Xfinity home internet review: Is the biggest cable provider the best? - CNET
Comcast Xfinity is the nation’s largest cable internet provider, but does that automatically make it the best? I was impressed by the variety of internet speed plans offered, but my eyes started to glaze over as I began digging into the details.
With Xfinity, some plans require you to sign a one-year contract, others require a two-year commitment and some require no contract at all. Beyond that, you’ll need to contend with a data cap each month, and you can expect the price of your plan to increase over time, sometimes to almost double the introductory charge.
Xfinity home internet
- Good variety of plans from which to choose
- One of the fastest residential plans available
- Above average scores in almost all customer satisfaction metrics
- Data caps for all plans, no unlimited options
- Contracts required to get the lowest price
- Steep jump from promo price to regular rates
Unfortunately, headaches like that are par for the course with internet providers, and they can make it difficult to tell if you’re actually getting a good deal on your home’s internet connection. Still, Xfinity is available to more than a third of the country, and for many in that footprint, it’s the fastest option available. That means it’s worth understanding what you might be getting — especially if you feel the need for speed and fiber isn’t an option for your area or address.
What plans can you get with Xfinity Internet?
Depending on where you live, Xfinity offers up to seven different internet plans, and if you want the best price, you’ll have to shackle yourself to a contract. Here are the specifics:
Xfinity Internet plans and pricing will vary depending on your location
Yep, Comcast offers slightly different rates from region to region. Some of the differences are negligible — the gigabit plan in all three regions falls between $70 and $85 per month — but further variance can be found in the introductory 50Mbps plans. In the Central and West regions, you’ll find monthly rates of $20 to $25, but customers in the Northeast are met with a starting price of $65 for the same speed. What gives?
“We’re a regional provider and market and price our products based on individual local market dynamics,” an Xfinity spokesperson told CNET. “That’s why our costs can be different on a market-by-market basis.”
Not sure that answers the question, though. Sure, a gallon of milk can cost you $3.80 in Connecticut but $3.50 in Colorado — but why is the East Coast’s monthly price of a 50Mbps plan more than three times what a customer in Colorado pays? That’s simply poor value for our friends in the Northeast.
In most cases, these varying price points won’t be of much concern or consequence to the average consumer. But considering Xfinity is available in 39 states, it may come into play for those who are moving from one part of the country to another and will find themselves face to face with some significant sticker shock.
Did someone say sticker shock?
One big detail to keep in mind with Xfinity plans is the sometimes stark contrast of your enticing promo price and a more costly regular rate. To be fair, most internet service providers try to lure customers with competitive introductory prices that eventually balloon into a high monthly fee. That’s not singular to Comcast Xfinity, but you might be surprised at just how steep those price increases actually are.
For example, if your household wanted to go with a midtier selection like the 400Mbps plan, you would initially pay approximately $58 a month — the average starting price of the three different regions. That’s a very competitive rate. However, once a year passes, your monthly bill will jump to a monthly average of $92. That’s more than just a blip: That’s a bounce of nearly 60%!
Price jumps aside, Xfinity’s regular rates — the amount you’ll pay each month after the cost goes up — aren’t all that unreasonable. For instance, the cost per Mbps of the regular rate across all plans is $0.39, which is right about in the middle of what customers can expect to pay for cable internet service. It’s not as low as Spectrum’s $0.25 per Mbps standard cost, but much more affordable than the average $0.80 per Mbps that Cox offers for its regular rates.
How do you know which Xfinity Internet plan is right for you?
Many ISPs offer three or four plan options, so comparatively, when looking at the seven across the Xfinity grid, you could potentially get overwhelmed. But there’s no need to panic. We’ve got a helpful primer on how much speed you really need — give that read, pick a plan that falls in line with your average usage, and don’t be afraid to be conservative. If you find your plan to be insufficient for your needs, Xfinity will always be happy to bump you up to a plan that’s faster (and more expensive).
What type of internet connections does Xfinity offer?
One detail you may have noticed in the plan tables is the discrepancy between the download and upload speeds. This is because Xfinity Internet relies almost solely on hybrid fiber-coaxial cable connections to provide service to subscribers’ homes. HFC offers speeds much faster than those typically offered by DSL, satellite and fixed wireless networks, but due to the asymmetrical nature of the connection, your download speeds will always be much higher than your upload speeds. That’s the main reason why cable falls short of the performance of fiber-to-the-home networks.
Typically, we pay closer attention to download speeds because they affect our ability to watch movies, listen to new music or stream our favorite shows without that nagging buffering. That said, as more of us work from home, our ability to upload files is becoming more and more important. For example, Zoom recommends at least 2Mbps for single-screen usage of its platform. If you have two people on separate Zoom calls at the same time, or if you’re on an important work call while your kids are gaming online, you could potentially run into issues very quickly on some of these plans.
While the majority of its footprint features HFC, Xfinity does offer an FTTH option with its top-speed plan, Gigabit Pro. That plan is only available in select homes that are equipped for it, so you’ll need to request a site survey to ensure that serviceability is even possible. Our Comcast sources also tell us that Xfinity is putting its resources on finding ways to utilize existing cable connections to achieve the symmetrical speeds we commonly associate with fiber rather than chasing after additional fiber deployments.
