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WOW! Delivers Decent Speeds and Unlimited Video Streaming
If you live in the Midwest, you’ve likely heard of WOW!, the enthusiastically-named cable Internet, TV Service, and phone provider. (It’s an acronym for “Wide Open West.”) Customer WOW! reviews are largely mixed, but many of our readers have noted that the service is the best option available to them.
The provider is best known for their streaming-friendly unlimited data policies and for providing local, reasonably priced bundle plans.
In this review, we’ll show how their network speed and performance stacks up, then dive into the details of their plan offerings, TV options, and equipment specs.
Overall, WOW! earns strong marks for being friendlier on the wallet than many other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and maintaining higher consumer ratings. WOW! is also known for being cord-cutter friendly, since their Internet-only service is free of data caps. (Translation: binge Netflix as long as you want with no fees.) They also offer monthly plans with no contract required.
Plans last updated 9 days ago. Plan details change frequently, always verify plan details with the WOW! directly before purchasing service.
WOW! also includes email, online voicemail management, and additional security features through their F-Secure program (firewall and antivirus).
As of August 2018, WOW! is rated in the top 10 among ISPs on Netflix’s ISP leaderboard — no small feat for a smaller network.
Here’s a rundown on speed performance in specific cities where WOW! is popular. These results are based on tens of thousands of speed tests gathered on a rolling basis over the past twelve months through M-Labs, the standard speed test integrated with Google as well as our own site.
Real-world speeds of WOW! service based on IP verified users in various cities. This data is based on 1,330,598 speed tests.
WOW! is widely available in major and mid-sized cities across the Midwest and South. (As the name “Wide Open West” implies.) Cities in their coverage footprint also include Detroit, Augusta, and Chicago.
WOW! primarily uses coaxial cable technology, which are those black-rubber coated cables that look a bit messy pinned to the side of your house. They have been rolling out pure fiber lines in some areas.
Their “cable” service is technically hybrid fiber-coaxial, which means that data travels over fiber to a node in your neighborhood before switching over to copper TV cable infrastructure. The advantage of using this system rather than installing a pure FTTH (Fiber to the Home) network is that it can “piggyback” on existing TV networks, which allows WOW! To pass that saving on to customers and provide cheaper service. (The cost of hooking a single home up to fiber easily runs into the thousands of dollars, even if there’s fiber on the street.)
Fiber lines also often require extensive installations at the home or office being connected. With cable, most homes can be hooked up with little to no trouble.
WOW!’s 500 Mbps service is increasingly common in their coverage footprint, but hasn’t reached 100% availability yet. Gigabit service with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps is still relatively rare. In some parts of Alabama and Georgia, customers are even served over DSL lines, which generally results in slower download and upload speeds for those customers compared to cable or fiber.
WOW! charges an installation fee, although some customers we spoke to reported being able to negotiate it down when signing up for a contract. It’s also commonly offered for free as a bonus during local promotions, so we recommend asking about it when you speak to a sales agent to start service. The company offers next-day installation in many areas for those who need Internet right away. Currently, no self-installation options are offered.
Like most cable companies, WOW! prefers to rent routers to their customers. (Free routers used to be common throughout their service area, but lately they’ve been breaking them out into a separate line item on bills.)
WOW!’s router fees vary depending on devices and equipment rented. The top-end “ULTRA” Gateway alongside two Media Players will cost you $25 in most markets, although it combines a TV platform and Wi-Fi router into one box, which is a plus for customers who want simple plug-and-play (more on the ULTRA box below where we cover WOW! TV). A basic wireless modem costs ~$10 per month.
Their sales and service agents will often try to upsell you on this hardware. However, you can bring your own modem and devices. Just keep in mind that not all equipment will be compatible.
WOW! offers a brief 30 day period to try their service. If you cancel your service during this time, you will not have to pay for the termination fee. However, if you cancel outside of this period, you may have to pay as much as $345 for early termination. Please note, this termination fee applies only to the 24-month contract. If you sign the month-to-month plan, there is no termination fee. The savings are considerable with the 24-month plan, but the month-to-month deals are also quite affordable.
Owing to the high speeds, no data caps, and overall reliability, WOW! Is great for people who want to cut cords and/or try out their ULTRA entertainment platform. However, for those who are interested in basic traditional cable TV packages, WOW! can be a bit pricey for what you get, particularly when you stack up sports and premium channels.
WOW!’s TV options are relatively basic, but can be a good fit for general family use. They keep it simple with three flavors: Small Cable, Medium Cable, and Large Cable. (Creative, right?)
WOW!’s Small Cable package is hard to recommend, as it has extremely limited programming (around 90 basic channels as of this review) and doesn’t include a bonus Premium channel, as with the Medium and Large offerings. Comedy Central, Fox Sports, and the Weather Channel are the most notable omissions from the small cable package.
Medium Cable sweetens the deal substantially for a relatively small price increase, bumping you up to over 150 channels including some family must-haves like Nickelodeon, the Travel Channel, and SyFy. This plan also includes your choice of a premium channel (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, or Starz).
WOW! Large Cable has a roster of over 260 channels, with NFL Network and VICELAND rounding out the popular side. As with Medium Cable, you get your choice of a premium channel (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, or Starz).
The WOW! ULTRA box is essentially WOW!’s answer to the “smart TV” and “entertainment platform” trend that’s been shaking up the TV market in recent years.
Much like the Xfinity X1, this box combines a library of on-demand content with premium channels, sports, and WOW!’s regular channel cable offerings. On top of that, it integrates directly with Netflix and also serves as a Wi-Fi router for your home. This can be a huge bonus for customers who just want one, simple piece of hardware, and we especially recommend it for families when combined with their whole-home DVR.
Overall, WOW! has been making a huge effort to win the streaming wars. While many big players in cable cap user data and have an adversarial relationship with services like Netflix, WOW! promotes their customers to cut the cord and consider their own entertainment platform on top. This unique strategy is much more consumer-friendly and has led to high customer satisfaction ratings.
Please note that the following fees may differ from market-to-market. These fees are the “standard” fees that apply in the majority of the WOW! coverage area.
WOW! Internet is a great option for people who are looking to cut the cord. While cable packages are available, their lack of data caps make it a realistic option for people who want to do away with cable altogether. Considering the relatively high download speeds in most of their coverage area, it’s particularly advantageous if you like to consume content on multiple large-screen devices. 4K video is also no problem on their upper-tier speeds.
Internet plans are reasonably priced and offer enough speed for high-definition streaming. Equipment fees can add up, but you can bring your own equipment if you so choose. This will require an upfront investment, but will keep costs low over one or more years.
The main curveball with WOW! is that, as a smaller provider, their quality of service varies widely from area to area. Paying the early termination fee on a contract is painful if you don’t have a good experience, so be sure to address any service issues within the first 30 days before your satisfaction guarantee times out.