THE BOTTOM LINE: Windstream’s two DSL options and limited fiber-optic availability restrict your choices, and its prices can’t compete with other providers. However, the company has committed to improving its equipment and is one of the few providers with no data caps. Overall, it’s a decent option for rural families who want to upgrade from dial-up but don’t want satellite internet.
Is it Right for Me?
- If you’re in a rural area and want a DSL connection
- If you want to avoid data caps
- If you like customer service that isn’t outsourced to other countries
- If you’re interested in bundled service (add TV and phone)
- If you want the best price for your internet service
- If you need the fastest possible connection and you have other options
- If you rely on consistent internet speeds
Price and plans
High prices and fewer options.
|Plan||Advertised Price||Download Speed|
|Standard Speed||$57.99/mo||6 Mbps|
|Enhanced Speed||$67.99/mo||10–25 Mbps|
|Premium Speed||$77.99/mo||50 Mbps|
Updated 4/20/17. Pricing and availability may change depending on location.
Windstream’s Standard and Enhanced DSL service plans are generally available wherever Windstream operates. The Premium Speed plan is Windstream’s new fiber-optic option and is currently limited to about 1,000 markets—or 26% of all Windstream customers.
There are no contracts associated with the internet-only plans, which is consistent with what other providers offer, but the advertised prices for all of Windstream’s plans tend to be higher than even the regular prices of other providers.
Bundles: Windstream internet (+TV/phone)
|Standard Speed + Phone||6 Mbps + Phone||$40/mo|
|Enhanced Speed + Phone||10–20 Mbps + Phone||$40/mo|
|Premium Speed + Phone||60 Mbps + Phone||$40/mo|
|First Year Savings Bundle||10–25 Mbps +120 DISH channels + Phone||$109.99/mo|
|Kinetic Basic||10–25 Mbps + 29 Kinetic channels + Phone||$89.99/mo|
Windstream offers several options for internet, TV, and phone service bundles. We’ve highlighted a few basic options, but the exact services available will depend on your location. If you want to bundle TV with your internet service you’ll have access to the DISH network. If you’re located in the Lexington, KY; Lincoln, NE; and Sugar Land, TX areas you may be one of the select households with access to Windstream’s new fiber-optic Kinetic TV service. Windstream plans to expand Kinetic into more areas in the near future. For complete details, you should contact the provider directly for the plans and pricing in your area.
What’s the real price?
Windstream is surprisingly upfront about the real price for basic internet services. The internet-only plans stick to their listed prices and require no contract, which may be why the prices seem so high. Standard Speed plans come with a “Lifetime Price Guarantee” of no rate increases, but the guarantee becomes void if you move or disconnect your service.
All first-year prices for bundles, on the other hand, are introductory promotional rates and require a one-year contract. Breaking the contract incurs a penalty for every month remaining in the contract. After the 12-month promotional period, the cost reverts to current “standard rates,” which may have changed since you first purchased the service. Promotional rates and contract lengths vary with location, so check with a Windstream representative to see what’s currently offered in your area.
- Modem fee: Windstream rents out its own Wireless Gateway combined modem and router. Standard and Enhanced Speed routers cost $9.99 a month, while the Premium Speed plan router costs $11.99 a month.
- Unreturned equipment fee: Any rented equipment that you fail to return after terminating service is subject to a charge for the price of the equipment as well as any attorney’s fees and costs.
- Internet installation: Professional installation for DSL services costs $35. This fee includes setting up the wireless modem and home network, connecting up to four devices, and installing a new jack if needed. Self installation is free and includes equipment shipment, installation instructions, and 24/7 technical assistance. The Premium Speed plan requires professional installation and so the installation is provided for free.
- Activation fee: All new accounts are subject to a one-time activation fee of $50, though promotional offers usually waive this fee.
- Additional fees: Be on the lookout for additional fees that may come with your specific plan. Some bundles include a Protection Plan, which is free for six months and then costs $8 a month unless canceled. Some TV bundles include free premium channels for three months followed by a $60 monthly fee until you cancel.
