If you live in the Midwest or South, you’ve likely heard of WOW!, the enthusiastically-named cable Internet, TV Service and phone provider. (It’s an acronym for “Wide Open West.”)

WOW! is best known for their streaming-friendly unlimited data policies and for providing local, reasonably priced bundle plans. Their customer service gets mixed reviews, but at least you’re usually talking to a person in the US who knows the specifics of your area. That’s a big positive in our book.

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.

Pros

  • No data caps
  • Above-average maximum speeds
  • Affordable bundle plans

Cons

  • Mixed reviews from current customers
  • Limited availability
  • Best prices require 1–2 year agreements

WOW! Internet and TV/Phone Plans

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 offers monthly plans with no contract required.

DealsPrice MonthlyInternet SpeedPhone
10 Mbps $2999 10 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
Internet 100 – Best Plan for Cord Cutters $3999 100 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
100 Mbps + Small Cable $5999 100 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
Internet 100 + Small Cable + Phone — Best Triple Play $7499 100 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
500 Mbps $5999 500 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
100 Mbps + Medium Cable $7499 100 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
500 Mbps + Small Cable $7999 500 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
500 Mbps + Medium Cable $9499 500 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
100 Mbps + Medium Cable + Advanced Phone (Unlimited nationwide long distance and calls to Canada and U.S. Territories.) $8999 100 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
500 Mbps + Small Cable + Advanced Phone (Unlimited nationwide long distance and calls to Canada and U.S. Territories.) $9499 500 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
500 Mbps + Medium Cable + Advanced Phone (Unlimited nationwide long distance and calls to Canada and U.S. Territories.) $10999 500 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
100 Mbps + Large Cable $9499 100 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299
100 Mbps + Large Cable + Advanced Phone (Unlimited nationwide long distance and calls to Canada and U.S. Territories.) $10999 100 Mbps Cable(888) 604-8299

WOW! also includes email, online voicemail management, and additional security features through their F-Secure program (firewall and antivirus).

WOW! Internet Speeds and Network Performance

As of the fourth quarter of 2017, WOW! is rated in the top 5 among ISPs on Netflix’s ISP leaderboard[1] — no small feat for a smaller network. They usually hold a strong number two position.

WOW! Download Speeds Over Time


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 six months through M-Labs, the standard speed test integrated with Google as well as our own site.

CityWOW! Average SpeedWOW! Top 10% Speeds
Augusta, Georgia36 Mbps88 Mbps
Canton, Michigan21 Mbps57 Mbps
Charleston, South Carolina26 Mbps69 Mbps
Chicago, Illinois70 Mbps191 Mbps
Clearwater, Florida26 Mbps72 Mbps
Cleveland, Ohio15 Mbps34 Mbps
Clinton Township, Michigan21 Mbps60 Mbps
Columbus, Georgia32 Mbps86 Mbps
Columbus, Ohio44 Mbps105 Mbps
Dearborn, Michigan18 Mbps53 Mbps
Elgin, Illinois56 Mbps114 Mbps
Evansville, Indiana47 Mbps95 Mbps
Huntsville, Alabama41 Mbps94 Mbps
Knoxville, Tennessee55 Mbps104 Mbps
Montgomery, Alabama40 Mbps86 Mbps
Naperville, Illinois57 Mbps108 Mbps
Panama City, Florida30 Mbps80 Mbps
Saint Petersburg, Florida41 Mbps97 Mbps
Sterling Heights, Michigan32 Mbps93 Mbps
Warren, Michigan20 Mbps57 Mbps

Where is WOW! available?

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 include Detroit, Augusta, and Chicago.

WOW! Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

WOW! Network Technology: Predominantly Cable

WOW! coaxial cable on side of customer home.
WOW! uses coaxial cable technology, delivering Internet data over the same cable that delivers cable TV signal. Image Source: Pxhere

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.)[2]

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.

Installation options and fees

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.

For month-to-month Internet plans, the only way to get around it is to opt for self-installation. They provide a self-install kit that’s fairly straightforward. The company offers next day installation in many areas for those who need Internet right away.

Self installation is possible, and WOW! provides the appropriate documentation and instructions.

WOW! Installation & Fees
Installation fee$20-$50
Installation fee for movingFree
Gateway rental fee$7 -20
DVR rental fee$10 for basic, up to $15 for HDR
Early Termination Fee (ETF)Up to $345 for 24 month plan

WOW! Equipment options

WOW! has basic routers as well as an advanced “ULTRA” router+TV box. Both can be leased for a monthly fee. Image source: Pixabay

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. Not all equipment will be compatible.

Considerations when comparing WOW! to other providers

30-day money-back guarantee but expensive termination fees

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.

Limited basic cable options

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! TV Options

NFL game on WOW! TV
WOW!s lack of data caps is great for streaming games in HD every weekend. Image Source: Unsplash

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! Small Cable

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.

WOW! Medium Cable

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

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).

What is WOW! ULTRA?

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 customer 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 completely different strategy is way more consumer-friendly and has led to high customer satisfaction ratings.

WOW! DVR options

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! DVRPriceStorage Capacity
Standard DVR$10/monthN/A
HD DVR$13/monthN/A
ULTRA DVR – Gateway + 1 Media Player$20/month500 GB. Can record up to three programs at once.
ULTRA DVR – Gateway + 2 Media Player$25/month500 GB. Can record up to three programs at once.

Conclusion: WOW! Is a reasonably affordable Internet option that’s perfect for streaming

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 all together. 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 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. 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.

WOW! at a Glance

StatisticWOW!
Price Range$29.99 - $109.99/mo+
Connection Type(s) Cable, Fiber & DSL
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com55.4%
ACSI Customer Service Rating 
Netflix Ranking8th
Population Served7,174,627

Experts

James Webb

James Webb

James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.

Questions & Answers

1 ANSWERED QUESTIONS

Does WOW! have any 4K channels? I am considering upgrading my LED TV to 4K but not sure if it's worth it.

As of this reply, WOW! does not have any 4K or UHD offerings. Even premium TV providers like DirecTV currently only offer a handful of 4K channels (3 in the case of DirecTV). That said, it’s likely that WOW! will begin adding 4K channels slowly over the next couple years, so it’s worth picking up a 4K TV if you’re upgrading anyway.

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