Cox Internet Service 2021 Review

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is a tried-and-true means of delivering fast download speeds to people's homes, and Cox Communications is available to more than 20 million here in the US. Billing itself as and boasting nearly $12 billion in annual revenue, Cox serves more than 6 million residential and business customers and offers cable internet in 18 states and Washington, DC.
If you live within that Cox footprint, there's a good chance you've at least considered it -- especially if aren't available where you live. In cases like that, Cox's cable speeds are likely the next best thing and certainly faster than what you'll get from ,  or a . 
















6.2


Cox Communications home internet

































LikeGigabit speeds available across entire service areaReasonable data usage terms, no throttling

Don't LikePlans are pricier than other cable internet providersSteep price increases after first yearCox gateway device doubles as a public hotspot by defaultUnlimited data bundles are a bad value





That said, Cox plans skew toward the pricey side, with a higher cost per megabit than  (including and ). What's more, Cox's pricing structure will try to push you into a more expensive plan each year. You'll also need to contend with a monthly data cap -- though, fortunately, Cox's data usage policies are about as reasonable as you could hope for. 

All of that makes Cox a middle-of-the-pack option for getting connected at home. But there's a lot you should take into consideration before you sign up. Here's a full rundown on everything from prices and plans to terms, fees and the company's customer service track record.

Cox's home internet footprint is smaller than other cable providers, and concentrated in key cities and regions throughout the continental US.

FCC/Mapbox
Where does Cox Communications offer home internet service?
Along with the majority of Rhode Island, Cox's network covers parts of 17 states and the District of Columbia, with service most prevalent in areas around the following cities:
Cleveland, OhioGainesville, FloridaLas Vegas, NevadaMacon, GeorgiaNew Orleans, LouisianaOklahoma City, OklahomaOmaha, NebraskaPensacola, FloridaPhoenix, ArizonaSan Diego, CaliforniaSanta Barbara, CaliforniaTopeka, KansasVirginia Beach, VirginiaWichita, Kansas
According to , Cox's home internet footprint reached just under 7% of the US population as of December 2020. That's tens of millions of people, but it's short of and , two larger cable internet providers that each offer service to roughly one-third of US households.

Cox's more focused footprint also shows that it isn't a top pick for rural customers, as most of the company's cable infrastructure is located in dense urban areas. Other providers are much better positioned to offer service outside of America's cities. If that's what you're looking for, be sure to check out .
How does cable internet stack up these days, anyway?
Pretty well, as a matter of fact. In addition to the fact that it's easy to , most cable providers are able to offer download speeds of up to 940 megabits per second or higher. That's much better than what you'll get with DSL, satellite internet or fixed wireless, and it's competitive with a lot of the country's top fiber providers.

That said, a good fiber connection will offer concurrent upload speeds just as fast as the downloads -- and this is where cable internet falls short. Even with near-gigabit download speeds close to 1,000Mbps, you'll likely be stuck with upload speeds in the double digits. For instance, with Cox, the fastest plan (940Mbps) comes with upload speeds of 35Mbps, while the four plans beneath it offer max uploads that range from 3Mbps to 10Mbps. That if you've got multiple people in your house making Zoom calls, gaming online or doing anything else that requires you to upload lots of data to the cloud in short order.

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Cox internet plans, prices and terms









Plan





Max speeds





Regular monthly rate (no contract)





Promo monthly rate (with contract)





Monthly rate after one year





Equipment rental fee





Monthly data cap









Starter 25





25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload





$40





$30





$45





$12/month (skippable)





1.25TB









Essential 50





50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload





$50





$40





$66





$12/month (skippable)





1.25TB









Preferred 150





150Mbps download, 10Mbps upload





$70





$60





$84





$12/month (skippable)





1.25TB









Ultimate 500





500Mbps, 10Mbps upload





$90





$80





$100





$12/month (skippable)





1.25TB









Gigablast





940Mbps, 35Mbps upload





$110





$100





$120





$12/month (skippable)





1.25TB










Cox offers a variety of plans with a variety of speeds at a variety of prices, and there are a lot of important ins and outs to consider. Let me start with one that's so critical, I'm going to write it in big, bold letters for you.
Your bill will go up after Year 1, no matter what
Cox offers promotional rates on its plans and those promo rates will each knock $10 off the price of your monthly bill for the first year. The catch is that you have to agree to sign a one-year service contract in order to get the discount. That's fine: One-year contracts are typical in the ISP industry.

