Our Cox Communications Review
Cox Communications is one of the largest cable internet service providers (ISPs) in the U.S., serving more than 20 million customers across 18 states. It has several service tiers (from 10 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps) to cater to both light and heavy internet users alike, but tends to charge a premium for them, and has a reputation for delivering slower speeds than advertised. If Cox is the only provider in your area, know that it does have a decent variety of plans, and its services are more reliable than most DSL and satellite options. However, if you have other cable ISPs in your area, we’d recommend those providers over Cox — they’ll likely be more reliable and cheaper.
Cox claims that it provides a “WiFi experience that will blow you away,” with “blazing fast speeds all over your house.”
Is it True?
Not exactly. Cox is primarily referencing its panoramic WiFi — the company’s take on mesh WiFi systems, which have been around since 2016. If you sign up, Cox will have a technician install a modem/router combo unit in your home, and assess whether you need to have WiFi extenders as well. WiFi mesh systems all attempt to create a WiFi blanket so that you don’t have any mysterious dead zones, but users in smaller homes shouldn’t have that problem to begin with. So, while Cox can offer speeds all over your house, it isn’t offering anything special in this regard.
As far as blazing fast speeds that will blow you away? Again, not really. Cox’s plans range from 10 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps — and that second number is definitely blazing fast. But the speeds you get will depend on the plan you purchase, and even then, the company may come up short. As of 2016, Cox is the worst cable ISP for reliability— how well it can keep you online at the speeds you pay for, even during peak periods. The Federal Communications Commission’s latest report found that 10% of Cox’s customers were taking a speed cut of at least 20%, meaning some customers are getting substantially less than they’re paying for. In total, the FCC found that only 75% of Cox customers were receiving speeds approximately as fast as what they’d paid for — the worst of any cable ISP.
Cox’s Panoramic WiFi should help prevent pesky dead zones in larger homes. Those dead zones can be a pain to track down and resolve on your own, so we like that Cox includes professional installation if you choose to rent Panoramic WiFi. The $10 monthly fee for the modem/router is fairly standard, though you’ll also be charged $4 for each extender that your home needs.
These fees probably aren’t worth it if you have a small home — mesh systems are overkill in apartments, or houses with a tight layout (think small-footprint two-stories). If you have a larger home, you also have the option of purchasing an independent mesh system. They’re expensive, usually starting around $300 for the main unit and two small nodes or extenders, but they’re yours to keep, no matter how long your contract with Cox lasts.
We’d also like to point out that even though Cox ranks poorest for reliability in the FCC’s 2016 report on television and internet service providers, Cox is as reliable, or more reliable than most digital subscriber line (DSL) or satellite providers. As one example, 75% of Cox customers received speeds close to what they paid for (within 5%). For DSL companies like Frontier and CenturyLink, those numbers are in the range of 24% (Frontier) to 35% (CenturyLink), meaning Cox is twice as reliable. Even the best providers, like Verizon DSL and AT&T internet were only able to match Cox’s percentage.
So, what do those numbers mean for you? If you’re in an area where your options are DSL providers, satellite providers, and Cox Communications, Cox is probably your best option. But if you have access to other cable internet providers, they’re probably more reliable than Cox. Looking at reliability alone, we like Comcast and Optimum, though Optimum can be a little harder to find (only available in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York). Both of these companies kept the most customers online at their promised speeds: close to 92% (Comcast) and 95% (Optimum).
Reliability aside, Cox remains a sub-par ISP. The 2017 American Consumer Satisfaction Index, after surveying 180,000 U.S. internet users, rated Cox Communications as below average for customer service. This placed it above Comcast and Mediacom, but below giants Verizon, AT&T, and Charter Spectrum, and smaller ISPS Optimum and Suddenlink.
J. D. Power, another third-party customer satisfaction assessor, hones in on what makes Cox unpopular. They link its lower overall satisfaction scores to poor communication practices (especially when it comes time to pay your bill), and to poor value scores; customers in general feel they are paying more money than their internet service is worth.
A Closer Look at Features
|Price||$29.99 – $119.99 per month (for the first 12 months)|
|Maximum Download Speeds||10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps|
|In Business Since||1962|
|Best For||Areas without cable ISP competition|
|Not For||People looking for a connection reliable enough to support music or video streaming|
|Customer Satisfaction Rating||45.40% by Broadband Now|
|States and Territories Served||18|
Our Deep Dive
- Customer Service: Cox tends to do fairly well in customer service, although that’s a relatively low bar in the ISP space. J. D. Power, an independent company that rates customer satisfaction, rates ISPs for performance and reliability, cost, billing practices and standards, communication, and customer service. In 2017 it gave Cox Communications the award for the best residential ISP in the West. Granted, Cox wasn’t named best in any of the other regions (East, South, or North Central), generally due to low scores in cost of service and communication. But overall, the company tends to be ranked above average.
- WiFi Hotspots: Cox also offers hundreds of WiFi hotspots across its service areas for their internet customers. Instead of hunting for rogue WiFi networks or draining your cellular data plan, you can connect to one of Cox’s hotspots and use their WiFi. You’ll need to download the CoxConnect app to both search for hotspots and connect to them.
