EarthLink vs. Spectrum: Which Internet Provider is Best for You?

We compared these two widespread wired internet options.

Best Customer Satisfaction

Customer rating: 4.2

Price: $49.95–$99.95/mo.*

Speed: 3–1,000 Mbps

Internet type: Fiber, DSL

Data cap: None

Contract: 1 yr.

View Plans

Best prices

Customer rating: 3.6

Price: $49.99–$89.99/mo.

Speed: 200–1,000 Mbps

Internet type: Cable

Data cap: None

Contract: None

View Plans

Compare EarthLink and Spectrum head to head

Earthlink’s main strength is in its customer service, which is reflected in the provider’s high customer satisfaction rating. Although EarthLink plans generally cost more than Spectrum plans with similar speeds, most EarthLink customers find the added support worth the extra cost.

Both EarthLink and Spectrum offer wired internet connections to huge areas of the country. EarthLink offers fast and reliable fiber connections in some areas, though in others it offers only slower DSL plans. Spectrum splits the difference with cable internet, giving you a more consistent experience regardless of where you live within its coverage area.

Pros and cons: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Pros:

  • Great customer satisfaction
  • Very wide availability
  • Fiber in some areas

Cons:

  • Higher monthly cost
  • Variable network quality
  • Unexpected price hikes

Pros:

  • Speeds up to 1,000 Mbps*
  • No data caps
  • No contracts

Cons:

  • Price hikes after 1 yr.
  • No fiber options

Want to know if EarthLink or Spectrum are in your area? Take a look by typing in your zip code below.

Plans and pricing: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Both EarthLink and Spectrum have large coverage areas and a decent range of speeds. They both offer speeds up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps), but both gigabit plans have their caveats. Although EarthLink has a larger coverage area, its gigabit fiber plan isn’t available in all areas. Spectrum’s entire network uses cable, including its gigabit plan.

EarthLink plans and pricing

PackagePrice*SpeedDetails
EarthLink 3-15 Mbps Internet$49.95/mo.3-15 MbpsView Plan
EarthLink 18-30 Mbps Internet$59.95/mo.18-30 MbpsView Plan
EarthLink 45-80 Mbps Internet$69.95/mo.45-80 MbpsView Plan
EarthLink 100 Mbps Internet$79.95/mo.100 MbpsView Plan
EarthLink 200 Mbps Internet$89.95/mo.200 MbpsView Plan
EarthLink 1 Gig Mbps Internet$99.95/mo.1000 MbpsView Plan

EarthLink is available in all 50 states. It rents space on other providers’ networks to reach its customers, which means the speed and reliability of its connections vary depending on location. The main value that EarthLink adds in this deal is its focus on customer support.

EarthLink’s fiber plans offer the best value for both speed and reliability. They are slightly more expensive than its DSL plans but offer speeds more than 20 times faster. EarthLink also offers plans with slower fiber speeds than most ISPs, which is handy if you like the reliability of fiber but don’t want to pay for gigabit speeds.

Spectrum plans and pricing

PackagePriceSpeedDetails
Spectrum Internet®$49.99/mo. for 12 mos.Up to 200 Mbps*View Plan
Spectrum Internet® Ultra$69.99/mo. for 12 mos.Up to 400 Mbps*View Plan
Spectrum Internet® Gig$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.Up to 1,000 Mbps*View Plan

Spectrum’s plans start out at 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary), which is faster than any of EarthLink’s DSL plans and some of its fiber plans. This makes even the cheapest Spectrum plan a decent speed for most internet activities.

If you need faster download speeds to meet your household needs, Spectrum offers gigabit speeds over its cable network.

Compare the best EarthLink and Spectrum plans in your area by entering your zip code below:

Extra fees: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Equipment FeeInstallation FeeOther Fees
EarthLink
  • $9.95/mo. to rent

  • $74.95 to purchase
  • $79.95 professional installation
  • Up to $200.00 early termination fees
Spectrum
  • $5.00/mo. Wi-Fi fee (free with gigabit plan)
  • $49.99 for pro install

  • $19.99 for self-install
  • $8.95 late payment fee

  • $19.99 gigabit upgrade fee

EarthLink has low equipment rental fees, and gives you the option to buy. Spectrum offers a free modem but charges a $5 Wi-Fi fee. You can get around this by simply purchasing your own wireless router, but that kind of defeats the purpose of scoring a free modem.

Looking to buy your own Wi-Fi router? Check out our guide to the best Wi-Fi routers of 2022.

The other important fees to call out are the big (and possibly unexpected) ones. EarthLink requires a 12-month contract when you sign up, which comes with a hefty fee if you decide to cancel your service early.

Spectrum doesn’t require long-term contracts and its fees are lower across the board. There are price increases after the first 12 months, which we don’t love, but in general you’ll be encountering fewer unexpected costs with Spectrum.