What's less fine is that your bill will shoot up at the end of that year, in some cases by as much as $26. That's not outrageous -- Spectrum's cable internet plans go up by $25 or $30 after the first year, and Xfinity cable internet plans come with an average increase of $40 in some regions -- but keep in mind that Cox plans start out more expensive than those of its competitors. And while Cox's website doesn't do a great job of making this clear, you'll see that price increase regardless of whether you accept the promo rate.

So, let's say you want to sign up for Cox's Preferred 150 internet plan, which nets you download speeds of 150Mbps. You can sign up at the regular rate of $70 per month with no contract, or you can accept the one-year service contract and bring the monthly cost down to $60. Either way, when that first year is up, your bill will go up to $84.

Here's how the promo trap works. You sign up for service and then your bill goes up after a year (orange arrows). You call to complain, and the "best value" offer is the promo rate for a more expensive plan (green arrows). The cycle repeats, and your bill keeps getting higher.

Ry Crist/CNET

At this point, there's a good chance you'll call Cox to complain or . Cox does not have an incentive to lower your costs. Instead, there's a good chance the clever salesperson will tell you that they can't offer you the same promo rate again, but they can offer you the promo rate on a faster plan. After all, you want a better deal, right? As it just so happens, you could be getting speeds of up to 500Mbps for $80 per month -- $4 less than you're paying right now for 150Mbps. Doesn't that sound good to you?

Here's the thing. That's another promo rate -- a fresh bait-and-switch -- and if you take it, the cycle starts all over again.

Look for yourself. It's no coincidence that each of those Year 2 rates shoots up to a monthly fee that's greater than or equal to the promo rate for the next most expensive plan. Like the nauseatingly busy carpets at a casino that nudge dizzy gamblers into stopping and sitting at a slot machine, the price structure is carefully constructed to confuse you into spending more money. Whenever someone with an expired promo rate calls to complain about their bill, it's easy for Cox to guide them into an even more expensive speed tier at a new promo rate. Doing so locks them in as a customer for another 12 months, and it dooms their bill to increase even more after that.

If you don't want to tumble down that slippery slope, then you'll need to accept that Year 2 rate and stick with it. That's a tall ask, given that Cox prices are on the high side. Take that 150Mbps Preferred plan, for instance, which costs $84 after Year 1. Cable competitor offers a 200Mbps plan for $70 out of contract, and offers a 200Mbps plan that costs $75 per month after the promo period expires. Both plans offer faster speeds for less per month than Cox.




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What else do I need to know about Cox?
Cox's lineup of home internet plans gets confusing fast, and not just because of the promo shenanigans. There's other fine print to consider, including contract quirks, extra fees, data caps and more. Isn't shopping for an internet plan fun?
Additional fees
You can use your own modem and router, or you can rent Cox's modem and router gateway device for $12 a month.

Cox Communications

Though Cox doesn't specify the actual cost anywhere on its website that I could find, you'll need to pay an installation fee of $100 if you want a technician to get your home's internet connection up and running. You can skip this fee by ordering an -- it's totally free, but you'll need to plug everything in yourself.

Cox also charges an extra $12 each month if you use its . Starter, Essential and Preferred customers get a Wi-Fi 5, DOCSIS 3.0 device, while Ultimate and Gigablast subscribers get a faster device that supports and . In either case, you can order to pair with your Panoramic Wi-Fi modem and router at a one-time cost of $130 per pod. Cox also commits to keeping your system's hardware and software up to date.

You can skip that $12 fee by using your own , along with a router of your own. I've also heard from Cox sales agents that it isn't uncommon for the company to lower that rental fee upon request.

"I've seen rental fees of $5 and personally, I have added that promotion when I have offered that to current customers," one agent told me in a recent chat. "So please feel free to ask for a discount on the modem if you rent it."