You will need a modem for your internet connection and a router for a wireless network. Windstream rents its Wireless Gateway combined modem and router, but they are not available for purchase. Both the Standard and Enhanced Speed Internet plans come with a 3-channel single band router for $9.99 a month. Premium Speed plans require a 23-channel dual band router for $11.99 a month. What’s the difference? Single-band routers use what’s known as the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) band, while dual band routers use both the 2.4 GHz band the more powerful 5 GHz band to allow faster speeds for multiple users.
It is possible to connect with your own modem and router, but Windstream does not guarantee that the connection will work and will not offer customer support for third-party equipment. If you plan to use your own equipment, you’ll need to check with a representative to see if it’s compatible.
Decent connection speeds with a reputation for being slower than advertised.
|Plan||Download Speed||Upload Speed|
|Standard Speed||6 Mbps||0.65–1 Mbps|
|Enhanced Speed||10–25 Mbps||0.76 Mbps|
What internet speeds do I really get?
Windstream’s connection speeds are consistent with what other providers offer for DSL services, though some rural areas only have access to the Standard Speed plan. Maximum speeds for the Enhanced plan vary wildly depending on location, with 10 Mbps at the low end and 25 Mbps at the high end for downloads.
For both Standard and Enhanced plans, the upload speed ranges from 0.5 to 0.76 Mbps. These slow speeds will have a noticeable effect if you play a lot of online games or upload a lot of content. Windstream offers a 1 Mbps upload option for some of its locations, but that option will cost $3 more a month.
Windstream has earned a reputation for promising faster speeds than it can deliver. In 2014 the state of Georgia fined Windstream for false advertisement regarding its broadband claims. Windstream has stated its commitment to upgrading its equipment and infrastructure to ensure the best possible service. Since 2014, Windstream has followed through on that commitment by making upgrades to its DSL lines and continues to install new fiber-optic services in more areas. Based on current customer satisfaction levels it appears that Windstream still has a lot of work to do to continue improving its network speeds.
What speed is right for me?
Internet speeds are not guaranteed.The factors you should consider are:
Computer hardware and software
Below are the FCC’s minimum broadband speed requirements for a single user.
|Activity (single user)||Minimum Download Speed|
|Web browsing||1 Mbps|
|Watching video||4 Mbps|
|Video conferencing||4 Mbps|
|Online gaming||5 Mbps|
No limits on your data means less stress.
So how much data do you really get?
As much as you want. Seriously. There are no data caps for any of Windstream’s plans. This is as good as it gets when it comes to the amount of data that you can transfer over the internet.
So I can’t hit the limit?
No. However, while Windstream won’t throttle your data for hitting a cap, high traffic or equipment overload can still result in slower-than-advertised internet speeds.
It’s local, but it’s not very good.
|ASCI 2016 Rating||JD Power|
Windstream does not outsource its customer support, which means that all of your support calls will be handled in the United States. However, this hasn’t helped improve overall customer satisfaction.
In 2016, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ranked Windstream in the bottom third for internet service providers. Windstream scored 59 on a 100-point scale; only three other national providers rated the same or lower in customer satisfaction.
In 2014, JD Power’s Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study rated Windstream 2 out of 5 for customer satisfaction. Based on a 1,000-point scale, Windstream scored 683 and came in dead last for the South U.S. region.
The story is similar across several other consumer report and ratings sites, with complaints including long hold times for support, representatives who are unable to resolve problems, and fees that aren’t communicated clearly. These issues, combined with slower-than-advertised internet speeds and higher-than-average costs, give Windstream some of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry.
Windstream is a practical option for those in rural areas, but you’re probably better served by other providers if you have alternatives.
Windstream has some nice perks, including an unlimited data cap, no contracts for basic internet service, and U.S.-based customer service. However, those benefits do not make up for the higher prices, inconsistent speeds, limited options, and poor customer support. Windstream is acceptable if it’s your only option for DSL, but you’ll likely be happier with a different service provider.
If it’s available in your area, the $40 a month for 12-month promotional offer for the Enhanced Plan and Phone is the fastest available DSL speed at the exact same cost as the slower Standard Plan and Phone. It would be worth trying out for a year before deciding if you prefer to save $10 a month by switching to the Standard Plan.
The Other Option:
If you’re lucky enough to live in one of Windstream’s fiber-connected areas, you could get great use out of its fiber-optic based Premium speed service, with speeds that range from 50 to 100 Mbps.