Where can you get Xfinity Internet?
Xfinity Internet plans are available in 39 states as well as Washington, DC. The full lineup includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
If you live in one of these states and are trying to determine whether you’re eligible for Xfinity service, you can check your address using the internet serviceability tool at the bottom or top of this page.
What should I expect from my Xfinity Internet bill?
It’s always a good idea to take some time to read the fine print. If you’re planning out your budget, you want to make sure you’ve allotted the proper amount for your internet service. After all, it’s not just about the starting monthly fee.
Additional monthly fees
Speaking of the monthly fee, the promo rate assumes a $10-per-month discount for enrolling in automatic payments and paperless billing. If you choose not to go that route, you can expect an additional $10 per month on your bill. Also, as we mentioned above, after your promo rate ends, your monthly rate will convert to a much higher regular rate.
You’ll also be charged another $14 a month for the xFi Gateway, a sleek modem-router combo exclusive to Xfinity that features free security measures, parental controls over your home’s Wi-Fi and full tech support. Xfinity does give you the option to use your own modem and router, but your equipment must be compatible with its service. Even if it is, you won’t get the same technical support or device upgrades that you will with the xFi.
One-time installation fee
If you would like a technician to activate your service and verify all your home connections, then you’ll incur a charge of $40. Xfinity does let you bypass this additional cost by selecting self-install, meaning it’ll ship you a Getting Started kit and you can activate service on your own, using the Xfinity app.
Xfinity Internet Data Usage Plan
Yes, sadly, Xfinity enforces a monthly data cap, set at 1.2TB (1,200GB) of data each month. (Note: Data limits will not apply for the Northeast market until 2022.) It should be noted that several other ISPs — including Frontier, Verizon and cable competitors Spectrum and WOW — offer unlimited data with your monthly fee. So Xfinity falls behind some of its challengers when it comes to data caps.
That said, what does 1.2TB of data get you? If you want to binge all three seasons of Stranger Things in glorious Ultra HD you can expect to use up to 7GB per hour of viewing time. A Statista report from October 2020 noted that the average monthly household internet usage was up to over 400GB in March of last year and although it continues to rise, at that point over 90% of customers were staying under their monthly data limit.
If, however, you do find your household using more than the given 1.2TB of data per month, you’ll be charged an additional $10 for each increment of 50GB you exceed. The maximum monthly overage charge is $100. Xfinity does have an Unlimited Data Option, which will cost you an additional $30 a month — it’ll keep you well under that $100 monthly overage threshold, but it’s only really worth it if you’ll be incurring at least three overage charges per month, on average.
Bundles, freebies and other extra perks
We’ve talked about the not-so-hidden additional fees you might expect to incur when signing up for internet service. You will also find freebies or enticing extras that come when you sign up for broadband with Xfinity.
First, you can add the Xfinity Flex 4K streaming TV box and voice remote for free. This will give you access to popular streaming apps and lots of free content, as well as Peacock Premium (which features access to all programming on the service with limited commercials), which is a $5-per-month value.
Second, you can potentially get another $10 a month off your internet bill for two years if you have an active, qualifying Xfinity Mobile line.
Next up, customers who order online the Gigabit plan will also receive a $150 Visa Prepaid Card. You can get more specific details in the CNET internet promotions guide.
Finally, because Xfinity offers TV, home security, voice and mobile services in addition to its broadband offerings, there are a number of bundle deals available to help you knock $10 or more a month off your regular bill. Similar to the tables we listed above, the exact bundle deals vary by region, but all customers should have the option of nearly 10 types of bundles, ranging from Double Play options (internet plus another service) to premium bundle packages that include internet, TV and streaming, phone and home security.
How does Xfinity fare on customer satisfaction?
Xfinity by Comcast has steadily risen in customer satisfaction metrics over the last few years. When you look at its 2021 American Customer Satisfaction Index numbers, Xfinity was up a point from its 2020 score, which itself was up five points from 2019. Its current score is 67 out of a possible 100 points. That puts it above the industry average of 65, and good enough first place among all cable providers and third place among all ISPs, trailing only Verizon Fios and AT&T.
Hopping over to the J.D. Power 2020 US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study, Xfinity consistently ranked near the top in overall customer satisfaction. The study uses a 1,000-point scale and breaks the country down into four geographic regions — West, South, North Central and East. Xfinity averaged a score of 731 points across all of them, which was good for second place in all regions except for the West, where it placed third, after AT&T and Sparklight.
Comcast Xfinity is the largest cable internet provider in the country, with relatively strong customer service scores and gigabit service available across the entire coverage map. Addresses equipped for a fiber-to-the-home connection might even be able to sign up for speeds of 2,000Mbps, which is as fast as residential internet currently gets. Unless a dedicated fiber provider offers service in your area, the odds are good that Xfinity is your fastest option.
Just watch out for the company’s price hikes after year one. Though most providers will raise your bill after the first year, Xfinity’s increases can be particularly steep, especially in the Northeast and Central divisions. You’ll also need to contend with Xfinity’s data cap, though at 1.2TB, most households should be able to manage just fine without going over. If all of that sounds workable, then Xfinity is well worth consideration.