The other fee to be aware of is Cox's early termination fee. If you cancel your internet service at any point while under a one-year contract, you'll be charged $120. Make that $240 if you're under a two-year contract.
Panoramic Wi-Fi doubles as a public hotspot
One more important point of note here: If you use Cox's Panoramic Wi-Fi system instead of your own modem and router, it'll put out a second, separate network from your own home network that other Cox customers can use as part of . It's a separate stream from your home network, so it won't affect your speeds or data usage, Cox says, but it's something you should still be aware of -- especially because the feature is on by default.

"Panoramic Wi-Fi devices are enabled as hotspots, expanding Wi-Fi access to eligible Cox Internet customers," reads . "These devices are automatically enabled as Cox Hotspots upon activation. To disable this functionality, go to Privacy Settings on and sign in with your Cox User ID."

I can think of plenty of people who wouldn't want strangers to be able to connect to the internet using the networking hardware in their homes. It's good to know that Cox customers can opt out, but it would be much better if the company sought their express permission before turning it on in the first place. If Cox is worried that too many people would say no, then maybe it can consider offering those customers a discount on their bill for participating.
The dish on data caps
Every Cox plan comes with a data cap -- and if you use more data than it allows in a given month, you'll start incurring extra charges. The cap used to be set at 1 terabyte per month (1,000 gigabytes), but when the hit and , Cox did a nice thing and raised it by about 25% to 1.25TB (1,280GB).

That's pretty reasonable as far as data caps go. Internet usage is still climbing, but Americans went through an average of just under 400GB of data per month in 2020, . Then again, here at my place, we ended up using about 1,300GB of data per month in 2021. Just keep in mind that my roommate and I both work from home and use the internet pretty heavily (, for Pete's sake). Good thing our plan doesn't come with a data cap -- no such luck with Cox.

At any rate, once you've exceeded Cox's data cap, you'll be charged $10 for each additional 50GB block of data that you use, up to a maximum charge of $100. One nice surprise here -- if it's your first month going over the cap, Cox will cut you a break, waive the charges and let you off with a warning.

"If it's your first month going over, you'll get a one-time, courtesy credit for each $10 charge on your next bill," .

That's pretty generous of Cox -- especially since you won't see any such first-month mulligan from , the other major cable provider that enforces a data cap. On top of that, Cox says you don't need to worry about speed reductions once you've broken the cap.

"We don't throttle service [or] reduce speeds if customers exceed their usage plan," says a Cox spokesperson. "We simply work with them to get them on the best usage plan to meet their needs."


Cox internet bundles with unlimited data









Plan





Max speeds





Promo monthly rate (with contract)





Monthly rate after 2-year contract





Equipment rental fee





Monthly data cap











Starter 25 (with Panoramic Wi-Fi, Cox Complete Care and Unlimited Data)





25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload





$87





$117





included





None









Essential 50 (with Panoramic Wi-Fi, Cox Complete Care and Unlimited Data)





50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload





$97





$138





included





None









Preferred 150 (with Panoramic Wi-Fi, Cox Complete Care and Unlimited Data)





150Mbps download, 10Mbps upload





$117





$156





included





None









Ultimate 500 (with Panoramic Wi-Fi, Cox Complete Care and Unlimited Data)





500Mbps download, 10Mbps upload





$137





$172





included





None









Gigablast (with Panoramic Wi-Fi, Cox Complete Care and Unlimited Data)





940Mbps download, 35Mbps upload





$157





$192





included





None










So, does Cox offer any plans with unlimited data? The answer is yes, but only if you also bundle in Cox's Panoramic Wi-Fi modem and router rental and , which offers enhanced technical support. Doing so will add $50 to your monthly bill during the first two years, when you'll be under a mandatory contract, and $72 to your monthly bill after that.

On their own, the modem rental typically costs $12 a month, while Cox Complete Care costs $10 per month. So, what Cox is essentially doing here is pricing unlimited data at an extra $28 per month with a two-year contract, and then an extra $50 per month after that -- and the company forces you to add in the full-priced modem rental and Cox Complete Care fees in order to get it. That's not a great deal, as you could incur a couple of overage charges on a standard plan each month and still be paying less. Make that several overages each month if you don't care about Cox's modem or Cox Complete Care.