- Data Caps: Even though Cox’s internet plans come with a data cap, it’s fairly high at 1 TB. Data usage calculators, like this one from AT&T, do a great job demonstrating just how difficult it is to go through that much data in a month. Unless you’re streaming 8 hours of HD video every day in addition to gaming, surfing the web, streaming music, and posting on social media — you won’t hit this cap. If you do a lot of 4k streaming, you can hit this 1 TB data cap … but only after 173 hours of 4K viewing. And even if you do have a household of gamers and high-definition streamers, Cox offers some options to help. It has a 1.5 TB data cap plan for an additional $30, or an unlimited data plan for an additional $50 per month.
- Bundling: Cox also offers TV, phone, and home security plans, so it it offers a discount for bundling different packages together. If you pair internet with television, you can save between $5 and $35 — depending on which internet packages you select. You can also bundle in your phone plan in with your TV and internet, but you’ll want to pay attention to current promotions. Right now, you can bundle Cox internet with Cox phone and keep the same discount as if you were purchasing those plans separately. Except if you’re interested in the 300 Mbps plan. Currently one promotion is cancelling out the other, and you’ll end up paying $20 more to have the “convenience” of bundling phone with internet, at least for now.
- CoxConnect App: Whether you sign up for Cox TV, phone, or internet, you’ll have access to the CoxConnect app through your smartphone or tablet. This app isn’t as robust as others (we liked Comcast’s ability to set parental controls, for example), but it has several notable features. At its most basic level, you can use the app to keep track of your bill, make payments, and check on scheduled appointments with a Cox technician. With their internet plans, you can monitor your data usage (so you won’t exceed the data limit), and change your network name and password. It also will keep track of your phone logs and voicemail, let you search through TV listings, and find Cox WiFi hotspots.
What Others Are Saying
- BGR agrees that Cox’s claim to bring blazing fast internet all over your house isn’t anything proprietary to Cox Communications. Technological companies have been making improvements both in routers, WiFi extenders, and mesh systems. In “introducing” its mesh system, Cox isn’t creating anything new. At best, the company is introducing customers to useful, newish technology. At worst, it’s overselling customers into an overpowered system they don’t need.
- The Las Vegas Review-Journal dug in to try and uncover the reasons behind Cox Communications’ higher rates. They honed in on recent rate hikes for Cable TV and internet. The Review-Journal noted that many rates for cable TV were expected to rise in 2016 across the board. A Cox representative cited the rising costs of programming — whether it’s production costs like filming or hiring famous actors and athletes — as being part of why cable prices were increasing. Additionally, both cable TV and internet prices were affected by an increase in service technicians and vans.
- Consumer Affairs seems to disagree with J. D. Power’s evaluation of Cox’s customer service reputation. Only 15 people (out of more than four-hundred) rated Cox at least three out of five stars. The complaints frequently focus on billing issues and lack of communication when people cancel their plans and are either are continued to be charged monthly, or charged an unexpected termination fee. Complaints about low speeds are even more common, however, and are mentioned even in high-star reviews.
- AT&T is our top pick for customer service, earning great scores in J. D. Power’s customer satisfaction awards. Most of its options do require bundling an internet plan with DIRECTV service, however eveninternet-only plans typically offer highly download speeds at cheaper rates than Cox. Cox’s lowest plan offers 10 Mbps download speed for $30 (for twelve months). A sample plan from AT&T costs $30 plan and has a download speed of 50 Mbps — saving you money and increasing your speeds.
- Comcast ranks lower than Cox for customer service — it didn’t win a single J. D. Power award in 2017 — but is more reliable than Cox at keeping its users online and at promised speeds. Comcast also has Cox beat for value, even at the lowest service tier levels. Cox’s lowest plan offers 10 Mbps for $30 per month. For that same $30, a Comcast customer can buy six times the speed, and be more likely to receive the speeds they paid for.
- Charter Spectrum‘s plans start at 100 Mbps and go up, so if you only need internet for casual browsing and answering email, its services are probably overkill. Cox’s plans, on the other hand, start at 10 Mbps or 30 Mbps (for $30 or $40 respectively). If you truly only need 10 Mbps of internet — you live on your own and don’t use the internet very much — Cox can save you money compared to Charter, but not by much. You can save $5 – $15 by choosing between Cox’s lowest plans and Charter’s lowest plan, but we’re not sure it’s a good trade unless rock bottom prices are your top priority. In exchange, you’re also choosing a less reliable provider.
The Bottom Line
Cox Communications tries to impress by rolling out mesh network technology to its customers and promising blazing fast speeds, but it falls flat. Its plans are more expensive than its competitors, and typically fall short of the speeds offered by its competitors. The speeds that Cox does advertise and sell to customers are frequently not actually experienced by customers, as Cox has the lowest reliability rating given to cable internet companies by the FCC in 2016. Cox only wins in a few small areas — like if you only need 10 Mbps and the ISPs around you all have significantly more expensive plans, at faster speeds available. If this doesn’t sound like you, we recommend you avoid Cox Communications if possible.