Fort Gordon), Michigan (Detroit and mid-Michigan), South Carolina (Charleston) and Tennessee (Knoxville). 

WOW plans and pricing

WOW offers asymmetrical hybrid fiber-coaxial cable internet plans. The reliance on coaxial cable infrastructure means that your download speeds will be much higher than the upload speeds.

Locating local internet providers

WOW plans and prices

PlanMax speedsMonthly cost (promo rate)Monthly cost (after first year)Monthly equipment feesMonthly data cap
Internet 100 100Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload$20 $40 $14 for modem rental (optional)1.5TB
Internet 200 200Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload$30 $45$14 for modem rental (optional)1.5TB
Internet 500 500Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload$55 $55 $14 for modem rental (optional)2.5TB
Internet 1 Gig 1,000Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload$65 $75 $14 for modem rental (optional)3TB
Internet 1.2 Gigs 1,000Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload$95 $95 FreeNone

WOW Internet sits in a sweet spot, with a good variety of plans, but not so many that things get confusing. Even more importantly, the pricing of those plans -- especially the regular rates that kick in after the promotional offer -- is highly competitive. WOW's plans are more affordable than comparable plans from larger cable providers like Xfinity, Spectrum and Cox. They're a better value than what you'll get from AT&T, Verizon and Frontier, too.

Another strong point for WOW: Those prices aren't designed to push you into a more expensive speed tier once the promo period ends. Your bill will increase after the introductory rate, but it won't shoot up by $25 or more like other competitors. Additionally, the increase won't necessarily force you to upgrade to a faster plan's promo rate to get a better value, which is a common trick you'll see from many other providers.

Speaking of speed...

As we mentioned above, you'll find asymmetrical download and upload speeds with WOW internet plans. In practical terms, your connection won't be as robust as a complete fiber-to-the-home connection for tasks that involve uploading lots of data to the web. That includes many common tasks important for the work-from-home or remote-schooling life -- such as uploading large files, hopping on Zoom calls or FaceTiming with study buddies.

That said, WOW Internet features higher upload speeds than most cable internet providers. For example, its Internet 500 plan features upload speeds up to 50Mbps. Comparable plans from Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity max out their upload speeds at 10 to 20Mbps. 

Uploads aside, the additional good news is that the least expensive plan WOW offers comes with download speeds of up to 100Mbps, which is much faster than the introductory plan of most ISPs and well above the Federal Communication Commission's broadband definition of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload.

Also, it's worth noting that for only an additional $10 per month, customers can double their speed with the Internet 200 plan.

An Eero mesh router on a table.

WOW customers can lease a two-piece Eero mesh Wi-Fi router for an additional $10 monthly.

Ry Crist/CNET

Other things to consider

No contracts, great pricing and the 30-day money-back guarantee all probably leap off the page when you first look at WOW's internet offers. There's more to think about, though, so let's look at some of the details.

Additional monthly fees

WOW Internet charges $14 a month for a modem rental. Like many other ISPs, you do have the option to avoid this recurring fee by using your own compatible device -- though WOW "strongly recommends" (PDF) that you lease it from WOW. 

There's also a charge of $10 per month if you want to add "Whole-Home Wi-Fi" to your plan via mesh router rental. Specifically, this includes two of Amazon's Eero mesh devices. Any additional Eero devices will add another $6 a month per device to your bill. That's only so-so as far as value is concerned -- a two-piece Eero system costs $199, so you'd be better off just buying the router for yourself if you plan on keeping your connection longer than a year and a half. What's more, there are other mesh routers we like better.

30-day money-back guarantee

This is a customer-friendly option that WOW provides, especially when you consider that the company doesn't hold you to a contract and the ominous threat of heavy cancellation fees that comes with it.

This guarantee has a few small-print details, as you might imagine. It does not extend to taxes, fees paid or any equipment charges you incur. Also, to claim the money-back guarantee, you cannot reestablish service with WOW Internet within 180 days.