For instance, let's say you've subscribed to Cox's cheapest plan, Starter 25. It's already been a year, so your rate has gone up to $45 per month. You can keep paying $45 a month and face the ongoing threat of overage charges, or you can pay $80 per month to get unlimited data, plus the Panoramic Wifi router and Cox Complete Care. After two years of that, the bill would go up to $117 -- more than twice what you were originally paying. 

The unlimited data is the bait on the hook here, and Cox is using it to reel you into paying for additional services you might not have even wanted in the first place. Unless you're going to incur at least three overage charges per month, on average, you should skip the unlimited data bundles and just stomach the occasional penalties.

Cox's rating with the American Customer Satisfaction Index improved by three points in 2021, but that's still below the category average.

American Customer Satisfaction Index
How does Cox rank on customer satisfaction?
Internet providers are to begin with, and Cox is a little bit below average in terms of its customer satisfaction track record. In 2021, the  gave Cox a score of 63 out of 100, which was two points better than the year before, but worse than the overall ISP average of 65. Still, Cox's score tied it with Spectrum for second place among cable providers, and ahead of (61), (60), (60) and (55). The only cable provider that outscored Cox in 2021 was Xfinity, which finished with a score of 67.

Cox's strongest customer service rating came from the US East region, where J.D. Power scored it just below the category average.

J.D. Power

Meanwhile,  also takes its own look at ISP customer satisfaction each year. Cox was included in three of the four regions surveyed in 2021. it did slightly better here overall than it did with the ACSI but still ended with scores that were slightly below the overall average for the internet providers surveyed in three of those regions. 

We'll start in the East, where Cox finished with a score of 708 out of 1,000 -- slightly below the overall region average of 714, and behind (758) and Xfinity (725), but ahead of cable rivals Spectrum (676) and Optimum (655). 

Cox was further below average in the South region with a score of 707, trailing the overall category score of 727 and behind five other ISPs, including (753), Xfinity (740), Spectrum (725), Mediacom (723) and (716). Still, it was a good enough finish to beat out (698), Kinetic by Windstream (682), (674), Suddenlink (621) and (578).

Finally, Cox's most disappointing score came in the West region, where it had done well in 2020. This time around, its score of 696 put it near the bottom, above only Mediacom (654) and Frontier (645). 
To sum it up
If is available in your area, then you'll likely be better off going with that, as you can expect faster speeds (particularly uploads) and better value, too. If not, then a cable provider like Cox is probably your next best option, with faster speeds than you'll get by going with ,  or with a .

I can't say that you'll be getting a great value with Cox, though, especially given that other major cable providers like and  offer faster plans for less per month. Then again, if you're living in an area with limited options for high-speed internet, you might not have many other options. 

As for Cox's data caps, they might seem off-putting, but the terms surrounding them are about as reasonable as you'll find from an internet provider -- enough so that the company's over-inflated unlimited data bundles probably aren't worth it for most subscribers.

All of that makes Cox worthy of consideration for high-speed internet at home. Just remember to stay wary of those price hikes.
Cox internet FAQs



Can I bundle Cox home internet with other services?














Yes, you can. Like with most cable providers, Cox offers , along with bundles that include home phone service, security monitoring, and home automation.

















Are there any perks or other features available to Cox subscribers?














In addition to mentioned earlier, Cox also offers a feature called , which promises to reduce lag by up to 32% while gaming online. Elite Gamer comes at no additional charge if you're using Cox's Panoramic Wi-Fi modem or router. If you're using your own modem, Elite Gamer costs $7 a month.

















Does Cox offer any discounts for low-income customers?














Yes. Cox offers a 50Mbps, $10-a-month plan for low- or fixed-income families called . Homes with children who receive free or reduced-price school lunches should qualify -- you can learn more or .

Similarly, Cox also features a aimed at low-income households without children. Customers enrolled in government financial assistance programs may be eligible for a 50Mbps plan for $30 a month.

Finally, Cox is also participating in the government's , which offers a $30 home internet discount for those who qualify.