Compare the best EarthLink and Spectrum plans in your area by entering your zip code below:

Customer ratings: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Overall RatingReliability RatingCustomer Service RatingSpeed RatingPrice Rating
EarthLink4.2/54.0/54.0/54.1/53.9/5
Spectrum3.6/53.6/53.6/53.7/53.2/5

EarthLink trounced the competition in our 2021 customer satisfaction survey, winning in every category and surpassing the nearest competitor by a significant margin. To put it simply, EarthLink customers love their provider in spite of its flaws. The company focuses heavily on providing great customer service, which makes up for many other issues.

Despite reporting more outages, EarthLink customers also reported being satisfied with the reliability of their connection. They also report high satisfaction with monthly bills, even though they also report unexpected price hikes. While price and reliability are common complaints from internet customers, EarthLink does a great job of dealing with these issues in a way that keeps its customers happy.

Spectrum fared much worse than EarthLink in the customer satisfaction survey, coming in toward the bottom of the pack. Spectrum customers actually reported fewer outages than any other provider, but they still didn’t rank Spectrum as high as EarthLink customers did in any category.

Best TV and internet bundles

Internet speedTV channelsPriceDetails
Spectrum® Internet Ultra + TV SelectUp to 200–1,000 Mbps*125+$119.98/mo.View Plans
Spectrum® Internet Gig + TV SelectUp to 200–1,000 Mbps*125+From $139.98/mo.View Plans

for 12 mos.

Spectrum gives you the option to mix and match any of its TV and internet plans, though you don’t get a reduced price for bundling these services together. If you were planning on getting cable one way or another, this does help simplify your monthly bills, which is a plus. Spectrum also offers mobile services to current Spectrum Internet customers.

EarthLink doesn’t offer TV or phone service.

Internet types: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Internet typeDetails
EarthLinkFiber, DSLView Plans
SpectrumCableView Plans

EarthLink uses DSL or fiber internet connection. All of its plans over 50 Mbps use fiber. On the lower end, Earthlink offers speeds much lower than those offered by most fiber providers. Although fast download speed is the main selling point of a fiber internet plan, fiber has other advantages over other internet types as well, such as reliability. Not every area within EarthLink’s coverage area has access to fiber, which means that those in DSL-only areas don’t have many high-speed options.

Spectrum delivers internet service via cable throughout its coverage area. Although not as fast or reliable as fiber, cable is still one of the most reliable types of internet connection, and Spectrum offers download speeds that can match EarthLink’s top fiber plans.

Data caps: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Data CapDetails
EarthLinkNoneView Plans
SpectrumNoneView Plans

Neither EarthLink nor Spectrum place data caps on their plans, which we think is great. Nobody likes data caps, and for wired networks like cable and fiber, they’re completely unnecessary. In fact, according to our data cap survey, 75% of people said that they’d pay more for a plan without data caps.

Contracts: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Contract lengthDetails
EarthLink1 yr.View Plans
SpectrumNoneView Plans

EarthLink requires a 12-month contract when you sign up. This is pretty standard for providers that require contracts, but it’s still a commitment. If you want to change internet providers before your contract term is up, early termination fees can cost up to $200, so it’s not something you should commit to lightly.

Spectrum has no long-term contracts. You can cancel your service at any time without getting hit by cancellation fees. We prefer no-contract plans. And fortunately, more and more providers are moving in this direction.

Installation: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Installation optionsDetails
EarthLink
  • $79.95 professional installation
View Plans
Spectrum
  • $49.99 for pro install

  • $19.99 for self-install

  • $19.99 gigabit upgrade fee
View Plans

Spectrum beats out EarthLink in terms of installation costs, saving you money on professional installation as well as offering a self-installation option for some plans. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spectrum is highly encouraging self-installation where possible.

Availability: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

EarthLink is available throughout the US in all but the most rural areas, although its plans vary depending on area. Spectrum is also a nationwide brand but is most widespread along the East Coast, Midwest, South, and West Coast.

To see if EarthLink or Spectrum is in your area, enter your zip code below.

Final call: EarthLink vs. Spectrum

Both EarthLink and Spectrum have a lot of features we really like, but if you’re in an area where EarthLink offers only DSL connections, we suggest going with Spectrum’s faster, more reliable cable plans.

View EarthLink Plans

 

View Spectrum Plans

Methodology

Our HighSpeedInternet.com editorial team bases our analyses on customer input from our annual customer satisfaction survey, results from our speed test tool, and proprietary internet provider data on speeds and pricing. To strengthen our research, we look closely at provider contracts to get hard-to-find information on price hikes, data caps, and extra fees, and we keep tabs on the latest news reports and online reviews. When applicable, we also rely on our personal experiences testing these services.

Author -

Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for HighSpeedInternet.com. Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.

Editor - Rebecca Lee Armstrong

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.