Incentive deals for new customers

WOW offers a free self-install kit to all new customers. You can also get a Visa Prepaid Reward Card. WOW offers $50 for new customers who sign up for the 200Mbps speed tier. That increases to a $100 reward for 500Mbps, $200 reward for gigabit and a $300 gift card for new 1.2 gig signups. Finally, a free, six-month HBO Max subscription (worth $15 per month) is included for 500Mbps customers, while gig and 1.2 gig customers get a full year. All these offers are valid for a limited time and customers must have the service for a minimum of 90 days to qualify for the gift card. 

Unfortunately, data caps (kinda, sort of)

Back in December 2021, WOW CEO Teresa Elder was asked why WOW was introducing data caps. "We've launched usage-based billing, which doesn't really create data caps," said Elder. "It creates different tiers of pricing."

That seems like more than just semantics to me.

What should customers expect with this usage-based billing -- cough, data cap? The data cap is 1.5 terabytes for the Internet 100 and 200 plans, 2.5TB for the Internet 500 plan and 3TB for the gigabit plan. Customers with the 1.2 gig plan will not have a data allowance but instead will have access to unlimited data.

The overage fee will be automatically waived the first time you go over your data plan. After that point, customers can expect to be charged $10 per 50GB of additional data they use over the cap, up to a maximum of $50 per calendar month. Unused data will not roll over into the next month.

All of that is pretty reasonable as far as data caps are concerned. For instance, Comcast Xfinity won't give you a mulligan the first time you break your data cap, and the monthly maximum overage penalty is $100, not $50. On top of that, 1.5TB of data is more than enough for most households and more than double the 587GB the average home used in Q4 of 2022, per OpenVault's broadband insights.

J.D. Power ranking of ISPs in the North Central region of the US

WOW scored above the regional average in the North Central section of J.D. Power's satisfaction study of ISPs. 

J.D. Power

WOW vs. competitors: WOW wins decent customer satisfaction ratings, with some caveats

The 2022 American Customer Satisfaction Index for ISPs does not single out WOW for an individual score. Our ACSI contact confirmed its inclusion in the total numbers but said there's "too little market share to be measured by name." Overall, as an industry, we know that ISPs tend to be among the lowest-ranked in the ACSI ratings, so overall scores being in line with previous years doesn't tell us much. 

Over in the 2022 J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study, WOW Internet had a very decent showing in the North Central region. It captured a 712 score on a 1,000-point scale, which landed it in fourth place, solidly above the area's average ISP score of 700. It also finished ahead of Xfinity, Spectrum, Mediacom, Cox and Frontier in that same geographical area.

WOW also shows up on the positive side of the ledger when it comes to customer experience. In PCMag's 2021 Reader's Choice awards, WOW Internet notched a spot among the top 10 ISPs with a score of 7.7 out of 10. That put it above more familiar providers -- such as Xfinity, Spectrum and Cox -- and well above the ISP average of 7.1/10. 

Here's the bottom line

WOW offers some of the most affordable broadband plans you can find from a cable internet provider in the US. It also features some admirable customer-first features, including no contracts and money-back guarantees. But its reach isn't far and wide. That makes it a smaller player in the world of cable internet, but WOW still merits strong consideration for the attractive prices and terms if it's available at your address.

WOW Internet FAQs

Where does WOW get its name?

WOW is short for WideOpenWest. It's headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, and provides internet, TV and phone services to customers in the Midwest and Southeast.

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How can I contact WOW customer service?

There are several ways to reach out to WOW customer service. You can find most of what you need by visiting its Contact page. Several phone numbers are listed, all dependent on your address and whether you're an existing or potential customer inquiring about service.

Additionally, you can use the WOW Twitter contact page, a great way of tracking where any outages may be occurring, or visit the WOW Facebook page.

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

Yes. WOW supports the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program, an initiative to help keep low-income households connected to vital internet services during this time of remote learning, work and health care information. WOW also offers its own low-cost plan, called Internet for Education, which provides affordable broadband access for qualifying households of K-12 students.

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